Open thread, Oct. 13 2005

I’m feeling a little ill and am not up to putting the next section into publishable form. Talk amongst yourselves. Suggested topic: Is it better to spend money on one or two elite relievers, or to bring in a bunch of guys and hope some of them break through?

62 thoughts on “Open thread, Oct. 13 2005”

  1. I feel 100% certain that no matter what happens or doesn’t happen with Furcal/SS, LaRoche/1B or HoRam/SP, that JS WILL SIGN SOME GOOD RELIEF PITCHING and not warm bodies like Tom Martin, Almanza & Gabe White.

    Relievers are generally not that expensive (outside of guys like Gagne, Wagner & Rivera) and it’s so blatantly awful, the pen, JS realizes this is a HUGE priority. HUGE. I am not saying it’s going to be a fun winter like year’s past, but he needs to fix the bullpen or resign as General Manager, plain and simple. This is a no if, ands or butts scenario in many Braves fans opinion. Our bullpen was LITTLE LEAGUE CRAP.

  2. Why do people keep saying the Braves won’t bring back Thomson? There was a ton of that in the last thread. I don’t see any way they don’t bring him back. In fact, when I see that, I immediately skip the rest of the comment, because I know it will be kind of silly. Every iota of the Braves’ recent history points to them excercising his option.

  3. According to the book I just read, it’s better to spend less money on more relievers, because starters and offense are more important and the few quality relievers out there are really expensive. My personal approach would be to spend some money on some relievers, then get one big expensive one. The Red Sox tried the first variant in 2003 and their bullpen kind of sucked. They tried my approach, landing Keith Foulke, in 2004, in addition to having unbeatable starting pitching, and won a World Series. Need I say more?

  4. I agree, Joey. They’d be crazy not to pick up Thomson’s option, if only to turn around and trade him. Solid starters who make $4.5 million don’t grow on trees. Thomson’s easily the equal of the guys who made $8 million a year for three years in last season’s market.

    As I think about it, I think I’d rather have Wagner, with Betemit at short, than Furcal. Of course, neither may be in the cards.

  5. I’d say bring in a a few high quality non-ego (read: no closer tag) guys and take a chance that between them and the young guys (Boyer, McBride, and Devine) someone will emerge to claim the different bullpen roles. If a role doesn’t get filled, you fix it later. If we’d had a couple of guys who could have pitched decent middle relief for us, the Farnsworth acquisition would have been enough this past year.

  6. Buy the elite pitchers, but you have to really know the difference between an elite pitcher and a scrub who happened to collect a lot of saves.

  7. I’d take a shot on a guy like Todd Jones for a season. Devine is going to be the closer sooner rather than later, why tie up big money long term when we have our future closer who cold be 12/ to a season away. Jones is comming off a good year and may take less money to keep closing rather than big money to be a set up guy in New York.

    I think the young guys in the pen will be a lot better next season and that will help. If Devine is not the closer I would take my chances with Boyer. He was the most effective arm out there this year. I wouldn’t be suprised if JS and Bobby didn’t sign a big name reliever and went with this approach and also kept Brower.

  8. You’re right, Jenny. ‘Scout’s Honor’ clearly shows that the Braves believe in the “throw everything against the wall and see what sticks” approach to pitching. In the minor league system, they clearly prefer to stockpile arms with the belief that, the more pitchers you have, the more chances there are that a few of them will defy expectation and do something great. I expect the same approach at the major league level this offseason. As cool as it would be to run Billy Wagner out there in the ninth inning, I can’t really imagine that is even a possibility. However, JS never fails to surprise me during the winter. I fully expect the Braves to use a combination of in-house guys (Boyer, Devine, McBride, etc) and pick-ups via free agency and small trades to stock our ‘pen next season. And I don’t expect the same bullpen that starts the season to finish it, either. As guys step up and assume their roles, others will fall by the wayside. Having said all that, I think the Braves really got a taste of what life is like wtihout a great closer this year, and I would not be surprised one bit to see them bring in a big name. I would be a little surprised to see us go into spring training without an established closer. Clearly that is what they wanted to do last year with Kolb, but we all know the results of that. I guess I should have prefaced this by saying that I REALLY don’t expect Farnsworth to be a Brave next year. I know that most are split on this issue, but I just don’t think he is a Braves-type of player. I mean, I am no insider, but he just doesn’t seem like a good clubhouse guy, and we all know he is a little volatile. But, considering how he pitched down the stretch, having him in the ninth wouldn’t be that bad at all. Talk all you want about the 2 homers he gave up in game 4, but Berkman’s is not a homer in 99% of ballparks in the world, and Ausmus’ was about as big a fluke as I have ever seen. Man, I really jumped around a lot in that post…

