At this point it’s common knowledge that Greg Maddux turned down Yankee money to sign with the Braves. The Yankees had offered five years at $34 million in the winter of 1992-93, the year after Maddux had won the Cy Young award with the Cubs. Instead he signed a five-year, $28 million deal with Atlanta. That’s $6 million, or 18 percent, less than what the Yankees offered. This would be akin to CC Sabathia having signed with the Giants for seven years and $132 million.
These types of stories are the types you don’t hear often. After all, it’s about the money, stupid. Yet yesterday, via MLBTR, we learned of one more such incidence. This involved another Brave, John Smoltz, who turned down $53 million Yankee dollars to sign with the Braves for $30 million. Looking through Cot’s, it appears Smoltz refers to the three-year, $30 million contract he signed after the 2001 season. It’s understandable why the Yankees would have wanted him at that point.
Then again, it’s easy to forget that Smoltz had been having trouble with his shoulder in 2001 and had been moved to the bullpen. He started just five games that year and finished 20, logging just 59 innings in the process. Perhaps the Yankees wanted to give Smoltz another try in the rotation. That would be the only way this would have made sense. The Yankees already had the best closer in baseball, who was coming off yet another sub-1.00 WHIP season. Smoltz would have gotten a chance to close, as Mariano missed some stretches, including from August 15 to September 15. Obviously, no one could have known that at the time, which is why Smoltz turning down the money made sense. That is, if the plan was for him to pitch in the bullpen.
Instead, the Yankees signed David Wells to shore up their rotation, and were rewarded by him going 19-7 with a 3.75 ERA. They also nabbed Steve Karsay, who pitched well in his first season and wound up being the one filling in for Mo. That, however, was essentially it for Karsay’s career.
Smoltz had a $12 million club option for 2005, which the Braves were apparently going to decline. Did the Yankees come knocking again? I’m sure they did. That was the winter of Carl Pavano and Randy Johnson. Smoltz wound up signing a two-year, $20 million contract with an $8 million option for 2007. The Yankees surely could have, and more than likely would have, topped that. That year Smoltz transitioned back to the rotation and pitched 229 innings of 3.06 ERA ball. The Yanks sure could have used that in 2005.
What makes this story odder is that Smoltz turned down less money from the Braves, $2 million, to pitch for the Red Sox and their $5 million this year. Why the change of heart? Was Smoltz finally fed up with taking the ATL discount? Or did he not see the Braves making much noise this year? Dude’s 42 years old. Surely he wants one more crack at the title. It’s a shame he didn’t come to New York when he had the opportunity. He might have brought home another one a bit earlier.