Yates deal gives Braves options
Bullpen, bench can now be tailored to suit Atlanta's needs
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While Tyler Yates packed his bags and exited Disney's Champion Stadium early Wednesday morning, a trio of Braves relievers had reason to exhale and feel more confident that they'll be part of the Opening Day roster.
After announcing that Yates had been traded to the Pirates in exchange for Minor League right-hander Todd Redmond, Braves general manager Frank Wren confirmed that he might be just one transaction away from constructing his Opening Day roster and ensuring that he's not going to lose too many of his out-of-options players without compensation.
"I think with this move and one more, we'll be in a position where we can manage our roster the way we feel we need to going into Opening Day," Wren said.
Before Sunday night's season opener against the Nationals in Washington, Wren will also have to make decisions about catcher Brayan Pena and first baseman Scott Thorman, who are both out of options and certainly not assured of spots on the Opening Day roster. There's a chance one or both of them could be traded during the next few days.
Yates was one of four Braves relievers whose Minor League options were all exhausted. The others in this position are left-hander Royce Ring and right-handers Chris Resop and Blaine Boyer. None of them can be sent to the Minors before first clearing waivers.
"We were in a predicament," Braves manager Bobby Cox, said reacting to the Yates trade. "They're all good arms out there and you hated to lose anybody."
With John Smoltz still scheduled to begin the season on the disabled list, Ring, Boyer and Resop could be on the Opening Day roster and thus not be subject to being immediately lost on the waiver wire.
"If we choose to do it, we can carry an extra guy who isn't necessarily a starting pitcher," Wren said.
Unfortunately for Yates, who posted a 9.00 ERA and issued nine walks in eight Grapefruit League innings, he made it somewhat easy for the Braves to determine that he was the odd man out.
"About three-quarters of the way through camp, I felt that I had pitched myself out of a role in the bullpen and put myself on the bubble," said Yates, who posted a 5.18 ERA while making a career-high 75 appearances for the Braves last year.
While Yates will likely fill a significant role in the Braves' bullpen, Resop, Boyer, Ring and Jeff Bennett, who could serve as a long reliever or spot starter, could spend the season's first week wondering how long they'll stay in the Majors. Once Smoltz's shoulder proves healthy and he's activated, one of these pitchers will have to be removed from the roster.
Smoltz's right shoulder reacted well after he played catch on Tuesday, and he's expected to complete a bullpen session on Thursday morning. If all goes well, he'll pitch against Minor Leaguers early next week and likely make his season debut on April 6 against the Mets.
At that time, the Braves could choose to send Bennett back to the Minors simply because he's the only member of this group who has options. But while limiting the Nationals to one hit in four scoreless innings on Wednesday afternoon, the right-hander provided further reason to believe that he'll spend plenty of time in the Majors this season.
While there is a theory that it's easier to pass a player through waivers right after the season begins, Wren doesn't subscribe to that school of thought. Once a club has selected its 25-man roster, the Braves' GM believes the elimination of camp choices might lead some clubs to have a clearer vision that a specific available player is a better fit than one on their current roster.
"Once you get down to your 25-man roster, it's much more black and white," Wren said.
Redmond likely won't be seeing the Braves' 25-man roster this year and while going 8-13 with a 4.39 ERA in 28 combined starts with Double-A Altoona and Class A Lynchburg last year, the 22-year-old right-hander didn't provide any assurances that he'll see the Majors.
With a changeup that Baseball America recently rated as the best in the Pirates organization, Redmond has stuff that impressed many of the Braves' scouts and Minor League coaches. In three starts after getting promoted to Altoona late last season, he went 1-1 with a 3.12 ERA and registered 12 strikeouts against just three walks.
Redmond will begin the season in Double-A Mississippi's starting rotation.
"Even though his statistical numbers might not have looked good, our scouting reports still looked good on him," Wren said.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.