  9. Not trying to be contrary, but it seems to me that someone like Todd Jones is a risky bet, and the last thing the Braves need to do is take a risk. It seems like the common wisdom nowadays is that relievers are fungible, you can get good ones inexpensively and so bring in a bunch and hope one or two pan out. But at this point, the Braves ought to be willing to pay a (hopefully small) premium for a reliever whose performance will be predictable, and Jones doesn’t fit that bill- he’s been all over the place the last few years (ERAs of 5.52, 3.79, 4.97, 2.10). Even as I type this I know it sounds sort of stupid, but I think the Braves should set their risk premium low on the relievers they choose; ie they should prefer a guy they can feel certain will deliver a 3.00 ERA over a guy who has equal chance of a 4.00 ERA or a 2.00 ERA. Just my two cents.

  10. After re-reading my own post, I think I should clarify my rambling into one concise statement…

    I think JS gets one big name to close, and a bunch of pick-ups through free agency/small trades.

  11. I think we should trade for Scot Shields or another Anaheim bullpen member. Shields could start or close, has filthy stuff, and two arb years left.

  12. I’ve tride my best to believe that the elite closer thing is indeed a myth but history is proving that you need at least one elite relief pitcher on your staff to anchor it. After this season I’d like to have one. Not sure if I’d sacrifice signing Furcal but I could get warm to the idea.

    If we don’t re sign Thomson then JS is back to smoking crack again. To reiterate Mac’s point he is better than Ortiz and Milton and Pavano for sure.

    Alex, I don’t miss the point. Marte is everyones favorite prospect. He would make a decent acquisition. But remember for all of the hype all he has is a decent CHANCE to be a quality major leaguer. No GM with just a brain stem trades a proven elite fielding, good hitting shortstop for his POTENTIAL.

  13. There is no reason to sign a closer. They are the most over paid and overrated breed of player. Pick up a couple of Scott Eyre, Mike DeJean, Cal Eldred, Steve Kline, Jeff Fassero types and fill the rest in with young guys.

    By the way, anyone think that Leo might be able to get a guy like Kirk Rueter or Jose Lima to do a John Burkett impression for a year? Just a thought.

  14. Um… No. Not those two guys. Nor is there any reason for that. A veteran scrub can only block a young pitcher who might be a stud.

    I don’t believe the Closer Myth myself. But I do believe that there are ace relievers, and the Wagner is one of them. It’s best to identify the really good relievers, the handful you can count on for outstanding performance for several years, before they make the big money, but it’s not always possible.

  15. I think Lima might be a good closer, but for another team. He has some good stuff, but I don’t ever want to be part of “Lima Time.”

    The reason a guy like Todd Jones is good is that he brings a ton of knowledge about closing to a team. He could be a mentor for Boyer and Devine. Bobby Cox eats stuff like that up.

  16. Neil Allen and Don Cooper are listed as the front runners to replace Mel in NYC, by News Day and the Pose. Miller may not be back becuase of health in Baltimore and Leo is listed as a posible replacement.

    This makes me feel much better about Leo comming back.

  17. Don’t want to take anything for granted, but as long as Cox is here I think Leo will be too. I don’t see Leo doing a lateral while Bobby is still at the helm. And I don’t think anyone would take a flyer on Leo as a manager. I agree it is more likely that Farnsworth will move on, but it would not upset me if he were re-signed to be the closer. I don’t see Wagner as a legitimate possibility, he will cost too much. I don’t want any part of Lima (yuck) or Todd Jones (implosion could happen at any time). If Farnz is not re-signed, most likely scenario is that one of the youngsters will be groomed for closer duty (Boyer if healthy, Devine is a possibility if he can keep the ball down).

