ATLANTA (AP) – The World Series champion Atlanta Braves bolstered their starting crews Tuesday ahead of the trade deadline by retiring a reliever who played a big part in their 2021 title.
Ready for another run after the season, the Braves split former closer Will Smith to the Houston Astros for righthander Jake Odorizzi, giving Atlanta its sixth starting pitcher for the final two months of the regular season.
The move was the largest of three deadline deals made by general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who resigned minor leaguers for corner on Monday. Outfielder Robbie Grossman from Detroit and infielder Ehire Adrianza from Washington.
Atlanta, holding the third best record in NL and Tuesday’s games going 3 1/2 games behind the East-leading New York Mets, was looking for extra depth for the rotation.
Ian Anderson has struggled and it seems unlikely that former All-Star Mike Soroka will make a big contribution this season after two major Achilles injuries. There are also concerns that 13-game winner Kyle Wright, in his first full big league season, and rookie sensation Spencer Strider could tire of the trajectory.
Smith played a big part in the Braves’ first World Series Championship since 1995. He had 37 saves during the 2021 regular season and was even more dominant in the postseason, pitching 11 scoreless innings with six saves in 11 appearances.
But Smith willingly gave up the ninth-inning slot when the Braves signed old Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen during the off-season, and the lefty faltered in a less prominent role.
In 41 appearances, Smith was 0-1 with a 4.38 ERA and five saves, giving up 35 hits – including seven home runs – and walking 21 in 37 innings for a WHIP of 1,514.
In his last four appearances with the Braves, Smith gave up six runs in three innings.
He was especially replaceable with three other left-handers — AJ Minter, Tyler Matzek and Dylan Lee — who proved more effective out of the bullpen. Also, former Padres closer Kirby Yates looks close to a return to the big leagues with the Braves after recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The AL West-leading Astros acquired the pitcher who was on the mound last season for the deciding game of the Braves’ World Series win over Houston.
The Astros have an abundance of novice pitching and could afford to give up Odorizzi, especially to acquire a much-needed lefty for their bullpen. Smith will make $13 million in what is likely the last year of his contract. He has a $13 million club option for 2023 with a $1 million buyout.
Odorizzi, 32, was an All-Star with Minnesota in 2019, when he had a career-best 15 wins. He went 4-3 this season with a 3.75 ERA in 12 starts for the Astros.
Odorizzi missed 42 games with a left leg injury and is 1-1 with a 4.45 ERA in five stars since returning to the Houston rotation. In his last appearance, he gave up two hits in seven scoreless innings against Seattle.
The Braves can use six starters on an upcoming three-city road trip, including a few doubleheaders. Then they could use Odorizzi as a starting player to give everyone extra rest for the postseason, or make a change if someone falters.
The 24-year-old Anderson was a major disappointment, going 9-6 with a 4.99 ERA, though he increased his chances of staying in the rotation by allowing just one hit in six scoreless innings against the Nationals in his last start .
Wright has blossomed this season leading the NL in wins to go along with a 2.93 ERA. But he has pitched 122 2/3 innings, approaching his professional high of 143 1/3 last season, while pitching mostly for Triple-A Gwinnett.
The hard throwing Strider has made a hugely successful transition into the Braves rotation, going 5-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 22 appearances, including 11 starts.
But Strider has logged 80 1/3 innings, not far from the 96 1/3 he pitched a year ago as he made a meteoric rise from Low-A to the major leagues in his first professional season.
The trade for Odorizzi, who has a $6.5 million player option for 2023 and a $3.25 million minimum buyout that could grow based on the innings pitcher over 2021-22, would top the wish list of the Braves seemingly complete before the deadline.
Grossman, a medley player who has been much more effective against lefthanders, gives the Braves an outfielder who can pack with lefthander Eddie Rosario and serve as a replacement for Adam Duvall, who recently had season-ending wrist surgery.
Adrianza will return to the team he played for in 2021, adding extra depth to the field until Ozzie Albies returns from a broken foot, likely in early September.
the astros were also busy bringing in Boston catcher Christian Vázquez and Orioles slugger Trey Mancini.
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