Maybe the Braves aren’t tanking as hard as many want to believe. Yesterday afternoon, Ken Rosenthal published a report with some juicy rumors surrounding the Braves. Though the team is set to get back Chris Withrow, Jason Grilli and Shae Simmons, it appears the Braves are in the mix to add one or two more guys. Rosenthal has reported that the team has expressed interest in Darren O’ Day as well as Matt Thornton.
O’ Day’s name is pretty surprising to hear pop up on the team’s radar. He has publically expressed that he would like to receive a multi-year deal in excess of $7 million, while the team has prioritized shedding salary for the coming years. The two contradict each other, making this move, in my opinion very unlikely. However, O’ Day is a great pitcher, and I will take an All-Star being added to this roster any day. He has consistently been an effective reliever throughout his 8 year career, and adds a huge boost to any bullpen. However, the Braves likely won’t meet his demands, according to beat writer Mark Bowman:
While the #Braves might have had initial interest in O'Day, that interest has evaporated as his cost has risen.
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) November 20, 2015
What also makes little sense is that the report claims the team views him as their potential closer. Jason Grilli and Arodys Vizcaino were both highly effective in the closer role last season. O’Day would undoubtedly add a boost, but do the Braves need another late-inning option? That’s not the problem. As I said, the 29th ranked bullpen in the league will get a huge boost just from getting back a few of our injured arms. However, Paco Rodriguez is due to miss all of 2016 now, and the team cannot afford to rely on the likes of lefties Matt Marksberry and Andrew McKirahan. The team needs to prioritize adding an effective southpaw reliever. Bring in Matt Thornton.
Around a month ago I wrote a piece on how the 39-year old was a likely target for the Braves (Link). Thornton hasn’t posted an ERA over 4.00 in nearly a decade and has two seasons of NL East experience under his belt, as he is just coming off a stint with the Nationals. If healthy, Thornton is the only piece this bullpen is missing. Having Grilli, Vizcaino, and Thornton at the back end of our bullpen can elevate us to a top 10 bullpen this season. It may sound crazy, as the bullpen was the Achilles Heel of this team last season. However, Shae Simmons really impressed me in his stint with Atlanta in 2014 and I think Chris Withrow is a great project for pitching coach Roger McDowell. Youngster Danny Burawa held batters to a .195 average against in 12 appearances for the Braves, and I think Daniel Winkler is nice piece as well. When healthy, the Braves have a really solid, young group of arms. I expect the team to sign Thornton, and if so, watch the bullpen win us at least ten more games this season.