Braves’ fans start getting antsy this time of year, wondering what the starting rotation for the the club will look like in 2014. If fans are getting antsy, and we writers and editors feel the same, you can only imagine how the staff and management of the Atlanta Braves feel.
During the recent Winter Meetings, we waited anxiously each day, amid a great deal of talk about aces and bullpen needs, for some news of a huge move by the Braves to get that ace. Of course we all know that little was done in the way of pitching. In fact, little was done at all, and I have huge doubts that any significant acquisition will be made.
The only move the Braves made of note, in terms of pitching, was the acquisition of Gavin Floyd. While Frank Wren may be excited about the possibilities for Floyd, along with perhaps a few Braves’ fans, not all of us are equally enthusiastic. In short, it’s safe to say that Floyd is not only a risk, but potentially a big risk with a 4+ million dollar price tag attached by a flimsy piece of string, or a tendon.
According to an article by Mark Bowman, “Wren said that the Floyd signing likely ends his pursuit in regard to starting pitching; the Braves will likely begin the season with Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Brandon Beachy and Alex Wood in their rotation.”
I’m certainly not the first person to express reservations about the rotation next season, but I’ll certainly echo others who have expressed concern about the question marks surrounding Brandon Beachy, and the inexperience of and planned inning limitations for Alex Wood. With the exception of Brandon Beachy’s setbacks, which are no real fault of his own, I will say that our staff from last year pitched admirably, and there isn’t any real reason to believe they won’t do the same next season.
As good as they were though, they are all fairly young, inexperienced, and tended to get a touch shaky in games that counted. Add to that the very real concerns about whether Beachy will come out of the gate pitching like he has in the past, and these concerns leave little room for error. Yes, there is still time for the Braves to possibly bolster that rotation, but pickins’ are slim, time is short, and Frank Wren recently said, “I don’t think we’ll be actively pursuing starters at this point. You never stop trying to get better, but we do feel we have filled a major need and added depth to our rotation.”
Some of you may be thinking about Floyd. Yes, Floyd could prove to be like Freddy Garcia was last year, an unexpected and pleasant surprise, but keep in mind that even if he pitches well and strengthens Atlanta’s presence from the bump, he’s not likely to get a start until May of 2014, and that could be pushing it for a pitcher still trying to fully recover from major surgery. He could easily turn into another Brandon Beachy without the same potential command.
Of Floyd, Frank Wren has said, “We’ve been involved in a lot of different conversations, but he was a pitcher we liked a lot. We not only like his stuff, we like his makeup and everything about him. We feel like he’s really grown over the past few years, especially pitching in a tough park in Chicago.”
That may be true, but let’s not forget that Floyd is really a depth piece at best, and his numbers over the last 10 years of baseball aren’t really anything to put a ton of huge bets behind. Will he help the Atlanta Braves? Possibly, but we fans may end up looking back at those Winter Meetings and wondering if somehow Frank Wren should have done more.
I’ve said this in other articles, but I’ll repeat myself at least one more time; every team in the NL East has made pretty good strides this off-season to improve, and some I think will vastly improve! I won’t be surprised to see the Nationals do what almost every writer an analyst said they would do last year – lead the NL East. I won’t be surprised to see the Marlins, with the off-season improvements they’ve made, and their stellar pitching, considerably more competitive than they were in 2013. The Phillies never lay down for long either, and have also been making a number of important off-season moves. The Braves however, have done little. You can win 96 games in a weak division where your competition struggles, but when they improve and you do not, don’t expect the same results next season.
I hope I’m dead wrong of course, but the rotation appears to be shaping up to look just like it did, more or less, in 2013. In fact, the whole team is shaping up to look more or less just like it did in 2013. That’s perfect if your competition doesn’t change either, but that won’t be the case next year.