The past few days have seen 3 major free agent pitcher signings with veteran 41 year old starter/closer John Smoltz going to the Boston Red Sox in a 1 year, $5 million deal, with another possible $5 million in incentive bonuses based on time on the active 25-man roster, and 35 year old veteran starter Derek Lowe going to the Atlanta Braves, Smoltz’s old team, in a 4 year, $60 million deal. All-Time saves leader closer Trevor Hoffman agreed to a 1 year, $6 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers.
AP Sports Writer Howard Ulman provides more background on the Smoltz’s deal with Boston and leaving the Braves for Yahoo sports;
After playing all 20 of his major league seasons with the Atlanta Braves, the only pitcher in baseball history with 200 wins and 150 saves is starting over at age 41 with the Red Sox.
“I’m as determined and I’m as focused as I’ve ever been,” Smoltz said Tuesday. “The uniform has changed. The desire won’t change.”
“They were taking a different direction and, for the most part, left me with really no options,” Smoltz said. “Atlanta will always be my home. I’ve raised four children there and built a school. That won’t change.”
But, he said, “we were way apart.”
The Red Sox were much more aggressive in trying to sign Smoltz than the Braves were in wanting to keep him.
Smoltz’s actual numbers in 20 Major League seasons is 210-147 with 154 saves racked up as a closer for 3 seasons (2001-2004), 53 complete games, over 3,000 career strikeouts and a career ERA of 3.26. He was 24-8 with the Braves in 1996, his only 20 win season.
Smoltz joins a talent-laden Boston starting rotation of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Brad Penny and Tim Wakefield with young starters Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden waiting in the wings. Smoltz could also be utilized in a set-up role for All Star closer Jon Papelbon.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien reports on the Lowe, Braves deal;
Lowe agreed to terms on a four-year, $60 million contract with the Braves, a person familiar with negotiations said. The deal will be finalized after he takes a physical this week.
In terms of dollars and magnitude, it’s the biggest free-agent pitching acquisition for the Braves since Greg Maddux signed a five-year, $28 million contract with Atlanta after the 1992 season.
There is always risk in signing a 35-year-old pitcher to a four-year contract, but Lowe has been one of baseball’s most durable starters since moving from Boston’s bullpen to its rotation in 2002.
The sinkerballer averaged 15 wins, 208 innings and nearly 34 starts over the past seven seasons, and with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season he was 14-11 with a 3.24 ERA in 211 innings.
Did the Braves overpay? That argument could certainly be made, and it wouldn’t be the first time a team paid more than expected for a Boras client.
The only other reported offer for Lowe was a three-year, $36 million proposal by the New York Mets, although Boras said that was never formally made and was well below market for the pitcher.
Boras wouldn’t say if other offers were made, only that there was interest from several teams including the Philadephia Phillies.
Because the Braves don’t give no-trade clauses in contracts and have missed the postseason for three years, it was believed they might have to pay more than contending teams that give no-trade clauses.
If the Braves achieve their goal of returning to the postseason, they can lean on Lowe, who’s 5-5 with a save and a 3.33 ERA in 21 postseason games (10 starts), including 4-1 in his past eight.
For Boston’s 2004 World Series champions, he was 3-0 with a 1.86 ERA in four postseason games, with decisions in three series-clinching wins.
MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom reports on Trevor Hoffman’s deal with the Brewers and his career with the San Diego Padres;
“He brings to our club the closer we need for us to continue our pursuit of a World Series,” [Brewers] general manager Doug Melvin said.
The 41-year-old righty, who had pitched for San Diego since 1993, has 554 saves in 930 relief appearances over his 16-year career.
Hoffman went 3-6 with a 3.77 ERA and 30 saves in 34 opportunities last season. The six-time All-Star can earn an additional $1.5 million in performance bonuses based on games finished.
MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy notes the possible impact on the Brewes of acquiring Hoffman;
With one big move, the Brewers might have strengthened both their bullpen and their starting rotation.
Assuming that all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman passes his physical and finalizes the one-year free-agent contract both sides agreed upon Thursday, the Brewers have their closer for the upcoming season and thus have filled their most glaring need five weeks before the start of Spring Training.
Hoffman would remove any doubt about the closer’s role. That would move Seth McClung [from] closer to his wish for a spot in the starting rotation — giving the Brewers five viable arms there — while at the same time allowing the team to more cautiously develop Carlos Villanueva as a reliever in a seventh- or eighth-inning role.
Before the Brewers landed Hoffman, both McClung and Villanueva were being considered for the ninth-inning vacancy. Instead, the Brewers were poised to add Hoffman, who is 46 saves shy of 600 for his career.
“Trevor’s excited about a new beginning in Milwaukee,” Thurman said. “The Brewers were aggressive in pursuing him, and that ultimately made a big difference in his decision.”
Hoffman, for all of his MLB record 554 saves, has shown inconsistency in clutch situations in recent years.
In the 2006 All Star game, Hoffman was 1 out from saving an NL victory before giving up 3 straight hits, two of them for extra-bases, and 2 runs in an 3-2 AL win.
Down the stretch of the 2006 season, Hoffman suffered another lapse in consistency in the clutch as the Padres and the Dodgers fought for the NL West crown in a mid-September game in Los Angeles.
Leading the Dodgers by 9-5 in the Dodger 9th inning, the first 2 Dodgers up in the inning homered to cut the lead to 9-7. Enter Hoffman. The record-setting closer’s first 2 pitches also resulted in homers as the Dodgers tied the game and went on to win it in the 10th inning.
In 2007, Hoffman again came up short - twice, against the streaking Colorado Rockies giving up the winning run in 13 innings, and in a loss 2 days before against the Milwaukee Brewers in 11 innings.