Should Braves Swap Kris Medlen For Alex Gordon? No Thanks.


Kris Medlen was lights out for the Braves all year. Why do some want to trade him? Please Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s become commonplace for those who watch the Braves now and then and look at statistics to make decisions to suggest that Kris Medlen is either (a not ready to be a front line starter or b) should be traded before he collapses into a black hole of mediocrity,  Just last spring the Braves decided Medlen would be kept in the bullpen as a long man and as an emergency starter  in the event  someone went down with injury late in the season. If Tommy Hanson had not been injured and missed multiple starts just after the trade deadline allowing Meds to settle into the rotation he might still be languishing in the pen and the Braves season would have been much shorter. But pitch he did and so well that he was chosen for the Bud Selig playoff death match fiasco over Tim Hudson; the Braves defense not Medlen lost that game. Meds went 6 1/3 innings giving up 2 runs on 3 hits, striking out 4 and walking no one.   Yet he’s still the Rodney Dangerfield of the staff, so when Jody McDonald (@jodymacman) said he’d trade Meds for Alex Gordon he wasn’t alone and I probably shouldn’t have responded as he was just making a judgement call based on what he knew and believed. But, I was on Twitter at the time so I did.

The Medlen Discussion

The resulting discussion consisted of a challenge by Jody Mac to project Medlen’s numbers for 2013, and responses to that challenge. In 140 characters it looked like this.

 

I projected off the top of my bald spot a 14-8 year with a low 3 ERA, 1.250 WHIP and 140 Ks or so.  Jody Mac suggested that those numbers were well off his 2012 numbers and the Braves should trade while the value is high. Of course the ERA and WHIP will be higher  than 2012 and he won’t go undefeated. No one should expect Medlen to pitch to a 1.57 ERA and a 0.910 WHIP (that’s combined, the starting numbers were ERA 0.97, WHIP 1.115 and a strikeout an inning) while going 20-0. But the numbers I project are in line with his performances as a regular starter the Braves erratic run support over the past few years. The trade while his value is high part suggests that those numbers are replaceable. I wanted to be sure before I said replacement with anyone in the Braves system was unlikely so I checked with Baseball-Reference for pitchers who had equal or better season since 2010. Specifically the parameters were:

For single seasons, Playing in the NL, From 2010 to 2012, (requiring earned_run_avg<=3.4, whip<=1.350, GS>=25, win_loss_perc>=0.636, IP>6.0*GS, At least 95% games started and Qualified for league ERA title), sorted by name

The list was relatively short and had names everyone will recognize. Mostly it shows that those numbers are highly desirable and not something just anyone can throw together easily. I told Jody Mac so.

Rk ERA WHIP GS W-L% IP Year Age Tm
1 Adam Wainwright 2.42 1.051 33 .645 230.1 2010 28 STL
2 Brett Myers 3.14 1.243 33 .636 223.2 2010 29 HOU
3 Kyle Lohse 2.86 1.090 33 .842 211.0 2012 33 STL
4 Kyle Lohse 3.39 1.168 30 .636 188.1 2011 32 STL
5 Cliff Lee 2.40 1.027 32 .680 232.2 2011 32 PHI
6 Clayton Kershaw 2.28 0.977 33 .808 233.1 2011 23 LAD
7 Ian Kennedy 2.88 1.086 33 .840 222.0 2011 26 ARI
8 Josh Johnson 2.30 1.105 28 .647 183.2 2010 26 FLA
9 Ubaldo Jimenez 2.88 1.155 33 .704 221.2 2010 26 COL
10 Tim Hudson 2.83 1.150 34 .654 228.2 2010 34 ATL
11 Cole Hamels 3.05 1.124 31 .739 215.1 2012 28 PHI
12 Roy Halladay 2.44 1.041 33 .677 250.2 2010 33 PHI
13 Roy Halladay 2.35 1.040 32 .760 233.2 2011 34 PHI
14 Gio Gonzalez 2.89 1.129 32 .724 199.1 2012 26 WSN
15 R.A. Dickey 2.73 1.053 33 .769 233.2 2012 37 NYM
16 Johnny Cueto 2.78 1.171 33 .679 217.0 2012 26 CIN
17 Chris Carpenter 3.22 1.179 35 .640 235.0 2010 35 STL
18 Matt Cain 2.79 1.040 32 .762 219.1 2012 27 SFG
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/13/2012.

In response Jody Mac indicated he isn’t a Medlen believer when he said we’ll see if it happens. That’s an understandable position from one who hasn’t watched Medlen regularly.   I of course have seen almost every appearance and that gives me faith that Medlen will continue to do what he always does; attack the strike zone, pitch his game and leave batters scratching their heads. As Jody said, we will see who has the best insight.  But, what about a different trade for Alex Gordon?

