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?

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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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