Unit Review – The Pen

The Braves came into the season with a lot of uncertainty in the pen. From the 2017 squad, only these five pitchers logged more than 50 appearances: Jose Ramirez, Arodys Vizcaino, Jim Johnson, Sam Freeman, and Ian Krol. Krol, Freeman, and Ramirez at different points have reinforced that relievers from year-to-year can be unreliable at best. Jim Johnson was proving he was on the downslope of his career. We did see some glimpses as Dan Winkler and AJ Minter contributed strong debuts in short sample.

Going into this year, we knew there was talent. Vizzy was returning. Minter, Winkler, and Jesse Biddle were all given clean bills of health from their previous injury concerns, and Luke Jackson, Sam Freeman, and Jose Ramirez would return from semi-competent seasons last year. Peter Moylan was signed in the offseason, and Shane Carle was picked up off waivers and would ultimately pitch key innings for the team. And we were told there was flexibility to acquire relievers at the deadline should be we be in contention.

The pen came out strong in the first couple months of the season. They were in the top 10 in ERA and WAR, but it was being ridden hard as they were also in the top 8 in innings pitched. While the unit was talented, it just wasn’t going to be able to sustain that workload. They began to slump towards the end of the first half, but reinforcements of Jonny Venters and Brad Brach — both acquired via trade — and the call-up of surprising non-prospect Chad Sobotka gave the the pen much more depth to finish the season.

All told, they finished the season 17th in bullpen ERA, up from 26th the year before. Many stats put the Braves between 14th and 18th in team rankings, so you can say that they went from being one of the worst pens in baseball to being simply average. Average is not going to bring you home a championship, but the majority of last year’s pen continues to be under control for the next few to several years. The only notable departure from this year’s pen will most likely prove to be Brad Brach.

But average is average, and this is one unit that will undoubtedly need reinforcements in the offseason. One is already on the roster as Darren O’Day, who was acquired in the Kevin Gausman deal, was sidelined with a knee injury but should be ready to go in Spring Training. Another source of reinforcements will undoubtedly be what is now an ever-growing list of starting pitching prospects in the high minors. Some may be traded, sure, but the list of starting pitching prospects ready to serve in the bullpen will most likely be higher than it was even last year. If not traded, close to full season availability of Max Fried, Touki Toussaint, Kyle Wright, Bryce Wilson, Mike Soroka, and Luiz Gohara will all enter the season — assuming good health as well — of being even more ready to help the staff. Of course, some of them may very well end up in the rotation, but behind them, we may see Joey Wentz, Kyle Muller, Ian Anderson, and Patrick Weigel factor into the equation the same way the aforementioned batch of prospects did so in 2017. There’s also the Shane Carle’s and Chad Sobotka’s of the world that tend to come out of nowhere to provide some support.

They may also look at acquiring a relief ace as this unit currently does not have one. We all know that our friend Craig Kimbrel could be re-acquired through free agency, we’ve been connected to Zach Britton who could be a rebound candidate after his successful second half, and someone like Raisel Iglesias could be had by teams like the Reds who may be looking to grab a quantity of prospects from us.

Relievers are awfully unreliable from year-to-year, but there’s probably enough opportunities to have enough pitchers to throw out there in the coming year than there was last year, and you should see a better unit.

42 thoughts on “Unit Review – The Pen”

  1. I JC’ed myself:

    “I know I’m drawing a very thin line in the sand, but Morton, with the top of the rotation performance he’s had over the past couple years consistently, would be the lowest quality SP I would think the Braves will consider. That if they can’t land Corbin, Keuchel, or Morton, then I’d think they won’t add a SP through FA. And my issue with Eovaldi is his health and securing a rotation spot for someone with his health concerns.

    With that said, AA was with LA as they have almost intentionally acquired pitchers with injury risks with almost an expectation that they’ll have 7-8 pitchers making 10 starts or more because so many of them will miss time. One pitcher has made 30 starts for the Dodgers these past three seasons of elite play: Maeda in 2016. Did they really think Hill, Ryu, McCarthy, Kershaw, Wood, and Maeda would be symbols of health? Even Darvish has only made 30 starts twice in the last 7 years. We had 3 guys make 30 starts just last year. But maybe AA is expecting to have to throw 7-8 legitimate starting pitchers next year and a guy like Eovaldi is fine to not rely on for a full load.”

  2. Thanks, Rob.

    I’d love Iglesias, what’s not to love; and like blazon said, Eovaldi sure looked good on the biggest stage. Get them, Harper and Gomes, and I’m happy.

