To answer this question, in a word, yes. The Braves are going to go after Tom Glavine. And yes, Glavine is coming back to the Atlanta Braves to end his career. It is going to happen.
Now you could say, ‘yeah but you said the same thing last winter in a similar article.' You'd be correct. I did write that Glavine would probably be back. The Braves wanted him back, and Glavine definitely did want to return to try to win his 300th game in an Atlanta uniform.
But there are several differences between then and now. The Braves' ownership situation was still up in the air last winter, and Time Warner did not give John Schuerholz any flexibility to add significant salary. So he had to try to trade a salary (Tim Hudson) before he could make an offer to Glavine.
The Mets had already made an offer to bring Glavine back, and he had given their GM Omar Minaya his word that he would make a decision on his future by a certain date. When Schuerholz was unable to rid salary to even prepare an offer to Glavine, the lefty decided to return to New York.
But now the Braves' ownership situation is settled. It's not that they have an unlimited payroll all of a sudden, but they do know there will be flexibility to add a pitcher that does make a bit of money.
So why Glavine? Aren't there better pitchers on the market than a soon-to-be 42-year-old lefty who got shelled in his last start of the season? Well, really, no. Look at the free agent list and see if there is a better fit for this Atlanta club than their former ace.
There just aren't many good pitchers on the free agent list that make you want to see the Braves offer someone a long-term deal. The only pitchers that may be attractive, Carlos Silva and Kyle Lohse, are both middle-of-the-rotation pitchers who are probably going to be overpaid in a soft market.
The Braves have to ask themselves, ‘Do we want to sign Tom Glavine for one year, or do we make an offer to a mediocre pitcher like Lohse or Silva and have to overpay with an offer that will tie us up with this pitcher for three of four years?'
Believe me, the answer is the former. If there was a pitcher that might interest the Braves enough for them to offer a long-term deal, it might be different. But it's just a bad year to be looking for a pitcher on the free agent list. Glavine, 42 years old or not, is one of the best options available.
And he wants to come home. Glavine never wanted to leave. But that aside, the opportunity is now there for him to put that Braves' uniform back on. The final game with the Mets probably sealed the deal, as most New York fans could care less if he does return next season.
Will he be worth bringing back? Well it's natural to wonder if Glavine has any gas left in the tank. You always have to be concerned about a soon-to-be 42-year-old pitcher.
But remember that he's not a hard-thrower, a la John Smoltz, and he's never (knock on wood) had a serious arm injury. So it's not like bringing Smoltz in if he had been gone for five years and worrying about his ability to be a quality starting pitcher at that age.
The Braves obviously need starting pitching after a disastrous year from pitchers not named Smoltz and Hudson. They need pitchers that can provide innings, and Glavine fits the profile. He averaged 200 innings pitched in each of his five seasons with the Mets, and that's how many frames he threw this past season. So if Glavine remains healthy, there's no reason to believe he won't be able to pitch between 180 and 200 innings.
But will those innings be quality innings? Well, not if he pitches like he did in the last game of the season, when he couldn't even get out of the first inning. But Glavine really did have a pretty good season in 2007. His overall numbers: 13-8, 4.45 ERA, 219 hits in 200 innings, 64 walks, and 89 strikeouts.
Glavine pitched seven innings or more 10 times in 34 starts. He pitched six innings or more 26 times. He was fifth in the National League with 23 quality starts (six innings or more and three earned runs or less), which was two behind Tim Hudson (fourth in the NL with 25) and three behind John Smoltz (second in the NL with 26). So 88% of the time Glavine pitched six innings or more, it was a quality start.
In the 26 times he did pitch six innings or more, check out Glavine's numbers: 13-3, 2.76, 150 hits in 169.1 innings, 52 earned runs, 48 walks, and 77 strikeouts. By contrast, Braves' lefty Chuck James pitched six innings or more only 12 times in 30 starts, while he pitched seven innings or more only four times the entire season.
Now if you look at Glavine's game-by-game breakdowns, it's clear that he was out of gas late in the season. Look at his numbers in his last three starts: 0-2, 14.85 ERA, 25 hits in 10.1 innings, 17 earned runs, four walks, and seven strikeouts. But right before those three games, look at what Glavine did in the previous four games: 2-0, 1.30, 21 hits in 27.2 innings, and four earned runs.
So the guy did prove that he can still pitch. How long will it continue? Well, again considering the Braves troubles last season with the bottom-half of the rotation, it's worth the gamble that it will continue another season.
How much is Glavine worth? Well, he knows it would probably be tough to get a substantial salary if he was open to playing anywhere except Atlanta. It's just hard for 42-year-old pitchers not named Roger Clemens to get big salaries. So expect the Braves to offer somewhere in the neighborhood of $6-$7 million, with perhaps some incentives based on innings pitched. And expect Glavine to accept the hometown discount. He's made over $120 million in his career, so he can accept something in that range.
Bobby Cox loves Tom Glavine. He wants him back. John Smoltz desperately misses his old teammate. He wants him back. And the whispers around the Atlanta clubhouse were loud enough to gauge the interest in even the younger players that have never played with Glavine, and there's no question they'd love to see number forty-seven back home.
And think of the impact he could have on those younger players. Remember how he helped Damian Moss in 2002? He was Moss's personal pitching coach. Well, it might be worth keeping Chuck James around if there is a belief Glavine could make an impact on James's career. And Glavine might really help out Jo Jo Reyes, another young lefty.
Those kids on the roster from Atlanta who grew up watching Tom Glavine win Cy Young Awards and win the World Series for the Braves will be thrilled to have another veteran leader in a clubhouse that could use another one of those type players.
Glavine's family is still in Atlanta. He wants to be near his kids, and working twenty miles away from his home will give him that chance to be there most mornings. And how much will being at home inspire him to continue to pitch at a high level?
Barring a catastrophe, this is going to happen. Glavine wants to come home, and the Braves want him. So expect a news conference sometime in early November with one of the best pitchers to ever wear a Braves' uniform coming home – where he belongs.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can be heard on 680 the Fan in Atlanta and 105.5 the Fan in Macon. Email Bill at email@example.com.