Spring training has gone according to plan for the Braves, minus a true answer at the closer position.
The Braves bullpen remains one of the biggest questions marks for a team that otherwise looks to be World Series contenders. Mark Melancon took his talents to San Diego on a lesser contract, while Shane Greene remains available in free agency, looking for salary demands the Braves refuse to meet. So, what’s the hold-up?
Closer by committee appears to be the plan right now. At least, that’s what MLB.com reporter Mark Bowman has to say about the situation. Per Bowman, “Will Smith might end up drawing a majority of the save opportunities, but Chris Martin could find himself being used as the Braves’ closer in certain situations this season. Martin was very good against right-handers last year, and Smith has dominated left-handed hitters each of the past four seasons.”
Bowman goes on to say A.J. Minter and Tyler Matzek can also be trusted in high-leverage situations.
While that’s not necessarily a bad plan, it’s one typically reserved for a team that wasn’t one game away from the World Series the prior season.
Are the Braves making a mistake in their bullpen?
The Braves are confident in Rick Kranitz and his staff, as they’re banking on the bullpen as a whole being able to pick up where Melancon left off. While traditional models suggest some players have the wherewithal and makeup to close games, and others don’t, Atlanta isn’t in a comfortable enough financial situation to agree with that theory.
Greene, for one, was last listed around $8-10 million in free agency, but that was about a month ago. His value could come down as Opening Day draws near, which is where the Braves ought to check back in for a bargain buy.