So with Brandon Beachy gone for the rest of the season and for that matter half of next season, what will this mean for the Braves rotation moving forward?
General Manager Frank Wren will have to make the decision of whether or not to pursue another veteran starting pitcher for the rest of this year. The price of some of the potential available pitchers might make it tough, considering the financial restraints placed on the team by Liberty Media.
But overall, the depth remains fairly solid, even when looking at next year.
We know Tim Hudson has an option for 2013. It’s hard to imagine the Braves not picking up that $9 million dollar option. Hudson has pitched well since his return from back surgery. He’s a veteran pitcher (37 next month) and that is useful with a rotation full of young arms.
Tommy Hanson has bounced back nicely after missing the second half of last season. He’s on pace for 15 or more wins this season, so Hanson is slowly becoming the ace of the team at 25 years old.
Randall Delgado is establishing himself as a major league starter. His season ERA is down to 4.12 and it’s even lower since May 1 (3.31). Delgado is only 22 years old, so he’s cheap and will be around for many years to come.
Mike Minor is trying to find some consistency in his game. He’s pitched much better in the two games against the Yankees. Being the only left-hander gives Minor an edge, but he’s got to pitch effectively to keep his major league job.
The top four (Hudson, Hanson, Delgado and Minor) is a pretty decent bunch. It’s not great, but OK. But the uncertainty starts with the last spot, caused by Beachy’s injury.
Jair Jurrjens is the big question mark. He’ll have a shot to resurrect his career on Friday in Boston. If he does well, he will stay in the rotation. If not, he could be headed back to Gwinnett. The leash will probably not be very long. The Braves would love him to do well enough to increase his trade value, as he’s unlikely to be offered a contract this winter for next season.
If Jurrjens falters, Kris Medlen could ease into the rotation. It’s been almost two years since Medlen had his own elbow crisis, but he’s done well this season in his return. Medlen could go back to the rotation or stay in the bullpen. His versatility is very valuable to this team.
Julio Teheran is almost finished with Triple-A. He returned there this season after winning 15 games in Gwinnett last year. He did well when he was called up for a spot start two Sundays ago, and it will be interesting when he gets his next opportunity to see if he’s done with the minor leagues.
Zeke Spruill and Sean Gilmartin are having good seasons in Double-A Mississippi. They could be in the mix next spring if a fifth starter is needed. Most likely, they’ll both head to Gwinnett if they are not used in trades.
So Jurrjens is the wildcard here. He can stay in the rotation if he can be effective, but that’s a big ‘if.’ Jurrjens has a lot to prove after his awful start in Atlanta earlier this year.
Even if Jurrjens does not make it, the Braves could be ok for the rest of this year with Hudson, Hanson, Delgado, Minor and either Medlen or Teheran. Sure, it might not be a bad thing if they could bring in another starting pitcher, but it would have to be a perfect fit, especially financially. And they’d only make the decision to pursue another starting pitcher if they knew what they have now isn’t good enough.
But Wren might have to ask the question: “If the Braves got into the playoffs, would a trio of Hudson, Hanson and either Delgado or Minor be good enough to compete against another playoff team?”
Those six pitchers would also be in the mix for next season, although there’s little doubt a deal could be made where one pitcher would be used in a trade to bring in another bat, especially with an eventual need for a third baseman.
The Braves have a lot of money coming off the books this winter (possibly as much as $33 million), so they might also be tempted to get into the race for one of the top free agent starting pitchers. Zack Greinke has long been a target for Atlanta. He’s going to cost a lot of money, but Greinke has always wanted to pitch for the Braves and it might be a match.
It will also be a plus knowing Beachy should be back in the middle of next season. That could be a big help getting him back for the second half of 2013.
So there is still a lot of quantity, even with the loss of Beachy. The question, however, is how much quality remains after losing a pitcher that was destined for the All-Star Game.