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The Atlanta Braves watched the Theo Epstein and the Red Sox put together a very stable, and pretty reliable bullpen in the 2009 season. Looking to bolster their own bullpen, the Braves plucked two former Red Sox relievers (and the oldest ones in the bunch) in 38-year-old Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito, who will be 40 by the beginning of Spring Training.
It appears the Braves will say goodbye to free agent relievers Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez, the latter of which piqued the interest of Theo Epstein.
Wagner really showed the Red Sox, and the rest of baseball, that he can still bring it. Buried in the toughest division in baseball (the AL East) and into the thick of a pennant race, Wagner put up all-star numbers. In 13.1 innings, the lefty tallied 22 strikeouts (for a ridiculous 14.49 K/9 rate) with a 1.90 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. Now it makes sense why the Braves signed the aging reliever.
Oh wait…you say the Red Sox actually offered Wagner, a Type-A free agent, arbritration? Just a day after he was offered arbitration by the Red Sox, Wagner quickly signed with the Braves for a one-year, $7 million deal, which means Atlanta draft picks will be headed to the Red Sox. This was the best possible scenario for the Red Sox, obviously. Thank you, Braves!
Saito was the only low-risk, high-reward signings that really worked for the Red Sox last season (apologies to John Smoltz and Brad Penny). He finished with a very good 2.43 ERA at season’s end, but he often allowed too many baserunners (as evidenced by his 1.35 WHIP). In 55.2 innings, Saito struck out 52 hitters.
Saito joins the Braves on a $3.2 million, one-year deal. Any pitcher is a risk at 40, but Saito should be solid for the Braves.