  18. If it was so easy to bring in a bunch of guys and have them compete for a spot, then the Braves would have had a great pen this year. At the same time, below the elite level its hard to say who a great reliever is. The key seems to have a true dominant bullpen ace, Frankie Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera, Brad Lidge, and then get lucky with one or two other guys.

    I sort of side with Jenny. Bring in one great reliever (and maybe this means moving Smoltz back to the pen – that is if he ever pitches again). But don’t overspend on guys like Farnsworth who are supposed to be good but haven’t really ever been good.

    In the get lucky department, I think Joey Devine has the potential (game four notwithstanding) to be a terrific bullpen pitcher. Is there anyone else in the Braves Pen, or minors who you can think of?

  19. The Baseball Prospectus Notebook says that the Phillies should cut Wagner loose and give Madsen the chance–but, I don’t know, Phillies fans are very aggressive and resigning Wagner might be what the new GM feels he needs to do to show the fans he’s “committed to winning” or whatever.

    It’s fine by me if he shells out $10m on Wagner, because that’s $9m (over Madsen) that isn’t going into the rotation. And in that ballpark, they need the rotation a lot more.

  20. I’ve always thought that the ability to close had as much to do with what’s between a guy’s ears as what’s in his arm. I think there is an attitude that can be brought to the position.

    Well, if we sign Todd Jones and Eddie Perez becomes a coach, that’s one less guy that Eddie has to worry about looking at him in the shower.

    Seriously, I think the Thomson option should be picked up. He’s quality behind Smoltz and Hudson and cheap for one more season.

    And to whomever listed DeJean, I’ve always liked him as well. But he’s one of those guys who “looks” like a player, but doesn’t always perform like one. “Ears” Reuter is another guy I would think about. He is classic Bobby/Leo material.

    Leo rightfully gets a lot of credit and JC’s stellar statistical analysis on his effect on pitchers bears out that the credit is warranted. But he can’t always make chicken salad out of chicken shit and this year’s bullpen is testament to the fact that he’s human.

  21. I am virulently anti-Jones. Not for the gay stuff, but because he’s certain to be a guy you’re paying at the peak of his earning potential, when he’s certain to decline.

  22. Dunno if this fits into the Closer Myth, but at least 3 of the 4 teams still playing have closers who were defined as such at the beginning of the year (Izzy [59 IP/63 G], K-Rod [67/66], Lidge [59/63]).

    And let’s take a look at Wild-Card Era champs who fit that bill:
    04: BoSox, Folke (83 IP/72 G), yup, tho’ he threw more innings than most closers
    03: Marlins, Urbina (77 IP/72 G), well…certainly a defined closer, if not a great one–got picked up mid-season
    02: Angels, Percival (56 IP/58 G), yup
    01: D-Backs, Kim (98 IP, 78 G), perhaps the oddest “closer” to win a ring, unlike most closers he had nearly 100 IP that year
    00: NYY, Rivera (75 IP/66 G), yup
    99: NYY, Rivera (69 IP/66 G), yup
    98, NYY, Rivera (61 IP/54 G), yup
    97: Marlins, Nen (74 IP/73 G), yup
    96: NYY, Wetteland (63 IP/62 G), yup
    95: ATL, Wohlers (64 IP/65 G), yup

    Also, in the WC Era, teams that have gone all the way have usually had thick setup crews. All the Yankee teams did and the one year they didn’t, 1996, they had Rivera as the setup guy and people like David Weathers & Graham Lloyd had inexplicable post-seasons in that they got series-saving outs.

    The D-Backs weren’t deep in the middle, but Johnson & Schilling took care of the middle innings. They made it through due to them and the fact that they won games pitched by Batista & Albie Lopez.

    The 95 Braves’ bullpen was fierce in the playoffs and the Angels ’02 team won because of their bullpen. For that one year, it might’ve been the thickest bullpen in recent playoff history (Percival, K-Rod, Donnelly, Weber, Cook, Shields, Schoenweiss).

