SAN FRANCISCO -- Will Smith tried not to worry about what August might bring as the trade deadline approached this summer, and as he prepared for his final few games as a Giant, he took the same approach with free agency. Smith said he was happy to let his agents at CAA handle all the details until it was time for a final decision to be made.
"That's their ninth inning, is them figuring that stuff out," Smith told NBC Sports Bay Area. "I'll take care of the ninth inning here. That's kind of how we view it."
Smith took care of the ninth better than just about anyone in the National League, which surely pleased those agents who now will try and potentially find him a new home. The 30-year-old lefty should be the most coveted reliever on the market, and he fits just about any situation.
Need a closer? Smith had 34 saves in 38 opportunities for a bad team and rarely even had a stressful ninth. He struck out a career-high 13.2 batters per nine innings.
Need a dominant lefty for your seventh or eighth? Smith can face either lefties or righties, but he wiped out same-side hitters, allowing just a .395 OPS to lefty hitters and striking out 42 of the 72 he faced.
Need a good clubhouse guy? A leader for your bullpen? Someone who has proven durable and willing to pitch multiple innings? Smith, a Willie Mac Award winner, checks all the boxes.
In short, Smith could pitch anywhere next season. The Nationals, Twins, Dodgers, Cubs, Red Sox, Phillies and other potential contenders will be looking for late-inning help. Smith's hometown Braves loom as an intriguing option. Smith spends his offseasons attending Falcons games and the Braves, who had Mark Melancon closing postseason games, could use a steadier hand in the ninth.
The Giants will need a closer, too, and they'll be happy to have Smith back if he accepts the $17.8 million qualifying offer. But given their situation, it's hard to picture them winning a bidding war. Smith is expected to get at least a three-year deal and should be looking at upwards of $40 million overall.
Smith said he enjoyed his time in San Francisco, calling it an "awesome group" with a "bullpen that's really close." He wanted to see who would take over for Bruce Bochy, but that should be settled soon. Smith's preference is to close, and the Giants could offer him that gig for the foreseeable future, unlike some teams that may view him as just another cog in a dominant bullpen.
But there's a major drawback to staying in San Francisco. For as much improvement as the Giants showed in some areas, they still are not close to being a true contender. As Smith talked about what's important, he mentioned how much 2016 meant to him. He got a taste of the postseason and would do anything to get back.
"I've said this from Day 1: I don't care how much I make -- I'll play for free, I really will -- I just want to win," Smith said. "You play to be the best, you play for the ring, you play for the trophy, you play for a World Series. After going in 2016 and getting that little bit of a taste, you never want to go home early. It's kind of sad when you leave and other teams get to keep playing. You want to be one of those final teams that have a shot at it."
The Giants went home early in three of Smith's four seasons in San Francisco. He should have no shortage of options if he wants to join a contender right away, although it's possible the qualifying offer will depress his market enough that a reunion makes sense. That's something Smith's agents will figure out in the coming weeks. The lefty did his part to put himself in a good situation, and soon he'll get rewarded for it.