The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the Atlanta Braves have designated closer Bob Wickman for assignment.
Wickman, though he has pitched in the majority of save opportunities for Atlanta this season, has been mediocre as a fantasy reliever in 2007. The 38-year-old right-hander has 20 saves this season, but his six blown saves, 3.92 ERA and 1.56 WHIP this year has made it difficult for Braves manager Bobby Cox to keep Wickman in the ninth inning. This move was relatively unexpected; the Braves might have been expected to remove Wickman from his closing role, but not cut ties with him completely. There is a good chance the Braves will be able to trade Wickman within the mandatory 10-day limit after the transaction, as he still has value in middle relief to a playoff contender with a shaky bullpen. Either way, Wickman loses all fantasy value due to this move because he's highly unlikely to catch a closer's job elsewhere.
The Braves have plenty of options in the bullpen to replace Wickman, though the most probable player to get the first closing opportunities following this transaction is relief pitcher Rafael Soriano. He has five saves on the year so far in eight opportunities along with 19 holds. The 27-year-old has been considered to be a potential closer for a while, and his impressive WHIP of 0.95 is the kind of production the Braves want in the ninth inning. However, Soriano has been hot-and-cold this season, and as Soriano has only nine career saves, the Braves may want someone more seasoned to handle closing duties as they make a playoff push.
Soriano and reliever Peter Moylan will likely split save opportunities once Octavio Dotel (shoulder) comes off the disabled list. Dotel, who is currently rehabbing with a right shoulder strain, has proven he can be an effective closer at the highest level. In 2004, he earned 36 saves pitching for the Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics. He spent the next two years on and off the disabled list before catching on with the Kansas City Royals before this season, earning 11 saves in 14 opportunities and compiling a 3.91 ERA. Dotel has let his ERA inflate since being traded to the Atlanta Braves at the trade deadline, posting an 8.31 ERA in 4 1/3 innings with his new club. But because of Dotel's closing experience, he will likely get the save opportunities down the stretch.
Moylan has compiled a 2.05 ERA and 1.08 WHIP on the season and has wracked up one save and four holds. Moylan, 28, is very green to the major leagues, with only 85 1/3 career innings to his name, but Cox has mentioned Moylan's name before when discussing possible closers this season. Moylan is worth keeping an eye on, but Dotel and Soriano are the two relievers that warrant immediate fantasy consideration.
Grab Soriano now, and grab Dotel and stash him on your DL spot. If you own Wickman, release him now in all formats.
About Andrew Stewart
Andrew Stewart has been a Hot off the Wire Analyst for KFFL since 2007.
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