Jul 24, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Braves pitcher Tim Hudson is checked on by a trainer after being injured in a collision at first base with New York Mets left fielder Eric Young Jr. (not pictured). Hudson's ankle is fractured and he's out for the year. While Braves fans pray for Hudson Frank Wren has to decide what happens next. Please Credit photo by: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

With Tim Hudson Down Braves Need A Starter

Tim Hudson’s injury changes everything for the Braves. In case you’re just emerging from a a cave, Time Hudson was pitching a gem until he covered first in the eighth inning Wednesday night and Eric Young Jr. stepped on his ankle.  Huddy went down like he’d been shot and was taken off on a cart.  It looked worse than it sounds; trust me and the Braves have announced his ankle is fractured. He will have surgery Monday in Atlanta and is out for the season.  While the Braves family prays for Hudson the GM has a new pressing problem on his plate.

What Now?

For weeks the Braves have been seeking bullpen arms, a lefty in particular to ease the load on Luis Avilan’s arm. Now I believe they have to add a starter. Paul Maholm‘s been stumbling in the last month with a  7.65 ERA and a 2.000 WHIP before going on the DL with a wrist injury. This leaves Kris Medlen as the oldest current active starter.  As it stands tonight the Braves would go into the post season with a rotation of Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy, Julio Teheran, Alex Wood / Maholm and Medlen. That simply won’t be good enough to win. It might in fact make holding onto the division  lead difficult, even in the weakest division in MLB.  Medlen hasn’t been the 2012 Meds and as I noted Maholm has been going downhill since May.  Wood is talented but he’s not ready for a full time role. Add those up and you’ll see a bullpen that already requires reinforcements under significant stress.   We still need to fix the bullpen and now we need to find a quality starter. There are two problems with that;

  1. The price will be high and
  2. There just aren’t a lot of them around.

When you consider what the Rangers gave up to rent  Matt Garza – a major league ready arm, a top ten prospect and a mid level prospect arm – you can see that sellers have the buyers by their . . . .umm . . . eyebrows.  Anyone we go after will be expensive and it will be a bidding war; we certainly aren’t the only team looking.

The first name I saw mentioned in the Twitterverse was Jake Peavy. Since we’ve been rumored to be in talks for Jesse Crain why not get a twofer from the White Sox? That would cost and and I don’t mean money.  It might take a half dozen players to make that kind of deal and frankly I don’t know if we have the prospects to do it without sacrificing what we have.

The Cubs will  listen on anyone so perhaps another Chicago twofer is possible with Jeff Samardzija and James Russell coming over.  I’ve liked Russell for the pen for a while and Samardzija is having a great year for a bad club. He would see his 3.91 ERA drop with a better defense behind him and away from the friendly confines. He doesn’t have post season experience however and if I’m allowed to be picky I want that as a priority. In any event Theo Epstein won’t be giving us a discount either. He got Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman from us last year neither has been of any use to the Cubs.

Word surfaced tonight that the Royals are listening on Ervin Santana and we have a relationship with them. MLB Trade Rumors posted this report.

The 30-year-old undoubtedly becomes one of the top starters on the block, as he’s pitched to a sterling 3.18 ERA in 130.1 innings this year, posting a 7.2 K/9 and a 1.9 BB/9. Any acquiring team would be on the hook for the remaining portion of his $13MM salary this season. Meanwhile, the Royals would lose the ability to make him a qualifying offer, so we can expect that their asking price will exceed the value of a compensatory pick in the 2014 draft.

The Royals  also control James Shields with a team option for next year. If I’m emptying the bank for a starter, he’s the guy; not Santana. His 3.24 ERA and 1.228 WHIP are higher than Santana’s but with his option year and post season experience, Big Game James is the man. Dayton Moore will be hard pressed to trade Shields as he gave up Wil Myers to get Shields and Wade Davis. Moore is probably finished in KC so any deal he makes will be an attempt to keep his job and closely scrutinized by ownership. Either one of those will cost what we would pay for Peavy and maybe more.

The Brewers Yovani Gallardo has been mentioned in rumors lately but I wouldn’t touch him with a contract for the Mets. Kyle Lohse is way over priced and way over rated. They say they aren’t trading him. Thanks for that. The Padres might trade Edinson Volquez – 5.73 , 1.596 but he’ been getting progressively worse under one of the best pitching men around Bud Black. So even if Joe Thatcher is the guy we get for the pen he’s likely the only Padre we see. The Rockies might trade Jorge De La Rosa – 3.12, 1.283 -,  he’s affordable, 32 years old and has a team option that’s affordable for 2014. The lefty had TJ surgery last year and is all the way back to full strength pitching to a 4.0 WAR for the Rockies. They would want a first round pick equivalent for him and a piece or two because of that.  De La Rosa might just be the best pitcher no one has talked about. Posting a 3.12 ERA in Denver is no mean feat.  He might just be the kind of steal that would be a game changer in Atlanta..

That’s A Wrap

Frank Wren is in a bad spot. He can 1) stand pat with Minor, Medlen and Teheran,2)  hope that Beachy comes back in 2011 form and not the just back from TJ where’s the plate form and 3) hope that Wood and Maholm combine to not be awful and destroy the bullpen over the next three months. On the other hand he can trade some of the good pieces we have Jordan Schafer, Christian Bethancourt, J.R. Graham, etc and go all in on a Peavy/Shields and try to win this year.  Generally teams should try to win now, remember what happened to the Nats when they tried to save their best for this year? The last time we went all in to win it was with a team that was not just one piece away and leading the division by 8 games.  This team can beat any team but it needs pitching to hold them until the bats wake up.  The starting lineup is healthy and who knows when we’ll get this close again; once again remember the Nats.  So, I’d go for it as hard as I had to.  Of course that would mean giving up a lot but you have to give something to get something. Any move we make cannot be a half step for another fourth starter or a “veteran presence.” When I hear “we added veteran presence” as a reason for signing I immediately insert over the hill and cheap in place of that phrase. Wasting resources on second tier players or trying to make do with castoffs doesn’t make sense if you want to win.  Hoarding prospects and waiting for next year is a never ending frustrating process. Prospects are just suspects and are meant tot make the team stronger. Sometimes that means trading them for something we need now even if they turn into good players in a few years. The Braves spent a lot of money this off season and the fan base is ready to win now.  It’s time for the GM to go big or go home.  That means a Shields, Peavy, De La Rosa, or Santana level arm and not a Volquez or with all due respect, the unproven big fish in a small pond  Bud Norris.  That’s my take, what’s yours?

Tags: Atlanta Braves Tim Hudson

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