Like every team, the Braves are going to scour the free agent and trade market for bullpen help. And while the Braves bullpen is now anchored by two veterans, Mark Melancon and Shane Greene, there’s still a need for additions, especially of the left-handed variety.
Let’s take a look at who’s on the market, and there’s a whole lot of quality in this list.
Back-end Right-handed Relievers
Dellin Betances (32)- Had some shoulder stuff that kept him out in 2019, then made his return in September ready to go for the postseson and frickin’ tore his achilles. If healthy, Betances is the most dominant pitcher on the market but shoulders are scary stuff.
Will Harris (35)- People don’t really pay attention to Will Harris, and I don’t really know why. He has been sensational for 4 straight years, is not dependent on velo for success, and carries great K/BB and GB-rates.
Chris Martin (34)- Melancon? Greene? Nope, neither one of those guys was our best reliever last year. Martin put up numbers that make GMs salivate. A K/9 over 10 and a BB/9 under 1. I want him back.
Craig Stammen (36)- Stammen doesn’t walk many, strikes out his fair share, keeps the ball on the ground, and throws a TON of innings. I like those 4 things when they’re altogether.
Mid-pen Right-handed Relievers
Brad Brach (34)- Brach has been a solid reliever for his career, but became walk prone in 2019. He’ll be cheap, for sure, and will “only” be 34.
Steve Cishek (34)- Had a nice shiny ERA in 2019, but there are warning signs as K-rate dropped and BB-rate increased. He was still lights out against RHHs.
Tyler Clippard (35)- In the life of sample sizes, Clippard has had a few clunkers but overall, he continues to be useful. The strikeouts are down, but so are the walks. Has career reverse splits due to his best pitch (changeup), but is historically effective against both.
David Hernandez (35)- Was good last year, but not what he was in ‘17&’18. That likely has to do with nearly leading the league in BABIP-against at .393. That’s the life of a reliever. He will likely be cheap and likely be solid. I’d take him.
Yoshihisa Hirano (36)- I’d like to see what he could do away from hitter’s parks as he looks filthy. FB/Splitter guy and success relies on keeping the walks under control
Daniel Hudson (32)- FB/SL guy, Hudson can push up to 98 on his FB, and that’s awesome, but it’s not the pitch that makes or breaks him each year. The slider is his out pitch and he struggled to keep it in the zone in 2019.
Jeremy Jeffress (32)- Is Jeffress the biggest buy-low option on this list? He absolutely is. He lost velo in 2019 and that could be a deterrent, but if he throws for clubs and looks healthy, he could do great things in an Atlanta uniform where his huge K and ground ball numbers could bring him back to elite status relief.
Brandon Kintzler (35)- Kintzler is a good reliever, but his numbers are going to fluctuate because his success isn’t spearheaded by the strikeout. His calling card is the groundball and there are some years he’s put up great numbers and some that were not so great (here’s looking at you, .478 BABIP against in 2015). He’d be fine in middle relief.
Collin McHugh (33)- McHugh might go back to starting, and if I were him, I’d do it. Had problems keeping the ball in the park last year and that’s always worrisome.
Brandon Morrow (35) – Morrow should be ready to go for the 2020. He had multiple setbacks in 2019 and will likely have to sign a below market deal with incentives to prove he’s healthy.
Darren O’Day (37)- Like Morrow, O’Day needs to be able to prove health and his contract will likely come with incentives based on innings pitched. I’d love to have him back.
David Phelps (33)- Phelps makes me nervous as he just doesn’t have the strikeouts to justify how many walks he gives up.
Sergio Romo (37)- Romo was pretty good again last year and that’s about all I can say. He’ll likely be fairly cheap.
Hector Rondon (32)- Overall body of work is fine and velo still intact, but you’re paying for the name and the name is going to cost more than the player should.
Joe Smith (36)- The most consistent reliever that no one knows, and not only is his name vanilla but so are his stats and his arsenal. Still…he gets people out.
Pedro Strop (35)- Had an injury-riddled 2019 that saw him lose quite a bit of velo. Proceed with caution, especially considering he’ll be more costly due to “the name”.
Josh Tomlin (35)- The Braves could do worse than putting Tomlin back in the role he had last year, but it’s not a desire of mine. He’s fine when eating up meaningless innings.
Arodys Vizcaino (29)- I mean, sure. If he wants to sign an MiLB deal and come back to rehab in a place he’s comfortable, make it happen.
Back-end Left-handed Relievers
Will Smith (30)- The jewel of the LH RP free agents, Smith has put together 4 straight year of great relief and LHHs have 0 chance against him. He’s from Newnan…that’s in Georgia.
Drew Pomeranz (31)- If you look at Pomeranz’s entire body of work in 2019, you will not be impressed. However, if you look at his run after he was converted into full-time relief, you’ll be impressed as I am: 31.2 IP, 9BB, 53!K, 1.99 ERA. I’m sure the cat is out of the bag, but that would look good in Atlanta, and I’m sure it wouldn’t come at the cost of other back-end types, but man is dreaming about him in relief drool-worthy.
Mid-bullpen Left-handed Relievers
Francisco Liriano (36)- First year as full-time reliever, and he was merely ok.
Aaron Loup (32)- A good reliever but cannot stay on the field.
Chasen Shreve (29)- Strikes out a lot. Walks a lot. Useful but he’s not a LOOGY.
Tony Sipp (36)- Sipp was better than what his numbers suggest in 2019, but he’s nothing to get excited about. He’s similar to Blevins in that he’s not really worth excitement, but not like Blevins because he’s not a LOOGY, rather he’s just okay against both RH and LH hitters.