Braves secure experienced relief help

Braves secure experienced relief help

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves general manager Frank Wren has nabbed the left-handed reliever whom he was seeking. But with this year's Winter Meetings nearing a close, it appears he might be heading back to Atlanta still carrying the burden of Kenshin Kawakami's $6.67 million salary.

While Kawakami's future remains cloudy, George Sherrill appears ready to spend the next couple weeks and months preparing to serve as another veteran addition to the Braves' bullpen.

The Braves and Sherrill agreed to terms on a one-year, $1.2 million contract late Wednesday afternoon. The deal will not be made official until the 33-year-old undergoes a physical on Thursday or Friday.

Wren wasn't in a position where he could even comment on this agreement. But he was willing to explain why he was excited about the possibility of adding Sherrill to his bullpen.

"He's a very effective guy against lefties," Wren said. "We also felt like he made great strides in the second half of [the 2010 season]."

While posting a 6.69 ERA in 65 appearances with the Dodgers this past season, Sherrill limited left-handed hitters to a .192 batting average (14-for-73) and .286 on-base percentage. Right-handed hitters damaged him with a .427 batting average and .516 on-base percentage.

These struggles against right-handed hitters stood in stark contrast to the trend he had set while enjoying the two most successful campaigns of his career during the previous two seasons.

On the way to posting a 1.70 ERA in 72 combined appearances with the Orioles and Dodgers in '09, he limited right-handed hitters to a .244 batting average and .321 on-base percentage. Left-handed hitters batted just .128 and reached base at a .188 clip against him during that impressive season.

One year earlier while recording a career-high 31 saves for the Orioles, Sherrill allowed right-handed hitters a .373 on-base percentage and limited left-handed hitters to a .264 mark.

"He's got the good breaking ball," Wren said. "He's one of those guys that goes right after them. He knows how to get guys out."

With Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters set to serve as either the closer or primary setup man, the Braves sought to add experience to their bullpen and did so with the additions of Sherrill and right-handed reliever Scott Linebrink, who was acquired from the White Sox last week.

Sherrill and Eric O'Flaherty will serve as the club's left-handed specialists during the middle innings.

As Wren moves forward, he may continue to explore the possibility of adding an outfielder to his roster. But it hasn't appeared that he and his staff have moved closer to finding the right offer to pry center fielder Lorenzo Cain from the Brewers.

The Braves and Brewers have had multiple discussions about Cain. But the Braves aren't willing to appease the Brewers, who have asked for highly-regarded left-hander Mike Minor. Nor are they interested in Carlos Gomez, another center field prospect the Brewers are much more willing to deal.

Speaking of deals, the Braves still haven't been able to find a suitor for Kawakami. They have proven unsuccessful in their numerous attempts to find a club willing to help them offset a portion of the $6.67 million still owed to the 35-year-old Japanese right-handed pitcher.

Because he was optioned to Double-A Mississippi last month, Kawakami would be eligible to be selected in either the Minor League or Major League phases of Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. But because the claiming club would be responsible for all of his salary, there is essentially no chance he'll be selected.

There is a chance the Braves could lose right-handed pitcher Michael Broadway or left-handed pitcher Scott Diamond in the Rule 5 Draft.

Diamond combined to go 8-7 with a 3.46 ERA in 27 starts with Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett this past summer. He was 4-1 with a 3.36 ERA in his 10 starts with Gwinnett.

Broadway posted a 4.39 ERA and recorded 57 strikeouts in the 53 1/3 innings he compiled between Mississippi and Gwinnett this year.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.