    I guess the point I’m making is this: In the post-WC Era, rolling the dice on the closer hasn’t won anybody any WS titles. Doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but it hasn’t happened yet.

  23. All this talk about big name closers makes me nervous. Remember when Allard Baird traded his big trade chits (in consecutive years) for Boom-Boom Bobby H & St. Neifi? Now JS is no Allard Baird (OBVIOUSLY), but his Kolb pickup from last winter seemed to be a case of trying to pick up a guy with the shiny “C” on his chest. And Wagner is really the only guy out there who I’d say has shown himself to be both a closer & a lights-out good pitcher. Guys like T Jones, Benitez, Alfonseca, Mesa (& a zillion others) all have worn the “closer” mantle, but you basically don’t want them out there in a pinch.
    Truthfully, I don’t see hardly anyone available who is demonstrably, significantly better than Farnsworth (and none of them better than Farnsworth was for us, last game excepted). And everybody remembers the homers Farnsworth gave up, but not as many remember that Wagner blew a save on the Biggio homer that (in essence) cost the Phils a playoff spot. Now, of course, subsequent games may not have played out as they did, but taking just that game into account, would have been a 2-game swing between those two teams & given the WC to the Phils instead of Astros. So they’re all human, and will fail at times (it just seems to happen to the Braves at key, crucial moments, while never happening to their opponents, at least not with the same frequency or on the same scale).

  24. I think David Weathers would be a good FA addition to the Braves pen. This guy has been a journeymen while finishing last year as the Reds closer. We could probably get him for a 1/1.5 mil.

  25. ububba,
    That’s an interesting list, but it’s not really that informative. Basically says that most teams have a closer. Well, yeah. And, for instance, if the Braves had won this year (don’t know why I can’t get that thought out of my head), you could plausibly have put Farnsworth on the list as the Braves closer.
    Most teams that are in the playoffs (and, obviously, one of those teams will emerge as WS champ) have a guy who was defined early as their “closer”. It’s kind of like saying a the next president will probably be a tall white guy. Not that something else can’t happen (or that another outcome would or would not be desirable), but that’s the way the game is structured…

  26. Re: B.J. Ryan

    At this point, the Yankees seem to be intent on signing him. At least, every single Yankees fan I’ve seen talk about 2006, no matter what else he thinks the organization should do, says that the Yankees should go get B.J. Ryan.

    Maybe they’re misguided, but if the Yankees are involved then the price shoots up.

  27. There’s nothing wrong with actually designating someone a closer, bubba. The thing to worry about is signing someone for big bucks just because they have closed, or because they had a bunch of saves, without looking at other evidence.

    The reason that Lidge, K-Rod, Gagne etc. are so good is not because they are closers, it’s because they’re great relief pitchers who are used in the closer role. They strike guys out, walk few people, and don’t give up too many home runs.

    One of the things that most concerned me about the Farns pickup at the time was his high historical HR rate; that he only had allowed only one in Detroit made me think he had gotten at least a little lucky. Of course, he gave up a bomb to Pujols soon after the trade. His HR/9 rate with us much more closely tracked his career average than matched his rate w/ Detroit. Sure enough, it ended up being his achilles heel.

    Houston “rolled the dice” with Lidge last year, as he’d been a setup guy until first Wagner and then Dotel were traded, and he turned out well. K-Rod was a setup guy for Percival. Mo Rivera started as a setup guy for Wetteland. Etc.

    Point is, there’s no reason to believe a guy with good stuff and peripherals couldn’t do a good job closing just because he hasn’t been used in that role before. There _is_ reason to believe that guys with bad peripherals won’t continue their dominance; it happens all the time. For that reason, I’d stay away from the Todd Joneses, the Kyle Farnsworths, and the Uggie Urbinas or the world, and look for our own Frankie Rodriguez. Not to be a broken record or anything, but I suggest Scot Shields.

  28. Note that the Braves have traded for three “other people’s closers” in the past year and a half: Reitsma, Kolb, and Farnsworth. Next!

