Will Smith

Braves' signing of Will Smith has ripple effect on NL East and free agency

Braves' signing of Will Smith has ripple effect on NL East and free agency

Two weeks into free agency, the Braves have been more active than any team. Their biggest move was Thursday's signing of left-hander Will Smith, the top reliever on the market.

Prior to that, Atlanta brought back three of its own would-be-free-agents in right fielder Nick Markakis, catcher Tyler Flowers and reliever Darren O'Day.

The Smith signing is definitely the highest impact move of the bunch and makes the Braves a lot better. His deal is for a reported $40 million over three years. He is coming off his first All-Star appearance and back-to-back stellar years. He was 6-0 with 34 saves and a 2.76 ERA for the Giants in 2019, he struck out 96 in 65⅓ innings and he held lefties to a .157/.167/.229 batting line. Read that again ... 157/.167/.229!

Bryce Harper will face Smith many times over the next three years. The teams meet 19 times per season and you'd figure Smith will face Harper in a high-leverage situation whenever the game is late and close. Harper is 0 for 8 with five strikeouts lifetime against Smith. Smith will also factor into plenty of matchups with Juan Soto.

The Braves tried various closing formulas in 2018. They went through Arodys Vizcaino, A.J. Minter, Luke Jackson, Shane Greene and Melancon. For most of the season, the ninth-inning was a weakness, yet the Braves still won 97 games. 

Melancon will return in 2020 and could still close, but Smith is another very good option if he falters. It would probably make more sense for the Braves to try to use Melancon as the ninth-inning guy to free up Smith for high-leverage spots against lefties in the eighth or even seventh inning.

Why did Smith sign so quickly? For a couple reasons. First, $40 million over three years is a sweet contract for a reliever. He may not have beaten this deal even by waiting. But his representatives also effectively leveraged Thursday's qualifying offer deadline against teams interested in Smith. There was at least a threat that Smith could accept the Giants' one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer if a better alternative was not presented by Nov. 14. That created more urgency on the Braves' part.

Removing Smith's name from the free-agent relief market further depletes an already light market. The top two potential free-agent relievers were set to be Smith and Aroldis Chapman, but Smith is a Brave in mid-November and Chapman returned to the Yankees on a new deal.

With Smith off the board, the top free-agent reliever might be longtime lefty starter Drew Pomeranz. In 25 appearances with the Brewers after a midseason trade, Pomeranz had a 2.39 ERA and 0.91 WHIP with 45 strikeouts in 26⅓ innings. He's generated a ton of buzz this winter and should also find a lucrative multi-year contract.

Chris Martin, Sergio Romo, Will Harris, Daniel Hudson and Dellin Betances are the best free-agent bullpen arms left. There are also trade candidates like Ken Giles, Raisel Iglesias and maybe Ian Kennedy if the Royals eat most of his remaining $22.5 million.

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Will Smith teams up with Philly celebs for Sixers hype video

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@WillSmith

Will Smith teams up with Philly celebs for Sixers hype video

"There is nothing, in like all of entertainment, than to walk into the building when it's announced that you're a part owner of your hometown basketball team," Will Smith told Jimmy Kimmel back in 2016. "That is ridiculous. If the team doesn't win, it sucks later."

Good thing for Will Smith that the Sixers are currently the toast of the town and kicking off a second round series against the Boston Celtics up in Beantown this evening.

Smith, who isn't always the most visible in Philly, tends to step up when the moment warrants it. He shared a hype video today featuring some other Philly celebs like Kevin Hart, Lil Dickey, and the Eagles' Malcolm Jenkins. Underdog much?

"Can you feel that?" is the common theme.

Perhaps the best moment is when Will passes the "Fresh Prince" nickname over to Ben Simmons.

Eagles fans may remember Smith stepping up when the Birds were in the Super Bowl back in February.

Will Smith is still one of us

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Will Smith Instagram

Will Smith is still one of us

Will Smith hasn't gone Hollywood.

Sure, he's made it big in the entertainment industry, but the Philadelphia native still had the pre-Super Bowl jitters as he prepared to root on his Eagles

Like plenty of other Eagles fans, it looks like Smith had his game face on all day. He's also rocking a Nicky Six jersey.

Check out the video below:

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PHILLY IS IN THE BUILDING! #FlyEaglesFly #SBLII

A post shared by Will Smith (@willsmith) on