With Kris Medlen headed to the rotation, plus reports that the Braves are looking to tinker with the roster rather than dramatically add to it, maybe it is about time to stop thinking about Josh Johnson, James Shields, and Ryan Dempster and move onto the bullpen and the bench.
This year’s change to a two Wild Card method for each league is keeping a lot of teams on the verge of buyer/seller rather than knowing right now. However, there are a few teams that the Braves should seek out for possible additions. By my count, the Braves could use a pair of arms for the pen and a pair of bats for a punchless bench.
Chicago Cubs – RHP Shawn Camp, UTIL Jeff Baker, OF Reed Johnson
-Maybe Atlanta should pull off a multi-player deal with the Cubs to help improve their team rather than tinkering with several squads. Camp has been one of the better players who came to camp on a minor league deal for any team this year. After failing to get a good offer after a 3.91 FIP last season, Camp was signed by the Mariners, but discarded shortly before the season. The Cubs pounced and Camp has a 3.35 FIP on the year. He’s not overpowering, but the Braves could use his 1.09 WHIP and 3.1 K/BB rate. Baker has been overused on the season with 30 starts in 48 games so his WAR numbers are hurt by some bad defense, but he’s having another good year with the bat (.280/.320/.466, .335 wOBA). He’s played 1B, 2B, LF, and RF and was at third base as recently as last year so he provides a flexible bat for the bench. Johnson has always been a solid role player and this year is no different. He hits lefties very well, though not quite as well as Matt Diaz has historically hit lefties. However, he’s not completely inept against right-handers. All three of these players will hit the free agent market after the season and could be brought back at moderate cost.
Colorado – 1B Jason Giambi
-While he’s not having the big power year he had last season, Giambi is the kind of player that could turn it around if brought into a postseason chase. However, this is the kind of move you make if you can’t get the guys you want for the right price. Giambi should be cheap to acquire.
Houston – 1B/3B Brett Wallace
-A bit of a think-outside-the-box move. Houston has avoided the option of putting Wallace in as the starter at first, even after dealing away Carlos Lee. In fact, he’s played more third base at AAA and even a little shortstop so maybe they envision him as a utility guy. Wallace is posting an .871 OPS in the Pacific League, but that is a hitter’s league. He hit the ball well in a brief 11-game trail in the majors and would not be arbitration-eligible after the season so he could conceivably be a cheap option for next year. Depends on how much the Astros value him, but a couple of arms at the A and AA level for Wallace seems possible.
Kansas City – P Jonathan Broxton
-Gone is the high strikeout guy, but Broxton has been effective this year to the tune of a 3.38 FIP. He’s no longer a dominant pitcher and the Braves shouldn’t overspend for him because a team more desperate for late-inning relief probably will. That said, if the price is right, Broxton could be a nice addition to the pen.
Milwaukee – P Kameron Loe
-Loe has been a solid performer for the Brewers for the last three years, but they might look to continue selling by cashing on one of their better pieces that could be on the market. Loe is arbitration-eligible for one more season, though he could be expensive since he signed for $2.175M this year. With Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty both in arbitration, adding Loe could be a lot for the team to invest into the bullpen. Loe’s stuff could play well in Atlanta as he depends on his defense to make plays for him. His FIP is over a full run higher at 3.95 this year so the Braves should not overspend.
Minnesota – P Jared Burton
-Burton is a cheaper, less established option than Loe. After being non-tendered by the Reds, Burton caught on with the Twins and after making the team, the right-hander has put up a 3.56 FIP, the second best K/9 of his career at 8.24, and a 3.6 K/BB rate. He gets hurt by the homer a bit, though, so he is better suited for lower-leverage situations. Also, like Loe, he has one more year of arbitration.
New York Mets – P Jon Rauch, OF Scott Hairston
-Rauch is a pending free agent and MLB’s tallest player ever has shook off a bad season with another good one for the Mets. Last year with the Blue Jays, he was hurt badly by the homer ball, but playing in New York has helped eliminate that. He has experience in high pressure situations and a 3.52 FIP on the season. With the Braves outfield supporting him, he could be a nice, cheap pickup. However, he has been dealing with some knee issues (Mets fans seem to hate him, too). Hairston didn’t get the memo that Not-Shea Stadium is supposed to kill your power. His current .253 ISO is the best of his career. Last year, it was .235 so this is legitimate power. However, he is a severe platoon player and useless against righties, but for a team that struggles against lefties, getting a guy like Hairston could be important. Like Rauch, he’s a pending free agent.
Philadelphia – 1B/OF Laynce Nix
-Nix got a two-year deal to come to Philly and they might be hesitant to deal him, but if they are open to it, Nix could be a positive addition to the bench. Like Eric Hinske, who he would probably replace (either right now or in 2013), Nix has to be shielded from lefties, but he has a history of beating up on righties. In fact, of his 66 career homeruns, only two came against a left-hander. Still, that means 64 moonshots against righties and he has the ability to play all three outfield positions.
San Diego – OF Mark Kotsay
-The last Atlanta Brave to hit for the cycle won’t give you any power, but is still a nice bat off the bench. You generally keep him away from centerfield…actually, the entire outfield. Still, I’m not looking for defense from bench pieces. Braves could use a bat off the bench and Kotsay’s can do that, though again for no power. Free agent after the season.