Where Do We Go From Here? 2004 (Part VI: Relief Pitchers)

All we know for certain is that we’re stuck with Tom Martin. The Dodgers foolishly gave him a two-year contract, and the Braves more foolishly took him off the Dodgers’ hands. The Braves would have been better off with an all-righty bullpen.

Everyone else… Well, let’s see:

  • John Smoltz could be the closer, or he could be in the rotation, or he could even be traded to the Yankees should they decide to risk starting him and offer enough. He’d have to approve any trade.
  • Juan Cruz could be the top setup man, or he could be the closer should Smoltz move, or could be back in a middle or long relief role, or could be in the rotation. My assumption is that the Braves always had a plan for him this season.
  • Jose Capellan could be in the rotation, or he could be in middle relief, or could be a top setup man, or he could be the closer, or he could be in Richmond, or he could be part of a trade. I think that covers him.
  • Dan Mayer, likewise, except that he wouldn’t be the closer. I don’t think he projects as a LOOGY but it’s possible.
  • Antonio Alfonseca is a free agent. I figure that the Braves would like him back, but I don’t know about the finances of such a deal.
  • Kevin Gryboski is arbitration-eligible and should be dumped because his contributions don’t match the million dollars he’d get from a gullible arbitrator. Bobby likes him, though, and might convince the front office to keep him on. I hope not.
  • Chris R**tsm* is arbitration-eligible and is widely expected to be either non-tendered or traded. Wherever he is, he could start, or close, or be a setup man… You get the idea.
  • Roman Colon pitched okay for the Braves after the division race was pretty much over. They like him, but he lacks the electric stuff of a Capellan or Cruz, and doesn’t seem to have either starter or closer ability. He should slide into Gryboski’s slot.

If I had to guess, the Braves’ bullpen next season will be:

CLOSER Smoltz
SETUP Cruz
LOOGY Martin
MIDDLE Mayer, Colon, a free agent
LONG Some rookie, probably not Capellan

But I have absolutely no confidence in this projection. I also don’t know who the free agent (or free agents) would be. There are always lots of these guys who get cut loose, and the Braves have done a pretty decent job in picking them up in recent years. Chris Hammond had his option declined, and I could see him returning, but that’s just a guess. There’s been some talk of Byrd returning in a swingman role, which might limit his innings and increase his effectiveness.

16 thoughts on “Where Do We Go From Here? 2004 (Part VI: Relief Pitchers)”

  1. The only thing we know for sure about the bullpen is that it’ll be really infuriating, no matter who’s actually in it. Doubly so if Smoltz moves back to the rotation.

  2. I caught an interview with Darren Holmes on the radio last week and he said he intends to return as an NRI this spring.

  3. Starting rotation: Smoltz, Ho-Ram, Wright, Hampton, Cruz
    Bullpen: Base 12 (closer), Capellan (setup), Byrd (long relief), Martin and the other guys Schuerholz scrounges up from somewhere.

  4. This situation looks about as firm as jello pudding. Not so much from a talent aspect, but from all the possible moves (Smoltz to the rotation, Reitsma and Gryboski arby-eligible, etc.)

    I think it would be great if Hammond came back. Martin is iffy, but we’re on the hook for $900 K, so he’s probably here. The one thing about Martin that is interesting is that he is a LH who actually pitches better against RHs. I like Hammond as the LOOGY and Martin as the “slop guy.”

    Cruz could set-up. So could Cappy. I like Colon, but if he doesn’t get another pitch, it’s BP.

    I wonder if Alf comes back at the same or lower salary. Might be a tough sell, but I don’t think anyone would open the vault for him and he might want to stay in a place where he knows what his role will be (stress the word “might”).

    If Smoltz moves back to the rotation, I’ve got to figure they will try to find a bargain basement closer.

    One guy to think about might be JC Romero. I’m in Minny and there is talk that the Twins may non-tender him. He’s not in the Braves’ “mold,” but the guy has electric stuff when he’s on.

    As for Reitsma, I think his problems stem from the fact that he mispronounces his name. Not a German scholar, but I think it should be pronounced Rites-ma, not Reets-ma.

    It’s been kicked around on a lot of boards, but I cannot see how Reitsma survives the winter with the Braves. I figure him to be traded or non-tendered. I’m a Bobby Bozo, but I am open to the criticism that Bobby overused him and that he wore down. But late in the season, everything came up to the plate with a big “hit me” sign on it. A hung-over arbitrator scares me more here than with Gryboski, because a raise could put Reitsma in the $1.5 million range. I figure there is no way Grybo can go over $750,000. No set of stats can make him bigger than that.

    One thing I would like to see in the bullpen next year is a bonafide “horse.” Maybe the times have passed me by, but is there any relief pitcher who comes in any more and pitches more than one inning? It would be nice to find a guy who could go the 6th and 7th. This year, it was one inning here, one inning there. And with the starters not going deep into games consistently, especially in the first half of the season, it’s no wonder the bullpen got worn out.

  5. Darren Holmes…intends to return as an NRI this spring

    Thus making him an early favorite for inclusion in the annual early-March Jayson Stark column titled “Can You Believe This Guy Isn’t Selling Insurance By Now?”….

  6. This only marginally affects the bullpen, but I’ve heard from a few places that the Braves and Kevin Brown have mutual interest in each other. Couple that with the Yankees’ desperation to get him out of town, to the tune of his entire $15m salary, would he be a bad rotation option? Sure, he’s turning 40, but he’s one season away from a 2.38 ERA and filthy K/BB ratio. We shouldn’t count on too much next year anyway; 2006 is when Marte, perhaps Francoeur and McCann, and a bunch of pitchers look to be ready to really contribute. Getting there is the challenge now.

  7. How about getting Javier Vazquez from the Yankees, so they can get Randy Johnson. Trade for Eddie Guardado for a lefy in the pen.
    Sp-Smoltz
    Sp-Vazquez
    Sp-Thomson
    Sp-Hampton
    Sp-Ramieza
    pen-?
    pen-?
    pen-?
    closer-Cruz
    Closer-Guardado

  8. Could be Finnish. I went to Northern Minnesota over the weekend. Lots of Finns up there. Great names, but none really look like Reitsma. Lots of double a’s and double i’s in the middle of names.

  9. Torii Biittner. Isn’t he the big acrobatic CF who swings like a girl?

    If I am gauging this correctly, I believe sansho1 is combining Torii Hunter (the acrobatic CF) with Larry Biittner, the biggest (probably about 225) slap hitter in the history of baseball.

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