(Note â€“ this is the first of a new format where I will be rating the most interesting free agent deals that are agreed over the off-season as they are confirmed. The talent pool might not be the most impressive of recent years, but there’s still going to be plenty to discuss – not least when someone decides to pay Kyle Lohse as if he’s the second-coming of Sandy Koufax)
Details: Tom Glavine agreed a one-year deal with the Braves, worth $8m.
Optimist’s argument: How can it go wrong? Glavine returns to Atlanta for one last season, with a fairytale ending in his sights. The Braves get a solid innings-eater to plug into their rotation at a decent price, relative to the market. With Mike Hampton being somewhat of a wildcard heading into 2008 after missing the last two seasons through injury, Glavine’s steady presence is exactly what they need.
Pessimist’s argument: Sometimes sentimentalism can cloud good judgement. Glavine’s 2007 performance might not have been terrible, but that 4.45 ERA and just 89 strikeouts show that this is a great pitcher on his way out. A bad start to 2008 and the Braves may have to do the unthinkable to their former hero and put him out to pasture.
Voice of Reason: Put into context, it’s a decent deal for both sides. Glavine isn’t going to be an impact pitcher at this stage in his career, but the Braves aren’t expecting him to win a Cy Young award in 2008. Over the last thirteen seasons, the least amount of innings he’s pitched in a single year is 183 in 2003. So the odds are good that they will get 190+ innings from him at slightly better than league-average performance. As your ace, that’s not much to shout about, but with Smoltz and Hudson leading from the front, Glavine can play an effective role in what looks to be a very solid rotation. If anything, $8 million is a touch below what you would expect to pay (the Mets had a $13m option for example, which Glavine turned down â€“ although he did get $3m as a result to make up some of the short fall). So even disregarding the heart-warming story of seeing Glavine back in a Braves uniform, the optimist’s argument still looks the more realistic bet.
Wider impact rating: 7. Probably doesn’t have much of an impact on the rest of the free agent pitching class, but adding Glavine to their rotation improves the Braves and hurts the Mets, which could prove decisive in the NL East battle. Pedro Martinez could fill that void of course (and then some), yet his five-game cameo at the end of last season doesn’t give us a great deal to go on for predicting what his 2008 may bring. Certainly there are a lot of question marks against the Mets’ rotation right now and GM Omar Minaya may have to overpay on the free agent market to shore it up.