Braves: Why Bringing Drew Smyly Back Could Make Sense

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 29: Drew Smyly #18 of the Atlanta Braves pitches during the second inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on July 29, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 29: Drew Smyly #18 of the Atlanta Braves pitches during the second inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on July 29, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images) /

Drew Smyly didn’t make a lot of fans during his 2021 season with the Atlanta Braves, but he could actually be a good candidate to return for the right deal. 

As we continue to look at starting pitching options to fill out the back of the starting rotation for the Atlanta Braves, a familiar name could actually work.

I’ll be the first to admit, when the season ended and I started to look at impending free agents, I was among the group that said “good riddance” to Drew Smyly.

But as I also stated several times throughout the 2021 season, it wasn’t just Smyly’s performance at times that frustrated me, it’s the $11 million they committed to him.

When you make that type of financial commitment — even for one year — to a starting pitcher you’re expecting him to at least be a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher.

It became pretty obvious Smyly at best is a number four.

On the season he had a 4.48 ERA in 126.2 innings with 117 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.37.

And he had a good stretch between May and July with a 3.26 ERA in 13 starts with 59 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.29.

However, it was pretty obvious he couldn’t get through a lineup a second or third time as he consistently only lasted four or five innings.

Braves: Why Does Smyly Make Sense Now

My argument all year on Smyly is that if the Braves were paying him $5 million instead of $11 million the entire fanbase would view him differently.

Essentially, if you’re paying him like a fourth or fifth starter, then I think you’re pretty satisfied with the results he gives you.

Now that the Braves and everyone else knows that’s who he is, I would expect Atlanta could get him on a one-year deal for $5 million or less.

Some of you may — rightfully so — argue that it’s still a waste of money.

I disagree, assuming Atlanta has it in the budget and other (better) options aren’t available.

They need another veteran in the starting rotation for depth and to help eat some innings. And there are other guys out there who can provide that for a similar cost — I’m not saying it’s Smyly or bust for this role.

Unless Alex Anthopoulos surprises us all and actually trades some significant prospects for a frontline starter, I just don’t see Atlanta acquiring a top of the rotation pitcher this offseason.

The next best thing is to acquire depth. Guys like Smyly or Brett Anderson give you great depth as veterans who can eat innings and — at times — give you quality innings.

That will allow the Braves to bring in guys like Kyle Muller and Tucker Davidson slowly.

Signing someone like Smyly doesn’t mean the young guys won’t get used, it gives you some insurance in case they aren’t ready. And for when injuries happen, because we know they will.

Plus, Drew Smyly can be moved to the pen. The Braves were hesitant to do that when they were paying him $11 million. But if the young guys prove they’re ready that won’t hold them back if he’s making $5 million or less.

In the bullpen last season, Smyly had a 1.64 ERA in 11 innings with 8 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.27.

Over his career as a reliever, he has a 3.32 ERA in 119.2 innings with 127 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.190.

I’m certainly not expecting him to be a high-leverage guy out there, but he could take the role of Josh Tomlin.

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It’s not a sexy move, but it’s one that — at the right price — could pay huge dividends over the course of a season. To have someone who can add depth at the back of the rotation, allow you to not force the young guys up too quickly, and has some versatility in the bullpen for $5 million or less can be very valuable.