John Smoltz’s Departure Could Be Lucky for the Braves

Kevin MarkumCorrespondent IJanuary 9, 2009

The headline alone might make you scratch your head just a little bit. You are probably thinking that with all the problems the Braves are having in securing top pitchers this offseason, the loss of John Smoltz is what would nail down the coffin for their 2009 season.


I suggest just the opposite. Now, I am probably the biggest John Smoltz fan there is.  What Smoltzy has done in his career, despite being considered over-the-hill when it comes to your typical All-star pitcher, is one of the most remarkable stories in baseball history. Believe me, I will be sad to see him go.


The problem is that die-hard Braves fans let their loyalty get in the way of reality.  Smoltz is coming off yet another major injury. He is 42 and more than likely not the ace that the Braves need.


Sure, $5.5 million seems like a discount for a player like Smoltz, but given those factors would it be a wise gamble?


The fact is that the Braves need to get younger. They need to keep around one or two key veterans, such as Chipper Jones, for the leadership factor, but beyond that they need to start investing in young talent. Smoltz and Glavine had a wonderful ride, but given the circumstances I’d rather depend on a Jair Jurrjens than an aging Smoltz.


Derek Lowe is not what I consider young, but his 30-something is much more reliable than Smoltz’s 40-something. I don’t consider Lowe to be a long-term fix by any means, but he certainly would be a factor in the Braves’ run for the 2009 playoffs. I think he would give them a shot at being a contender. He certainly wouldn’t hurt.


It might sound crazy, but I’d love to have Derek Lowe on the roster.  Here are the stats that stick out to me:


Every season since 2002, Lowe has started a minimum of 32 games. Smoltz started just five games in 2008.


Lowe has held a winning record every season since 2002, except for 2005 when he still posted an ERA of 3.61 and struck out 146.


Lowe would be a nice fill-in ace until Tim Hudson returns from injury, Jair Jurrjens gets some experience, or Tommy Hanson makes the explosion from the minor league that many are predicting.


Now, I mentioned earlier that the Braves need to get younger.


In a previous article we went through several of the Braves that are on the current roster that are considered potential All-Stars. We also looked at a few prospects that have high potential as well, including top pitching prospect Tommy Hanson and outfielder Jason Heyward. I think these types of players are the Braves’ keys to success in the future.


I’ve often stated that I would be completely against trading for Jake Peavy. With youth in mind, Peavy is obviously a young All-Star pitcher that could be great for a long time.  He might be worth trading a few minor leaguers, depending on who they were. Certainly you don’t want to trade Tommy Hanson or Jason Heyward at this point.


The overall point that I am trying to make in regards to John Smoltz is that it is not the end of the world. 


According to history, a pitcher Smoltz’s age should be retired. Eventually this would have been the case with John even if he had stayed with us for another year.  I say we treat it as a retirement and move on to younger players.


Another bit of advice to give the Braves would be to make wise investments. Don’t make big offers like the large offer given to A.J. Burnett who is often injured. Lowe rarely misses a start and might be worth the money, considering his track record.


Another wise move would be to resign Andruw Jones for a minimum contract if that opportunity is there. Even for a million dollars for one year, Andruw would be welcome back in Atlanta.  It’d certainly be a cheap gamble for the potential he might have.  He could also help Jordan Schaefer get more seasoning in the minors for a year or so.


All in all, the Braves need to sign Lowe and get Andruw back for a year.  Beyond that, they need to let the Braves’ farm system do their magic and not trade off key prospects for short-lived rentals like Mark Teixeira.