15. Will Mahay and Dotel be re-signed?
While Mark Teixeira was the headline name acquired on July 31st this past summer, there were two other major leaguers that came to Atlanta in deadline-day deals. Ron Mahay accompanied Teixeira from Texas, while the Braves also got former closer Octavio Dotel from the Kansas City Royals for pitcher Kyle Davies.
Mahay was outstanding in 30 games with Atlanta. He had a 2.25 ERA and allowed seven earned runs on 19 hits in 28 innings pitched. He had six holds and left-handed hitters batted only .156 against him (compared to a .310 average while he was in Texas).
Dotel battled arm problems in his two months with the Braves. He pitched in only nine games and had a 4.70 ERA with four earned runs on five hits allowed in 7.2 innings, with one walk and 12 strikeouts.
But now both of these pitchers are eligible for free agency, and the Braves have to decide whether or not to bring them back.
Mahay will probably be the easier decision. Last year he made $1.25 million dollars. He'll be 37 years old next June, so that might help the Braves. But with the way teams have been overspending on relievers in the last few years, you never know if some team might come in and offer Mahay more than a one-year deal.
With Mike Gonzalez out until midseason next year, the Braves need a dependable lefty reliever who can get lefty hitters out. Mahay was very solid after he came over from the Rangers, and if the price is right the Braves are going to want him back.
Royce Ring, also acquired July 31st, is expected to have a role in the Atlanta bullpen next season. And if the Braves are comfortable enough with him and also confident Gonzalez will be back better than ever, they may pass on Mahay. But there's no reason to not investigate what it might cost to get him to return.
Could a one-year, $1.5 million dollar offer get a deal done with Mahay? Well, perhaps, but again Mahay will almost owe it to himself to wait and see if a team makes an outrageous and stupid offer. Maybe someone offers him a two-year deal worth more than a combined $4 million. If so, the Braves will probably look elsewhere for another option.
Dotel is a bit more complicated. According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, Dotel has a player option for 2008 worth $5.5 million dollars. If he exercises that option, the Braves then have the right to turn around and void it, which they would certainly do making Dotel a free agent.
Rafael Soriano is already set to be Atlanta's closer next season, so the only role Dotel could have would be that of the main set-up man. The Braves have learned the importance of that over the years, so it wouldn't hurt to have Dotel back. And with Soriano never having closed before over the course of a full season, and with Dotel having extensive experience as a closer, the Braves would have some insurance on hand if Soriano were to struggle.
But again, at what price? Dotel is not going to get the $5.5 million he had in his option, and it's doubtful any team will come that close. So will he instead concentrate on getting more than a one-year deal? If so, the Braves may not be interested. They may, however, throw a contract his way that includes incentives in case he is pushed into the closer's role.
There's a strong possibility the Braves will rely heavily on their middle relief corps next season with a number of starters that might be only six-inning pitchers in the rotation. So that makes Dotel attractive to the team. They might feel they need a reliable eighth-inning guy to set up Soriano, and if the price makes sense Dotel may be their man.
The rumor was Dotel already lived in Atlanta before the trade, so if that's true he might take a bit less to pitch near one of his homes. There is no doubt he was happy after he came over, and despite the time he missed with injuries the team seemed to enjoy having him around. Dotel was a good presence in the clubhouse, and could really compliment Soriano to form a solid duo.
But like so many decisions in baseball now, this will simply come down to money. If Dotel signs a reasonable contract, he'll be a Brave. But if some team blows him away financially, or even offers him a chance to close, he'll probably leave the Braves and they won't have anything left to show for giving the Royals a young arm in Kyle Davies.
Royce Ring, Tyler Yates, Peter Moylan, Joey Devine, Blaine Boyer, Manny Acosta, and Oscar Villarreal are the main candidates to set up Soriano next season. Therefore, the Braves may not have much room to bring Mahay and/or Dotel back. But they know the importance of depth, so it would be a bit of a surprise if they do not at least make an effort.
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. He can be heard on 680 the Fan in Atlanta and 105.5 the Fan in Macon. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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