8. Should the Braves re-sign Kyle Farnsworth?

The Braves' bullpen was a nightmare last season. But when Kyle Farnsworth was acquired, things changed. Now the question is whether or not Farnsworth should re-sign with the Braves. Bill Shanks, BravesCenter's publisher, has the story on whether or not another hometown boy should stick around.

Throughout his years as General Manager of the Atlanta Braves, John Schuerholz has made a number of fantastic trade deadline deals. But the deal he made this past July 31st may have been one of his best.

Kyle Farnsworth was acquired from Detroit to set-up Chris Reitsma, who was coming off a fantastic July. But as Reitsma was blowing three saves and compiling an 8.44 ERA in August, Farnsworth was slowly taking over as the Braves' closer.

He was almost perfect in that role. The 29-year-old righty converted all ten save opportunities, had an ERA of 1.98, allowed 15 hits in 27.1 innings pitched, only seven walks, and 32 strikeouts. After flirting with being a serious closer in both Chicago and Detroit, Farnsworth had finally become the closer many people had predicted he would be.

This made Farnsworth a darling to Braves' fans. After struggling through a tough season with the bullpen, the Braves had finally found someone consistently good. It made everyone want to bring back the free-agent-to-be.

Fate was cruel, however, as Farnsworth, who had been perfect as the closer, squandered a five-run lead in Game Four of the National League Division Series. How ironic was it that the perfect closer would not come through when the team needed him the most?

So now fans are a bit torn. Will the blown save to the Astros harm Farnsworth's psyche as he moves forward? Will he be affected by the horrific meltdown? Will that preclude him from being a dependable closer in the future?

Farnsworth has wanted to be a closer for some time now. He tried in Chicago with the Cubs, but never turned the corner to grab the job. Then he got a few chances with the Tigers, but he really didn't separate himself from Ugeath Urbina. But he proved from mid-August through September that he can be the man to call on late in the games.

Since he is from Georgia, Farnsworth will undoubtedly want to stay home and play for the Braves. But will some other team come in and overpay him? Would the Braves prefer to spend their money on Billy Wagner, particularly if they do not re-sign Rafael Furcal?

The decision on Farnsworth might well depend on Wagner, who has long wanted to pitch for Atlanta. But Wagner will cost twice as much as Farnsworth, and if the team is to re-sign Furcal, there is not way to afford Wagner, therefore ‘leaving' them with Farnsworth.

If the team does prefer Farnsworth, and feel that he, Joey Devine, Blaine Boyer, Macay McBride, Chris Reitsma, John Foster, and the reliever probably acquired for Johnny Estrada, can form a solid bullpen, then the Braves may try to offer the tall righty a fair contract. They've just got to decide whether or not Farnsworth can be their closer for the next two or three years.

Regardless of what transpired in Game Four of the NLDS, I believe the Braves do want to look at Billy Wagner, if he's available. The Phillies are trying desperately to sign Wagner, probably knowledgeable of the Braves' interest. There's no way they'd like to see him come here, so they're doing everything in their power to re-sign him. But if Wagner's available, and especially if Furcal goes elsewhere, expect him to be the favorite over Farnsworth.

Wagner is just more experienced in the role of closer. He's also been one of the most feared closers in the game. That might be too hard to pass up.

It's hard to say that Farnsworth is the backup plan, and I don't think the Braves are thinking of him in that way. But if you've got a chance to get one of the best, why not give it a shot? Farnsworth might be one of the best in a year or two, but right now Wagner's got more history and has had more success.

Some have wondered if the Braves might be able to afford both Farnsworth and Wagner, and while I don't think it's likely, it's not totally out of the question. If Furcal leaves, and after the Braves know how much they'll have to pay on Mike Hampton's contract, the team might have some extra funds. If Wagner were to sign for $8-$9 million per season, Farnsworth would have to agree to a deal in the $3-$4 million dollar range. And if he wants to be a closer, he might not want to re-sign with Wagner around.

So the Braves do have to make a big decision. Farnsworth might be very good, but Wagner is already very good. If the issue comes down to expenses, then Farnsworth might be the choice, and that should not be like we're settling for him. He's got the chance to continue his very solid pitching.

Tomorrow we'll talk more about Billy Wagner, and whether or not the Braves should pursue him or any other closer that may be available through trade or free agency.

Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. Bill can be reached at thebravesshow@email.com.

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