HomeTeamsRoyalsWill Smith Takes the Closing Role: Royals' Bold Move or Desperation Play?

Will Smith Takes the Closing Role: Royals’ Bold Move or Desperation Play?

This offseason, the Royals acquired Will Smith, a three-time World Series champion, who has decided to switch teams once again, landing in Kansas City for the 2024 season. After securing titles with the 2021 Atlanta Braves, 2022 Houston Astros, and the 2023 Texas Rangers, one might wonder if Smith has grown tired of championship parades.

What makes this move even more intriguing is the Kansas City Royals’ seemingly questionable decision to appoint Smith as their closer, as we expect, with no other contender for the position. With a team that’s not exactly a hot contender for the World Series in 2024, the decision to put such a dominant force in the setup role of closing games has left many scratching their heads.

Experts initially speculated that Smith would serve as a setup man for a yet-to-be-named closer, considering his impressive stints in 2022 and 2023. However, the Royals have thrown a curveball by entrusting Smith with the closing duties. Was this the plan, or did they sweeten the deal during negotiations to lure Smith into their ranks?

In the 2021 season Smith contributed significantly as a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves. Over the course of 68 innings, he showcased an impressive 3.44 ERA, securing 71 strikeouts and an outstanding 27 saves. His control on the mound was evident with only 11 walks issued. The season proved to be a testament to Smith’s reliability in high-pressure situations, earning him recognition as a valuable asset to the team.

The subsequent year, Smith embarked on a journey that saw him split time between different teams. Despite a challenging season Smith maintained a 3.97 ERA. His combined efforts with the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros amounted to 59 innings pitched, where he recorded 58 strikeouts and secured 26 saves. 

Breaking down his 2022 season further, Smith’s time with the Atlanta Braves saw him pitching 37 innings, garnering 35 strikeouts, and claiming 18 saves. His ERA for this period was 4.38, reflecting the challenges faced on the mound. A mid-season move to the Houston Astros showcased Smith’s adaptability, where he pitched 22 innings, allowing only 10 hits and maintaining an ERA of 3.27.

In 2023, now donning the uniform of the Texas Rangers, Smith continued to demonstrate his capabilities as a pitcher. He maintained a 4.40 ERA. Over 57.1 innings, Smith accumulated 44 strikeouts and secured 28 saves. His control on the mound was evident with only 5 walks issued, showcasing his ability to navigate challenging situations.

Questions surround the Royals’ decision-making process. In a league where strategic moves can make or break a season, it’s not far-fetched to think that the Royals intended to make Smith their closer from the get-go. Maybe they whispered promises of closing glory in his ear during contract talks, or perhaps they see him as the linchpin to their success in a challenging season.

The move might seem perplexing, especially considering the Royals’ projections of winning less than 80 games this season. However, could there be a method to this madness? Are the Royals onto something that the skeptics are missing?

As the 2024 season looms closer, only time will reveal this unexpected decision’s wisdom—or folly—. Will Smith’s transition to the closer position could be the surprise move that either propels the Royals to unexpected victories or leaves them grappling with a gamble gone awry. In a season filled with uncertainty, Kansas City’s choice to make Smith their closer is a headline-worthy saga that baseball enthusiasts will watch closely.


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