Prior to the Braves signing Will Smith, I was outspoken on Twitter and fully against bringing him aboard. I think it was less about his performance, and more about the person. Too many videos showed him staring down players after pimping a dinger, taking a walk, or just getting a hit and RBI. His style just seemed contradictory to the Braves style of play.
When I first heard that the Braves signed him, I wasn’t happy. After hearing that it was for 3/$40MM, I was seething. And, for the most part, my feelings were correct. He wasn’t good and there were several times during his 2.5 years with the team where he showed his ass on the mound. However, he was electric in the 2021 playoffs and I don’t think the Braves win the World Series without him. His 11 innings of no run baseball have endeared him to Braves fans and no amount of poor past performances will ever outweigh that remarkable run.
In the last year of his contract with the Braves, Will’s season started out well enough. Through his first 12 games his ERA was 2.19, but there were LOUD warning signs:
- A crazy low BABIP against of .035
- Allowed 3 HRs in 12.1 IP
- FIP of 5.63
Sometimes, the stats above show a small sample that could work itself out. Other times…yikes. This was the latter. From May 13 to July 22nd, Smith was the weakest link in a strong bullpen and was still being used in save situations, despite spikes in walks and hits. At the trade deadline, Anthopoulos went to extreme measures to remove Smith from Snitker’s back end (bullpen) and traded him to the Astros for Jake Odorizzi. I wish I could say it was a positive move for both teams, but I’d be lying. Smith played well for the Astros and received back to back World Series rings while Jake Odorizzi had a 5.24 ERA in 46.1 IP. Oh…and the cherry on top was that Odorizzi opted into his option and the Braves then traded him to the Rangers in exchange for Kolby Allard, picking up $10MM of the $12.5MM tab. What a mess and I’m sure that wasn’t the plan.
After an up and down year, at age 33, Smith is still a free agent. His overall numbers are good enough to warrant a contract, but I’m guessing pride is getting in his way right now and he wants back end money when, truly, he’s now just an average middle reliever. For Will, I hope he can land on his feet, but somewhere other than Atlanta.
Like you said Ryan, we probably don’t win the flag without him. That being said, he wasn’t super likable and I don’t know that anyone was sad to see him go. Dude just rolled with an air of confidence that his ability/performance didn’t justify in my opinion.
The players seemed to like him, and I certainly liked his numbers before he came to Atlanta. But I can’t say that Ryan was wrong – whatever warning signs your Spidey sense picked up, you were absolutely right to be skeptical. It’s strangely one of the bigger free agent contracts AA has given out, both in length and in total dollars, and while he wasn’t a bust, he also wasn’t worth what we paid.
In general, though, AA’s bullpen strategy has worked pretty brilliantly, as he has relied on a combination of mostly anonymous farmhands, high-leverage trade targets, and the occasional free agent, and he’s been able to balance a handful of busts with more than enough wild successes. So even though this signing didn’t work out wonderfully, the strategy has worked flawlessly, and so I would still defend the decision principle even though this particular signing didn’t work as well as hoped.
In general, Will Smith seems a bit like the occasional Joc Pederson / Josh Donaldson types that AA has brought in — a rah-rah redass who fires the guys up. You can’t have too many of them, but one at a time can work pretty well. And flags fly forever. Overall, I’d close the book on the Will Smith era with a simple “NO RAGRETS.”
mlb.com video of the amazing Ron Washington working with Vaughn Grissom:
Yeah, it’s definitely up there as one of my least liked Braves. He probably provided good leadership in the pen. And from a cost per WAR or cost per WPA basis, he was not good value whatsoever. He pitched 11 extremely important innings and 3 regular seasons of forgettable innings. Let him go back to the Royals.
@3: “When Ron Washington gets mad, run!” Hahahaha!
GREAT video. Thanks for sharing that. Seems more likely than ever that VG is the Day 1 starter at SS.
Ron Washington seems like a classic “I’d run through a wall for that guy” for his players. Charismatic as hell, knows absolutely everything, tough as nails, and looks like he sleeps in his armor like Denethor of Gondor. I’d watch a 10-part documentary on him.
Unrelatedly, here is a massively stupid question: anyone wanna give Miguel Sano a shot? He still isn’t 30 yet. We don’t really have a place for him, as he’s basically a 1B/DH and we need a LF, but we do need a bat.
I wouldn’t really want Sano for the Braves, but perhaps the Falcons…
Among disappointing Twins corner guys, I wonder whether Kepler would be available, and whether we could “fix” him. He was seen as having an even higher ceiling than Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, and Oswaldo Arcia!
Sano is definitely an interesting player. Here are his average exit velo rankings:
2016: Top 4% of league
2017: Top 1% of league
2019: Top 1% of league
2020: Top 1% of league
2021: Top 3% of league
Because he’s so slow and he hits the ball really hard, he has to get the ball in the air. That 35% K-rate for his career is scary though.
IMO, there’s still a few free agents that could help the team:
1. Michael Wacha
2. Elvis Andrus
3. Robbie Grossman
4. David Peralta
5. Jurickson Profar
6. Tyler Naquin
7. Michael Fulmer
8. Zach Britton
9. Matt Moore
Of this group, I think Grossman is the only one that would take an MiLB deal, but I think I like his fit the best.
@1-2 & 4, I didn’t mind seeing Smith leave either. As to his personality, it might be relevant that he was the Braves’s 2021 nominee for the Clemente award. If that’s a team management decision, and assuming several players do similar amounts of charitable work of one sort or another, it may say good things about how management viewed his character/personality.
Michael Baumann is a bigger fan of Sam Hilliard than some of y’all!