Royals, P Smith finalize one-year, $5-million deal
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals finalized a $5 million, one-year contract with Will Smith on Monday, and they are hoping the left-hander will be able to close down games in a way their bullpen struggled to last season.
The 34-year-old, who has won World Series rings each of the past three season with different organizations, also could earn $1 million in performance bonuses for games pitched: $125,000 each for 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60 games.
“Finishing games is definitely where and why Will was attractive to us,” Royals general manager J.J. Picollo said. “It's tough to do throughout the season, but he does have a track record and he's going to have every opportunity to finish games.”
Smith is returning the club that gave him his big league start and where he transitioned to the bullpen and began a successful career with several other clubs. He has pitched for five in all, going to the All-Star Game with the San Francisco Giants in 2019 and then winning the World Series in 2021 with the Atlanta Braves, the following year with the Houston Astros and this past season with the Texas Rangers.
Smith allowed four runs in five appearances for Texas this past postseason, including two in the World Series against Arizona.
He has finished games throughout his career, including at least 40 each of the past three full big league seasons. But only in the past few years has he regularly gotten the ball in save situations. He had 34 saves for San Francisco during his All-Star season, 37 saves for Atlanta in 2021 and had 22 for Texas last season.
Among other things, it was the chance to close out games for the Royals that made their offer an attractive one.
“It could be the pressure or whatever, (but) I don't know how to describe it, the feeling of the ninth inning when you leave the bullpen with a one-run lead, a two-run lead, a three-run lead,” Smith said. “It's so black and white: I need to get this many out before they score this many runs, and we win. I just enjoyed that.”
The Royals struggled with pitching across the board last season, and their bullpen was a particular problem, compiling a 5.23 ERA that was better than one other team. So, they began reinforcing their relief corps last month then they acquired Nick Anderson for cash from Atlanta, where he had a 3.06 ERA in 35 1/3 innings before a shoulder strain shut down his season.
Picollo said the Royals will continue to look for bullpen help, but they also will be turning their attention to starters, where they have nobody established behind Cole Ragans, Brady Singer and Jordan Lyles. They have been mentioned in connection with Lucas Giolito and Marcus Stroman, two of the top remaining arms in free agency.
The market for them is expected to heat up now that Shohei Ohtani has agreed to a $700 million, 10-year deal with the Dodgers.
“There's only a couple of teams to our knowledge involved in the Ohtani situation,” Picollo said, “but now that the domino has fallen, I do think it's going to speed up, and we're going to see a lot of action this week and next week. And I think a lot of things will be settled before Christmas. That's what we are anticipating.”
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