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Crowded Bullpen = Trade is Likely

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No, no, I'm not talking about Gonzo or Raffy or Wick. The core of our pen, the big three if you will, is not going anywhere right now, but we still have many, many relievers. Perhaps this scene from a popular 80's movie will help clear the air (for the purposes of this demonstration, Jefe=Schuerholz and El Guapo=Cox, fitting, I think):

Jefe: We have many relievers for you next season, each one filled with little surprises!
El Guapo: How many relievers?
Jefe: Many relievers, many!
El Guapo: Jefe, would you say I have a plethora of relievers?
Jefe: A what?
El Guapo: A plethora.
Jefe: Oh yes, El Guapo. You have a plethora.
El Guapo: Jefe, what is a plethora?
Jefe: Why, El Guapo?
El Guapo: Well, you just told me that I had a plethora, and I would just like to know if you know what it means to have a plethora. I would not like to think that someone would tell someone else he has a plethora, and then find out that that person has no idea what it means to have a plethora.
Jefe: El Guapo, I know that I, Jefe, do not have your superior intellect and education, but could it be that once again, you are angry at something else, and are looking to take it out on me?

Hopefully now I have illustrated my point; we have a plethora of relievers. Here is the layout of the bullpen scrum:

Definitely in the pen:
Bob Wickman
Mike Gonzalez
Rafael Soriano
Macay McBride

Pretty solidly in the pen:
Oscar Villarreal
Chad Paronto
Lance Cormier

Trying to make it:
Blaine Boyer
Joey Devine
Tyler Yates
Phil Stockman
Peter Moylan

Very outside shot (and only because they're on the 40-man roster):
Manny Acosta
Jonathan Johnson
Jose Ascanio

Let me also say that I left off Tanyon Sturtze because he won't be ready for the start of the season. And further more, I really hope we don't have to use him this year because he's not that good. So, looking at the guys above we have plenty of options to fill out our bullpen. That leads me to believe that we may have some ability to trade one or two of these guys for some other needs - be it major league needs or prospect needs.

The Astros are one team in need of some starting pitching depth with the departure of both Clemons and Pettite. They currently only have three starters penciled in with a host of minor league candidates competing this spring for the last two spots.

The Cardinals are another team that has been spurned by most of last year's rotation including Jason Marquis, Jeff Suppan, and Jeff Weaver - every one of the killer-J's. Even Jorge Sosa left St. Louis, sigh. Currently the only folks penciled into their rotation are Cy Carpenter, Kip Wells, and Anthony Reyes. There are a lot of if's for them, such as if Jason Isringhausen can close then Adam Wainwright will start, but then they are all if's. (Mulder will be back by midseason.)

There are several other teams that also have vacancies at the starter position, but the Braves seem pretty much set in that department with Smoltz, Hampton, Hudson, James, and Davies. Now injuries could force others into the rotation, but the backups to these guys appear to be Villarreal, Cormier, Lerew, and distant cousins Kevin Barry, Jonathan Johnson, and maybe even Matt Harrison. (Why oh why did we let Matt Wright go?) The point being, we have several guys to fall back on, so why couldn't one of the guys who project to be bullpen-rotation swing men be traded. After all, we can't possibly break camp with all of the relievers we have, and if Devine and/or Boyer are to make the team then we will certainly be releasing some talented folks.

I would say that Cormier and Villarreal have some real value in the trade market. For a team like the Cardinals, either of these guys could be used to fill out their rotation with a solid pitcher who could eat 180+ innings if healthy. For a team like the Astros who are trying to work in a lot of young pitching talent, Oscar or Lance could be used as a stopgap in the rotation until the youngsters are ready and then moved to the bullpen to be the long reliever - something definitely needed when there are young starters around.

I don't think I am comfortable parting ways with both of these guys, since we too could probably use a long reliever slash emergency starter, but keeping two of them on our team when there are other better power relievers in our system who should make the team doesn't make much sense either. Let's see if we can pry away a goodish prospect from one of these teams in exchange for one of our swing men.

Oh well, maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part, but I'd really like to see Boyer and Devine make the team, and I know we don't need both Cormier and Villarreal in the pen at the same time.

By the way, there was apparently a trade just about completed that would have sent long-coveted-by-the-Braves setup man Scott Linebrink to the Phillies for Aaron "Crash Test Dummy" Rowand. Thankfully, San Diego can't seem to pull the trigger on any deal involving Linebrink, including this one. It would have really sucked to have been going after Linebrink for half a year with no success and then Philly swoops in and gets him.