Atlanta Braves payroll and future contracts, part three: Kimbrel’s a beast

Craig Kimbrel
Kimbrel back in the day ...

Welcome to part three of examining next year’s team. We’ve touched on the starting rotation with Derek Lowe out and Julio Teheran in, and we’ve touched on the starting lineup and the possibilities for shortstop next year. With that said, given the recent pitching staff, Randal Delgado could be passing Julio Teheran, or at least possibly making the Braves think twice about their current thoughts on next years’ rotation. It’s just a thought folks, not saying it’s going to happen. I’ll still stand by my first rotation. Without further ado, let’s examine the bullpen.

Jump here for part one: starting rotation

Jump here for part two: starting lineup

CL – Craig Kimbrel (Age 23). Current stats: 44 saves. Rookie record. 1.73 ERA with 120 strikeouts in 72 innings. Wow.

2011: $0.419M
2012: $ 0.420M – $0.440M

Notes: Kimbrel is a pleasant surprise. He was always supposed to be good, but not this good. He showed greatness last year, but most didn’t think he could carry it through an entire season. At the beginning there was talk about using Venters and Kimbrel in the closing role but Fredi stuck to his guns and kept Kimbrel as the closer. I mean, someone that talented has to come around at some point, right? He had a 40-plus inning scoreless streak, and I’m not going to lie, I wonder how he would fare if he was a starter?

SU – Jonny Venters (Age 26). Current stats: 6-1 with a 1.52 ERA, five saves, and 92 strikeouts in 83 innings. Wow.

2011: $0.4295
2012: $0.4295

Notes: Venters is another beast. He put up dominant numbers last year and has almost identical numbers this year, except his ERA is 40 points lower in exactly 83 innings. He’s the real deal.

MR – Scott Linebrink (Age 34). Current stats: 4-3 record with a 3.62 ERA in 49 innings. In his last 10 games, he’s 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA.

2011: $5.5M (White Sox will pay $3.5M)
2012: Free Agent

Notes: With the Braves dynamic duo in Venters and Kimbrel, Linebrink is often criticized by fans because of his mediocre pitching. Braves fans are used to lights-out action that Kimbrel and Venters provide. Linebrink really doesn’t have a bad line and is having a decent year, it’s just not as good as the fans are used to. With the prospects waiting in the wings, Linebrink will not be back in 2012.

MR – Peter Moylan (Age 32). Current stats: 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA in eight innings. Just came off the DL from back surgery.

2011: $2.0oM
2012: Arbitration

Notes: Moylan has just came off the DL from a major back problem. He’s been battling it all year and it’s a known problem with Peter. The Braves will more than likely bring him back next year as he’s a positive clubhouse guy and when he’s healthy, he’s a force. He should take the place of Linebrink next year. Expect his salary to be around the same.

MR – George Sherrill (Age 34). Current stats: 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 39 innings. He’s currently on the DL.

2011: $1.2M
2012: Free Agent

Notes: Sherrill is likely out, as well, next year. He’s identical to Linebrink. He’s going to demand around $2.5M next year, and the Braves have plenty of options in the minors. He might be brought back just to be a veteran in the bullpen. Doubt he will get much action.

MR – Eric O’Flaherty (Age 26). Current stats: 1-4 with a 1.07 ERA in 67 innings. Eric has only allowed 21 walks during the year.

2011: $0.895M
2012: Arbitration

Notes: Eric has been a great addition to the bullpen. He’s almost been better than Venters and Kimbrel. He’s been tremendous getting out of jams when inheriting runners, and he’s a ground-ball machine. O’Flaherty forms, with Venters and Kimbrel, the trio known as “O’ventbrel,” which should be solid again next year. Those three form the best bullpen in the majors.

craig kimbrel
... and Kimbrel as a major league closer.

Others of interest for next year:

Highlighting next year’s bullpen will be Kris Medlen, as well. He might be able to pitch a bit out of the bullpen this year, as the AJC reported. He’s feeling strong and healthy, finally, as he enters his 13th month after surgery. Medlen was a starter when he went down, but giving the options for starters, Medlen will figure to be in the bullpen next year or in someone else’s starting rotation. Cristhian Martinez will also figure into the plans for next year. He has a decent SO/BB ratio and a 3.39 ERA. I really like Anthony Varvaro a lot and think he can be a force in anyone’s bullpen right now. He’s a decent seventh-inning guy who strikes out batters at a decent clip and carries a 2.87 ERA in 15 limited innings so far. He could battle Martinez next year for a spot. Last, but not least, I think Arodys Vizcaino will be in the bullpen next year. He’s dynamic, a power pitcher, and too good to keep in the minors. He’ll be in the bullpen until the Braves need him to start. If Moylan is back with the Braves, then Varvaro will be starting in the minors next year.

Jairo Asencio, Cory Gearrin could both get a shot next year as well.


How it’s going to unfold:

The bullpen is pretty much set. Not much tinkering will be done except to let Sherrill and Linebrink go. Here’s my predition:

CL – Craig Kimbrel
SU – Jonny Venters
MR – Eric O’Flaherty
MR – Kris Medlen
MR – Anthony Varvaro or Peter Moylan
MR – Arodys Vizcaino
LR – Cristhian Martinez

Next Week: I’ll bring it all together for what our roster could possibly look like.

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