Chris Martin will be returning to Atlanta! The 6-foot-8 reliever signed a 2-year, $14 million contract with the Braves yesterday. In the past week, AA has invested $22.5 million on an area of strength for the club: the bullpen. With the signing of Will Smith as well as Darren O’Day and Martin returning, there should be no loss of talent on opening day. Barring additional moves, the pen should shake out as Smith, Melancon, Greene, Martin, O’Day, Jackson, and then any of Webb, Dayton, Minter or another prospect filling the final spot. Newcomb is a candidate to be the long reliever if he doesn’t win his way into the rotation, as I covered in his player review last week, otherwise a prospect or veteran signing should take on that role.
This will be one of, if not the, deepest bullpens in the MLB in 2020. Relievers are volatile, but there is no big holes or question marks heading into the season as there was in 2019. Guys such as Arodys Vizcaino, Jonny Venters, Jesse Biddle, Shane Carle and Chad Sobotka who were on the 2019 Opening Day roster have all been upgraded; what was the Braves main weakness now appears to be their greatest strength.
2019 Season Summary
Looking back on Chris Martin, the one stat that jumps off the page was his stellar 13.0 K/BB ratio in 2019. Martin posted a 3.40 ERA in 55.2 innings last year, walking only five batters. His FIP of 3.25 was the lowest of his career, and was an astonishing 1.63 in his 17.2 innings with Atlanta. A few runs scored off him due to some bad luck, but looking at that number shows just how dominant Martin can be.
What many people don’t know about Martin, he spent his 2016 and 2017 seasons playing in Japan after struggling to adjust in the MLB. In Japan he pitched 88.1 innings with a 1.12 ERA, 91 strike outs and only 13 walks. This earned him a 2-year contract with the Rangers and he has excelled since his return to the MLB. In 2019 Martin had 1.5 bWAR, second most of any Braves reliever only behind Greene. It is also worth noting that neither Martin or Greene started the year on the team, showing just how much of a weakness the bullpen was prior to the trade deadline.
FanGraphs is projecting another strong season for Martin with a 3.53 ERA in 60 innings, however they think his K/BB ratio will drop a good bit to 4.81. While I doubt it drops this low, the 13.0 mark is a bit unsustainable and anything in the 8-10 range should be welcomed by Braves fans everywhere. The Braves likely won’t be making any more notable bullpen additions, but they won’t need to. With Martin primed for another big year, along with Smith, O’Day and the rest of the returners, the Braves bullpen is ready to fire away in 2020!