Left-handed relievers Glen Perkins of the Minnesota Twins, James Russell of the Chicago Cubs and Wesley Wright of the Houston Astros have been three of the premier southpaws in MLB this season, which rightly places each on the wishlists of several teams as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.
The Atlanta Braves are one of those teams, and while they would be silly to write off any of the aforementioned lefties, I think they should go with a familiar face instead: Milwaukee Brewers reliever Mike Gonzalez.
The 35-year-old lefty, who spent three seasons in Atlanta from 2007-2009 as a setup man and closer, has recorded 56 saves and 89 holds over his career with 2.94 ERA. While Gonzalez isn’t as consistent as he was while converting all 24 of his save opportunities as the Pittsburgh Pirates closer in 2006, he’s still one of the better left-handed relievers in the game.
In 50 appearances for the Brewers this season, he has posted a 2.88 ERA while striking out 42 batters and issuing 17 walks.
Although that 4.46 BB/9 walk rate is a little high, the man Braves fans once referred to as “The Cobra” has much more experience as a late-inning left-handed reliever than Atlanta’s Luis Avilan and Alex Wood, the latter of whom is now at Triple-A Gwinnett trying to stretch out his arm to return to the rotation in the near future.
It’s easy to salivate over the prospect of Gonzalez teaming with right-handed setup man Jordan Walden to hold leads for Braves closer Craig Kimbrel.