Thoughts on Wickman

So the Braves traded for Bob Wickman yesterday… Eh.

When your bullpen is as bad as the Braves’s is, any help can seem like a good thing. But Wickman isn’t an oasis in the desert, he’s a dew drop on a leaf. Couple that with the fact that the Braves will pay him a guaranteed $2 million, possibly $3 million with games pitched incentives. He gets an $150K bonus for pitching 50, $250K for 55, and $300K each for hitting 60 and 65. So far, Wickman has pitched in 29 games, which puts him on a pace to throw about 50. However, given the state of the bullpen, I think Wickman may see a lot of action soon. Even Chad Poronto, who didn’t join the team until the second week of May, has appeared in 34 games. Remlinger appeared in 36. Why is a GM who puckered up so tightly during the offseason so willing to part with over $2 million for half a season of mediocre pitching?

John Schuerholz thinks highly of his new acquisition.

He’s a stud, and he’s a guy that’s been successful in that job year after year after year.

Wickman’s career year last year was a DIPS miracle. His 2.27 ERA was well below his FIP of 4.53. Remember Jorge Sosa? Many commentators have pointed out that Wickman’s been a bit unlucky this year with a 4.18 ERA. That’s true, his FIP is 3.65, which is slightly better than last year. But most of that is due to his only allowing one home run. I actually like guys who are stingy with the long ball; however, keeping balls in the park isn’t something Wickman is particularly good at. He’s allowed 1.27 HR9 the past two years. Not good. His strikeouts have fallen some this year too, but it’s hard to know what this means due to the small sample.

In addition to paying Wickman’s hefty salary the Braves also gave up the rights to Low-A prospect Max Ramirez. Ramirez has played well, but he’s still very low in the system. He probably should be a little higher, but the depth of the Braves system at catcher keeps him where he is. Some people have argued that it’s no loss for the Braves since they are so deep at catcher. If you own five Ferraris do you sell one for $100 when you determine that you have too many? I’m not saying Ramirez was a bad player for the Braves to give up, but a glut at a position doesn’t justify trading a player for discount price.

Wickman may pitch well in Atlanta, and I suspect he will make the pen better. But giving up a decent minor league prospect for an expensive half-year rental is something I’d have preferred the Braves didn’t do. I wish the Braves had saved the money for next year. Please oh please, don’t tell me the Braves are only 4.5 games out of the wild card. So what? I don’t see any reason to see this team rising above the other ten clubs still within reach.

16 Responses “Thoughts on Wickman”

  1. John W says:

    Agreed. Let’s assume that JS believes these two things:

    1) Wickman is a stud
    2) The Braves have a good enough chance to win this WC race for Wickman to matter

    Given those assumptions, Max Ramirez plus $2 million might be an acceptable price for Wickman. However, as you said, Wickman is not a stud, and the Braves have given no reason for us to believe they are any better off than the other teams in this race (despite the recent streak). So, this is probably not a good deal. Maybe not terrible, but not good. Wickman won’t be saving the Braves, at least not without a lot of other help.

  2. Tom says:

    Agreed. Bob Wickman is Todd Jones Lite (another guy Schuerholz apparently went after this winter–blech).

  3. Tom says:

    For something slightly more substantive, also check out the Hardball Times today.

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/nl-contenders-and-pretenders/

    If the wild card team needs to win 90 games to secure their postseason birth, the Braves need to go 41-22 (.657 wpct) the rest of the way. With one of the worst pitching staffs of the 9 teams within 5 games of the wild card lead. Only the Tigers have a winning percentage better than .657 this year.

  4. Pablo says:

    The sad thing is that the hard ball times has the Braves record wrong. It has them listed at 49-50 as opposed to 45-50, meaning they would have to play .671 ball, or 45-22. That said, I’m not convinced that the wild card team will win 90 games this year. Houston won it with 89 last year, and I’d bet that this year the winner will be even worse at around 87 or so wins. What the article fails to take into account is that the Braves division has the weakest teams in it (Mets aside obviously), all of whom are below them in the wildcard standings, and with a few more losses will be completely out of contention. Generally, teams in that state play with less effort than teams in contention.

