Takashi Saito signed with the Atlanta Braves on December 3rd, 2009 for $3.2M dollars. Many Braves fans were apprehensive of the direction that the Braves were going; gone were the 32-year old Mike Gonzalez, and 30-year old Rafael Soriano, and assuming their roles would be 38-year old Billy Wagner (who was a year removed from elbow surgery), and now a 40-year old Saito. Typically, most organizations aspire to get younger, but the Braves clearly took a gamble, and headed in the opposite direction.
Billy Wagner quickly silenced critics by demonstrating that the old guy could still crank it up to 98 mph on a regular basis, and giving the Braves a legitimate 30+ saves closer since John Smoltz. But he wasn't the only one have a phenomenal 2010 season; and this is why it stinks to be middle relief, because quietly in the shadows, Takashi Saito had himself a fine 2010 as well.
The only knock on Saito would be his age, and the relative need for rest. Over his 56 appearances, Saito yielded 17 earned runs on the year, with 12 of them being on outings where he was pitching the very next day, or one day removed. Anywhere from 2+ days of rest, and Saito was dominant.
There's a popular stigma about players "being able to handle New York?" I have to imagine that a similar thing could be said about playing in Boston, because looking over Saito's career statistics, his one season with the Red Sox sticks out like a sore thumb. Kind of like Edgar Renteria, Saito came to the Braves after a fairly mediocre year in Boston, and puts up great numbers. Most notably is the 11.50 K/9 rate that Saito put up; in 24 of his 56 outings, Saito struck out two or more batters. Also very pretty is the elite 1.074 WHIP and the 4.06 K/BB ratio.
Hamstring injuries hamstrung Saito midway through the season, and on two separate instances was he forced out of action, with the latter removing him from the playoffs, which became a larger problem compounded, when Billy Wagner hurt himself, leaving the Braves with a patchwork committee for the duration of the NLDS.
Takashi Saito did not have the type of year that he was having during his tenure with the Dodgers, which goes to show just how good he was for Los Angeles, back in 2006-08. But I will be the first to admit that I didn't see it coming, that a 40-year old was going to make me forget about Mike Gonzalez as fast as Takashi Saito did.
Saito was released from the Braves on October 18th, 2010. Considering the Braves' financial restraints, even if he were to consider accepting another $3.2M dollars, it would be considered too expensive to retain his services.