Though they’re 45-50, the Braves haven’t given up trying to extend their streak of consecutive postseason appearances to 15. Five games behind the Reds in the race for the National League wild card, Atlanta moved to shore up its biggest weakness on Thursday. Trying to plug a leaky bullpen that has blown a major league-high 20 of 40 save chances, the Braves acquired Bob Wickman from the Indians for Class A catching prospect Maximiliano Ramirez.
Wickman, 37, led the American League with 45 saves in 2005 and has 15 in 18 opportunities this year. He’s not an elite closer, but he’s a better option than Chris Reitsma, Jorge Sosa and Ken Ray, who have held that role for the Braves this year. Wickman continues to get hitters out thanks to the movement on his two primary pitches, a 91-92 mph sinker and a short, quick slider. In 29 games with Cleveland, he went 1-4, 4.18. Opponents hit .271 with one homer against him, and he had a 17-11 K-BB ratio in 28 innings. Wickman signed a one-year, $5 million contract as a free agent last offseason and will become a free agent again this winter. He has a career record of 60-55, 3.64 with 229 saves in 750 appearances.
With all-star Brian McCann in the majors and top catching prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the minors, the Braves could afford to part with the 21-year-old Ramirez. Signed out of Venezuela in 2002, he was the co-MVP in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in 2005. This season, he has batted .285/.408/.449 with nine homers and 37 RBIs in 90 games at low Class A Rome. His offense is ahead of his defense at this point, but he has the potential to develop into at least a solid receiver.