Smoltz Could Leave Braves

It seems like every couple of years, the Braves go through contract negotations with John Smoltz.  He’s been a Brave for all these years, it just seems inevitable that they’ll work something out.  However, a recent quote from Smoltz makes this offseason sound a little different:

All I know is, after these last two years and with my desire to work out, I’ve got two or three more years, easy. I used to always be of the mind-set that if it’s not here, it won’t be anywhere else.  But that’s not the case any more. I’ll pitch somewhere else.

Smoltz, 39, is having a Cy Young caliber season.  He’s got a 3.36 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 8.3 K/9 in 190 innings.  Shortly after the World Series, the Braves need to decide if he’s worth $8MM for 2007.

Smoltz received a four-year deal worth $31MM in November of 1996 following his Cy Young season.  He became baseball’s highest-paid pitcher at the time.  The results of the contract were 90 starts, one Tommy John surgery, and one season as closer.  His next multiyear deal was three years and $30 mil, with a club option as well.  He signed his current extension in December of 2004; it included a $6MM signing bonus to bring the average annual value to $9.3MM assuming the option is exercised.

That option, by the way, is a no-brainer.  Smoltz is worth $7.4MM next year according to Baseball Prospectus.  They project his value at just $11.5MM over the 2008-10 seasons, however.  The smart business move may be to just exercise the option and leave it at that.  That could result in a midsummer deal.  Smoltz’s former team, the Tigers, could have interest if he’s ever available.  Smoltz hails from Warren, Michigan and grew up in the Tigers’ system.

One thing that could maybe turn a few teams off: some comments Smoltz made a couple of years ago.  I haven’t been able to find out if he’s amended or clarified since.  And honestly most teams would probably ignore it the way they ignore DUIs and stuff like that.

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