Braves Signing Will Smith Doesn’t Move The Needle
The Atlanta Braves should get credit for acting swiftly and signing closer Will Smith before he accepted the qualifying offer from the San Francisco Giants. Even with the team winning the National League East by a healthy margin, they really needed to upgrade their bullpen, and Smith was the best reliever available.
They thought they did just that by obtaining Shane Greene at the trade deadline, but with he proved to not be the solution. Still, through it all, believe it or not, the Braves bullpen was not as bad as people believed it to be.
In 2019, the Braves 4.21 bullpen ERA was the 11th best in baseball. Their 22 blown saves were tied for the ninth fewest in the majors. Looking at those numbers, you can see they weren’t a good bullpen. That is further exemplified by their 4.49 FIP (ranked 15th), and their 1.388 WHIP, which was 11th worst.
Having Smith in the bullpen is going to make that bullpen better. However, it should be noted that even with the struggles that bullpen had, they didn’t hold back a 96 win team. If anything, obtaining Smith should help the Braves tread water from their having some of the fewest blown saves in the game. With Smith, they’ll probably be better, but probably not much better.
The real issue for the Braves going forward isn’t going to be about holding onto leads. No, their real issue is getting them.
The Braves had a major hole to address at third base with Josh Donaldson being a free agent. Last year, he hit .259/.379/.521 with 33 doubles, 37 homers, and 94 RBI. Even on a team with Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie Freeman, his 6.1 WAR led the team. His 15 DRS made him the best defensive third baseman in the National League.
Signing Smith is not going to do anything to offset potentially losing Donaldson on the free agent market. Depending on what happens in the rest of the division, the Braves may not be able to get away with just signing a Mike Moustakas or Todd Frazier. No, they need a real difference maker.
On that note, the team also needs to upgrade its catching position, especially with them losing Brian McCann to retirement. On that front, Yasmani Grandal is just about the only catcher who could offset the loss of Donaldson, but whether the Braves have an appetite to go in that direction remains to be seen.
Ultimately, the Braves can be either a significantly improved team from their 96 win team. They can also be significantly worse. All we know is Smith is not moving the needle in either direction at the moment. To that end, no Mets fan should be up in arms over the Braves getting him, especially with some very good relievers remaining on the free agent market.
No, the time for Mets fans to react is when there are other very significant players sign, including but not limited to, Zack Wheeler signing.