Much of Braves Nation was shocked to hear the news that right-handed veteran pitcher John Smoltz signed a deal with the Boston Red Sox. The $5.5 million, one-year contract, could be worth another $5 million with incentives. Smoltz needs to remain on the active roster from June 1 through October 3 in order to meet all of the incentives.
Atlanta Braves’ General Manager, Frank Wren, originally offered Smoltz a base one-year salary of $2 million. With bonuses, Atlanta’s offer could have approached $10 million. Upon hearing of Boston’s more lucrative offer, Wren decided he would not match the terms.
After having surgery in June 2008 on his right labrum, AC joint and biceps, no one is completely certain on whether Smoltz will be able to pitch for the ’09 season. Due to the severity of the damage, Smoltz understands it is a possibility he may never pitch again.
The 41-year old veteran will always call Atlanta home. “I’m not dying. I’m not leaving. I’m just playing for a different team.” When he called Atlanta’s Manager, Bobby Cox, to tell him the news, Cox was just as surprised as everyone else.
“It really hit me then,” said Cox. “You hate giving up one of your best guys. He’ll be a Hall of Famer for sure.”
After pitching 21 seasons for Atlanta, Smoltz heads to Boston with anticipation and a little resentment, but he will not be holding any grudges. “I don’t harbor any ill feelings or bitterness,” said Smoltz. “I want the Braves to go to the World Series, and, certainly now, I want them to play against the Boston Red Sox. We’ll let fate take care of the rest after that.”
Many Braves fans wondered what Wren’s motivation was for not matching the Red Sox’s offer. He defended his negotiations saying that if Smoltz was healthy enough to pitch, his offer would have been similar to Boston’s offer.
“Even by John’s own admission, he’s not going to be ready until sometime around midseason,” Wren said. “With that being the case, we needed to build our staff based on starting the season in April. That’s always been our plan, always been our focus.”
Frank Wren cannot be completely held to blame for the two sides failing to come to an agreement. He would not go into the specifics about what went on between the two, but he did say, “It’s one of those things where John made the decision to go to Boston. We can’t control that.”
It might be hard at first, but Atlanta will have to quickly adjust to life without John Smoltz.