  29. Kyle,

    You pretty much speak for my feelings on this subject matter.

    First, I would love to get a Billy Wagner, sure. Or BJ Ryan…also has big time stuff.

    But the bottom line is that JS won’t spend THAT much on a closer.

    It’s why we need to go & get at least 2-3 relievers who cost a reasonable amount of money but aren’t CURRENTLY closers.

    Mac ios absolutely right that you can CALL anyone a closer. just LOOK at our good friend, Daniel Kolbb. The Brewers CALLED him a closer and the Braves bought it hook, line & sinker.

    Forget about labels. Look at a reliever with GREAT stuff who can strike people out; a hard thrower who you can run out there and end a game in 9-10 pitches at times. The Scot Shields idea is wonderful; I also like John Grabow. There are a lot of good, hard throwers in NON closing roles with great stuff, lots of strikeouts and GREAT era’S.

    I do agree that Joey Devine maybe one of these guys this day but the man needs a year down in the farm to recover from 2005, mentally. The point being, if we could swing a deal with the White Sox or Padres or Pirates or Angels, teams with deep bullpens including several hard throwing strikeout pitchers.

    Yes, it would be great for JS to change his ways and finally spend his money on a real, Billy Wagner shut em down closer…but until that day arrives, let’s go get a Scott Shields and make him OUR CLOSER.

    It will save money, can be had through a trade, and will fix the weakest link on the Braves.

  30. In Scot Shields, you’re talking about a guy who’s thrown 197 very good relief innings over the last two years, doesn’t give up homers, strikes out more than a man per inning, and is still a few years away from free agency. He’s shown an ability to pitch a lot without negative effects, and has been brilliant in the postseason. Why would the Angels want to trade him?

  31. Re: Reitsma

    I feel VERY VERY VERY STRONGLY that the Braves have to get rid of Chris Reitsma…he’s even more unrealiable then Kolbb because Kolb sucked consistently, ALL the time…there was no shock ever. But Reitsma? He’d have 3 great weeks and give you hope and then KILL for you the next 2 weeks. just horrible.

  32. I think Devine is fine and a year on the farm to “mentally” cure him is not going to happen. He has good stuff and should be fine next season being the set-up guy maybe the closer.

  33. Devine is 19. I don’t get why people on here think a few winter months and still less then a year out of North Carolina State he will suddenly be ready in April to blow people away.

    Give the guy some time to pitch in Mississippi or Richmond.

    Between Boyer, McBride, possibly Farnsworth and around 3 new arms (hopefully all good ones) I think Devine will be given the opportunity for some Minor League growth.

  34. I think he pitched well when he wasn’t hurt. Bobby had confidence in him, so I think unless we get some better guys in the pen. Worst case is he starts they year as the closer in Richmond and is the closer or set up guy by the all star break

  35. The Angels might not want to trade Shields. But they have tons of help in the bullpen already, so if they feel like they could upgrade their team, they might do it. LaRoche plus Kelly Johnson, maybe? Seems like an awful lot to give up.

    Alex, I think that Devine is 22, but I could be wrong.

  36. Devine’s 22, and only ten days younger than Kyle Davies. I think that’s why many think he will be ready next year. I agree with you though — it’s not entirely reasonable to expect him to follow the Huston Street path, and be a major league closer a year out of college. The Reds rushed Ryan Wagner, and it seems clearly to have been to his detriment.

  37. Alex, you forget that JS did spend big bucks on a premier reliever for 3 years. His name was John Smoltz.

  38. I’ll talk about this more in the entry, if I ever get around to writing it, but the Braves have only ever committed to two relievers for a long term — Smoltz and Remlinger. Smoltz was a special case, and by the time they gave out the deal to Remlinger, they knew he was a consistent reliever they could rely upon.

  39. Was Devine a college closer? I assume so. I thought that one of the things the Braves liked to do as an organization was try those guys as starters in the minors, at least for a while, to a) see if they could actually be starters, given that they are more valuable that way, and b) build some arm strength/stamina. Am I way off base on this?

