Mar 10, 2014; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija in the dugout against the San Francisco Giants at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Five Options to Shore Up the Braves’ Rotation


Nope, we still don’t know the complete answer about Kris Medlen – but for certain, he’s going to out for multiple months – and could be done for the year.   We think Brandon Beachy will be okay, though I expect he will be shut down for 1 month or so [update: maybe reg season week 3].  No, we’ve heard nothing more about Mike Minor since word that he could start the season on the disabled list. [update: maybe week 2]

We do know that Gavin Floyd is going to be out through May (plus or minus), and given the recent track record of pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery (he had that and more), we certainly can’t count on Floyd for 7 innings per start from June straight through the rest of the season.

That leaves an opening day rotation of… Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Freddy Garcia, David Hale… and then maybe Minor and Beachy if we’re lucky.  And to think that roughly $1 million more would have retained Tim Hudson.

So what can the Braves do?  Without declaring a preference, here are five mostly-real-life possibilities:

 

Ervin Santana. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Ervin Santana

Already written too many words about why this is a good fit, but the facts declare this for certain:  he is the most readily available arm out there.

 

Jeff Samardzija

Fellow hurler Matt Cain had some kind words to say about the Cubs’ #1 pitcher yesterday, regarding being on the trade block:

“Definitely. I mean, you even see it now,” Cain said. “He’s a bulldog guy out there. He’s a guy that’s not comfortable to face, a guy that throws that hard with a nasty split and slider like that.  “He would be an asset to anybody that’s in a race.”

Samardzija is on his second arbitration year, so he is still under team control through 2015.  He’s also genuinely affordable – cheaper than even Medlen.  The problem?  The price that the Cubs wish to extract in exchange for his services.  He is their best trade chip, and this entire off-season, the Cubs seem to have been telling teams that he’s the reincarnation of “Three Finger” Mordecai Brown.  Witness this from Mark Bowman in mid-December:

While thoughts of landing Price might have only existed in the fantasy world, the Braves were genuinely interested in finding out what it would take to bring Samardzija to Atlanta. That interest quickly died when the Cubs indicated they would be looking for a return package that included either Jason Heyward or Justin Upton.

Yeah – that’s Heyward or Upton plus more The Cubs seem to be a lot closer to Fantasyland than the Braves.  They need near-major league-ready talent… not the established stars.  We’ll see what they end up with, for Samardzija should be traded – somewhere – before July 31st.  The Cubs were allegedly waiting on Masashiro Tanaka to sign (with the Yankees) to maximize interest in Samardzija… guess that didn’t happen.

 

Rick Porcello. Photo credit was not supplied

Rick Porcello… or his teammates

Yesterday, our sister site, MotorCityBengals.com, posted something entitled “Rick Porcello isn’t Going Anywhere”.  They are probably right, given that their depth is a little fuzzy, too (Jason Verlander made his first Spring start today).

Allow me to tell you why that thought could be altered:

  • Porcello is 3rd year arb-eligible this season, and is thus under control for 1 more year (2015).  He’s therefore already more expensive than Samardzija ($8.5m).  But he’s also in that prime year that teams like to move players… if they are to be moved.
  • Andy Dirks is out for 3 months.  He is the platoon partner to Rajai Davis in left field.  Davis doesn’t hit RH pitching, which is the dominant flavor in the league.
  • SS Jose Iglesias will not be ready to open the season.  That leaves a big hole at shortstop.
  • Drew VerHagen is their current #6 starter, and though a bit raw (AA last year), has been pitching well this Spring.
  • Detroit could also use somebody to spell Miguel Cabrera at first base from time to time.

A trade package involving switch-hitting Joey Terdoslavich, Tyler Greene, David Hale, and another lesser prospect might be enough to pry Porcello – or perhaps Drew Smyly – or Max Scherzer - away from Detroit.  The Braves can cover the loss of Joey T with Mark Hamilton and Jose ConstanzaTyler Pastornicky (once fully healthy) can cover for the other Tyler.  There are theories that Porcello could prosper in a National League Park, particularly one that favors pitchers as Turner Field does.  Never mind the fact that Detroit’s infield defense had been atrocious in the past couple of years.

This obviously has to be considered to be a long shot.  Detroit would probably have to received the proverbial “offer they can’t refuse” in order to move any of these guys at this point.  Don’t forget that they took a lot of justified criticism for practically giving away Doug Fister to the Nationals in December.  That was most certainly the most one-sided deal of the off-season.  That sting would be multiplied if they did this… though I suggest David Hale‘s inclusion to perhaps make that idea palatable.

 (But Lakeland and Disney World are practically next door to one another… do such a trade and everybody meets their new teammates in 30 minutes!)

 

Josh Beckett. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Beckett… or Paul Maholm

In their quest to purchase every available player in the sport, the Dodgers neglected to count their pitchers.  Right now, their rotation consists of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren, Beckett, Paul Maholm, and Chad Billingsley (not pitching yet).  Oh, and there’s Zach Lee waiting in the wings.  So somebody is likely to be available.  Trouble is, I have no idea what the Dodgers actually need since they have almost literally bought anything they wanted.

