How Does Drew Smyley Help Atlanta Braves

All Smyles

By: TJ Hartnett news services

I’m a sucker for puns. Good puns, bad puns (there are none), doesn’t matter. I love puns.

So, the endless possibilities that sprung to mind when the news broke on Monday that the Atlanta Braves had signed Drew Smyly made me, uh…grin.

In any case, Atlanta signed the left-handed hurler to a one-year, $11 million contract.

Alex Anthopoulos’ second signing of the offseason after bringing back righty Josh Tomlin on a one-year, $1 million deal (to hopefully pitch out of the bullpen, where he’s been very good, only).

It isn’t a massive splash, of course that’s never been Atlanta’s style, regardless of who the general manager is. However, it’s a solid move to begin the process of going after a 4th straight NL East division championship (all due respect to Tomlin).

While eight figures seems like it might be a lot for a guy who certainly didn’t top the list of free agent pitchers (Trevor Bauer is about to make bank, though), Smyly is coming off of what was (or was almost going to be, had he not missed some time to injury) the best season of his career, pitching for the San Francisco Giants.

For a 31-year-old pitcher, that’s a pretty impressive feat and it’s likely owing to the fact that his velocity has somehow actually increased as he’s entered his 30s.

Granted, the 2020 season was an anomaly and Smyly probably had more gas in the tank on the whole (his longest outing was just 5 1/3), but the fact that 2019 was a good run for him and he took further steps the next season speaks to his improvement. It’s likely the combo of the two seasons that put him on Anthopoulos’ radar.

Now, you’re probably thinking that only one start into the 6th inning coupled with a good-but-not-jaw-dropping 3.42 ERA isn’t anything to get excited about, and to be fair, you’re absolutely correct. But this signing isn’t the kind of signing that’s supposed to get you all riled up.

Smyly is essentially going to be expected to play the role of the capable veteran in the rotation, a role that was desperately unfilled in 2020, much in part to Cole Hamels’ inability to get healthy enough to earn that $18 million that Atlanta had to pay him for three innings this year.

In short, this was a move to acquire more depth, and it comes at a position that was horrifically devoid of that, particularly as the year went by.

And to that end, Smyly is a low(ish)-risk, high(ish)-reward signing: the deal is for a single season (which the higher-tier pitchers won’t be looking at this early in the offseason), not for no money but cheaper than the aforementioned Hamels was or plenty of other pitchers will be.

While Smyly is unlikely to be in the Cy Young conversation for next season and there is a history of injury, he’s capable of being a solid hand who can rack up 10+ wins with a sub-4.00 ERA.

Every playoff-hopeful team needs one or two and the Braves had none last year. This is just the kind of piece that could potentially make a difference, especially if the 2021 season goes ahead as planned and they get a full 162-game schedule in (can you imagine if Atlanta had had to play a full complement of games with the rotation they had for most of last year?).

This signing allows Atlanta to devote more resources to either resigning or replacing Marcel Ozuna this offseason and hoping that the big splash in the pitching rotation comes when Mike Soroka fully recovers from his injury towards the beginning of next season.