“as if they were negotiating with Carl Pavano”
That’s how veteran scribe Murray Chass describes the Braves’ dealings with John Smoltz. His reporting is the most thorough I’ve read and confirms much of what we suspected about the braintrust.
The Braves offered Smoltz a one-year contract with a $2 million salary and a potential $8 million in bonuses, much of them based on roster time, for a possible $10 million total. The Red Sox contract has a $5.5 million salary with an additional $5 million in bonuses based on roster time. Smoltz viewed the Red Sox bonuses as more reasonable and more attractive.
Under the Braves’ bonus offers, Smoltz would have earned $1 million each if he were on the roster opening day, May 1 and June 1, then another $5 million based on his number of starts and innings pitched. Smoltz was concerned that the roster bonuses were strictly under the Braves’ control and that they could too easily be manipulated. For example, Smoltz could be sound enough to open the season on the Braves’ roster, but they could decide they didn’t need a fifth starter until later and leave him off the opening-day roster.
The 41-year-old Smoltz, accounting for his shoulder operation last June, made his own proposal, which he called a risk-and-reward offer, where he would accept financial risk and give the Braves more protection earlier in the season in exchange for financial reward if he were pitching regularly later in the season. But the Braves rejected the proposal. …
Considering that the Red Sox had a pretty decent rotation already, they weren’t going to throw millions at a pitcher with a questionable future.
If they felt comfortable with the offer they made Smoltz, why weren’t the Braves willing to offer a higher guarantee, especially since their manager, Bobby Cox, had watched Smoltz throw and was impressed with where he was at that stage of his rehabilitation.
As Chass points out, the “small market” Cleveland Indians signed Pavano for only $500,000 less in guaranteed money than the Braves offered Smoltz.
His departure continues a depressing trend for the Bravos. Smoltz is one of seven pitchers to hurl for one team for 20 years or more. Four of the seven spent their entire careers with one franchise. The three who didn’t — Smoltz, Niekro and Spahn — have one team in common.