If you figure that the ultimate rotation this year could be Teheran/Minor/Beachy/Floyd with some combination of Wood and Garcia, then having somebody like Paul Maholm actually makes sense.  He could fill in the gaps and provide innings – now that he seems to be healthier now than when he left Atlanta.

 

Final Option:  Do Nothing

This strategy means the following: 

  • Go with Teheran, Garcia, Wood, and Hale to open the year.
  • Bring in Beachy and Minor when they become available (guessing 3rd/2nd week respectively)
  • Spot start David Hale as necessary.
  • Fold in Gavin Floyd when he is ready to go (late May?/early June?)

You’ve heard of “Bullpen By Committee?”  This is Rotation By Committee.

Even as I write this – and told you that I would not be declaring a preference – the fact is that this is a tortured plan than basically exposes every reason that the Braves need to make a move for a starting pitcher…. right now.  It has literally no margin for error.

If any of those guys were to sleep on a shoulder the wrong way one night or develop a blister… then the house of cards falls apart and suddenly Zach Stewart, Cody Martin or Gus Schlosser has to be rushed to Atlanta to start a game.  Yes, we like these guys, but this is not a recipe for success.  On top of the fragility of that plan, consider that the bullpen would most likely end up with as many innings as the starters – and that’s also problematic.

 

Unrealistic Ideas

  • Barry Zito.  He hasn’t retired, but he wasn’t preparing to play this year, either.  He therefore is not immediately ready, which in turn makes him unusable to Atlanta.
  • David Price.  That ship has sailed… apparently without an inquiry from the Braves, we recently learned.  The Rays are going with him at this point #ShockedHeWasntDealt
  • Any Other Major League Starter.  A report from yesterday suggested that many teams were looking for pitching.  Toronto and Baltimore are clearly searching, as both are in on Ervin Santana.  So while the Braves have limited internal options, they are actually a bit better off than some teams in that regard.

 

There we are:  the options exist, but are clearly limited.  What we’ve seen in the past is that Frank pulls a rabbit out of a hat and makes it work – for a while, at least (Ben Sheets and Freddy Garcia both come to mind immediately).  We’ll see what Frank Wren opts to pursue this time.

 

Tags: Atlanta Braves Kris Medlen Rotation

  • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

    Jon Heyman of cbssports dot com added a couple of other names, though… well, here ya go:

    “13 and 14. Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill, D-Backs SPs: Neither one is available now, but if Bronson Arroyo’s back is fine (he has a bulging disk but a history of answering every
    bell), and impressive prospect Archie Bradley makes a compelling case
    for the team, the Diamondbacks could be in the enviable pitching of
    having an excess of starting pitching. McCarthy is a free agent after
    the year. McCarthy is a sabermetric expert, so he’s a funny fit for the
    gritty D-Backs anyway.”

    >> I like the dig about DBack grittiness.

    “7. Jacob Turner, Marlins SP:
    Miami is that rare team with a glut of excellent young pitching arms,
    and folks on other teams speculate this could be the one arm the Marlins
    might move in that right deal. Miami obviously needs a loot of
    offensive help, especially on the infield, and is said always willing to
    listen. Not a great chance to move, though.”

    >> Can’t see them doing this, must less on an intra-divisional deal.

    In all cases, I don’t see a big upgrade over the internal options, though Turner could end up being a good one..

  • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

    Meanwhile… #Braves Teheran finishes 4 innings: no hits, no walks, 3 K, no base runners of any kind. #Perfect.

    And Dan Uggla has homered.

  • fireboss

    Pocello is the once and forever great prospect who has never approached anything other than mediocrity. He throws to a 4+ ERA and a 1.4 or so WHIP that dropped to about 1.3 when the Tigers got an infield that could catch the ball. They would likely take Joey T for him but he’s the last one I’d discuss – so likely the first FW will go for. I’d actually like the newly healthy Beckett a lot more but he’s expensive.

  • Ryan Cothran

    Maholm can’t be traded as he was just signed this year.
    Samardzja would be too expensive.
    Tyler Greene cannot be included in any trade package.
    We don’t really have a SS to offer Detroit.
    Beckett sounds reasonable.

    • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

      I’m pretty certain Maholm can be traded. The ’1st year’ restriction only applies to draft picks.

      • fireboss

        Free agent signings can’t be traded until June 15th without their consent and MLB approval. This is part of the CBA and is designed to to prevent quasi sign and trade transactions.

        • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

          Article XX, Section B, Paragraph (5). You are correct, sirs… I thought that had been removed.

          Nonetheless: if Maholm’s choices are (a) minor league; or (b) trade to Atlanta, I think he’d give permission.

  • rick staley

    Bite the bullet Frank. Give Ervin Santana 3/$40 million w/ team option in ’17 for $15 million w/ a $2 million buyout. Guaranteed $42 million for 3 yrs. He’s in his prime now and eats innings when mechanics are sound. If he pitches +.500 ball for length of contract he is still a better investment than Kawakami.

    What if Roger works his magic with Ervin , and he wins 15 each season thru ’16? He will sign another FA contract, and Wren will have covered himself nicely. Nonetheless, he will help save our bullpen for sure. Medlen’s not going to be toeing the rubber in Tomahawk Nation this season, and that hurts, but the season moves on!