The Case For Alex Gordon

I like the idea of Gordon in left.  He’s a Gold Glove outfielder who’d really deserving of that award. I gave his defensive numbers in my post on hyped free agents a couple of days ago. Offensively Gordon has matured into one of the better hitters in the AL. His line over the last two years .298/.372/.478/.850, 37 HR 159 RBI 179 ISO and 27 stolen bases is pretty impressive. What’s more impressive is that it seems to make little difference whether the pitcher is right handed or left handed.

LHP Year PA HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS GDP BAbip tOPS+ ISO
  2010 70 3 7 9 18 .200 .304 .400 .704 3 .231 109 .200
  2011 212 8 28 21 47 .278 .358 .471 .829 3 .331 89 .193
  2012 254 3 23 19 52 .248 .311 .357 .668 6 .305 63 .109
  Career 935 23 97 79 203 .238 .311 .389 .700 22 .287 78 .151
                             
RHP Year PA HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS GDP BAbip tOPS+ ISO
  2010 211 5 13 25 44 .220 .319 .341 .660 6 .261 97 .121
  2011 478 15 59 46 92 .314 .384 .517 .901 6 .370 105 .203
  2012 467 11 49 54 88 .320 .398 .510 .908 8 .385 120 .189
  Career 2118 59 223 223 438 .283 .365 .462 .826 35 .341 110 .178

All statistics from Baseball-Reference.com See the specific page here.

Gordon has a club friendly contract that takes him through 2016 at a nice price making him more attractive to the Braves with their limited payroll.

Year Age Salary  
2013 29 $9,000,000  
2014 30 $10,000,000  
2015 31 $12,500,000  
2016 32 *$12,500,000 $12.5M Team Option

Why would the Royals Trade Gordon?

Essentially Gordon is their best option for obtaining what they need most; pitching. We of course have a couple of pitchers they would like so there is a fit. How much they would ask in return in the only question. His two year line plus ISO – 298/.372/.478/.850, 179 ISO – when taken together compared with others who played 200 games in that time returns a short and expensive list.

Adrian Gonzalez
Alex Gordon
Andrew McCutchen
Billy Butler
Carlos Gonzalez
Joey Votto
Matt Kemp
Miguel Cabrera
Prince Fielder
Ryan Braun

So I doubt he would be cheap. The price may be the reason such a trade hasn’t happened or it may be that everyone is waiting for the market to settle a bit. The Royals  will certainly ask for a package of good pitching prospects plus so ; a Tommy Hanson, Julio Teheran , Tyler Pastronicky package might do it.

There are also rumors that the Braves have been talking with Kansas City about Lorenzo Cain who has become excess in Kansas City. Including him might make it easier for the Frank Wren to build a package that appeals to them. I’ll discuss Cain tomorrow.

That’s A Wrap

When I Tweeted at Jody Mac I didn’t really expect a reply but I’m glad he was kind enough to take the time to send one and engage in the discussion. I want to thank him for that and hope we can do it again some time.   I’ve advocated for Kris Medlen to be in the rotation as early as last November and Fredi Gonzalez introduced himself to Medlen by saying “I understand if I let you into the rotation I’ll never be able to take you out” or words to that effect way back in Spring of 2011. The Braves went a different direction until injury forced them to make Meds a starter. Since then they have indeed not been able to get him out of the rotation. Barring injury I expect Medlen to be a very good to superior starter for many years to come. I expect others to be slower to join the parade but that’s fine too. To pry Medlen from my grasp would require a difference maker like Justin Upton. Alex Gordon is a very good player but he’s not that guy for me.  As I told Jody Mac I’d give them Delgado and Hanson without blinking and throw in Pastornicky if they insisted. But not Medlen. True he doesn’t throw 100 or strike out 18 a game but unlike Hanson, Teheran, Jurrjens or Delgado Meds usually goes 7 innings at or under 100 pitches while allowing 2 or less runs. At 26 he’s already a smart pitcher not just not a power arm thrower. In today’s game that’s unusual and hard to replace.

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Tags: Atlanta Braves Kris Medlen

  • Lee Trocinski

    Medlen’s xFIP this past year was 2.97, so that’s where I start for a projection. I think he can maintain his 4% BB rate OR his 23% K rate, but not both. He also doesn’t have the stuff to maintain a GB rate above 50%, though it might not fall too much lower than that. With those two factors, I see an ERA around 3.30, close to what you said. Your Hamels comparison was also very good, a 4-5 WAR pitcher once he is allowed to go 200+ IP, which I doubt will be next year.

    On a side note, I’m guessing you’re one of the few “yes” voters on the new poll…

    And yes, I’m commenting on a post that isn’t even published yet.

  • fireboss

    I have no expectation he’ll strike out more than 4 or 5 a game. He’s a pitch to contact let the defense do it guy. My 140 guess was just a swing because of the way he screws with batters minds. He’s not untouchable, no one is , but it would take more than Gordon to get him from me. I suspect he’s a 170 or so inning guy next year, it depends on how hard the innings are rather than the number for me. But they don;t ask me :)

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