I am not sure how many times I wrote (complained) last season that the Braves needed to do something with the bullpen. Their closer situation (when healthy, Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano) was a mess; best left for setup duties and not to be fully trusted. A mess may be a harsh assessment, but let’s move on and see how have the Braves responded as they get ready for their 2010 campaign?
In two days, the Braves signed two relievers to one-year contracts worth about $10 million. Between them, Wagner and Saito have 77 years, seven children, 468 saves and 1,389 strikeouts in 1,079 innings. (Saito has three children, all daughters.)
“When one’s not available [to close], the other one can be,” said Wren, adding that the Braves could now narrow their focus to the pursuit of a hitter as they prepare for baseball’s annual Winter Meetings that start Monday in Indianapolis.
“We’ve very fortunate to get two outstanding relief pitchers, and we haven’t even been to the winter meetings yet,” manager Bobby Cox said. “So we are way ahead of the game. Gonzo and Soriano are both free agents, and we needed to fill those spots.”
It would have been nice to keep Soriano as a setup man; at times he did a nice job finishing out games for the Braves, but I think he could really work it in a setup role. Mike Gonzalez had one really remarkable year in Pittsburg (2006) before the injury bug set in, which in my opinion also renders Gonzalez as a replaceable part; not really worth the risk of a lot of cash investment. I expect Gonzo to have a great year (OK, temper expectations to good) if he is healthy, but his agent priced him right out of ATL.
So now we have a new bullpen featuring some old dudes. That will work out well. Probably.