Gonzalez, Russell among the relievers on Atlanta’s wish list
Over the past couple months, it has been apparent the Braves will attempt to gain bullpen depth before the July 31 Trade Deadline. But with all indications that Alex Wood will join Atlanta’s starting rotation before the end of the month, it now appears the team’s specific priority is to add a left-handed reliever.
The Cubs’ James Russell, the Brewers’ Mike Gonzalez and the Astros’ Wesley Wright are among the left-handed relievers on general manager Frank Wren’s wish list. While Wright is considered a candidate, it appears the Braves are more interested in the possibility of dealing for either Russell or Gonzalez.
With Wood currently preparing to make one or two Minor League starts before returning to the Majors, Luis Avilan stands as the only left-handed reliever in Atlanta’s bullpen. Avilan has proven himself as a valuable setup man. But the 24-year-old southpaw has already made a professional-high 43 appearances and his 3.38 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is not nearly as comforting as his 1.40 ERA.
There is reason to believe Wood could replace Kris Medlen in the rotation and if this proves to be true, Medlen would likely be moved back to a relief role. Like Jordan Walden, Medlen would serve as a right-handed relief option, whose changeup has provided him success against left-handed hitters.
Still the Braves would like to add a left-handed presence to their bullpen. Russell, who is currently in his first arbitration-eligible season, has limited left-handed hitters to a .189 batting average and .218 on-base percentage. Right-handed hitters have hit .316 and compiled a .400 on-base percentage against him.
Gonzalez, who served formerly served as a closer in Atlanta, has proven to be more versatile. Right-handed hitters have hit .233 with a .361 on-base percentage against him. Left-handed hitters have batted .257 with a .325 on-base percentage against him. The 35-year-old veteran would be a free agent at the end of this season.
The Braves are also looking for a backup infielder to fill the void created when switch-hitter Ramiro Pena was forced to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery last month. Paul Janish is more than capable of providing solid defense in this role. But the club would like to find a better offensive option, preferably one that can hit from the left side of the plate.