Posted on May 20, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
In an effort to shake up their struggling bullpen, the Atlanta Braves completed a trade on Monday. The Braves acquired reliever Anthony Swarzak and close to $2 million in cash from Seattle in exchange for Arodys Vizcaino and Jesse Biddle. The move appears to be a somewhat desperate attempt by Atlanta to fix a bullpen that has held the team back this season.
Swarzak was more or less a throw-in piece of the Robinson Cano trade between the Mets and the Mariners this past winter. He struggled in his only season with the Mets last year and has been only slightly better in Seattle this year. In 15 appearances, he’s 2-2 with a 5.27 ERA and 1.61 WHIP. However, he’s just two years removed from posting a 2.33 ERA with the White Sox and Brewers in 2017, so the Braves have some level of hope that he can turn things around.
Finding consistency has been virtually impossible for Atlanta’s bullpen this season. They’ve run through relievers both young and old in search of some answers but finding few. A.J. Minter was expected to be a key reliever this season, but he owns a 9.82 ERA. Veterans Jonny Venters and Jerry Blevins have been largely ineffective as well. Josh Tomlin has also failed to contribute much. On top of that, Vizcaino was lost to a season-ending shoulder injury in mid-April.
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On the bright side, Luke Jackson has stepped forward as the team’s de-facto closer. Dan Winkler is also giving them some semblance of stability late in games with a 1.46 ERA. But other than that, it’s tough to find anyone reliable in Atlanta’s bullpen these days. The hope is that Swarzak can regain the form he had in 2017 as part of a team that’s built to win the short-term rather than a rebuilding club like the Mariners.
The other bright spot for the Braves is that they didn’t give up much to get Swarzak. Biddle had already been designated for assignment, making him free to anyone on waivers. Vizcaino, meanwhile, wasn’t going to help them in 2019 after his shoulder injury. The former closer is also in line to be a free agent this winter, so there was no guarantee he would have stayed in Atlanta anyway.
As for the Mariners, they had little need for Swarzak this season, especially since he was pitching so poorly. There are five members of Seattle’s bullpen with an ERA currently under 4.00, so the Mariners are in good shape. They can also monitor Vizcaino during his rehab in case they want to re-sign him this winter once he’s recovered from his shoulder surgery.
Seattle will also have the option of adding Biddle to their bullpen. Despite being out of minor league options, Biddle is under team control through 2023, which makes him the most valuable player in this trade. He’s struggled to the tune of a 5.40 ERA this season. But the lefty was 6-1 with a 3.11 ERA in 60 games for the Braves last season. With less pressure on them to compete in 2017, the Mariners can be a little more patient with Biddle in hopes that he can turn things around and help them in the long run.
For the Braves, this trade is all about taking a chance on Swarzak. Odds are, he won’t turn their bullpen around, but he has enough of a track record to be worth the small risk. Meanwhile, in classic Mariners fashion, they seized on an opportunity to make a trade that won’t affect them short-term but gives them a player who could be useful over the long haul.