When the Braves traded Chasen Shreve to the Yankees last week in the Manny Banuelos deal, it was only a matter of time before they added another left-handed reliever.
They did that Wednesday when they announced the signing of veteran Josh Outman to a one-year contract. Reports have the deal for a reported $925,000 with $475,000 more in incentives.
The Braves announced the deal when also making it official about reliever Jason Grilli and catcher A.J. Pierzynski, deals that had already been reported. Grilli’s deal is for two years with a club option for 2017, while Pierzynski and Outman both signed one-year deals.
Outman is 30 years old and has been in the major leagues for six seasons. He started with the A’s in 2008 and pitched with Oakland through 2011. Outman missed the 2010 season with Tommy John surgery. Then he spent two years in Colorado before splitting last season between the Indians and Yankees.
He pitched 31 games with Cleveland and had a 3.28 ERA, with 24 strikeouts and 16 walks in 24.2 innings. Then with the Yankees, Outman did not allow an earned run in nine appearances, with two strikeouts in 3.2 innings pitched.
More importantly, Outman has been very effective against left-handed batters. Last season lefty hitters batted just .169 against Outman, while right-handed hitters hit .304. In his career, Outman has held left-handed hitters to a .186 batting average, while right-handed hitters have hit .303 against him.
This likely means Outman will be Atlanta’s designated left-handed specialist for the 2015 season. The other main left-hander, James Russell, has had issues against lefty hitters the last few years.
Outman pitched in a career-high 61 games in 2013 and while his ERA was 4.33, he still held lefty hitters to a .198 batting average. It was his trouble against right-handed hitters (a .347 opponents’ batting average) that exploded his earned run average.
The Braves have reportedly been trying to trade Luis Avilan, another left-hander in the bullpen. Outman’s signing probably makes Avilan even more expendable. Craig Kimbrel will again be the closer, with Grilli and newly-signed Jim Johnson being the two main setup men. Arodys Vizcanio, Shae Simmons and Michael Kohn are the other three pitchers fighting for bullpen spots, with David Hale expected back as the long reliever.
That’s nine pitchers for the expected seven bullpen spots. Others, like 40-man roster pitchers Ian Thomas, Juan Jaime and Brandon Cunniff, plus non-roster pitchers Chien-Ming Wang, Donnie Veal and Cody Martin, will compete in spring training for a bullpen job.
The Braves have now signed seven free agents this offseason: Pierzynski, Grilli, Outman, Johnson, infielder Alberto Callaspo and outfielders Nick Markakis and Zoilo Almonte. The deal with Cuban outfielder Dion Toscano has not been officially announced.
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