The Braves take on a reclamation project as they look to boost their inconsistent bullpen.
The Braves have acquired right-handed reliever Anthony Swarzak and cash from the Mariners in exchange for two bullpen arms, righty Arodys Vizcaíno and lefty Jesse Biddle, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Robert Murray first reported on Monday:
#Braves on verge of acquiring RHP Anthony Swarzak and cash from #Mariners for LHP Jesse Biddle and RHP Arodys Vizcaino, sources tell me and @ByRobertMurray.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) May 20, 2019
The Atlanta #Braves today acquired RHP Anthony Swarzak and cash considerations from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for RHP Arodys Vizcaíno and LHP Jesse Biddle.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) May 20, 2019
This is essentially an overly complicated way of saying that the Braves are taking on Swarzak, who is a free agent at season’s end, for nothing of substance in return. The 28-year-old Vizcaíno underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in April and will hit free agency for the first time following the season. The 27-year-old Biddle, meanwhile, had been designated for assignment by Atlanta last week and would have been freely available to every other club anyway if they hadn’t traded him.
Swarzak, who signed a two-year, $14 million contract with the Mets prior to last season, has been subject to a game of human hot potato over the past seven months. He was dealt to the Mariners in early December as part of the seven-player deal that most notably brought Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to Queens. It was reported that he’d end up being flipped to the Phillies as part of the Jean Segura trade that same week, but that ultimately did not come to fruition. Now he’ll head back to the NL East, where he posted a disappointing 6.15 ERA and 1.60 WHIP over 29 games (26.1 innings) for New York last season.
The 33-year-old Swarzak has continued to struggle this season, posting a 5.27 ERA and 1.61 WHIP with 17 strikeouts and eight walks over 15 appearances (13.2 innings) with Seattle. The Braves will hope that they can rebuild his value to what it was in 2017, when he threw for a 2.33 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP in 70 games (77.1 innings) between the White Sox and Brewers. History’s on this front office’s side — GM Alex Anthopoulos and assistant GM Perry Minasian have turned Shane Carle, Brad Brach, and Jonny Venters into useful bullpen pieces after acquiring them via trade, and they did the same with Joaquin Benoit and Jason Grilli in Toronto’s front office before moving to Atlanta, as our Matt Powers pointed out on Twitter Monday.
With that said, Swarzak doesn’t exactly have a lengthy history of success. He has a 4.33 ERA with 6.7 strikeouts and 2.7 walks per nine innings over 10 major-league seasons, with almost all of his big-league action coming in relief. Besides 2017, his only other really good season came in 2013 for the Twins, when he had a 2.91 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP over 48 relief appearances (96 innings). At best, this is a raffle-ticket move for an Atlanta team that hasn’t had a ton of bullpen success this far, with the team’s 4.54 relief ERA ranking 21st in the majors and 11th in the NL.
Vizcaíno, 28, served as the Braves’ closer prior to his shoulder injury and had racked up 50 saves since 2015 — albeit in between six different disabled/injured list stints. Though he’ll have to prove that he’s healthy again, he should have a decent amount of value in free agency, as he had a strong 2018 season, throwing for a 2.11 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over 38.1 innings, and he has a 3.01 career ERA and 1.29 WHIP over 206 career relief appearances. He really provides no value to the Mariners unless they can work out an extension with him, though, as he’s done for the year and has the chance to hit the open market over the winter.
Biddle, who is out of options and exhausted the Braves’ patience with his early-season struggles (5.40 ERA, 2.40 WHIP, 11 strikeouts, and 10 walks over 11.2 innings), had a strong rookie season last year for Atlanta. Over 60 appearances (63.2 innings), he had a 3.11 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP. He actually had reverse splits, holding righties to a .194/.310/.276 slash line, compared to a .253/.330/.421 line against lefties. He’ll provide some extra left-handed depth for a Mariners club that has three lefty starters but had just one left-handed option, Roenis Elías, in the bullpen prior to Biddle’s arrival.