May 22, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Aaron Harang (34) throws a pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers in the second inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Waiver Wire Winners?

Like most front offices the Braves watch the waiver wire closely. If you know what designating a player for a assignment means skip to the next paragraph.   . . . Unlike the post trade deadline process of putting players on to see what they’re worth then pulling them back or trading them, this time of year the player are designated for assignment .  Usually a player is placed on waivers after being designated for assignment for the purpose of removing him from the 40 man roster to clear space and outrighting him to the minors. Once on waivers the team has ten waiver days to trade the player assign him to a minor league team or release him.  Veteran players can accept or reject assignment depending on whether they believe another team will want him. If the player isn’t claimed and accepts assignment he stays with the organization. If he rejects it he becomes a free agent. Teams who sign this player are responsible for only the major league minimum with his former team responsible for the remained of his existing contract.

The Braves have had some success in plucking players off the wire and getting some benefit from them in the past; Freddy Garcia last year and Aaron Harang this for example. With that in mind and knowing the Braves payroll is stretched as tight as Robin Hood’s bow string, I watch the wire pretty closely hoping to see someone who may be of interest to GM Frank Wren. Currently two currently unemployed pitchers fit that description; Chris Capuano and J.J. Putz.

Both Capuano and Putz have had success from the bullpen. The Braves saw Capuano twice during their visit to Boston where he threw 1 2/3 innings with one walk, one strikeout, and nothing across. The Braves saw Putz a lot when he was closer in Arizona. He wasn’t having a good year but the sample size was small. Since experienced bullpen help is always needed – lefties in particular – I wanted to look at what the Braves could get for virtually nothing.

Closer No More

In 2011 and 2012 Putz was the closer in Phoenix saving 45 of 49 opportunities in 2011 and 32 of 37 in 2012. Last season wasn’t good at all; he saved six but blew five and lost his job as closer.  He finished the year with a 2.36 ERA and a 1.256 WHIP in 40 games, good numbers although his k/bb rate was down. This year was a disaster from a classical statistics point of view and the Diamondbacks placed him on the waiver wire june 18th. Looking deeper he wasn’t all that bad.  His FIP was 3.54 which indicates his defense let him down a bit and opponents had a BABIP of .400 indicating they had luck on their side. He’s still a heavy ground ball pitcher (55% this year with a gb/fb rate of 1.89), strikes out a man an inning and percentage wise gets as many popups as line drives. Until this season he had about equal L/R splits likely because he hasn’t thrown his slider nearly as often relying instead on his split which isn’t as effective against lefties.  Moving away from the slider could indicate arm issues as he has lost some velocity on his other pitches as well leaving little speed difference between his fastball and his off speed stuff. Some of that could be age – he’s 37+ – but the slider is notorious for being hard on the elbow.  Before Shae Simmons arrived I would have serious considered Putz and I’d still take Putz on a minor league contract as insurance, you can never have enough relief pitchers.

Tip Your Cap-uano?

Although he pitched in relief four times for the Dodgers last season, Chris Capuano’s been a starter his whole career. This year there were no starter spots open for the the lefty and he because the Red Sox long man appearing in 28 games and posting an ERA of 4.55 with a WHIP of 1.547. His career L/R split shows an ability to get lefties out but the numbers for the past three years show a different picture and while his BABIP was higher than his career numbers his FIP (4.01) isn’t indicative of a lot of bad luck.  In short, like most two time TJ surgery victims he’s probably done.

That’s a Wrap

I was ask about other well known names on the waiver wire like Heath Bell in last two weeks and said these guys are waived for a reason. Sometimes there are bargains on the waiver wire but at a time when all but six teams think they can still make the post season and all 24 need relief help, finding those bargains is nearly impossible.  I’m positive the GM is watching the wire closely because he doesn’t have much breathing room with the checkbook. I suspect however that any help we find will have to come from within or by trade. There just aren’t enough healthy arms to go around.

