Well we all wondered why in the world John Schuerholz had not non-tendered Dan Kolb yet. Certainly he wasn't thinking about bringing him back, giving him a new try with a different pitching coach? No, he was just waiting to see if somehow, someway, some other team would be interested in trading for him.
That's why Schuerholz is so brilliant. We ask automatic questions, thinking there is some weird answer for it, but yet he provides the automatic answer. He held onto Kolb to try to get something for him.
I'll be the second to admit, right behind Schuerholz himself, that Dan Kolb's failure was a huge surprise. When Kolb was acquired last December, I thought he was the perfect candidate to replace John Smoltz, who was going home to the rotation. Kolb had been successful in Milwaukee, with a team that was not very good. I fully believed he would come to Atlanta, in our environment, and improve on what he had done as a Brewer.
But instead, the pressure of replacing the legendary John Smoltz was too much for Kolb. He buckled under the stress in April, and could never recover. Even when we thought he was recovered, with two solid months in July and August, Kolb showed his true self again with a horrific September.
So we all knew Kolb's days with the Braves were numbered. It was easy to assume that he would just be non-tendered this month, since there was no way the Braves were going to go to arbitration with him. Schuerholz thought, however, that Kolb might just have some value on the open market, to a team that might believe a change of scenery would get him back to being the productive closer he was in Milwaukee.
And it was the Brewers that took that bait. They believe, and probably rightfully so, that Kolb needs a different environment, and that he probably can be effective again. Milwaukee has already replaced him with a new closer, Derrick Turnbow, but they think Kolb can regain his effectiveness by being a setup man.
To get any breathing soul for Kolb is a stroke of genius. Schuerholz knew he wasn't going to get much for him, but just getting another option for next spring makes this a fantastic trade. Who knows what Wes Obermueller will do in his chance at being an Atlanta Brave, but if he does not impress in spring training, he can either be sent back to Triple-A or be released. There's really no risk here.
Obermueller's stats are not very impressive. He's been a fifth starter on a mediocre team, and last year he split the season between the majors and Triple-A. He did better in the minors, going 3-1 with a 2.55 ERA in 9 games (8 starts). But in Milwaukee he went back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen and finished with a 5.26 ERA.
So can this guy contribute? Obermueller has some solid stuff, with good movement on his fastball and slider. He's been projected as a bottom-of-the-rotation type-starter, so who knows how good he might be in Atlanta. Our scouts must have seen something in him, and while the scouts are not perfect, I'll take their judgment on pitchers every day of the week.
Obermueller will head to spring training and have a chance to be our long reliever. He'll probably battle Brad Baker, Kevin Barry, and others in what could be a crowded spring bullpen. It's always good to have a pitcher with starting experience on your staff, and even though we're flooded with starters now, the depth Obermueller provides will help this team. If he's got a good arm, and you know our scouts think he does or they wouldn't have recommended him to Schuerholz, it's worth a look to see what he might do in an Atlanta uniform.
But Obermueller is a human being that breathes, and if you would have been asked if Schuerholz could have traded Kolb for anyone that breathes back in September, you probably would have said no. So let's see what the 29-year-old Obermueller can do for us next season. Who knows, maybe something positive will come out of Dan Kolb just yet.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. You can email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trade analysis: Kolb for Obermueller
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