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At some point over the next few weeks, the Atlanta Braves will have to find a way to get some bullpen help for the 2021 season.
Luckily for the Atlanta Braves, this year it seems to be a buyers market in terms of bullpen help.
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As it stands now going into the 2021 year, the Atlanta Braves have both Mark Melancon and Shane Greene as pending free agents. Those two were the 8th and 9th innings guy for the most part last season.
They could very well opt to bring them back at lower rates and try to keep it status quo, but again, it seems like teams with bullpen needs are going to wait until the very last minute and try and sign some relief options off the market.
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One would have to guess at this point that Chris Martin would be the favorite for the closing job for the Atlanta Braves next year. Perhaps, they could turn back to last years big time signing of Will Smith who the Braves desperately need to get back on track after a up and down first year with the Atlanta Braves organization.
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Options like Josh Tomlin, Luke Jackson, and Grant Dayton are nice but in all fairness to those guys, a team with aspirations like the Atlanta Braves need some more reliable guys pitching what will be some crucial mid innings in big time games.
Many would point out the bullpen as being a key reason the Atlanta Braves were able to get so far and come so close to the world series in the shortened 2020 season.
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Again though, for teams that in the same place as the Braves, they have plenty of options with names like the following still on the free agent wire
A few more interesting names besides those also remain as well.
NEXT: Speaking of that power hitter
No doubt the Atlanta Braves will most likely make a move for a name or two to boost up the pen but for now their focus probably remains on finding a middle of the order bat.
While the Braves’ bullpen was largely very good during the 2020 season and 2020 postseason, not all of the relievers had banner years. After a pretty decent 2019 campaign, Luke Jackson took a pretty significant step back in 2020 and now heads towards the arbitration deadline as a potential nontender candidate. Lets look at what went right and wrong for Luke in 2020 and what we can expect going forward.
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What went right? Other than the continued usage of his entertaining nickname, not much. There were some somewhat encouraging peripherals with a FIP that was over two runs better than the 6.84 ERA he posted in 2020. His 61.9% groundball rate was the highest of his career and he also saw the rate in which he gave up home runs cut in half from what was happening in 2019. Normally, these would all portend good things for a reliever. Sadly, that was not the case for Luke.
What went wrong? Well, the 6.84 ERA is a good place to start, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. After throwing more curveballs this year to the detriment of his trusty slider, which was a markedly worse pitch in 2020, Luke saw his strikeout rate plummet to 6.84 K/9 from 13.13 in 2019 and his walk rate bumped up to 4.44 BB/9. That combined with his best pitch being significantly worse and him giving up more hard contact overall was….not a good place to be. He only stranded 60.8% of the baserunners he did allow which does match up with what our eyes saw last season.
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What to expect from Luke in 2021: Luke Jackson’s tenure as a Brave has been a tumultuous one. The metrics loved his work in 2019 even when his outings became adventurous, but they were far less kind when evaluating his work in 2020 which is one of the reasons why the Braves, who needed able bullpen arms for their playoff run, left him off of the postseason roster. In arbitration last year, Luke and the Braves agreed on a $1.8 million contract for the 2020 season. The Braves have already let a better reliever hit free agency this offseason rather than pay them marginally more than that in Darren O’Day. When one is looking at potential nontender candidates, Luke’s name honestly should be at the top of the list. I am sure there is a number that the Braves would be willing to bring him back for, but that may not be one that is agreeable for Luke and, despite some potential defections, the Braves don’t need him in the bullpen especially when evaluating him in the context of how he was used this year. He came into games when the outcome wasn’t in doubt and he could not be trusted with a playoff spot. That should tell you all you need to know about what the organization The best guess here is that Luke’s time with the Braves is over and he will join what I expect to be a pretty good-sized pool of new free agents that will be available after the nontender deadline.