Bill Shanks

Braves must hold on to Teheran for now

Atlanta’s Julio Teheran had a 3-8 record with a 2.71 ERA this season entering his start Saturday night.
Atlanta’s Julio Teheran had a 3-8 record with a 2.71 ERA this season entering his start Saturday night. AP

Truth be told, the Atlanta Braves probably wish they could deal No. 1 starter Julio Teheran before Monday’s trade deadline. But there’s one little problem.

They can’t.

Don’t get me wrong. There are teams that would line up to make offers for Teheran, and they probably still are, even though the Braves say they will not trade him. It’s just hard to trade a No. 1 starter when the rest of the rotation is falling apart.

The Braves are rebuilding. We repeat — the Braves are rebuilding. It would help the process tremendously if they could take their No. 1 starting pitcher and get three or four significant pieces to add to the puzzle.

It’s also a weak starting pitching market, so if the Braves could trade Teheran they’d get a great return.

The problem is the Braves have just sent the supposed No. 2 starting pitcher, Matt Wisler, to Triple-A Gwinnett. Wisler’s ERA of 10.19 in his past four games (and 7.72 ERA in his past 10 starts) would earn almost anyone a ticket to the minors.

And teams can’t trade their star No. 1 pitcher if their No. 2 starter just got sent out.

No. 3 starter Mike Foltynewicz has now been elevated to the No. 2 spot, even though he’s still having his ups and downs as a young starter. More than anyone, Foltynewicz shows signs of being a dependable starting pitcher.

The fourth and fifth starters are both on the disabled list. Williams Perez and John Gant won’t be back for a couple of more weeks. We’re not even sure who is going to replace Wisler in the rotation yet. It’s that uncertain and unstable right now.

Jhoulys Chacin, Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell have been veterans in the Atlanta rotation this season, but all three have been traded. That was expected. What wasn’t expected was the struggles the young pitchers have had.

The Braves desperately need some of the young pitchers to turn a corner and to start being more consistent. Wisler was so good in June as he posted a 2.51 ERA in six starts. Then the wheels came off. There’s still time for Wisler to get it together, but the Braves need him to be a dependable starter.

Let’s forget about hoping these young pitchers turn into the next Tom Glavine or John Smoltz. How about the next Kevin Millwood or Tim Hudson. Heck, we’ll even take the next Kris Medlen at this point.

Many of Atlanta’s better pitching prospects are years away. The past two drafts have filled the farm system with solid top-of-the-rotation possibilities. That’s what gives the system its main strength. But it’s just not helping the big league team right now.

It has not helped that Aaron Blair, a highly rated pitching prospect entering this season, has an ERA of 7.99 in his 11 major league starts. When the Braves got Blair from Arizona in the Shelby Miller trade, they hoped Blair would replace Miller in the rotation. Instead, Blair is in Triple-A, but he likely will get another chance soon in Atlanta.

Sean Newcomb, considered Atlanta’s best pitching prospect, is in Double-A and is just not ready. His ERA is 4.57 in 20 starts, although he has struck out 101 batters in 100 1/3 innings. Rob Whalen, who came from the New York Mets last year with Gant in the Kelly Johnson trade, might be the closest to being ready to contribute.

It’s a shame, really. Trading Teheran could help get Atlanta some good young hitters. While Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies will be in Atlanta next year, neither has power. Teheran could be the perfect price to get the Braves a true slugger, but they just can’t afford to deal him — at least not yet.

If Wisler was not struggling and if two others were not hurt, Teheran might be the talk of baseball this weekend before the deadline. Instead, the Braves must find other ways to get more talent in this rebuilding process.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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