With Arodys Vizcaino and Andrew McKirahan due to return from suspension in July, Peter Moylan attempting to make a comeback, and Chris Withrow due to return from injury later in the season, the Braves made it known they weren’t about to give up young assets or spend big money on bullpen help. However, the bullpen issues had to be addressed. The bullpen’s ERA sits at 4.98, worst in baseball. The Braves have blown multiple games in past weeks despite the offense clicking on all cylinders. The front office has responded by signing two relievers to minor league deals in the past 48 hours, Dana Eveland and David Aardsma.
Eveland is likely to be the first reliever called up to the team, as they are short on lefties. Andrew McKirahan is still serving his suspension, Donnie Veal has proven he’s not a MLB caliber reliever, and Ian Thomas is now a Dodger. What intrigues me about Eveland is the fact that he was effective last year out of the Mets bullpen and has NL East experience. He worked to a 2.63 ERA in 30 appearances while averaging 8.9 K/9 and just 2.0 BB/9 for New York. That being said, he does have a 5.27 career ERA, and he’s far from a proven commodity. Despite his nice 2014 season, Eveland settled for a minor league deal with the Red Sox this offseason. He was highly effective for AAA Pawtucket, working to a 1.54 ERA in 16 appearances. He opted out of his deal with Boston late last week. Many of the Braves’ relievers have had control issues this season, so the fact that Eveland can locate his pitches likely makes him the first man on the Braves’ short list. The team needs another lefty to give Luis Avilan a break.
David Aardsma hasn’t been in a Major League bullpen since 2013 (and hasn’t been an effective MLB reliever since 2010), but he has had a lot of success in AAA the last two seasons. He had a 1.29 ERA in the Pacific Coast League last season, a league known for heavy offense. This season he has had success in AAA as well, as he has a 2.41 ERA in 20 appearances. The knock on Aardsma is his control. He walks a lot of batters and that is what has kept him out of MLB bullpens. With the Braves’ evident short leash on relievers that have had control issues, such as Juan Jaime and Michael Kohn, its unlikely Aardsma carves out a role in our bullpen. Aardsma isn’t a great option, but let’s be honest here: the Braves are desperate. Who knows, he could surprise us.
At least the front office is hard at work trying to fix our most glaring need. The Braves haven’t had a bullpen struggle like this since the early 90’s, and it is simply costing this team too many games.