The Atlanta Journal Constitution‘s Dave O’Brien claims Braves execs are “shocked” over John Smoltz’ decision to end 21 years with the club by signing a one-year deal with the Red Sox, and predicts ” a troublesome offseason for the Braves..they could now take the biggest public-relations hit in recent years.”  Though the Mets are characterized as confident in their pursuit of Derek Lowe by Newsday’s Ken Davidoff, the sudden vacancy in Atlanta’s starting rotation presents yet another opportunity for Scott Boras, still hoping to wrap up deals for Lowe and Oliver Perez.

If the Braves were previously reluctant to improve upon New York’s reported 3 year, $36 million offer to Lowe prior to Smoltz’ exit, a failure to enter the bidding at the stage sends a pretty strong signal to Atlanta fans (if not disgruntled Atlanta third basepersons), ownership has no intention of competing for the division title.

Boston finds themselves in a position of enviable starting pitching depth, with the likes of Smoltz, Matzusaka, Beckett, Bucholz, Wakefield, Lester and the newly acquired Brad Penny in the mix.  The challenge might well be making certain no more than two of the above are on the disabled list at the same time.  If the star power of Smoltz, Beckett and new addition Rocco Baldelli fail to match the glitz of CC Sabathia, Mark Teixiera  or (cough) A.J. Burnett, Firebrand of The American League‘s Evan reminds us “the Yankees had far more aggressive holes to fill.”

Remember, Theo does best with the “buy-low” strategy. When he has money to play with to go after anyone, he doesn’t have as much of a history: Matt Clement, Julio Lugo, J.D. Drew… but buy-low? This guy is a genius at buy-low. David Ortiz, Mark Bellhorn, Mark Loretta, Bill Mueller, Kevin Millar…

If you’re one of those people who find it hard to be pleased about the recent moves, consider this: all that’s standing in the way of Penny, Smoltz and Baldelli is not ineffectiveness, it’s injury. And all indications (considering the Red Sox do their homework on this) is that these players do not have injuries holding them back anymore.

Indeed, these are pretty savvy purchases on the part of Mr. Epstein, who is doubt well aware that some portion of Smoltz’ salary will be witheld to pay state income taxes in a Commonwealth that recognizes same sex marriage.