March 2, 2012; Orlando, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez (second from left) and bullpen coach Eddie Perez (left) watch a pop fly in the infield during a team workout during spring training at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Are the Braves Thinking 'Ace'?


What are the Braves Looking For?

It’s one thing to propose a trade for your team just out of the blue… quite another to actually see such a thing happen.  So while we stirred the pot a bit yesterday in proposing that the Atlanta Braves pursue a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays for David Price, there’s a question we haven’t actually addressed as yet – even in passing:

Is this something that the Braves themselves have any interest in doing?

Well – let’s check in with the guys who would know the best – in advance of the annual organizational meetings (this week), both Fredi Gonzalez and Frank Wren sat down with the beat writers and answered a wide range of questions. As usual, they were rather circumspect about several topics, but we can still use both their answers and the filter applied by the interviewers to make some guesses.

First, on the subject of Tim Hudson:

 

Quoting Wren – directly from O’Brien’s blog post about Huddy:

“Young pitchers, there’s going to be times where you’re going to have ups and downs,” Wren said. “We’ve experienced it with all of the guys that are in our current rotation, whether it’s Minor, Medlen, Teheran. Alex Wood. There have been ups and downs. You’re going to need more than five, and you’re going to need to create depth.

“If we make that decision to bring him back, I think there’s no reason why he wouldn’t fit. And it really goes back to what I said earlier. There’s lots of ups and downs with pitchers getting over the hump at the big-league level, so having the depth and the wisdom of a veteran pitcher like Huddy helps in that process.”

There is an “if” present there, but clearly this is a guy that would like to play more, and would like to play here.  When that happens, there’s usually not a lot of difficulty in making that call… or in getting him signed.  Note that the issue of having depth is in the front of his thinking as well.

Now:  on the topic du jourDavid Price… first, this quote from Frank Wren, gleaned by MLB.com’s Mark Bowman:

“Unfortunately, aces or top-of-the-rotation starting pitching is the most rare commodity on either the trade market or free-agent market,” Wren said. “When you look at this year’s free-agent market, there really isn’t one of those guys. Whether there will be one on the trade market, I don’t know. We recognize that will be an area of need.”  (emphasis added)

Bowman definitely figured out what Wren was saying there, as he went on to write this:

“While spending a portion of this week with his coaches, scouts and top staff members, Wren will discuss the potential of landing Tampa Bay’s David Price or any other starting pitcher who might become available on the trade market.”

 

Now:  several more tweets on the subject from David O’Brien (ordered for clarity – not by date):

 

 

 

 

 

What should we take away from these quotes?

  • There is a recognized need for a #1/Ace-like starting pitcher – even with the knowledge that there is a “full” rotation already available.
  • That statement was made during the same set of interviews in which Wren declared that they wanted Tim Hudson back.  In other words, it’s not necessarily an either/or situation.
  • While Wren would never specify David Price by name, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (though I can technically claim to have been at one time in my life) to figure out that there aren’t many available this off-season – via free agency, trade, or falling off a Cuban fishing boat near Hispaniola.  Price is clearly the class of the few.  And he himself recognizes that he’s likely to be dealt before Spring.

 

Okay, So Who Is Available?

We’ll get into the topic of exactly what other pitchers could be available via trade later on:  dollars will matter somewhat; prospects will likely matter more.  It is a legitimate question as to whether the Braves will be able to muster a package significant enough to interest the Rays – or anyone else – in yielding their prized pitching stalwart.  So that requires more space.  In the meantime…

With regard to the availability of free agent pitchers, here’s the list:

  • Masahiro Tanaka.  In the Japanese League, Tanaka will be bid upon early and often by the big money teams.  His acquisition will require cash – and lots of it.  That all but rules out the Braves, who could not afford even the up-front posting fee that would be required.
  • Ervin Santana.  His signing will require cash – no prospects – but also the loss of a first round draft pick.  The Braves lost theirs last year when signing B.J. Upton, though picked up Jason Hursh in the compensation round after Michael Bourn was inked by Cleveland.  But I see him as a #2/#3… not a #1, and certainly not an Ace.
  • Matt Garza.  This is definitely not the Ace guy you’re looking for.  The AL was not very kind to him.
  • A.J. Burnett.  Had a very good year, yes.  Yes, he’s also the guy that Wren lost in a bidding war with the Yankees back in 2009 (getting us Derek Lowe instead).  I do occasionally wonder if both teams would have been better off if those choices had been reversed, but never mind.  Burnett is almost 37 years old – he even hinted at retiring after this season.  He is not the pitcher he was… well, maybe he never was ‘that guy’, except in spurts.  Move on.
  • Hiroki Kuroda.  Does anybody really think he’ll pitch anywhere except in New York or L.A.? And even as good as he has been, he will be 39 in February.
  • Josh Johnson.  Repeat after me:  “when he’s healthy, he’s as good as anybody.”  He has 7 years, 26 days of major league service time… spread over 8+ calendar years.  In 4 seasons, he’s failed to pitch 100 innings.  He’s exceeded 200 exactly once.  Somebody will nonetheless sign him.  Hope it isn’t Atlanta.
  • Tim Lincecum.  This guy scares me.  So did he really learn how to pitch again near the end of 2013 after two pedestrian years in 2012-13?  I don’t know if I want to take that risk.  Injury is also a possible concern given his frame and his style of throwing.
  • Roy Halladay.  Wasn’t ready to come back at the end of last year.  Time will tell – could be a steal for somebody, but he’ll be 37 next year, and shoulder trouble is difficult to overcome at any age; much less for a pitcher.
  • Ubaldo Jimenez.  Much better in 2013 – best year since a 2009-2010 breakout.  He’s good, but is he that ace?  Not exactly.
  • Ricky Nolasco, Bartolo Colon, Bronson Arroyo, Scott Kazmir… no.  Just no.

 

Enough For Now

So shockingly enough, the Braves are indeed thinking like we are here:  there is a need for a top-of-the-rotation starter.  It would be kinda cool if we could have two left-handers from Vanderbilt in our stable (Price and Mike Minor).  But even better if slotting in such a player could make the rest of the rotation that much better by improving the look of our 2/3/4/5-hole starters.

This could be yet another interesting winter coming up.

 

The Disclaimer

For the record, our writers here have been bandying about this topic for more than a week now as well; last weekend, we planned to go ahead with the stories posted this week.  But we cite these guys today as corroboration of those reports – and of course, we have also taken the logical next leaps in thinking as well (i.e, some about the money issues and the trade pieces).  I’ll also note the Jeff Schultz of AJC.com may also have written something in this topic area, but as a non-subscriber, I can’t even tell you the direction in which he went.  :D

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Tags: Atlanta Braves Frank Wren

  • fireboss

    I read Shultz’ blog (it’s free still shhhhh) he’s exactly where we are, get the ace dump Uggs.

    • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

      Huh – I got stopped at the pay window when I tried to click through.

  • rick staley

    Agree with you fireboss. If we can get a 10th-15th round draft pick and send $18-20 million along to brain-dead buyer for Uggs…I’ll be smiling.

    Price is the only #1 I would go after if that’s the course Wren chooses (hopefully).
    Would be nice to trot this rotation out come next April:
    1.Price
    2.Medlen
    3.Minor
    4.Teheran
    5.Beachy/Huddy….allow Hale & Wood the opportunity to toil in the pen to begin 2014 because I just don’t see Wren keeping EOF & Venters next season granted they are healthy come May. Braves have several raises in arbitration to dole out. Not enough ca$h in Wren’$ pocket to keep an expensive pen & digest $20 million 4 Uggs departure…imho.