According to Bob Nightengale, the Internet’s least reliable baseball source, the Giants have agreed to a 1-year, $4.225 million deal with closer/lefty reliever Will Smith, who was in the final year of arbitration eligibility. This means the Giants avoid a “file and trial” scenario wherein the team would have to present to an arbitration panel why he deserves to make less than the figure he and his team submitted.
MLB Trade Rumors had projected him to earn $4.1 million in arbitration, so this is another boon to their projection system; but, more importantly, this strengthens the Giants’ hand when it comes to trade scenarios. And, hey, if they’re even interested in winning actual baseball games in 2019, securing Will Smith’s services gives them one actual strength: an above average bullpen.
Will Smith’s 2.0 fWAR made him the ninth-most valuable reliever in baseball last season. His 12.06 strikeouts per 9 innings was 16th-best. If you filter to just the National League, he was the fifth-best in both categories. The Giants just re-signed their best reliever and the fifth-best reliever in the National League for less than the cost of Sam Dyson to rejoin what was the third-best bullpen (by fWAR) in the National League and eighth-best in baseball in 2018.
More importantly, Farhan Zaidi now has 100% certainty when it comes to trade chips. He knows what every player costs in terms of salary cap hit and with all the analytics knows just as much as the next team just how much “surplus value” is available on the roster.
The Giants don’t have much surplus value on their 40-man roster, but Will Smith really stands out. As Doug pointed out in his season review:
You simply couldn’t have hoped for Will Smith to have a better, more promising, or more effective year. You can’t point to his FIP and say that it means he’s due for regression next year, or worry about a declining strikeout or walk rate rate, or stress about some velocity dip. He was exactly as good as he seemed to be. In 2018, Will Smith truly did get jiggy wit it.
And in this bit of Jeff Sullivan analysis I’m borrowing here for time (but please go read the whole thing as it’s an excellent article on the Giants’ best reliever):
Smith was good in 2014. Then he got better in 2015. In 2016, he had to deal with a tear in his knee, and in 2017, he was sidelined by Tommy John surgery. But as the following table shows, Smith got all the way back, and then some. He’s returned to being the pitcher he was before his body pulled the rug out from underneath itself.
There’s no decline there to be seen, and Smith actually just threw a higher rate of strikes. He didn’t have trouble pitching on back-to-back days, and his arsenal was almost identical.
He reliably averages 92.5 mph with his fastball, and as we saw last season, he was able to get into the 94-95 range with consistency. He’ll be a valuable piece out of somebody’s bullpen, and the Giants have positioned themselves to add at least one quality prospect if not two in exchange for these services.
There’s certainly more to be done this offseason, but the last lingering thread from last season has finally closed.