5 free-agent relievers who make sense for Braves

Caption
Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Archie Bradley pitched in 10-2/3 innings with a 4.22 ERA in 2020.

Credit: AP

The Braves are comfortable with their current group of relievers, but the expectation remains that they’ll add to that mix. The relief market has been especially dry during the slow offseason, but perhaps Blake Treinen recently re-signing with the Dodgers will get the ball moving.

While almost all Braves conversation revolves around a middle-of-the-order bat, there should be real value in the relief market. The Braves also have three free-agent relievers — Mark Melancon, Shane Greene and Darren O’Day — who factor into the equation.

ExploreBraves have plenty more moves to make this winter

Because the Braves already have a stable of lefties, here are five right-handed free-agent relievers who would fit:

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1. RHP Mark Melancon

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The Braves bringing back their closer of the past season-and-a-half makes sense. Melancon, acquired from San Francisco at the 2019 trade deadline, had a 3.30 ERA with 22 saves in 46 appearances after joining the team. He helped turn the Braves’ bullpen from a weakness to one of baseball’s best.

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While the team has several potential closers – Will Smith, Chris Martin, A.J. Minter – you can never have too many late-inning relievers, especially when you’re contending. It wouldn’t be surprising if Melancon, who’s popular among teammates and fans, is again anchoring the back of the Braves’ bullpen in 2021.

Caption
Braves closer Mark Melancon delivers a pitch against the Miami Marlins Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, at Truist Park in Atlanta. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

2 RHP Shane Greene

Greene came aboard via trade the same day as Melancon. He underwhelmed in 2019, leveling out after a dynamic start in Detroit, which earned him All-Star honors. But Greene bounced back in 2020, posting a 2.60 ERA with a 21:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 28 games.

It doesn’t seem likely the Braves will re-sign both Melancon and Greene, but signing one is realistic (though far from guaranteed). Perhaps it ends up being Greene, who’s capable of handling regular closing duties and, like Melancon, gives the Braves a familiar, proven late-inning option.

3. RHP Archie Bradley

Bradley was non-tendered by the Reds, whose 2020 playoff roster has been ripped apart this winter. Bradley, 28, spent the bulk of his career with Arizona before joining the Reds at the past season’s trade deadline. After a mediocre start in Arizona, he excelled during a brief sample size in Cincinnati, allowing one run (a homer) in 7-2/3 innings spanning six appearances.

Bradley, coincidently, was the pitcher who finally gave up a run in the Braves’ 1-0 win over the Reds in a 13-inning Game 1 of the National League Division Series. He has a solid resume, owning a career 3.91 ERA with 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings, and likely falls within the team’s price range. He also seems open to the idea.

4/5. RHP Joakim Soria/RHP Yusmeiro Petit

As unexciting as this pair of 36-year-old former A’s pitchers sounds, either pitcher could fit the Braves. Soria has consistently ranked among the better relievers in baseball across his 13-year career. He’s coming off another impressive season, earning a 2.82 ERA with 24 strikeouts against 10 walks in 22 games. Before the shortened campaign, he logged at least 56 innings in each of the past five seasons.

Petit likewise has been a workhorse, leading the American League with 80 appearances in 2019. Last season, he had a 1.66 ERA and held opponents to a .229 average across 26 games. On the downside, his strikeout rate declined and his walk rate jumped in the shortened season.

The Braves could pivot to players such as Soria or Petit - think relatively inexpensive veteran on a one-year contract - if they don’t re-sign one of their own.