John Smoltz Back in Starting Rotation
The Braves are moving closer John Smoltz back to the starting rotation, and making a considerable sacrifice by trading their top pitching prospect to make it work. Atlanta traded flamethrowing Jose Capellan to Milwaukee on Saturday for All-Star closer Dan Kolb, a sinker-baller who recorded a franchise-record 39 saves last season. “We felt this was the strongest way to rebuild our pitching staff and strengthen our team,” Braves general manager John Schuerholz said, “even at the loss of one of the top young power arms in the game.”
Smoltz has had four elbow surgeries Ã¢€” two since he was last a rotation regular in 1999. But Schuerholz said the Braves now agree with Smoltz, 37, who’s said many times that starting would put less stress on his elbow than relieving and that he wanted to start again. “I have spoke to John and he was delighted,” said Schuerholz, who called Smoltz to notify him of his role change before the trade was announced. “You could hear the smile on the other end of the phone.”
The Braves and Smoltz are also working on a two-year contract extension that would carry him through the 2007 season, presumably with lesser salaries in the final two years in order to offset the $100,000 per start he’ll make next season on top of his $12 million salary. That per-start clause was included in the contract he signed four years ago, and Smoltz hoped that it wouldn’t be a deterrent to the Braves moving him back to the rotation. It wasn’t, after they decided it still made more sense to move Smoltz to the rotation and get an affordable closer than to pay the soaring rates for the current crop of free-agent pitchers.
While continuing to trade away their top pitching prospect every year makes little sense to me, I’ve given up trying to second guess John Schuerholz. His moves–especially those involving pitchers–almost always work out. There’s a reason the Braves have won 14 straight division titles under his watch.
cross-posted at ABB