The Braves acquired Anthony Swarzak in a trade with the Mariners and, at first glance, it does not look like there’s much chance he’ll help their bullpen. Swarzak has a 5.27 ERA in 15 appearances this season after posting a 6.15 ERA in 29 outings last season. The Braves swapped Arodys Vizcaino and Jesse Biddle for Swarzak.
Upon closer inspection, I don’t hate this trade. I’m not saying Swarzak certainly will make the Braves’ bullpen better. I just think it’s worth it for the Braves to take a flier on him while jettisoning two players who had become expendable.
Swarzak, 33, has been an effective reliever before. Two seasons ago he had a 2.33 ERA with 91 strikeouts and 22 walks over 77-1/3 innings. Injuries might help explain Swarzak’s regression last year — it was a calf during spring training, an oblique in March, and a shoulder in August.
Swarzak was bad last season and he’s been even worse this season. But maybe the Braves can help Swarzak back to his pre-injury form, or something close to it. If so, they’ll have something.
Swarzak has had a good ratio of strikeouts to walks for a long time. Even last year it wasn’t bad and the same is true this season. Before last season, Swarzak also typically didn’t give up many home runs.
Swarzak’s big problem this year has been getting hit hard. That could mean he’s lost it. Or maybe it’s just that Swarzak’s stuff and confidence are out of whack after all those injuries and the Braves can get him going again.
Swarzak was durable and dominant in 2017. It’s unlikely he’ll be that good for the Braves, but he doesn’t have to be. They’d take his career form before 2018: a reliable reliever who doesn’t issue many walks and doesn’t give up many homers.
If Swarzak can’t get back on track, he’ll cost the Braves whatever damage he inflicts in his outings. But the Braves already know what they’ve got in their bullpen. The results have been too many walks and homers allowed and not enough strikeouts. Swarzak can’t make that situation any worse, and he has a chance to make it better.
It’s not costing the Braves much to find out what Swarzak has left. Vizcaino was once a very good reliever but not since his shoulder troubles started. Biddle was OK as a rookie for the Braves in 2018, but ineffective in 15 outings this season.
Swarzak also will cost the Braves some cash, but it’s probably a negligible amount. They owe him the prorated portion of his $8.5 million salary. That’s offset by cash received from the Mariners in the deal and what’s left of the combined $5.4 million in outgoing salaries for Vizcaino and Biddle.
Swarzak’s acquisition is another signal that the team is sticking with its strategy of making moves around the margins and hoping one sticks. It’s unlikely Swarzak will make a huge impact on the Braves’ bullpen. Swarzak has a chance to help them, though, so that makes this a fine deal.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.