Posts Tagged ‘Mets

02
Dec
09

Closing in on Billy Wagner…..

Billy Wagner pitching with Boston last season

The Atlanta Braves sure didn’t waste any time in their hot pursuit of a new closer.

Just hours after Atlanta offered arbitration to free agents Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez reports surfaced that the Braves have reached a preliminary agreement with Billy Wagner on a one-year, $7 million dollar contract with a $6.5 million vesting option for the 2011 season.

Wagner, who ranks sixth in major league history with 385 saves, missed most of the 2009 season recovering from ligament-transplant replacement surgery.

The Braves interest in the 38-year-old reliever stems from his successful comeback late last season with the Mets and Red Sox.

In his 17 appearances in the season’s final two months, Wagner posted an impressive 1.72 ERA, held opponents to a .174 batting average and notched 26 strikeouts over 15 2/3 innings.

The deal is expected to be finalized and announced after the flame throwing lefty passes a physical that is scheduled for today in Atlanta.

Sources believe that Wagner, a Virginia native, could have commanded more money on the free agent market but chose to take less to come to Atlanta for its close location to his home, its position to compete for a playoff spot next season, and for the opportunity to play for a manager he’s always admired in Bobby Cox.

The two sides were believed to have ironed out most of the details on the contract this weekend and were just waiting for confirmation of Boston’s offer of arbitration before moving forward in the process.

Wagner, along with the Braves’ Soriano and Gonzalez, were considered to be the elite relievers on the free agent market.

The duo of Soriano and Gonzalez split closing duties for Atlanta last season and combined for 37 saves and 192 strikeouts in 150 innings.

The Braves’ decision to offer arbitration was a precautionary measure as both Soriano and Gonzalez, who are classified as Type A free agents, had seemingly priced themselves out of Atlanta.

They are expected to command multi-year, high priced contracts from others teams with all indications pointing to both hurlers declining arbitration with the Braves receiving first-round draft picks as compensation.

With the signing of Wagner, another Type A free agent, Atlanta will have to give up a first-round pick to the Red Sox but should get that pick back and some after Soriano and Gonzalez exit as expected.

If Soriano and/or Gonzalez surprise and accept arbitration from the club, the team’s relief corps would stand to be one of baseball’s best, albeit most expensive bullpens.

Soriano could net up to $8 million if he returns on a one-year contract with Gonzo expected to make at least $5 million next season under arbitration.

A more likely scenario has Atlanta searching for a replacement setup man on the free agent market.

Former Brave and another Type A free agent Octavio Dotel along with Type B free agent Fernando Rodney are potential candidates for the club to pursue after finalizing the deal with their new closer.

Billy Wagner comes to Atlanta with an impressive resume.

He has a career 2.39 ERA, 1,092 strikeouts in 833 2/3 innings, and more saves than any other active closer except for Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera.

The veteran hurler who is just 39 saves shy of tying John Franco for the record of most saves by a left-handed closer now has the chance to accomplish that feat while also aiding in the Braves’ effort to return to the postseason in 2010.

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12
May
09

Lack of run support doesn’t derail J.J.

Jair Jurrjens

Jair Jurrjens

Fluke… what fluke?

After leading the Atlanta Braves rotation with 13 wins in his rookie season last year, Jair Jurrjens is dispelling notions of a sophomore slump.

Jurrjens has shown better command of his pitches this season, answering critics’ concerns about his control.

In his past five outings, J.J. has posted a mighty impressive ERA of 1.84 and an equally solid 2.01 ERA on the season.

But, due to the Braves inconsistent offense, his strong outings have often been wasted.

The 23-year-old right-hander just nabbed his third win of the season in his last start against the Marlins. The Braves offense scored four runs in support of J.J., which was just one fewer then they had scored in his previous four outings.

Many Braves players and pitchers believe J.J. has been the team’s best pitcher all season long.

Tonight, Jurrjens hopes to live up to that billing when he takes the mound against the Mets.

If J.J. can build off of Derek Lowe’s opening night win against New York, Atlanta will have successfully notched three consecutive road series’ wins against divisional foes.

04
May
09

Houston … we have a problem?

Braves rookie Jordan Schafer

Braves rookie Jordan Schafer

The Atlanta Braves dropped 2 of 3 to the Houston Astros this past weekend, falling to 2-4 on their current homestand and two games under .500 for the season.

But, what is even more disturbing is the continued struggles and lack of production from the lead-off spot in the batting order. Kelly Johnson, who started the season atop the Braves order, is 6-42 with a .143 batting average in his last 12 games.

That’s not going to get it done, folks.

The leadoff hitter, or table setter of the order, sets the tone for the entire offense. And with the lack of production provide at the top, it is no surprise that Atlanta’s offense has been stymied. Despite having 11 hits against the ‘Stros on Saturday, Atlanta still managed to strand 11 runners enroute to a 7-5 loss.

Bobby Cox has shaken things up, placing rookie Jordan Schafer at leadoff on Saturday against the Astros… an experiment that only lasted a day. Schafer’s strikeouts have been piling up, signaling a need for the rookie to shift his game plan against pitchers at the major league level. The book is out on Schafer and until he adjusts, his personal struggles are sure to continue.

Cox placed Omar Infante at leadoff on Sunday, a spot where he has enjoyed success. Infante has hit .448 when leading off and went 2-4 with a walk on Sunday in that position. The interesting thing to note here is that when Infante plays, Johnson’s benched. It appears Cox will either platoon the two at second base or go with the hot bat. Right now, anything that can jump start a sputtering offense is needed.

The Braves are hoping for an offensive boost with the impending returns of All-Star catcher and clean-up hitter Brian McCann and left fielder Garrett Anderson from the disabled list this coming week. McCann has been sidelined with blurry vision in his eye while Anderson has battled lingering leg injuries, beginning with his calf and continuing with his quadriceps. Anderson was brought in by the Braves this off-season in an attempt to add more power to an outfield that severely lacked just that last season. But, Anderson has played in only 10 games so far and hasn’t proved to be a durable or reliable bat for Atlanta.

Still… it’s early and despite all the Braves hiccups, they find themselves only 2 1/2 games out of 1st place in what appears to be a wide open NL East race this season. The Braves hope to make up ground with an impending ten game stretch against three divisional foes on the horizon. The Mets head to Turner Field for a two game set before the Bravos hit the road to face the Marlins, the Phillies and then the Mets again in New York.

Let’s hope Atlanta’s offense can find its mojo!




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