Braves Eyeing Left-Handed Relievers

The Braves' priority is to add a left-handed reliever, writes MLB.com's Mark Bowman, with James Russell of the Cubs, Mike Gonzalez of the Brewers, and Wesley Wright of the Astros on their wish list.  The Braves are more interested in Russell and Gonzalez, he adds.

The Braves' need for a southpaw reliever has increased with the plan to put Alex Wood in the starting rotation, possibly swapping roles with right-hander Kris Medlen.  That would leave Luis Avilan as the only lefty in the Braves' pen, with Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters both out for the season due to Tommy John surgery.

Russell, 27, has a large platoon split.  He'd held lefties to a .187/.218/.284 line, but righties have hit him hard (small sample size warning).  Russell is earning $1.075MM this year, and he's under team control through 2015 as an arbitration eligible player.  Gonzalez, 35, joined the Braves from the Pirates in the January 2007 Adam LaRoche trade.  He racked up 125 innings and 26 saves for the Braves over three seasons, mostly after recovering from June '07 Tommy John surgery.  The Braves allowed him to leave as a free agent for Baltimore, drafting Matt Lipka as a supplemental pick in 2010 as compensation.  After spending time with the Rangers and Nationals, Gonzalez signed with the Brewers as a free agent in January this year.  He's always been prone to the free pass, especially against righties this year, but he's been strong against lefties.

Wright, 28, came to the Astros in the '07 Rule 5 draft, from the Dodgers.  They were able to retain him by keeping him in the Majors for all of '08, and he's improved since then.  Similar to Russell, Wright is under team control through 2015 as an arbitration eligible player.  His problem this year, against righties and lefties, has been an abnormally high batting average on balls in play and rate of flyballs leaving the yard.

Which other left-handed relievers might be available?  We'll have a full post on the topic later today, but Mike Dunn, Charlie Furbush, Oliver Perez, Jose Mijares, Darren Oliver, Scott Downs, Joe Thatcher, Javier Lopez, and Jeremy Affeldt are names to consider.

The Braves also seek a backup infielder to fill the void after the loss of Ramiro Pena to season-ending surgery; they'd prefer a left-handed hitter with more offense than Paul Janish, writes Bowman.  The Cubs' Luis Valbuena could be a logical candidate there, in my opinion.


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