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Yes, the Atlanta Braves had a bad bullpen in 2015. The Braves had the second-worst bullpen ERA in baseball last season at 4.69, just one point off the worst mark made by the Colorado Rockies (4.70).
So obviously, there are rumors flying the Braves are interested in some relievers. Last week some reports even had the Braves targeting Darren O’Day, considered the most-expensive free agent reliever on the market.
But the Braves do not need to make that huge of an investment. They don’t need to be stuck with an expensive middle reliever in a few years, and a closer is just not necessary.
The Braves found a closer last season in Arodys Vizcaino. The 25-year-old pitched in 36 games and had a 1.60 ERA, with 27 hits allowed on 33.2 innings, 13 walks and 37 strikeouts.
Vizcaino saved nine games in 10 opportunities, with just one blown save. That’s a great percentage, particularly considering the issues the Braves were having late in the season when Vizcaino was getting his opportunities.
The Braves are getting Jason Grilli back next season after he recovers from his Achilles’ injury. Grilli could get more save opportunities, or he could serve as a veteran setup man to Vizcaino.
Expect several pitchers to return for a chance, including Brandon Cunniff, Matt Marksberry, Andrew McKirahan, Danny Burawa and Danny Winkler. Chris Withrow, who was acquired from the Dodgers last season, is due back from Tommy John surgery at some point during the season.
The Braves acquired left-hander Ian Krol from the Tigers on Friday and then signed veteran David Carpenter to a minor league deal late Friday night. They are both expected to compete for jobs in spring training.
Atlanta does not need a closer. Let’s see if Vizcaino can do the job. He's young and is now completely healthy after having Tommy John surgery a few years ago. He showed tremendous promise last season, and Vizcaino may be another Neftali Feliz-type pitcher with his explosive fastball.
Spend some money on a veteran setup man, but look at what they did last year with Grilli and Jim Johnson. Both weren’t that expensive, but both did very well.
Bring Johnson back. Sign a couple of pitchers like him for a smaller amount of money (maybe $1 million or a bit more per season). Bring in some projects, as they did with Carpenter. The Braves have always been good at finding diamonds in the rough and making them better.
The Braves do not need to spend a ton of money on a closer. That’s a waste of money. Vizcaino did nothing to make anyone think he can’t handle the job as closer, so he deserves more of an opportunity. Bring some in to compliment him, but Vizcaino dserves the chance to continue as the closer.
So Braves, forget about O’Day or any other potential closer like him. Instead, give the gig to Vizcaino. Spend that money on something else (starting pitching ace?).