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The Daily Chop: Braves strike early for bullpen arm

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Atlanta is hoping Will Smith can help solidify their bullpen for the next three seasons.

MLB: Miami Marlins at San Francisco Giants Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Braves made an early splash this offseason on Thursday announcing a three-year, $40 million deal with free agent reliever Will Smith. The deal also reportedly contains a team option for the 2023 season that is worth $13 million. He will be added to a bullpen mix that also includes Darren O’Day whom the team re-signed last week.

Smith declined a qualifying offer from the Giants to accept the multi-year deal from Atlanta. The Braves will forfeit their second round pick in the 2020 MLB Draft as a result of the signing. Smith’s agent reportedly used the qualifying offer as leverage in negotiations telling clubs that he would accept the one-year offer if he wasn’t signed by Thursday’s deadline.

The reaction has been interesting. On one hand, the Braves just paid a high price tag for a reliever which history has shown hasn’t always worked out as planned. On the other, Atlanta’s bullpen was a problem for most of 2018 and Smith should help with that considerably. Mark Melancon will return for 2020 along with O’Day. Shane Greene is also under contract but could be an interesting non-tender candidate now.

More Reaction to the Will Smith signing

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More Braves News

As expected, free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson officially declined the Braves’ qualifying offer before Thursday’s 5 p.m. deadline. Declining the $17.8 million offer officially ties Draft pick compensation to Donaldson who has drawn a lot of interest already this offseason.

Ronald Acuña Jr. and Freddie Freeman finish in the Top 10 for MVP voting. Acuña finished fifth behind the three finalists and Arizona’s Ketel Marte. Freeman came in eighth in the voting.

Now that the offseason is in full swing, we took a look back at some of the best free agent signings in Atlanta history. There is no disputing the Hall of Fame pitcher that tops this list.

Our player-by-player look back at the 2019 season wrapped up on Thursday with a closer look at first baseman Freddie Freeman and outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. You can find all 53 player reviews for the 2019 season here.

Former Braves great Andruw Jones was one of 13 people that were inducted into the Appalachian League Hall of Fame earlier this week. Jones began his professional career with Danville in 1994 hitting .336 in 36 games.

MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo spotlights the Braves’ farm system heading into the offseason.

Qualifying offer News

In addition to Donaldson, six other players declined qualifying offers before Thursday’s deadline. They were Donaldson, Madison Bumgarner, Gerrit Cole, Marcell Ozuna, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler and Will Smith.

Two players accepted qualifying offers in Twins right-hander Jake Odorizzi, and White Sox DH/first baseman Jose Abreu.

MLB Coaching News

The New York Yankees announced on Thursday the hiring of Matt Blake as the team’s new pitching coach. Blake previously served as an area scout for New York but spent the last four seasons with the Cleveland Indians.

The Chicago Cubs will add former catcher Mike Napoli to the team’s coaching staff according to a report by the MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. He is expected to serve as the team’s quality assurance coach.

MLB News

Major League Baseball’s investigation into illegal sign stealing is expected to expand beyond the 2017 Astros and look at whether other teams have used technology to aid hitters according to a report by ESPN’s Jeff Passan. Per the report, the league plans to interview Astros manager AJ Hinch, Red Sox manager Alex Cora and new Mets manager Carlos Beltran. All were part of Houston’s championship team in 2017.

Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu played last season on the one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer. This winter without draft-pick compensation attached, he is hoping to land a three or four year deal in free agency.