  40. Jonathan,

    Perhaps I didn’t explain it well enough because I took for granted that readers would understand that I was responding to the aforementioned Closer Myth, which the 03 Red Sox (a much-discussed closer-by-committee experiment) seemed to attempt to break.

    I also took for granted that most people understood that Farnsworth was never a closer until he showed up in Atlanta this past August. He was a middle-relief lifer who became a closer for exactly 10 games. I didn’t think I had to remind people of what happened this past Sunday.

    Again, sorry for not being clear enough. But teams that are scrambling for guys to fit the closer role, teams (with the possible exception of 01 Az/Kim) that are waiting for “someone to emerge” have not gone all the way recently.

    Some of them weren’t good enough to make the playoffs, some (like the 03 Sox and any number of ATL teams) had less-than-established guys in the role of closer.

    And BTW, the next president may not be a tall white guy…

  41. First, sorry about Devine’s age but he still needs more time in the farm…he really does need to mentally recover from 2005. I think you guys are underrating this problem. Hell…Devine looked 15 out there :-)

    Second, if Smoltz is healthy this winter/spring, I hope he stays a starter. We need a true ace who can mow hitters down…since I don’t think Hudson has shown to be reliable as an ace, we need that #1 guy that can match ANY teams #1.

    Third, as far as the Angels, they don’t need Estrada (Benji Molina), they don’t really need LaRoche (Erstad), don’t really need Horacio (Washburn, Colon, Byrd, Ervin Santana, Lackey) nor Marte (lots of 3rd base prospects)…bottom line, the Angels are in the ALCS because they are a pretty LOADED team all over, especially the bullpen…and by the way, a great bullpen usually means post season success.

    Teams like Pittsburgh and San Diego are more amenable because they have several holes to be filled as opposed to the White Sox and Angels who don’t have nearly as many needs.

  42. If we can get a good starter then we can move Sosa to the pen (maybe the closer.) Estrada, LaRoche, HoRam for Oliver Perez and a pen guy

  43. If we could get Oliver Perez and say John Grabow for that trio and say go with Chipper or Marte at first, I could definitely live with that…I almost feel like we could get Pittsburgh to do that.

    Is that an unrealistic thought?

  44. LaRoche is better than Erstad, but probably not as good as Kotchman. Marte is better than Dallas McPherson, but I wouldn’t trade him for Shields. So I agree that’s probably not a good fit.

    Your trade for Oliver Perez isn’t realistic – didn’t you propose it yesterday? To get him, we’d need to give up Marte, probably. I remember that when Marte for Perez was proposed on Primer, fans of both teams hated it, so it’s probably a pretty even trade.

    Perez is a Boras client and very close (2 years, I think) to free agency, so even if we got him straightened out, it would be just in time for him to make big bucks elsewhere.

  45. Again, having seen Devine pitch maybe 40 times in college, and talking with him 4 or 5 times, I have no doubt that he will have his head on straight for 2006.

    I saw him pitch two outstanding innings against arch-rival UNC, get handed a lead in the top of the 11th (I think), then blow the game to bloop hits and a mysteriously-shrinking strike zone. The next day he came out and got a 1-2-3 save, no problem. He’s tough, and he’ll be just fine next year, because he’s never afforded himself the luxury of doubt.

    Even if the Braves get an established guy, a reliever who can take a stab at closing (Shields, whoever) and ends up with a decent season, Devine will be pushing for the job, and by spring training ’07, barring injury, I expect it’d be his to lose.

  46. a few points:
    1.Scott Shields is probably the most coveted middle reliever in the American league, if not all of baseball. He’s been a key player for them this postseason and is unlikely to be moved barring major sock blow-offage.
    2.Relief pitchers move from elite to garbage so fast. Top ten reliever lists have an unbelievable amount of turnover from season to season. This is probably why the Braves try not to make many investments in guys coming off great seasons.
    3.The Boyers, McBrides and Devines of the world will probably improve. Not all of them, but we should see some big innings out of at least a few of those guys.

  47. To answer the question, I would do half of both: sign an elite reliever (not necessarily a closer)and try to give a `bunch of guys’ a chance to develop. Since the preformance of relievers is not easy to predict, they do not make an easy investment.

