Another contender has lost its closer. The Atlanta Braves announced Wednesday that Arodys Vizcaíno underwent shoulder surgery and is expected to miss the rest of the regular season.
The 28-year-old Vizcaíno has been a stabilizing force at the back end of the Braves bullpen for a few seasons. From 2016 to 2017, Vizcaíno posted a 2.54 ERA, with 104 strikeouts in 95 2/3 innings. He saved 30 games during that period.
While Vizcaíno only pitched four innings in 2019, he was one of the team’s bright spots in the bullpen. Braves relievers have combined for a 5.43 ERA this season, which is good for 24th in the majors.
Prior to Wednesday’s news, the Braves have been linked to All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel, but no deal has materialized yet. After losing Vizcaíno for the season, there should be even more pressure on the Braves to make something happen.
After making the playoffs last season, big things were expected from the Braves in 2019. The team mostly stayed quiet in the offseason, hoping continued gains from young players would once again propel them to glory.
That strategy has seen mixed results early in the season. The Braves are 9-7, and Ronald Acuña looks like a superstar. The young rotation has already seen some turnover, but the Braves have a few more promising pieces they can plug in.
That leaves the bullpen as the team’s biggest weakness. It’s the one area where the team could use a dominant player.
Kimbrel not only fits that bill, but should be plenty familiar with Atlanta. The 30-year-old Kimbrel reached the majors with the team, spending his first five seasons in Atlanta.
With the team, Kimbrel posted a 1.43 ERA and racked up 186 saves. He made the All-Star team in four of his five seasons in Atlanta.
Since leaving, Kimbrel has been similarly dominant, posting a 2.47 ERA in four years.
While Kimbrel’s demands are said to be high, his decision to hold out could wind up paying off. As teams like the Braves and Milwaukee Brewers lose dominant relievers, more pressure builds for those teams to address the issue. Signing one of the most dominant relievers ever would help immensely.
The Braves may want to act before it’s too late. They have a clear need for Kimbrel now, and waiting will only lead to more teams getting in on the bidding.
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