Tuesday, December 16, 2014

See ya, Anthony...

First, there is a lot we don't know as of this writing. Atlanta could be finalizing a trade that will make this move look much more reasonable so we shouldn't immediately jump to the conclusion that the Braves are being extra strength stupid.

With that said, the Braves twitterverse was in full uproar Monday evening when, as news broke that the Alberto Callaspo signing had been completed, in a related transaction, Atlanta designated reliever Anthony Varvaro for assignment. The Braves, who were at the full 40-man roster limit before signing Callaspo, needed to create room - that much is true. What is perplexing is why Varvaro? Again, a trade might be announced over the next few days that will clear up this matter. On the surface, it makes zero sense and I guess we must have faith in John Hart to make this work. Or just cry. I vote cry.

Varvaro was once a 12th rounder out of St. John's by the Mariners back in 2005. He started briefly, but after sucking badly, the Mariners moved him to the bullpen by 2009. His problem in the minors was walks, including a walk rate of 7.3 per nine innings in that first year as a reliever. As he began to rectify that problem and the walks fell, he started to move up the ladder in the M's system rather quickly, reaching the majors by the end of 2010.

His time with the Mariners was limited to just four games as they DFA'd him following the signing of Miguel Olivo, who would go on to have one of the most offensively inept seasons in modern history. A .253 OBP in 507 plate appearances? I can only imagine the anger of watching that saunter up to the plate 500 times. And we thought Jeff Francoeur was an out machine? Incidentally, "Out Machine" was The Miracles' unsuccessful follow-up to their final big hit.

Also...that's what happens to the guy you DFA Varvaro for? Callaspo doesn't have a chance.

With the Braves, Varvaro would spend a couple of seasons shuffling between Gwinnett and Atlanta. He was hit by the homer bug, though the sample size was low enough that I would struggle to say he pitched that poorly.

He finally came into his own during the 2013 season. Effectively replacing Cristhian Martinez in the bullpen after Lispy went down with arm troubles, Varvaro would appear in 62 games with the Braves and toss 73.1 ING, which led Braves relievers. He got more groundballs which kept the ball in the yard and even set a new personal best in fewest walks per nine innings. It wasn't all roses because he did uncork seven wild pitches and his strikeouts tumbled, the latter of which explaining the huge discrepancy in FIP (3.47) and xFIP (4.19). Still, as a long reliever who keeps the game from getting out of hand or throws quality extra innings, Varvaro was solid in his role. He even came to the plate once on August 17th of 2013 against the Nats. He had entered because Mike Minor had one of his few WTF outings of the season. Varvaro would bat following some fireworks after Stephen Strasburg, who hit Justin Upton and threw behind Andrelton Simmons, was ejected. The long reliever struck out looking against Tanner Roark. Currently, its his only plate appearance.

Varvaro returned in 2014 and took on a bigger role in the wake of injuries and poor early season play by David Carpenter. His strikeouts saw a considerable rise and he even walked fewer batters, leading to his best professional season. No longer a long guy, Varvaro was asked to get situational outs, despite reverse splits for the year and his career, another decision make by Fredi Gonzalez based on the "book" over facts. Like I said, he was still productive, but was better suited for longer outings, not as the guy coming in to face a righty.

Not arbitration-eligible, it looked like Varvaro would return to play a significant role for the Braves in 2015 until he was DFA'd. An aforementioned trade might be in the future or, as Gondeee suggests, maybe a late season drop in velocity concerned them. Or maybe the Braves want to rid themselves of everything Frank Wren ever touched (you're next, Tyler Pastornicky). Whatever the case, it was certainly an odd move as this point to dump a guy who has been productive with so many fairly worthless players already on the 40-man roster (like Pastornicky or Jose Constanza). If a trade doesn't happen, this move makes you really question just what in the hell is going on in Atlanta's front office. Even if a trade does happen, if Varvaro is simply tossed to the side for a guy in A-ball with good velocity and nothing else, you feel cheated. Four years of team-control has essentially been tossed down the drain. Let's make it worth something.

Either way, if the Curse of Varvaro is real, Callaspo is so screwed.

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