    Still, to bring in a quality reliever means bringing some stability to a bullpen. This is almost certainly a prerequsite to letting the less heralded pitchers develop. After all, it enables a bullpen to improve by becoming specialized. Nonetheless, the case of Kolb (even if obtained in a trade) is instructive: by investing heavily in a relief pitcher–especially a closer–there is a strong desire to stay with him when he pitches poorly. Inexpensive pitchers, in constrast, are easy come and go.

    With respect to the Braves, Devine needs to go back to Mississippi (though they will probably send him to Richmond). He did not pitch all the brilliantly in AA, but the Braves were desperate so he got the call. I cannot help but think that Devine embodies the full impact of trading for Kolb. The Braves have never used a first round pick for a reliever, but desperation probably inspired a change in their thinking.

    In any case, I think that it would be great if they could retain Farnsworth (but only at a reasonable price) and hope that Boyer and McBride can develop. Add Sosa back to the pen (which implies that the rotation may have to be fixed first) and it just be might be adequate. Personally, I would like to see them give a chance to Kevin Barry (who seems likely to inherit the Buddy Hernandez role), Paul Bush, Ryan Basner and even Glenn Tucker a chance to help out. The Braves probably have their reasons, but they are not all that keen to give these guys a chance. Another to watch his Zachery Schrieber who apparently has a major league fastball and should start the year at Mississippi.

    With a little luck, Leo (who I trust will still be around) will find another Hammond for us and the bullpen of 2005 will just become a really bad memory

  48. The economics of a big-name FA closer are hard for me to accept. It’s a large part of the reason that I thought Smoltz should move back into the rotation. Maybe I’m just too hung up on it, but $10 million to a reliever seems so out of whack to me. But, then again, I don’t know what else to suggest. I do believe in “closers” (and, yes, even very good relievers who aren’t), I just don’t like how most managers use them… and Bobby’s really no exception, although he did nothing wrong in that respect on Sunday, IMO.

  49. The only really “elite” closer that’s likely to be available is Wagner and (1) he is going to be much too expensive for the Braves and (2) he is in his mid-thirties, I believe, and seemingly not quite the closer he was. What I’m afraid of with Wagner is you would be getting a guy who was still good, but already passed his peak.

    And really, a lot of the problem was the 8th inning more than the 9th. If they could fix the set up guys, I suspect Farnsworth might be adequate until Devine is ready. Let’s face it, putting together a bullpen is largely a matter of luck–some guys pitch better than expected. I don’t think anyone with a great bullpen really planned it–it just worked out right, like the Braves ’02 bullpen did. As bad as the bullpen was this year, a lot of these guys are likely to improve and, short of trading for Shields (a longshot I think), there are no obvious solutions out there. I would resign Farnsworth, look for one experienced set up guy (not Reitsma) and hope the young guys improve.

  50. Wagner will be 34. I see little evidence that he’s passed his peak. Last year was actually his best for ERA. His strikeout and walk numbers are pretty typical for what they’ve been since he hurt his arm. Maybe the strikeouts are down a tick, but they’re still awfully good.

    I’m not advocating spending a bunch of money on him. I just think it would be nice. If they can find the next guy, rather than the last guy, that would be better.

  51. In any case, do we have a consensus that the money we could spend on Furcal would be better spent on a power-hitting left fielder or a top-notch reliever?

  52. Tom Gordon is looking for a closer gig, he might not be a bad option if the price isn’t too high. Maybe ship Kolb off to the Yankees also :).

  53. Gordon’s an interesting option, and I’m pretty sure the Yankees will let him go–the problem is his postseason nerves. He routinely throws up before pitching in October games. I guess the pressure would be slightly less in Atlanta than in Yankeeland, but he’d also be the closer instead of the setup man.

  54. From past seasonal performance & current salary perspectives, Gordon is really intriguing, and from all I hear in Yankeeland, he’s out of the Bronx.

    He only makes $3.75 M, but as Drew mentioned, he’s a post-season shrivel-show. His career numbers (in about 25 post-season innings) are brutal.

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