Early in the off-season the Dodgers were linked to free agent left-handed reliever Will Smith, formerly of the San Francisco Giants. The closer inked a 3-year, $39M deal with the Atlanta Braves.
#Braves Sign LHP Will Smith: pic.twitter.com/vXAfty3nAq
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) November 14, 2019
With Kenley Jansen in tow, and a qualifying offer attached to Smith, chances were slim that Los Angeles would go beyond kicking the tires on the lefty. But to kick tires (as it were) on baseball players, usually the player needs to be on the market for a little while. Moreover, the early inking could be marking a change from hot stoves past.
This topic is something that was addressed by MLB super-agent Scott Boras at the GM meetings on Wednesday in Arizona.
“Clubs are wanting meetings and wanting to get in front of the players.They’re all telling me they want to make much earlier decisions. I did not hear any of that last year.”
In recent off-seasons, of course, players like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado (bonafide top-tier talents) didn’t sign deals until February. Moreover, secondary talent like Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Kuechel had to wait until the middle of the season.
Knowing that it’s starting to get tougher to get big money later into the off-season (Yasmani Grandal comes to mind), it seems that the direction of Smith’s camp was to get him signed early.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic shared this tweet.
Will Smith’s agent, Jeff Berry of CAA, effectively used the qualifying offer as leverage, telling interested teams he wanted a deal by today’s deadline or Smith would accept the one-year, $17.8M offer from #SFGiants. In the end, the #Braves bit.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 14, 2019
In the end, Smith’s agent Jeff Berry played the Braves perfectly.