So we are pretty certain that barring injury it's going to be Rafael Soriano and Bob Wickman in the eight and ninth innings at the end of games in 2007, but who else is going to fill out the pen next year? All of a sudden we have a lot of relievers. A quick glance at the "Your Braves" section on the left sidebar will tell you that there are 16 relievers listed on the 40-man roster (17 if you count Cormier, which I will from here on). With numbers like that, there is going to be some fierce competition in Spring Training for very few available spots. Another quick glance at the list will tell you that there is exactly one left-hander listed - Macay McBride. So that's two things we know, (1) we're not breaking camp with all these guys, and (2) we're more than likely going to add at least one more left-hander to the bunch.
Of course we can rule out several of these guys since they have very little chance of making the opening day roster. Jose Ascanio and Jonathan Johnson would have to be more than impressive in the spring to warrant being in Atlanta on opening day. Other long shots are Manny Acosta and Anthony Lerew. We can also go ahead and take Chris Reitsma off the list because he's arbitration eligible and there's no way the cash-strapped Braves resign him next year. There is a small chance they could trade him for another team's problem-pitcher, but it's more likely he gets non-tendered. Even being non-tendered he may be signed to a Minor League deal and invited to Spring Training by the Braves, but another team will likely give him a Tanyon Sturtze type deal; so he's off the list. That leaves 12 relievers, take away the afore mentioned Sturtze who will not be ready until probably May or June and that's 11 guys battling it out in Spring Training for the bullpen.
Now I think we can safely assume that the locks for the pen are Wickman, Soriano, and McBride. Everyone else would probably not be considered locks. That leaves 8 guys battling it out for at most 4 spots; Blaine Boyer, Joey Devine, Lance Cormier, Peter Moylan, Chad Paronto, Phil Stockman, Oscar Villarreal, and Tyler Yates. It may be too early to start talking about who will fill out the pen. After all, I do think we will add another left-hander to the mix, and there's still a lot of hot stove league left. But eight guys competing for three or four spots, we may suddenly have the ability to include one or more of these guys in a trade. I said before the Winter Meetings that Lance Cormier and Oscar Villarreal are the perfect players to dangle late in the season as trade bait. Once the starting pitching market shakes out and teams are looking for some back of the rotation starters with experience, they may turn their attention to our two "swing men."
Looking further at the problem, Cormier, Paronto, Villarreal, and Yates are all out of options, and the money is on Boyer and Devine making the team with a good spring - they're a couple of the Braves "guys." So that leaves us with having to release two or more of those guys, or trade them away before the start of the season. How did we get here? Did it happen with one trade for Rafael Soriano? Well, no. We had a lot of people on the DL to end the season, and several guys that still had options like Moylan, and Cormier who no longer does. The great thing about the way our bullpen seems to be shaking out is that we can trade away several guys who could bring us some good value in return and still option guys like Stockman, Moylan, Lerew, Devine, or Boyer to the Minors and have them available in case of injury in the Majors.
So even before the Soriano trade, we were cultivating some great depth in our bullpen. This trade, though, takes the pressure off of selecting one of those guys as the setup man, and helps the coaches to define the roles in the bullpen and weed out the guys that may not be cutting it. All of a sudden, I feel really good about the Braves 2007 bullpen situation.