Baseball season is getting so, so close! Of course that means a lot of things, and one of those is unfortunately that pitchers are starting to meet a diagnosis that will see them meet Tommy John surgery.
The unfortunate injury has already claimed Cardinals’ starter Lance Lynn for the season and other players around baseball have recently met the cruel fate. Colorado Rockies pitcher Jairo Diaz, Miami Marlins reliever Carter Capps and two Atlanta Braves have fallen onto that list
Paco Rodriguez underwent Tommy John surgery last September and is a long shot to pitch this year for the Braves. Fellow lefty Andrew McKirahan will now need it as well. That’s two southpaws now missing from a bullpen that also houses another current Tommy John victim, right-hander Shae Simmons.
With a bunch of injuries on top of an already very thrown together bullpen in Atlanta, the Braves have signed 33-year-old Phil Coke to a Minor League deal. I previously wrote about Atlanta signing another veteran to a MiLB deal, but Coke’s chances of making the roster are much better due to where he would fit on the Braves roster.
Nobody ever wants injuries, but Phil Coke could bring some veteran savvy to the Braves’ bullpen corps. Only Jason Grilli at 39 is older than the eight-year veteran. Coke spent last season with the Cubs, Blue Jays and Athletics. He signed a Minor League deal with all three teams and Atlanta will be his fourth consecutive contract of the kind.
Prior to these four accepted offers, the lefty was pitching for the Tigers and Yankees.
As you might expect, the reliever market—really the whole Free Agent market—is pretty dry as Spring Training is already underway. Coke has a career 4.20 ERA and last season things only got worse as he ran up an ERA of 5.68 between the Cubs and Blue Jays. Things in Chicago were particularly damning for the 2002 26th-round Draft Pick as he blew an opportunity that Cubs’ Manager Joe Maddon really wanted to give him.
Best-case scenario is Coke can net Atlanta a Low-A prospect in June or July, but realistically he will hold it down while players rehabilitate from respective injuries. There’s no doubt he can be relied for injecting a lot of fun into a locker room full of young players and maybe Atlanta can package him in a deal for teams in Junes MLB draft.