I went over this a little in today’s 5 for Monday post at my other site. Give it a read as it also touches on the rotation (especially Jhoulys Chacin), spring training stats, the 2016 draft, the road back for Jason Grilli and Mike Foltynewicz, and others odds and ends.
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The Braves continued their quick and decisive series of cuts on Monday morning, adding Matt Marksberry and Chris Withrow to the list of arms that were previously in the running, but now have “just died and went back down to the minors.” Southpaw Hunter Cervenka joined the duo, though he was “reassigned” rather than optioned because he wasn’t on the 40-man roster.
Marksberry and Withrow were both surprising cuts, especially at this point. As a favorite in the battle to join the Braves coming out of camp, Marksberry had moments of glory before a recent bad game. Marksberry has some qualities that make him an attractive member of any bullpen, but he’s hurt by one thing right now – he has options. The Braves want to maintain a high level of depth and keeping a LOOGY at AAA rather than losing a player without options was an easier sell for the Braves.
Withrow was even more shocking because many, including me, had him pegged as a key member of the 2016 bullpen. Over 56 innings in the majors, Withrow has a 3.44 xFIP, 3.08 SIERA, and 93 cFIP – which all give the impression that he’s a capable major league option when healthy. The Braves may have not seen the level of control they want from the righty, though to option him this quickly is still curious. Again, much like Marksberry, Withrow has options (actually just one) whereas players like Jose Ramirez don’t.
Speaking of Ramirez, his chances of making this roster only improve. The same can be said for Rule 5 additions like Evan Rutckyj and Daniel Winkler, along with non-roster invitees Alex Torres, Carlos Torres, and Alexi Ogando. However, there is still much that is left to be done because we only know that Arodys Vizcaino and Jim Johnson will be in the mix. If he suffers no setbacks, Jason Grilli will be there as well. That doesn’t even take into account Ian Krol, who was expected to be a player in the bullpen, but might go the way of Withrow and head to Gwinnett to start 2016. Oh, and we should also mention the possibility of a long-relief arm such as Williams Perez or Ryan Weber being shifted to the bullpen to provide insurance for the rotation, though I’d think Winkler could be included in that mix as well.
The Braves are being proactive here, which puts the pressure on those players remaining in the picture to produce. We’ve seen what happens when they don’t.