Posted on November 20, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Atlanta Braves won’t rest until they have the best bullpen in baseball. At least that’s the message the Braves are sending to the rest of the league with their moves early in the offseason. Tuesday night, the Braves added another piece to their bullpen, re-signing righty Chris Martin. The two sides agreed to a two-year deal worth $14 million to keep Martin in Atlanta in 2020 and 2021.
Martin was one of three relievers the Braves acquired at the trade deadline last summer to help improve a previously unreliable bullpen. The 33-year-old had begun the season with the Texas Rangers, pitching to a 3.08 ERA before the trade. After the trade, Martin posted a more modest 4.08 ERA in his 20 appearances with the Braves. Despite an oblique injury preventing him from pitching in the postseason, the Braves felt that Martin warranted keeping and were willing to give him a multi-year deal to keep him in Atlanta.
Signing Martin is already the third move the Braves have made to address their bullpen. Atlanta was also pro-active in signing former Giants closer Will Smith to a three-year deal. Prior to that, the Braves re-signed veteran Darren O-Day to a one-year deal.
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Obviously, two of Atlanta’s bullpen moves this offseason have been keeping members of their bullpen intact. However, re-signing Martin and O’Day has been just as important as adding Smith. The Braves turned their bullpen fortunes around mid-season when they added Martin, Shane Greene, and Mark Melancon. The Atlanta bullpen became exponentially better by having more options, including several pitchers with experience working as a closer.
Spending money to sign Smith has fueled speculation that the Braves would non-tender Greene rather than pay him an estimated $6 or $7 million in arbitration. However, the Braves appear intent on keeping Greene to help retain most of their key relievers who finished out the 2019 season while also adding Smith to the mix.
“We’re trying to have a deep bullpen,” Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos said earlier this week. “We like [Greene], we’re excited to have him. We’re trying to add to the bullpen, not subtract.”
At the moment, the Braves intend to use Melancon as their closer to open the 2020 season. That will leave the likes of Smith, Martin, Greene, and O’Day to serve as setup men. The Braves also have Luke Jackson to join that group. Jackson served as the team’s closer for a large chunk of the 2019 season before the Braves acquired Melancon, Martin, and Greene at the trade deadline.
The only thing that could be missing from Atlanta’s bullpen is a reliable lefty. Sean Newcomb helped fill that role last season, although the Braves intend to give him a chance to return to the starting rotation in 2020. Atlanta is hoping that A.J. Minter could emerge as a viable lefty out of the bullpen. Minter was outstanding in 2017 and 2018 and even began 2019 as the team’s closer. However, he struggled with shoulder problems throughout the season and ended up with a 7.06 ERA, so he’ll have a lot to prove next season.
Outside of an established lefty, it’s hard to deny that the Braves have the making of a strong bullpen in 2020. With Martin being re-signed, Greene presumably staying, and Smith coming aboard, the Braves are as deep as any team in baseball. Even with the offseason less than a month old, Atlanta has turned what was a weakness for most of 2019 into a strength for 2020.