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Braves sign Drew Smyly to one year deal for $11M

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A bit a surprise for a 31-year-old lefty who experienced a huge surge in strikeouts in 2020.

MLB: San Diego Padres at San Francisco Giants Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Braves have signed left handed pitcher Drew Smyly to a one year deal worth $11 million, the team announced Monday afternoon.

Smyly, 31, had an extreme 2020 where he struck out an absurd 37.8% of the batters he faced with the Giants while making seven appearances (five starts) over 26 innings. His ERA was 3.42, but his 2.01 FIP and 2.56 xFIP rated among the league’s best for those who made at least five starts. Prior to 2020, he was merely OK with a career ERA and FIP around 4.20 with league average strikeout and walk numbers.

Smyly experienced a wild career resurgence over the summer months, one that even caught him by surprise. His fastball velocity spiked to 93.8 mph after hovering around 90 during the prior 700 innings of his career. He gave up quite a bit of hard contact, but with a strikeout rate in the 97th percentile and a whiff rate in the 89th percentile, it often did not matter.

The move, to be honest, comes as a surprise and one the Braves are banking on as an upside play, hoping 2020 was not an outlier but a sign of things to come. The money is significant in an offseason where every dollar will matter. One would assume Smyly would be given every opportunity to be a starting pitcher; he’s made 111 starts over his big league career dating back to 2012.

Smyly is the newest member of the Alex Anthopoulos One Year Contract Club, joining the likes of Josh Donaldson, Dallas Keuchel, Marcell Ozuna and Cole Hamels.

At just one year in length, the Braves avoid risk, although it will be interesting to see if Anthopoulos adds another veteran starting pitcher to his rotation behind Smyly, Mike Soroka, Max Fried and Ian Anderson, or if he feels one of Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson or someone else in the organization is ready to assume that role.

More to come.