Saturday, January 14, 2012

Jack Wilson Returns On One-Year Deal; Martin Prado Avoids Arb

The Braves brought back reserve shortstop Jack Wilson on a one-year deal worth $1 million, with $500,000 in possible incentives. Not much to say here, but this might be the best part of the deal:

Long before the Braves called, Wilson was already providing that. After the Braves lost to the Phillies to end the season – the one and only night of Pastornicky’s call-up – Wilson and Pastornicky got to talking about defense. Wilson invited Pastornicky to come to his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif. to work out in his backyard infield, which they plan to do early next month.

“When I first came up, I had Pat Meares who took me under his wing,” said Wilson, who broke in with the Pirates. “He’d been a major league shortstop for nine or 10 years. Now you have an opportunity to do what somebody did for you. Tyler seems like a great kid, and I’m looking forward to helping him out any way I can.”

The Braves wanted a backup shortstop capable of providing solid defense while showing Tyler Pastornicky a thing or two, and who better than the guy they traded for the previous season? Wilson can still provide solid defense in a pinch, and he seems willing to take on the role of mentor for the rookie.

The Braves also re-signed Martin Prado to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration, earning him an average salary for the production. This doesn't affect trade possibilities, but the chances of either Prado or Jair Jurrjens, or both, to be traded before spring seem less likely by the day. Frank Wren acknowledged just that. At this point, unless a team flies in at the last minute, I don't see them going anywhere.

The remaining arb-eligible Braves are Jurrjens, Michael Bourn and Eric O'Flaherty.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The "Need" For Peter Moylan

Pardon me while I'm a grinch for a minute.

Bill Shanks wrote this on Peter Moylan today, saying the Braves "need" to bring him back for the good of the team. If you read it, you know it's a lovey dovey piece with no analysis to back up the claim, so I'm not exactly targeting Shanks' column. I am, however, targeting the belief that the Braves have to bring Moylan back.

First of all, Moylan is a middle reliever, and middle relievers are fungible. Even in a great season, they are just above replacement level and can be interchanged much more than some realize. Moylan was a solid arm in the seventh and eighth innings a few seasons ago, but even then he could have been swapped out for another relief arm with relative ease.

Moylan has had two good seasons and a decent one. He threw a laughable 90 innings in 2007 to the tune of a 1.80 ERA and 3.97 FIP, but what made that season was an 8.6 BB%, which would prove to be his best. Ever since, it's obvious the 90-inning season set him back. He missed almost all of 2008 with Tommy John surgery. He came back in 2009 and posted a 2.84 ERA and 2.95 FIP in 73 innings, but his walk rate jumped to 11.3%. His innings decreased to 63.2 in 2010, and his walk rate increased again to 13.7% with a 4.30 FIP. Finally, injuries derailed his 2011 season, and a shoulder surgery leaves question marks this offseason. Non-tendering him after shoulder surgery was common sense, and I'm sure the Braves are hoping he'll take the bare minimum to come back to Atlanta.

But that's exactly the point. The Braves are hoping he'll take the bare minimum to come back. That doesn't sound like they "need" him. They don't. No team in Major League Baseball "needs" a 33-year-old middle reliever coming off shoulder surgery with increasing walk rates and decreasing innings pitched.

This is the pure statistical point of view, of course. Moylan is by all accounts a great teammate and I'm sure he keeps the clubhouse loose. But it all comes down to how much you value such a thing. Braves fans will want to keep him around because he's funny and is easy to root for. I'm sure Braves players want to keep him around because he's probably a good teammate. Should Frank Wren want to keep him around? There's really no need.

I'm not calling for Moylan to be barred from Turner Field. I'm just saying there are several relievers capable of holding a major league relief spot at or above Moylan's value already in the Braves system at league minimum. It would make sense to turn to these arms and save the few dollars.