10. Should Atlanta non-tender Chris Reitsma?

As Bill Shanks continues his 35-part series on the top questions facing the Atlanta Braves this winter, he analyzes whether or not the team will non-tender Chris Reitsma.

Chris Reitsma is one of the more difficult pitchers to figure out. When the Braves acquired him at the end of spring training in 2004, they envisioned him becoming an integral part of the bullpen. Instead, he's been a picture of inconsistency, sitting on the brink of becoming a great, but never quite turning the corner.

The stuff is there. He's got a fastball that can touch 96 mph, and a killer changeup. But what makes a pitcher have a good month, and then a bad month, then a good month, and then another bad month? That's what he did in 2005, alternating between good and bad months like he was to the even-numbered months.

He looked like he was the Braves' closer in July, posting a 1.17 ERA with 8 saves. But then he imploded in August, blowing 3 saves with an ERA of 8.44 in 13 games.

Reitsma ended the season as the setup man for Kyle Farnsworth, the role he was most effective at in his two years as a Brave. Having made $1.65 million last season, Reitsma is again eligible for arbitration and could make over $2 million in 2006.

So after another inconsistent season by Reitsma, you have to wonder if the Braves are just ready for a change. Would they be better off non-tendering Reitsma and spending their $2 million plus on another reliever?

Well, the answer is no, the Braves would not be better off non-tendering Chris Reitsma, and the reason is simple. Even with his inconsistency, Reitsma has too much value. When you non-tender a player, you have to make sure that player does not have the value to get you something in return. In other words, Dan Kolb is Mr. non-tender for this winter, but Reitsma has too much value.

We have already seen a report about a team being interested in Reitsma. Friday's Denver Post reported the Rockies have Reitsma on a list of potential targets for this winter. We'll probably see other teams express an interest as we move deeper into the offseason.

If the Braves prefer to go in another direction, then trading Reitsma would be the best option. Teams are in desperate shape for pitching, and again, we're not talking about someone that does not have skills here. Reitsma does have value.

Should the Braves prefer to simply dump Reitsma's salary, then they may only ask for a decent minor leaguer in return. Teams might try to offer other relievers in return, and if it's a younger reliever with decent potential, that might be a good match.

If the Braves find themselves in need of an extra $2 million dollars, whether it's to use on Rafael Furcal or perhaps even Billy Wagner, Reitsma might just be the perfect way to accomplish that. You wonder if they picked up one of those veteran relievers that are usually available in mid-January if he could do just as well as Reitsma and for a cheaper price.

However, you wonder if a new pitching coach might bring out the best in Reitsma. Leo Mazzone suggested that Reitsma back off his fastball a little bit, pitching more in the 91-94 range. Reitsma hit 97-99 mph on the radar gun when he was with the Reds, and at that point the main criticism was he just didn't have a role. Well now we know Reitsma is a reliever, and perhaps a different voice would allow Reitsma to reach his potential.

It's not an easy decision, and the presence of a new pitching coach makes the decision even more difficult. When you have a pitcher with the pure stuff of Reitsma, you have to wonder when he will turn that corner. You have to believe that somewhere down the line he will become the consistent pitcher that you envisioned, and you certainly don't want that to happen for another team.

So to answer the question, the Braves should not non-tender Chris Reitsma. He does have too much value, whether it's on the trade front or in remaining in the Atlanta bullpen and hoping that a new pitching coach will help him become a more consistent pitcher. This will simply be another tough decision the Braves will have to make this winter.

Tomorrow we'll talk about whether or not Blaine Boyer and Joey Devine are ready to become important parts of the Atlanta bullpen.

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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