Braves aim to boost bullpen depth in free agency
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Though the Braves have stressed they are committed to acquiring at least a couple relievers this offseason, it does not appear they are willing to get into a bidding war for Darren O'Day and some of the other free-agent relievers who are in line to receive a hefty raise.
"There will be certain guys we won't even talk about because of their price tag," Braves general manager John Coppolella said. "That's not just for us. I think that is for a number of clubs throughout the industry."
Though history has provided numerous examples of the danger of placing too much value on a free-agent reliever, the likes of O'Day and Tyler Clippard will eventually get their payday from a bullpen-needy club. But the Braves will likely not be shopping in this aisle.
Instead, the Braves will be looking to find this year's version of Ryan Madson. In fact, they will keep tabs on Madson, the veteran right-handed reliever who came out of retirement and resurrected his career for the World Series-champion Royals this year.
Madson, Jonathan Broxton and Joakim Soria are among the veteran relievers the Braves are expected to target to add bullpen depth. Tony Sipp will be among the left-handers who should receive some interest from Atlanta.
"I think we're going to try to add at least one left-hander and as many quality relievers as we can," Coppolella said.
Along with getting some potential help via a trade or free-agent signing, the Braves remain hopeful that Chris Withrow, Jason Grilli and Shae Simmons all make healthy returns to their bullpen early in the 2016 season.
Simmons burst on the scene in 2014 and enjoyed a six-week stretch of dominance before being sidelined the rest of the year with a right elbow injury. The young reliever underwent Tommy John surgery in February. The Braves hope to add him to their bullpen at some point in May.
When the Braves acquired Withrow from the Dodgers in May, they knew he might miss the remainder of the season while recovering from back surgery he underwent last year. At the same time, they viewed him a power reliever who could serve as a late-inning asset in the future.
While the Braves had a chance to watch a healthy Withrow throw during this year's instructional league, there remains some uncertainty surrounding Grilli's ability to recover from the ruptured left Achilles tendon injury that sidelined him in July. But Braves president of baseball operations John Hart remains confident that the 39-year-old Grilli has the fortitude necessary to overcome the odds he faces.
"He's a warrior," Hart said. "I think he'll be ready to do his throwing program in January and then off he goes."