Braves bring back Peter Moylan — for third time — to bolster bullpen options

IKISSIMMEE, Fla. — The Braves have brought back a familiar face as they look to boost a bullpen full of young arms.

Peter Moylan, who last pitched for Atlanta in 2015, has agreed o return to the organization for a third time, the Braves announced Monday. It’s a non-guaranteed major league deal with a salary escalator that will push it to $1.2 million should he make the active Opening Day roster.

As a corresponding move, reliever Mauricio Cabrera was designated for assignment.

“From a baseball operations standpoint … we just love the fact that right/right, ground balls, tremendous year last year, especially some of the big right-handed bat in the NL East,” said general manager Alex Anthopoulos. “Someone that certainly could play a big part in our pen.”

Moylan, the 38-year-old right-hander with a sidearm delivery appeared in 79 games last season for the Royals last season — which was tied with the Indians’ Bryan Shaw for the MLB lead — posting a 3.49 ERA, 4.00 FIP and 129 ERA+ over 59 1/3 innings.

He’s added to the mix with a group of relievers that helped turn the Braves into the majors’ top bullpens in the final month of 2017.

Atlanta’s 1.1 fWAR in September was tied for 10th in the majors and only 10 teams had a better FIP than the Braves’ 3.70. That FIP ranked higher than the two teams that played in the World Series — the Astros post a 4.58; the Dodgers were at 4.20 — and three postseason clubs were behind Atlanta in fWAR.

Closer Arodys Vizcaino, A.J. Minter, Sam Freeman, Jose Ramirez and Dan Winkler — who must remain on the 25-man roster for 14 days to satisfy Rule 5 obligations — appear to be bullpen locks, and Atlanta also December’s Rule 5 pickup, right-hander Yanelo Gomez.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos has stated players out of minor league options could get preference in close decisions, aiding the case of Mauricio Cabrera, Luke Jackson, Josh Ravin and Chase Whitley.

Should the Braves carry an eight-man relief corps, that’s a laundry list of arms — not to mention Rex Brothers, Akeel Morris, Jason Hursh, Jacob Lindgren and a number of staters who could factor in with Aaron Blair, Max Fried, Scott Kazmir, Lucas Sims and Matt Wisler — it figures to be a tough competition.

Moylan, who held right-handers to a .161 batting average against, .479 OPS and .218 wOBA, could aid a group that struggled against righties with a .264/.339/.450 slash line.

“The numbers against right-handers, it’s clear what his role would be, how he would fit on a club,” Anthopoulos said.” Never going to be able to line it up exactly that he’s not going to face a left-hander. But there could be some spots late in the game … need to get a big out, right-handed or Snit needs to get a ground ball against a righty, certainly somebody that can fill that role.”

Moylan can also provide leadership and durability to a group of 2017’s bullpen regulars, just one of whom is older than 28. The past two seasons, only 35 relievers have appeared in more games than the 129 by Moylan, who has undergone Tommy John surgery twice.

Moylan first signed with the Twins in 1996 and, after his release in ’98, was back in his native Australia with jobs working as a glass company installing backsplashes in kitchens and and a pharmaceutical salesman rep.

He’d attracted the attention of the Braves in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, striking out four with five walks, a hit and one run in two innings, and was given a tryout.

Moylan spent eight years with the Braves in that first go-around with a 2.59 ERA over 260 2/3 innings in 295 games, highlighted by his 1.80 ERA and 242 ERA+ in 80 games in ’07. After a one-year stint year with the Dodgers in 2013, Moylan signed with the Astros in 2013 but didn’t appear in the majors. He returned to the Braves a year later in a player-coach role, throwing 10 1/3 innings over 22 games with 114 ERA+, before spending the last two seasons in Kansas City.

Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney and Facebook. His books, ‘Tales from the Atlanta Braves Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Braves Stories Ever Told,’ and ‘The Heisman Trophy: The Story of an American Icon and Its Winners.’ are now available.