  5. Joshua says:

    He is just another Dan Kolb. A flop!

  6. Johnny says:

    The money is only for this year. Max Ramirez is just an A level prospect. In the sucky NL 85 wins might be enough to win the wild card. Wickman won’t be Fred McGriff for us but he does make us marginally better. Sure, the odds are very against a playoff berth but who knows we may screw up and get in. Once in the post season as we have seen before anything can happen.

  7. Marc says:

    I think it’s an ok, not a great deal. If JS did nothing, people would accuse him of giving up. Playing for next year isn’t an option with a fickle fan base like the Braves have. The teams in front of the Braves are terrible; they could possibly win with 85-86 wins. Still not great odds, but I don’t think you just give up. And what does it mean to play for next year; what would the Braves do differently to play for next year. It’s not like they are an old team. Most of their major-league ready (or even almost ready) prospects are already in Atlanta so I don’t see what else they can do.

  8. JC says:

    I have no problem with trading Ramirez for a pitcher of Wickman’s caliber. The problem is that Wickman is overpaid. Last year, one of his best in his career, I estimate that he was worth about $2.5 million. If the Braves were really in the hunt, I might make this trade, but I wouldn’t have made it. I also wouldn’t have had Mike Remlinger or Brian Jordan on the opening day roster. These little bad contracts add up over time.

  9. JMR says:

    I’m inclined to not like this deal, as Wickman is not, nor ever was, a “stud” and I buy the argument that you don’t need a Rivera to get 3 outs w/ a 3 run lead, but w/ the closers employed being nothing short of awful, how can Wickman not be an upgrade? Even in a bad year he never nears the 50% save conversion mark that we are at right now.

    I don’t see Ramirez as being too much to pay, especially in this market. Catching prospects are the toughest position players to project, so there are no guarantees with him. Plus once someone signs Wickman in the off-season we’ll get a draft pick for him.

  10. Sean says:

    I like the point that The Hardball Times was trying to make, showing the win percentages that those teams would need to win the wild card, but I seriously doubt that the Wild Card winner will need 90 wins. It’s the National League! There are only three teams with winning records within distance of it and they’re barely ove .500 (the Reds lead and they are 50-46). That’s not to mention that the entire NL West is in it and they will likely beat the crap out of each other for the rest of the year, diluting the win records of all the teams in that division. Or the fact that NL is extremely top-heavy, with two teams being clearly better than the rest (the Cardinals and Mets), meaning that the Wild Card winner likely will not have to win 90. It may sound nuts, but I could seriously see the Braves taking it with an 88-74 record, considering how bad the NL is and how comparable most teams are, all of which drifting towards mediocrity.

  11. John says:

    A couple other opinions, one supportive of a point in this post and the other contradictory …

    (1) Braves really are in contention … Betting on TradeSports.com suggests the Braves have a 20% chance of winning the NL Wild Card this year, a better chance than any other team. (Of course these relative odds are biased upwards b/c Braves can’t win NL East whereas Cincinatti or St. Louis will win NL Central.)

    (2) Bob Wickman will be overpaid … ProTrade.com says Bob Wickman is worth $1.1 mm not the $5 mmm he is getting paid (cumulatively) this season.

  12. JMR says:

    BP has the average NL wildcard winning 86.5 games….so the 95 wins number is just folly.

  13. John says:

    NY Times article on how the NL Wild Card winner might have a record of .500 or worse– http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/23/sports/baseball/23chass.html

  14. Frank says:

    I’m willing to buy the notion that Wickman for Ramirez is a decent gamble to win this year’s wild card race. It might ultimately turn out to be a bum deal, but I’m mostly thankful that JS didn’t deal away more prospects in search of a quick fix.

    My biggest beef with the trade is JS’s contention that the bullpen is “no longer a work in progress for us.” Who’s he kidding?

  15. The Spirit of Bill Oliver says:

    Wickman pitched in the offensive AL, in an offensive ballpark, on a sup par defensive team.

    He has over 200 career saves and has 3-4 pitches excellent location, solid mechanics, and tons of experience.

    Plus he’s mentally tough.

    Kolb was mentally weak.

    Alexjandro Wickman more like it.