August 1, 2011 at 2:32 pm by Kevin Orris under Atlanta Braves
For weeks and even months leading up to the trade deadline, Peter, Ben, and I all expressed our desire for Frank Wren and Co. to add a right-handed reliever to the bullpen. While Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters, and Craig Kimbrel have all ranked among the best in the league, the depth of the bullpen has been lacking, leading to more than expected usage.
I can’t help but reiterate the fact that O’Flaherty, Venters, and Kimbrel have been used extensively this season. Among the relievers of all 30 teams, Venters (63.1 IP) ranks first in appearances with 59. Kimbrel (53.0 IP) and O’Flaherty (49.1 IP) are tied for third at 54.
There’s no arguing against their dominance though. Kimbrel leads MLB relievers with a 2.4 fWAR with Venters (1.5) and O’Flaherty (1.0) also ranking among the top 20. They make a pretty good group.
But if they’ve pitched too many inning to this point, a point which some would argue against and the Braves only reliable right-handed reliever is Kimbrel, it makes sense to acquire a right-handed bullpen option, right?
Yes. It makes perfect sense, however, the trade deadline has since passed and the Braves failed to acquire a right-handed reliever. But I’ve come to realize that failed isn’t the correct word to use. I’m actually happy that Wren chose to avoid the right-handed bullpen market.
Blame the Texas Rangers and GM Jon Daniels. Daniels, Baseball America’s 2010 Executive of the Year, was able to acquire two of the premier right-handed arms available at prices the Braves appear to be reluctant to pay. For San Diego’s Mike Adams, the Rangers dealt Robbie Erlin, Texas’ No. 4 prospect heading into the season, and Joe Wieland, their No. 23 pre-season prospect who has posted a 1.80 ERA with a 9.2 K/9 this season between Single and Double-A.
There’s no doubting that Adams is a great pitcher, but IMHO the price was too steep. If the Braves were to have offered up a similar package, it would have likely included a top four pitching prospect (Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, or Arodys Vizcaino) and possibly another young arm. That move would make little sense for the Braves.
Then there’s Koji Uehara. He was dealt for former Braves farmhand Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis, a masher who has failed to stick with the Rangers. Uehara is certainly a name that we’ve talked about extensively, but the price was pretty high. The added value of both Uehara and Adams is sure to be large, but was it worth trading such valuable pieces? Probably not.
Enter Arodys Vizcaino, a right-handed pitcher acquired from the Yankees in the Javier Vazquez deal, who has finally been converted to a reliever, just as many scouts have predicted since joining the Braves in December ‘09.
If you listened to the podcast last week, you heard Peter mention Vizcaino’s promotion to Triple-A Gwinnett and bullpen conversion, and so far it’s been nearly flawless. Through four appearances in Gwinett, Vizcaino allowed just one run (a home run in his first outing) while striking out six batters in four innings pitched.
Even though Wren “failed” to acquire a right-handed reliever at the deadline, Vizcaino is his prize possession that appears to be on the fast track to Atlanta. The Front Office’s reluctance to add an arm shows the trust in Vizcaino to arrive soon, because really, how long can Scott Proctor remain on the active roster?
With Vizcaino, Fredi will have a converted starter in his play pen with innings to burn and batters to K that will hopefully transition smoothly to the big leagues. There’s no doubting the potential of Vizcaino in the bullpen with his mid-90’s fastball and swing-and-miss curveball that he can command in the zone.
The time will come soon when fans will be filled with exuberance with the permanent call-up of Vizcaino and potentially Teheran and Delgado to throw valuable bullpen innings come September. For now, be happy that Wren pulled off a phenomenal deadline deal when he acquired Michael Bourn, and allowed the Texas Rangers to make upgrades at a steep price.