Braves: Best reliever options left on the market

Braves by Position: Episode 2 - The Bullpen

The Braves made a splash in free agency late last week by re-signing Marcell Ozuna to a multi-year contract, and one of the great things about the deal is that it is backloaded. Ozuna will only make $12 million in 2021, which leaves the Braves with some room to round out the rest of their roster. Alex Anthopoulos said the plan is to add to the bench and the bullpen before the start of the season, so this begins our two-part series where I will break down the best free-agent options that are still available. I’ll begin with the bullpen, and Jake will cover the bench bats.

Trevor Rosenthal

2020 stats: 23.2 innings, 1.90 ERA, 38 Ks

Rosenthal was a reliable reliever with the Cardinals from 2012-2017, where he posted a more than respectable 2.99 ERA over his career in St Louis. However, Tommy John surgery forced him to miss the 2018 season, and he didn’t come back the same in 2019, finishing with a 13.50 ERA in 15.1 innings with three different teams. Yet, 2020 may have been his best season to date. Rosenthal began the year with the Royals before being traded to the Padres, where he made nine appearances (10 innings) and didn’t allow a run. He also recorded four saves for San Diego and finished the year with a ridiculous 14.5 K/9 rate — the highest mark of his career. Rosenthal remains unsigned and could be the perfect solution to the Braves current hole in the back-end of their bullpen.

Keone Kela

2020 stats: N/A

Like most of the Pirates, 2020 was a year to forget for Kela, who was supposed to be the team’s closer last season. However, injuries limited him to just three appearances and two innings. Still, Kela has quite the track record, posting a 2.84 ERA and 3.20 FIP over 120.1 innings from 2017-2019. He also boasts a fantastic 11.2 K/9 over that stretch. Given that Kela is coming off an injury, he should be more than affordable for the Braves.

Mark Melancon

2020 stats: 22.2 innings, 2.78 ERA, 14 Ks

Every Braves fan would love to have The Shark back, and I’m among them, but his alarmingly low K-rate is a bit worrisome, and his FIP sat near four last season. At this point in his career, I’m not so sure he can be trusted as the closer over a full season. That doesn’t mean he can’t still be a productive reliever in Atlanta, but Anthopoulos has to be realistic about what he offers as Melancon turns 36 in March.

Justin Wilson

2020 stats: 19.2 innings, 3.66 ERA, 23 Ks

The Mets have had many bullpen issues over the years, but Justin Wilson has been the bright spot. In his two years in New York, he boasted a 2.91 ERA over 58.2 innings, which is slightly better than his career ERA of 3.27. At this point, the Braves could probably use a more dominant right-hander rather than a lefty, but Wilson would be a substantial addition to their bullpen.

Shane Greene

2020 stats: 27.2 innings, 2.60 ERA, 21 Ks

Greene looked like his All-Star self for most of the 2020 season, but he did teeter off a little at the end. Still, he was money in the playoffs, allowing just one earned run in 5.2 innings. He’s another guy I would love to have back on a short-term deal. Greene’s not the lockdown closer the Braves may have thought they were getting when they traded for him back in 2019, but he remains a very high-quality relief option.

David Robertson

2020 stats: N/A

From 2008-2018, Robertson was one of the most respected relievers in all of baseball. Unfortunately, his last two seasons with the Phillies have been marred by injuries, limiting him to just 6.2 innings. He’s currently returning from Tommy John Surgery and is 36-years-old, so his best days are probably behind him. However, he did throw for teams last week and should be ready to go for the start of the season. If Robertson still has some stuff left in the tank, the Braves could do much worse than adding his veteran presence on a one-year contract.



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