We continue this series of the Top 5 free agents at each position with the bullpen. Remember, this isn’t just the five most talented free agents. It’s the five guys that best fit with the Braves, which means they also must be financially attainable. However, with the bullpen, that shouldn’t be much of an issue. Alex Anthopoulos has shown that he has no problem spending money on his relief core over the last two seasons. If you missed any of the previous segments to this series, click the links below:
5. Shane Greene
We start this list with one of the Braves’ own free agents. Shane Greene is hitting the market after his final year of arbitration, which paid him $6.25 million last season. The right-handed former closer for the Tigers wasn’t as dominant in a Braves uniform, but we did see flashes — like the first month of 2020 — in which he looked unhittable. Greene was also very reliable in the playoffs, allowing just one earned run over six innings. Ideally, the Braves need to keep their relief core together, and Greene shouldn’t require too much money this offseason. According to FanGraphs, he’s projected to receive a one-year deal worth just $5 million. If that is the case, it should be more than doable for the Braves.
4. Mark Melancon
Melancon has been solid in his 46 appearances with the Braves, recording 22 saves in 24 opportunities. However, his deflated strikeout numbers in 2020 are worrisome, and his FIP was nearing four. To this point, I think the Braves have gotten a little lucky using him as their closer. I would love to have him back, but Atlanta needs to find a more dominant arm to close games. Melancon will be 36 next season; he does not need to be pitching in the ninth. Hopefully, the Braves can bring him back on a one or two-year contract, with the expectation that he will be pitching in the seventh and eighth innings.
3. Greg Holland
Holland was an All-Star in 2017 with the Rockies, but his 2018 and 2019 campaigns were signs that his career might be coming to an end. However, he put a halt to that in 2020 with one of the best seasons of his ten-year career. The 34-year-old posted a 1.91 ERA with a WHIP below one over 28.1 innings and was a perfect six for six in save opportunities. Holland would be a tremendous add to the back of Atlanta’s bullpen and shouldn’t cost very much on a one-year deal.
2. Alex Colome
Colome has long been one of the premier relievers in baseball. He began his career with the Rays and recorded a 3.12 ERA over his six seasons in Tampa Bay. His success has only continued over his last two years with the White Sox. In 2019, Colome posted a 2.80 ERA in 62 appearances, and this past season, he posted a minuscule 0.81 ERA over 21 outings. He’s likely to receive a multi-year deal in the two to three-year range, but he’d be a wonderful addition to Atlanta’s relief core.
1. Brad Hand/Liam Hendricks
I put these two together because they are 1A and 1B for me. If Alex Anthopoulos is interested in creating the best bullpen in the majors, adding either one of these guys is the direction to go.
I was shocked when the Indians declined Hand’s $10 million option, and I was even more shocked that nobody put a waiver claim on him. The guy has made every All-Star game from 2017-2019, and the only reason he didn’t make it in 2020 is because there wasn’t one. Hand’s as good as it gets as far as relievers go. He has not posted an ERA over 3.30 in a single season since 2015.
If you asked me who the best reliever in this free-agent class is, I would probably have to go with Liam Hendricks. He doesn’t have the track record of the other guys on this list, but over the last two seasons, he has become one of the most dominant relievers in baseball. In 2019, he posted a 1.80 ERA with a 13.1 K/9 over a ridiculous 85 innings, and he picked up right where he left off in 2020, recording a 1.78 ERA with a 13.1 K/9 over 25.1 innings. This is a man that is just entering the prime of his career, and whoever lands him will be getting a weapon available at the end of games.