Will Smith is going closer to home, and the Giants are missing a closer.
The best reliever on the market did not last long, signing a three-year, effectively $40 million contract with the Braves, a homecoming for the Georgia native. The fourth year of the contract is a club option.
According to The Athletic, Smith’s representatives used Smith’s qualifying offer deadline as leverage: He wanted a pact by Thursday at 2 p.m. or he would take the Giants’ one-year, $17.8 million deal. Atlanta stepped up to secure the All-Star’s services.
The Giants will receive a compensatory draft pick — between the second and third rounds — in exchange.
There was a significant chance Smith would be the rare player to accept the qualifying offer, a nice payout for a reliever who has earned about $13 million in his career. But with the deal, he gets security and a much better chance at a playoff run for a team he grew up rooting for.
Smith was San Francisco’s closer the last two seasons, the 30-year-old being just about the only constant in an evolving bullpen. He finished last season with 34 saves and a 2.76 ERA, with 96 strikeouts in 65 1/3 innings.
Without him, the most logical incumbent to take the ninth-inning role would be Tony Watson, who did not test free agency. Though, the Giants figure to be in the closer market now.
The bigger question may be, though, whether Madison Bumgarner — a North Carolina native — also highly prioritizes going home.