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  • Chris Headrick

    Love that, tip your cap uano :) Speaking of which, if I had to choose right now between he and Putz, I’d say that JJ is clearly not the regressing putz that CC has become. My vote would clearly be for Putz, because as you so aptly put it, going down the stretch you can never have enough insurance in the pen.

    Slim pickings on the waiver wire currently, but Putz provides cheap insurance and I think would be a good fit if FW is interested. The gamble as you point out are questions about his arm, but FW has always been lucky at getting that quick, short-term fix, and for now, that may be what Atlanta needs most, as the strength of your pen is key after the break and on.

    • fireboss

      Our pen will be a continuing issue. We were spoiled for years with Venters, O’Flaherty, Medlen, Kimbrel, Wagner et al making it a six inning game. Expecting that to always be there is fan fantasy. Avilan is there because we have no alternative, Varvaro is the best pitcher who looks awful but still gets outs and Kimbrel’s lack of fastball control means he’s no longer the door slamming certainty he was the last three years.
      I wonder whether Simmons can sustain his place, he’s bound to hit a bump in the road at some point and Walden is always subject to back and aductor issues because of his delivery and after that we’re scrapping the barrel. Adding Putz and making a deal for Alex Torres would make us deeper. we aren’t getting one of the big name starters so while in SD I’d ask about Kennedy or move to Phoenix and Brandon McCarthy. The next month will be interesting

      • Chris Headrick

        I am as excited about Shae’s potential as his scouts have been, and have always believed he is a great, future closer, not a middle reliever. I think if he can find his niche, and it may not be with the Braves, he’s a future all-star, barring injury. I believe he has a better arsenal than CK, is more athletic, and has a bright future if the Braves’ don’t mess him up.

        • fireboss

          I like Simmons as well. I wonder about over use – though Fredi has been better – as much as anything. I could see him flipped as part of a trade for someone expensive. He does the same job as Walden and that makes him excess

          • Matt Talbert

            Jaime should help if he can keep the walks down. Waldy’s been great. Varvaro has been great. Hale shaky in the pen so IDK. You seem a bit more doom-and-gloom. Getting Putz would be great add for the team probably on the cheap too. I think the change of scenery would do him wonders.

          • fireboss

            It’s not doom and gloom as much as pragmatism about pitchers on the wire in this day and age. The piece points out how thin the waiver wire is because of the rash of injured arms. With more teams feeling as if they have a shot at a post season spot they are unwilling or unable to reach into their system for help so we’re seeing a lot more guys picked up looked at and released as we did we Kameron Loe in the last few weeks. Most know Loe is done but catching lightning in a bottle like we did with Garcia last year is the hope.
            From a relief point of view the trade market will be thin and expensive. Our need is for a good lefty to help Avilan who was wild in the zone earlier and while results have improved he’s still not someone I’d prefer to depend on against good hitters
            as we did with O’Flaherty and Venters who set a high bar. I’s like to try Shreve from Pearl just to see why he’s got but the Braves don’t seem inclined to do that.
            I’d like Putz on a minor league deal but I wouldn’t replace Simmons with him. Simmons has the stuff to get lefties out and when Walden is healthy he does as well. Having them gives us three guys who can pitch the ninth though Walden can be inconsistent there. That’s why the Angels traded him for Hanson.
            After watching Minor last night I’m beginning to hope we do get another starter. He seems to have lost focus as he did at the beginning of 2012 and having another option would be ideal.
            Harang is probably having his last good year and could fall off a cliff at any time. he’s already exceeded everyone’s expectations. At that point having Hale is good insurance if we can keep him sharp. Hale is better as a starter I’m comfortable with him in the fifth starter spot. He’s young, smart and in good physical condition, and uses his pitches well. I expect some kind of add but no pitcher can take the team anywhere if the lineup isn’t producing. We’ve seen that over the past few years. That’s the concern, I’m confident that the pitching will be solid. I’m not as sold on the lineup

          • Matt Talbert

            Minor will be fine. He goes through stretches like this (as do a lot of pitchers). Read that article it will wake you up. Putz would be a nice insurance add in case we do make a trade you know (sending out a RP to get a legit upgrade somewhere)