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Braves Trade Deadline Targets: Will Smith

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The Giants’ closer makes a lot of sense for the Braves, but will the Braves match what is sure to be a high price?

Colorado Rockies v San Francisco Giants Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

In West Georgia, born and raised, the ball field is where Will Smith spent most of his days at Northgate High School in Newnan. Several years and a move to California later, Smith has become one of the best relievers in baseball for the Giants. Braves fans are now hoping that a reunion episode is in order.

The Braves will undoubtedly be scouring the market for late-inning relievers before the trade deadline. While Luke Jackson has been a pleasant surprise this season, he has had his fair share of blown saves and drama-filled late-inning scares. Acquiring a closer like Smith would allow the Braves to slot Jackson and other relievers down and would represent a big boost to their playoff hopes.

Will Smith 2019 season

IP SV/OPP ERA FIP xFIP K% BB% fWAR
IP SV/OPP ERA FIP xFIP K% BB% fWAR
38.1 24/25 2.11 2.12 2.23 38.3% 6.4% 1.4

Contract:

Smith will be a free agent at the end of the season. He is owed approximately $1.7 million for the remainder of the year.

Why he will be traded:

It’s no secret that the Giants will be sellers at the deadline. They are even shopping one of their beloved franchise players, Madison Bumgarner. While the Giants have been playing well lately, they still have a lot of teams to jump to get into serious wild card contention. Smith will be a free agent at the end of the season, so there’s little reason he should finish the year with the Giants.

Why the Braves need him:

Smith checks all the Braves’ boxes as far as what they might seek in a reliever at the trade deadline. He has been an elite closer who is a rental and thus won’t warrant a lot of prospect capital in return. The Braves’ front office has been unwilling to pay much for relievers and have shown a preference for trying to piece together a bullpen for cheap. Given their success in turning the bullpen around this season without spending any money, it’s a strategy that has worked well to this point. And given the volatility of bullpens and relievers in today’s game (see, for example, Diaz, Edwin), it’s hard to argue against it. For this reason, I think the Braves prefer a rental reliever like Smith over one that will require a big return of prospects like, say, the Pirates’ Felipe Velazquez.

Additionally, it would be wise for the Braves to add some more left-handed pitchers to its staff to optimize matchups against who they’re likely to see in the playoffs. There is little doubt that the NL pennant this year will go through Los Angeles, who has won it each of the past two years and look better than ever. The Dodgers have a 114 wRC+ this season versus right-handed pitchers compared to a 105 wRC+ against lefties. Furthermore, Smith has had a lot of success this year against the Dodgers, allowing no runs, three hits, two walks, and striking out nine over six innings.

While a lot could still change, if the season ended today, the Braves would be matched up with the Cubs in the NL Divisional Series. The Cubs’ splits are even more dramatic than the Dodgers’, holding a 108 wRC+ against righties and a 94 wRC+ against lefties.

Why the Braves aren’t a good fit:

There is little reason to think that Smith would not be an ideal fit for the Braves. However, Chip Caray mentioned during a recent broadcast that Perry Minasian, the Braves’ assistant General Manager, said that they like adding pitchers from the American League midseason, much like they did with Anthony Swarzak in May. The logic presumably is that the pitcher has the advantage when hitters have not faced them or seen their pitches much. Certainly, though, this doesn’t mean that the Braves wouldn’t pursue pitchers from the National League.

The main issue here will come down to asking price. The market for good relievers will be very competitive, and the team that nabs Smith will likely have to pay a little more than his value. The Braves have shown that, when it comes to dealing prospects, they’re not willing to overpay. It will be interesting to see whether the Braves will be aggressive in trying to land a top reliever or focus their resources on obtaining a starter and settle for a lower cost reliever.

Likely cost:

According to the Baseball Trade Values simulator, a fair trade for Smith would be:

  • Braves get Smith
  • Giants get Joey Wentz and Tristan Beck

This seems is a bit high for three months of a reliever. Hopefully Wentz alone would get the deal done, but in a competitive market like there will be for closers at the deadline, something like the deal above might be necessary to seal the deal.