Season-ending injuries to top relievers Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty did not derail the Braves’ bullpen last season, but it’s clear the organization wanted at least of the lefties back in the fold.
Venters, who missed the 2013 campaign recovering from Tommy John surgery, agreed to a one-year, $1.625 million deal on Wednesday. The agreement allows Venters and the Braves to avoid arbitration.
After finishing in the top-10 in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2010 and making an All-Star appearance the following year, Venters struggled at times during the ’12 campaign working the setup man for closer Craig Kimbrel. He posted a career-worst 3.22 ERA in just 58.2 innings of work, then tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow during spring training.
Still, when he’s at his best, Venters is one of the best left-handed relievers in the game — posting a career 2.23 ERA and 3.00 FIP in 229 2/3 innings pitched.
By avoiding arbitration with Venters, the Braves will now set their sights on the 13 remaining arbitration-eligible players on the roster, including many of the team’s top players: Craig Kimbrel, Mike Minor, Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Kris Medlen, Chris Johnson and Brandon Beachy.
Joining that group are Jordan Schafer, Jordan Walden, Christhian Martinez, Ramiro Pena, Elliot Johnson and Paul Janish.
The arbitration offer deadline is set for Dec. 2.
Players not receiving arbitration offers by that deadline become non-tendered free agents, much as the franchise did in letting pitchers Jair Jurrjens and Peter Moylan go last year.
The Braves’ bullpen posted an MLB-best 2.46 ERA last season.