  3. @104 from prior thread…. I saw Newk pitch a one hitter and no one here seems to think that was such a big deal. Why in the hell would one game be worth a $60M contract? I’ll bet that every one of our starters from last year has had at least one game as good as Eovaldi in Game 2. Talk about SSS!! Wow….

  4. Re: McCann

    He actually provided more defensive value than offensive value last year according to bWAR. He was worth 1 win but was only healthy enough for 63 games played.

    If we can’t get Realmuto, Grandal, or Suzuki, then McCann would be the 4th option. I’d imagine they could sign him to a reasonable deal to come home. A McCann/Flowers catching situation could be serviceable.

  5. Seems like all the rumors have most of the spendy teams running away from Machado and Harper. I wonder if this offseason is going to be artificially slow.

  6. TT just suggested that we might be able to get Carrasco from the Indians for Newk, Duvall, and Webb. Anyone believe that???? I do think Duvall would be the power hitting OF (with a good glove) that the Indians would like but still….. Carrasco would definitely fit in the “ace” category and he’s cheap as all get out. He only has two more years of control and is 31 and has a non-recent injury history. I just think that would be a huge deal for us by not using any top prospects. I’d even throw in $4M to cover Duvall’s salary.

  7. If that deal is available I think the trade would have been confirmed by now. No way the Indians want so little in return.

  8. Well done the Braves with three gold gloves. Happy for Nick taking full advantage of what must surely have been his last chance. No QO, fair enough, but we’ll see.

    And in the small print we were told 75% votes/25% Defensive Metrics was the formula used to find the winners. Keep the line drawn there and you’ve got it about right. Some of us can think of other areas that might benefit from this wisdom!

  9. JT RealMuto
    weigh-ty deal, caputo!
    says William Contreras
    soon, when he’s forty, no contest, compare us!

  10. Question.

    At the AFL all star game last Saturday night who was the guy in the ‘Braves’ dugout, all amped up, goofy smile, piles of curly blond hair? Only saw the last few minutes.

  11. Good news:Freddie, Ronald and Ozzie HAVE NOT been traded. Bad: the Braves have not signed Harper or traded for the real Muto.

    What is AA doing?

  12. In all seriousness, is there not a little bit of a lull right now league-wide? I feel like we should be hearing more.

  13. I’ve been anticipating the hire of a pitching coach but figured I’ve just been too impatient for the offseason to get underway.

  14. I genuinely hope that we don’t have another slow-developing offseason that’s largely based on what the big guys do. I can’t imagine the second tier and beyond players will be willing to take the risks again.

  15. I do think this offseason will be slow. Particularly because the top two FAs are Boras clients who like to drag things to Jan and Feb. With the declining attendence trend across all teams, the spending may also be more conservative. I think many teams are in observation mode at the moment. Trying to see how the market plays out.

  16. (This is the part where someone says “MLBTR says James Paxton may be available,” and then someone else comes up with reasons why they don’t want to trade our prospects for him.)

  17. Let me fix that for you.

    *(This is the part where someone says “MLBTR says James Paxton may be available,” and then someone else comes up with reasons why they don’t want to trade Kyle Wright for him)

  18. They are the spitting image of here. There’s just nothing to talk about. I blame the World Series for taking longer than a day or two… it seems all the baseball execs took off on vacation early because of that.

    Welp, no news till the December meetings!

  19. Apparently Seattle is going to blow up their team, according to Mark Feinsand, who has a terrific podcast on executives, by the way. But I wonder which players we’re not going to trade Kyle Wright for.

  20. My guess is the list of players we shouldn’t trade Wright for is identical to the list of players we shouldn’t trade Soroka for.

    But I’ve been known to be unreasonable and sometimes silly about these sorts of things. Paxton is intriguing, but that age and how few innings he has thrown. I don’t know his complete history (was he hurt in the previous seasons?), and he looks like the kind of guy I would throw a bunch of Newcomb and Gohara into a deal for, but please don’t trade guys probably-as-good-as-Paxton for Paxton. Instead of trading a dirty nickel for a shiny nickel, maybe take five nickels and get a quarter?

  21. @36 I like the way you put that. A lot of the TT and TC talking heads seem to want to trade a quarter for two dimes and a nickel sometimes and I think we are ready to start trading nickels and dimes for quarters and half dollars. And I don’t care for how shiny they are as long as they spend the same.

  22. Of course, I wouldn’t mind trading three dimes for a quarter and a nickel….. well, you get the idea.

  23. Perusing Paxton’s career stats, I’d be mighty tempted. Dude is legit and has proven it for a pretty good track record. That low 3s FIP is impressive. Nice K rates. I’d probably trade Newcomb, Gohara and someone else pretty promising for him.

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