The Atlanta Braves announced Thursday that the team has come to terms with longtime pitcher John Smoltz to a new two-year contract with a club option
for the 2007 season. Per club policy, financial terms were not disclosed.
The deal means that Smoltz, who has spent all 17 of his major-league seasons with Atlanta, will likely finish his storied career as a Brave. Smoltz
had one year remaining on his current contract and was due to make $12 million this coming season. However, with the 37-year-old returning to the
starting rotation in 2005, the Braves needed to re-structure the contract, as Smoltz had a clause in his existing agreement in which he would have
received an additional $100,000 for each start.
"We are delighted that John Smoltz will be a Brave for at least the next two seasons," said Braves executive vice president and general manager John
Schuerholz. "He has been a constant during our string of 13 straight division titles, both with his pitching and his leadership."
Smoltz, who saved 154 games the last four years as Atlanta's closer, will move back to a starting role due to the club's acquisition of All-Star
reliever Danny Kolb from Milwaukee last week. The Braves have two holes to fill in their rotation because of free-agent losses. Paul Byrd signed a
one-year contract with Anaheim on Tuesday and Jarret Wright is expected to join the New York Yankees.
A six-time All-Star, Smoltz won 157 games as a starting pitcher and won the 1996 National League Cy Young award after posting a 24-8 record, a 2.94
ERA and a career-high 276 strikeouts during Atlanta's run to the World Series that year. However, the righthander underwent "Tommy John" surgery in
2000 which caused him to miss that entire campaign.
Smoltz was shifted to the bullpen the following season and excelled in the new role. He saved a club-record 55 games in 2002 and compiled a
microscopic 1.12 ERA along with 45 saves the next year. Smoltz finished 2004 with an 0-1 record, a 2.76 ERA and 44 saves while fanning 85 batters in
81 2/3 innings.
One of only two pitchers in major league history to record 150 wins and 150 saves (along with Dennis Eckersley), Smoltz was acquired by Atlanta from
the Detroit Tigers organization for pitcher Doyle Alexander on August 12, 1987 and became a cornerstone of a Braves team which has captured 13
consecutive division titles, five NL pennants and the 1995 World Championship.
[Edited on 16/12/04 by TRD]