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What Do You Get the Staff That Has The whole lot? Reynaldo López, Apparently

Reynaldo Lopez
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports activities

Good reduction is difficult to search out. Effectively, that’s not strictly true. Just about each group in baseball has a number of good relievers, random guys who throw 100 mph and snap off ludicrous sliders. However sufficient good reduction pitching is difficult to search out, as a result of it takes a village’s value of relievers to get by way of a season, and the playoffs are much more difficult. As groups go to their bullpen earlier and earlier, they put extra stress on each arm in it, and the penalties to overworking your finest few arms are harsh.

The Braves appear to grasp that, as a result of they’ve been aggressive about including to their choices this offseason. They already had Raisel Iglesias and A.J. Minter as dependable choices. They gave Joe Jimenez and Pierce Johnson contract extensions that valued them like strong mid-to-late-inning choices. They traded a sampler platter of former prospects for Aaron Bummer. Now they’ve added but once more by signing Reynaldo López to a three-year deal.

“Why don’t you construct the entire bullpen out of closers” is generally only a rhetorical train, as a result of groups have restricted sources and bullpens function hierarchically. After you may have a seventh-inning man, two eighth-inning guys, and a ninth-inning man, the following reliever up gained’t be pitching high-leverage innings. It’s simply math, and it’s straightforward math at that. There’s a motive that groups don’t function that method: it’s a waste of sources, roughly. If you happen to signal 5 closer-level relievers and pay them every the identical market-value contract, the fifth one can be providing you with much less in your cash than the primary one, as a result of he gained’t get to do probably the most useful reduction pitcher issues as usually, like locking down shut victories or preserving tie video games. There’s solely a lot leverage to go round.

That’s motive to not do what the Braves are doing, however they’re doing it anyway. Why? It’s not as a result of they don’t perceive math. Their entrance workplace is actually good at what they do, clearly. I feel that they’re including to the bullpen previous the purpose the place an inexpensive group may cease not as a result of they’re unhealthy at their jobs, however as a result of they’re so good that they’ve painted themselves right into a nook.

Have a look at the Braves’ roster and check out to determine a lineup improve. They’ve younger stars who can be with the group for some time all throughout the diamond. They may use a cornerstone left fielder or shortstop, however there aren’t any of these obtainable in free company this yr. The obtainable choices aren’t clearly higher than what they already gave. They may use a Shohei Ohtani, as a result of everybody may, however they don’t look like front-runners there, and that market is shrouded in thriller anyway.

That simply leaves pitching, and Atlanta was reportedly in on Aaron Nola earlier than he returned to Philadelphia. A 3rd prime arm to work with Spencer Strider and Max Fried, and maybe to switch Fried if he departs in free company after subsequent season, is an apparent match. The Braves purchased themselves slightly time and suppleness by selecting up Charlie Morton’s possibility, however they’ll undoubtedly be fishing across the bumper crop of starters which are obtainable, and I feel they’ll assuredly find yourself with somebody who tasks to be starter in 2025 and past.

That also leaves some cash to be spent, although. The Braves are worthwhile, they usually’ve been pouring earnings again into the on-field product now that their stadium-adjacent actual property improvement is up and working. Their contract extension technique has been so efficient that they will’t precisely use their earnings locking up present stars; they’ve already carried out that with everybody on the group aside from Fried. Which means the clear place to flex their muscle tissues is within the reduction pitcher market. That makes López an incredible match, and Atlanta is making an attempt to cowl a number of bases with this signing. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that López will spend the winter stretching out as a starter, and that the group gained’t decide his position till spring coaching.

To me, that’s principally a smokescreen. He hasn’t been an efficient starter since earlier than the pandemic season, and one of many causes he popped a lot within the bullpen is that he may mothball his much less efficient pitches and follow a fastball/slider mixture. My finest guess is that the Braves merely have so many relievers proper now that they don’t see any hurt in letting López attempt to stretch out his arm. If he can do it, superior. If he can’t, possibly that offseason of coaching will unlock a couple of further video games the place he goes a number of innings, or some swingman-style begins the place he fills in for a rotation hole.

As a reliever, López is correct on the margin between set-up man and nearer. He made the full-time change from beginning to relieving in 2022 and dominated straight away, however a number of his worth got here from otherworldly dwelling run suppression. He was worse this yr however nonetheless managed to place collectively a strong season throughout three groups, and his strikeout fee exploded after stubbornly staying low regardless of robust peripheral indicators the earlier yr. He ended the season as Emmanuel Clase’s prime understudy, and that felt like a great spot for him. If he’s the perfect reliever in your bullpen, it’s most likely not an incredible bullpen, however he’s wonderful should you’re utilizing him as a second or third possibility.

That’s exactly the place the Braves discover themselves. As I discussed above, they’re going all out to bulk up their bullpen in the intervening time. López is actually certainly one of their prime 5 relievers, however I’m not precisely positive the place he suits in that group. I’d peg him as third-best, with loads of volatility round that as a result of I’m undecided what he’ll appear to be after a winter working with Atlanta’s pitching improvement group. Regardless, although, this can be a fearsome bullpen. Even when one or two guys get harm or in any other case don’t pan out, the Braves will be capable of throw devastating pitching firepower on the center and late innings subsequent yr. Within the playoffs, they’ll be capable of keep away from the varied over-use penalties that relievers endure from by rotating their steady of fantastic choices.

If by some minor miracle López as an alternative finally ends up in the back of the rotation, none of that flexibility goes away. When rotations shorten up in October, he can flex again to the bullpen as a multi-inning possibility. If the group finally ends up brief on relievers due to a rash of accidents, or if he scuffles making an attempt to show a lineup over a number of occasions, he will be slotted again into reduction. There are a number of methods for him to contribute in 2024, which makes him an incredible luxurious signing for a group that has every thing aside from pitching certainty.

To make certain, the Braves are paying López quantity for that certainty. His deal has three assured years for $30 million, however due to the construction of the fourth-year membership possibility (the buyout is 50% of the full worth), it’s extra like a four-year, $34 million cope with a slight low cost if he flames out within the first three years. That’s near my estimate — three years and $27 million — and proper consistent with what good non-closers have gotten in free company of late.

If he’d needed to, López possible may have gotten the same deal from a less-loaded group and had a transparent maintain on the no. 2 reduction job. He’ll be a part of a many-armed machine in Atlanta, and he’ll have much less of a sure position. However he’s additionally attending to strive his hand at beginning, and he’s locking himself into playoff rivalry for the foreseeable future. This signing may really feel unusual — one other reliever for a group that already has so many — however I feel it’s a extremely good match general. When the Braves are working out a multi-headed bullpen monster subsequent October, keep in mind this week of signings, as a result of they’re paving the best way for a sensational bullpen, even when the group hits a couple of bumps alongside the street.



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