During yesterday’s press conference to re-introduce Freddie Freeman to media members that had been ignoring him before this franchise-record contract extension, Frank Wren was asked about how this big contract fits into the context of the club and future expectations:
“We’re looking at how we can keep our team together, especially our young, homegrown players, and we have a lot of collaboration from (Braves CEO) Terry McGuirk and (team president) John Schuerholz to make sure this franchise stays strong. And we looked at how we could strategize to make that happen.”
“There is also an element of the new situation in Cobb County that allows us to be more competitive, and I think it’s evident by this signing,” Wren said. “So over the course of the last two months we put a lot of planning into it, and we’re excited that we’re able to keep one of the best young players in the National League a Brave for the next eight years … and hopefully much longer after that.”
There are a lot of business terms used in there: looking, planning, strategize, collaboration.
Well, Frank is staying on that plan. There’s word this morning that he’s still on the prowl:
Also on Hot Stove with Freeman signed long term, heard #Braves want to try to do pre-arb extended deals with Simmons/Teheran
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) February 6, 2014
Music to the ears of Braves’ fans. Almost everybody in Braves’ country want to see all-leather Shortstop Andrelton Simmons locked up for … oh, maybe a decade or two. I won’t belabor that point. The surprise is actually seeing Julio Teheran‘s name included in this tweet.
Why? Because pitchers are fragile. Because long-term deals for pitchers are risky. Because pitchers are inconsistent. Because the road to the Hall of Fame is littered with pot holes, ditches, broken pavement, and the remains of pitchers through the decades.
The Braves themselves have a ton of these guys that they can point to: Damien Moss, Kevin McGlinchy, Terrell Wade, John Leroy, Jimmy Osting, Luis Rivera, Brett Evert, Scott Sobkowiak, Matt McClendon, Matt Belisle, Bill Sylvester, Christian Parra, Jung Bong, Bubba Nelson, … I’ve got literally two dozen more names.
> All of these guys were top ten prospects in the Braves system.
> None of them threw more than 60 games in the majors.
So why try to extend Julio Teheran?
1. So far, he’s been injury free. Over 5 years in the minors and majors, he’s been consistently extending his innings count. Now on the cusp of a 200 innings year, he’s managed to avoid issues with shoulders, elbows, back, and legs. That despite attempts to change his delivery to something “safer” in 2012.
2. He’s still very young. Julio is still nearly the youngest on the entire 40-man roster (just turned 23 ten days ago). With 2013’s 14-8 record and 3.20 ERA, he’s established himself – already – as a top-half-of-the-rotation major league pitcher. The Braves have seen him for a while now and they know what they’re going to get.
3. Long-term deals in this context are a lot more about managing risk rather than avoiding risk. Having a pitcher under contract for 5 or 6 years doesn’t mean that you hope he’ll be pitching that entire time. You structure the contract terms with the assumption that he’ll be available maybe 70-80% of that time. More is gravy. Less is still acceptable given that you’ve planned for it.
So even if Julio were to, say, undergo Tommy John surgery in the midst of a long-term deal, then that’s clearly not ideal, but still acceptable: it’s part of the calculus that goes into the planning that Frank Wren spoke about.
This is exciting news that is coming up here at the end of a relatively slow off-season (though the caveat is that these deals are incumbent on agreement from both sides). I’ve written at length about how payroll issues could continue to hamper this club as others pony up and the Braves stay stagnant. Clearly, the upper management of the Atlanta Braves has been working very hard to look for new revenue (the new stadium) and creative means (strategic long-term deals) to secure at least some of their best young talent for as long as possible