Alex Anthopoulos hasn’t made a splash move since before Thanksgiving, and while Atlanta fans sit on pins and needles waiting for the Dominican Slugger to make his decision, there are two other priority targets the Braves should still be hopeful for.
Melancon 2020: 22.2 IP, 9 ER, 23 K, 11 SV, 1.42 WHIP
Outside of these stats, Melancon dominated the 2020 playoffs. He gave up one untimely run over 6.1 innings but struck out five and only surrendered two hits. Melancon’s hefty $17 million salary in 2020 won’t be matched on his next contract, but the Shark is a vital piece to this Braves bullpen. While Melancon doesn’t HAVE to be the closer for the Braves, he presents a lot of versatility as a righty with AJ Minter’s resurgence and Will Smith finishing last season strongly.
Luke Jackson is a fine option from the right side, but he’s difficult to trust. Chris Martin has dealt with untimely injuries the last two years. Darren O’Day had his club option declined, but I’d like to have him back for one more season. The only other impact righty that would leave in the ‘pen is Shane Greene, who also remains unsigned.
Shane Greene cost a pretty penny in 2019 with Joey Wentz going back to Detroit, but after a slow start, Greene was lockdown for the Braves. He only gave up eight earned runs over 27.2 IP. His 1.12 WHIP in high leverage situations undoubtedly led to a lot of wins in a tight division race with only 60 games. Considering the prospect cost given up to acquire him, bringing him back is critical in my eyes.
I trust AA’s judgement — he let go of Josh Donaldson at the right time, but both of these guys seem like no-brainers to me. The bullpen was one of the best in the majors last season — a real strength in Atlanta for the first time in a forever. I don’t want to lose that over pennies. The Braves were so close to beating the Dodgers and getting back to the Fall Classic for the first time in over 20 years, and they’ll need another lockdown bullpen performance to get over that hump. Atlanta picked up Victor Arano off waivers from Philly, so maybe Anthopoulos can find another Tyler Matzek out of the bargain bin, but as we saw with Mike Soroka down the stretch, depth is going to be even more important with a full slate of games ahead.