Finding A Closer: Work With What You Have

Benjamin upchurchContributor IINovember 9, 2009

NEW YORK - AUGUST 20:  Kenshin Kawakami #11 of the Atlanta Braves throws a pitch against the New York Mets on August 20, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

As has been said Frank Wren has the dream of every single GM in Baseball.  His only problem is finding a place for it all.  

First you have 3 solid veterans in the form of Hudson, Vazquez, and Lowe.  Plus, you have the young sensations with Jurrjens and Hanson that have produced solid seasons.  From across the way, you have a Kawakami who produced a solid season in his transition from Japan style baseball to American style baseball. Finally, waiting in the wings is Medlen and the fast rising lefty Minor.  As most would say it's a good problem to have.

The Popular opinion is to trade Kawakami, Lowe, or Vazquez.  Each one has their merits as well as their down points. An example would be the Vazquez is the youngest at 33. Still it would be difficult to lose any of these guys.

If I had my choice I would likely trade Lowe giving the factor of age, money, and past year performance.  Still this would be tough to do giving the amount of innings, quality starts, and experiance (regular and postseason).  Add in the fact that Lowe even in his slumps still kept the games within reach makes up for his rough second half.  It would be better for the braves wait out this year till Minor or Medlen are ready to step up to trade away Lowe.

Vazquez on the other hand has been waiting for a long time to pitch for Bobby cox and the numbers show with career highs in many of his stats.  Plus he's had a good hand in mentoring Jurjens allowing the 23 yr old breathing room to grow into a Cy Young contender this year.  He would probably be willing to sign after 2010 based upon how much he has enjoyed Atlanta. This could be a good thing for Atlanta allowing the roster to maintain a strong veteran presence after Hudson and Lowe possibly leave/trade in the coming years.

Kawakami this season started out rough but continued to improve till Bobby place him in the Dugout.  This was probably due to Kawakami having to adjust to a longer season.  Kenshin is a strong Japanese prospect since he relies less on the illusion of his wind up and more on the quality of his pitches.  Forgetting his record Kawakami really has had one of the more successful debuts of a Japanese pitcher in MLB.

Now it is understood that the braves key positions to fill is a First baseman, a power hitter, and a Closer.  Forgetting that the Power Hitter/First baseman would most likely be filled by a trade including one of these pitchers instead lets look at the position of Closer.

Soriano is most likely not coming back.  Gonzalez is a possible keeper, but to be honest he seemed much better as a set up man than as a closer.  If you add in that Good Closer's are as expensive as starting pitchers it makes it tough on Frank Wren to ensure a solid postseason quality bullpen.

If you look at Kenshin he's already proved he's a big league pitcher.  Being in his mid-thirties making adjustment for length of season will still make it difficult for him in 2010.  Placing him as a closer would give you more access over the season.  

Plus this would give the braves some other added benefits.  Kawakami could be used to give the starting rotation rest if needed over a long season.  Having a solid closer in Kenshin would give Bobby Cox breathing room to test out Medlen, Moylan, or perhaps even O'Flaherty as a more long term selection for the role.  Finally for less than the price for one closer the braves could sign 2 strong mid-inning relievers to fill the bullpen openings left by Soriano and Gonzalez.

Trading for what Braves need could be really good for the team, but in this case it would be better to work with what you have.