When the Atlanta Braves signed Alberto Callaspo several days ago they surprised quite a few people by designating reliever Anthony Varvaro for assignment–meaning they had ten days to trade him or release him.
This was surprising since he had been such a big part of the Atlanta bullpen the last two years. In an era where quality relief pitchers don’t grow on trees, here were the Braves leaving one blowing in the wind. The rumor though, was that the team already had a taker lined up for Varvaro.
Today that taker materialized as they traded Varvaro to the Boston Red Sox for minor league right-handed reliever Aaron Kurcz. He is a player who gained a little bit of infamy when he was traded from the Cubs to the Red Sox as compensation for General Manager Theo Epstein going to Chicago.
Kurcz is an 11th-round draft pick from the 2010 class out of the College of Southern Nevada. That’s the same school Bryce Harper attended, and also the same school Braves lefty reliever Chasen Shreve attended. In fact, both Kurcz and Shreve were taken in the same round of the 2010 draft.
Parting with Varvaro is still a bit of a head-scratcher. He was a popular player in the clubhouse, and also seemed to readily accept any role that the Braves asked him to perform. The best guess I have for why Atlanta was so willing to part with Varvaro is an apparent drop in velocity at the end of last season. His fastball fell off a bit of a cliff, dropping from around 94-95 to 90-91 (via FanGraphs.com):
That’s a fairly noticeable drop, and he didn’t appear in a game between September 9 and 24. Of course, he was effectively recording outs during this entire time, so velocity or not he seemed to be effective. I say again, it’s a head-scratcher why he was deemed expendable. If the Braves really needed a 40-man roster spot, Jose Constanza is sitting there taking up space.
As for Kurcz, he’s a hard thrower much like Varvaro, and projects as a middle-innings reliever. He’s also two years removed from a Tommy John surgery he had in August of 2012 (he missed the entire 2013 season). Here is an excerpt from a scouting report on Kurcz by the website SoxProspects.com:
Right-handed reliever with small frame and lean build. Loose thrower. 3/4 arm slot. Balanced delivery with easy landing. Fastball sits 92-93 mph and can top out at 95 mph. Average command. Tends to work in the upper tier of strike zone too much. Capable of generating swings-and-misses with fastball. 75-80 mph 3/4 breaking ball. Has curveball look in lower reaches of velocity and slider look in upper reaches. More of a slurve. Average offering. Potential to tighten up to create more consistent power and depth. Also mixes in a developing 82-85 mph changeup. Shows arm-side fade. Tends to float too much presently. Solid-average potential. Converted to a reliever in 2011. Strong makeup for age. Sixth- or seventh-inning reliever potential at major-league level.
He’s another decent relief option to stash on the farm, and will get a look in spring training, but will most likely start the season at Triple-A Gwinnett.
Based on how fleshed out the AJC.com article on this trade was immediately after it was announced, I’m guessing the beat writers knew about it when Varvaro was designated on Monday. The two days that elapsed were likely used for both sides to review medical records.