The Atlanta Braves have finally got their closer! After three and a half months of seeing Chris Reitsma, Ken Ray, and Jorge Sosa blow saves, the Braves are bringing in a veteran reliever to settle the position. The Braves Show's Bill Shanks has more.
The Atlanta Braves have acquired reliever Bob Wickman from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for minor league catcher Max Ramirez.
Wickman will immediately become the Braves’ closer, which has had a revolving door from the beginning of the season. Chris Reitsma, Ken Ray, and Jorge Sosa have all held the role. The Braves have converted only half of their 40 opportunities.
The 37-year-old Wickman has 229 career saves in 16 big league seasons. He was originally drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the second round of the 1990 draft. The Sox traded him to the Yankees in January of 1992 to the Yankees in the Steve Sax trade. Wickman would make his big league debut with New York in 1992 and then spend parts of the next five seasons with the Yankees.
Wickman was then traded to the Brewers in 1996 and pitch the next three and a half years in Milwaukee. He became a closer in 1998 when he saved 25 games. Two years later Wickman was dealt to the Indians, where he’s been the closer ever since.
The right-hander led the American League in saves last year with 45. He’s 1-4 this season in 29 games. Wickman has saved 15 games and blown only 3 opportunities. After a tough June (ERA of 9.00 with three blown saves), Wickman has settled down to have a solid start to July with four scoreless appearances.
Ramirez was hitting .285 for the Rome Braves this season with 9 home runs and 37 RBI in 80 games. The right-handed hitter also had a .408 OBP. Defensively Ramirez was converted to a catcher before the 2005 season, but he has not played much behind the plate this season due to a bad shoulder.
The Braves were able to part with Ramirez due to great depth behind the plate. Brian McCann is a 22-year-old All-Star already at the big league level. Brayan Pena is a backup candidate for next season; he’s currently in Triple-A Richmond. Jarrod Saltalamacchia remains one of the best backstop prospects in the game, and Clint Sammons is a decent prospect in Myrtle Beach.
With Wickman now aboard, the Braves can have Sosa and Ken Ray as setup men in the bullpen, although the Braves have reportedly been talking to the Colorado Rockies about Sosa. The team still has some financial flexibility left to possibly make another deal, with Wickman owed just over $2 million for the rest of the season.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can also be heard regularly on the Braves Radio Network. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.