Teams interested in Braves pitching surplus
The Rockies and D-backs both sent scouts to watch Tim Hudson make his return last night. Like Hudson, these clubs are wondering whether the Braves will bring the veteran right-hander back to Atlanta next year.
Even as recently as the All-Star break, it appeared the Braves weren’t going to be willing to bring both Hudson and Javier Vazquez back next year.
But while there’s still a chance that one of them will be gone before the start of the 2010 season, there’s also a growing sense that both could return to provide Atlanta with a rotation that would be deeper than any of the great ones it possessed during the 1990s.
Hudson’s contract includes a $12 million club option and $1 million buyout for the 2010 season. Vazquez’s cost of $11.5 million next year would be a definite bargain if he were capable of repeating the successful season he’s created this season.
If the Braves were to enter the 2010 season in possession of each of their current six starters — Derek Lowe ($15 mil), Hudson ($12 mil), Vazquez ($11.5 mil), Kenshin Kawakami ($6.7 mil), Jair Jurrjens (approx. $500K) and Tommy Hanson (approx . $450K), they would do so at a combined cost in the neighborhood of $46 million, which would eat up nearly half of their expected payroll.
With Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano eligible for free agency, there’s a chance the Braves could choose not to bring either of these closers back and opt to have Peter Moylan fill that role at the approximated $1 million cost he may gain through his first arbitration-eligible season.
With Chipper Jones ($13 mil), Brian McCann ($5.5 mil), Nate McLouth ($4.5 mil), Matt Diaz (approx $2 mil), David Ross ($1.6 mil), Omar Infante ($2.25 mil) Yunel Escobar (approx. $500K), Martin Prado (approx $500 K), the Braves have approximately $30 million tied up in their position players and that’s without including the cost for a first baseman or outfielder.
If you assume that the Braves bring Ryan Church back at around $3.5 million next year, then you could put their projected known costs at around $80 million.
Then if Adam LaRoche was willing to stick in Atlanta for another year or two with an average annual salary of about $6 million, the Braves would still be in position to account for non-arbitration guys (Kris Medlen, Eric O’Flaherty, etc.) and still satisfy their budget.
There’s no guarantee that the Braves will be willing to offer LaRoche this much during an offseason where a number of 1B/OF types will be available. But I just wanted to throw that high-side figure out there to show that he could fit into a mix that would also include each of these starting pitchers.
While trying to show the Braves could have the financial means to keep each of these six starters, I’ve included a lot of loose variables.
But at the end of the day, does it make sense to keep all of these arms? Would it be more prudent to move Vazquez to gain prospects and have the opportunity to at least make a run at keeping either Gonzalez or Soriano, who will be Type A free agents?
While there’s reason to wonder if Vazquez has found his comfort zone in Atlanta, history also shows that he’s had trouble putting together two consecutive strong seasons. So should the Braves at least attempt to gain the solid return they could gain by dealing him?
If the Braves simply chose to pay Hudson’s $1 million buyout, the only thing they’d be gaining is financial relief. He currently doesn’t qualify as a Type B free agent.
Or maybe it makes sense to gain some financial relief by attempting to trade Kawakami, who wouldn’t provide the same kind of return as Vazquez.
The Braves may not have as many needs to fill as they did during last year’s offseason. But as the D-backs and Rockies have proven, there are already a number of teams wanting to know how they’ll deal with their surplus of starters.
Church returns, Chipper sits: Ryan Church’s ability to return to Wednesday night’s lineup provided Chipper Jones to get a night off. Jones’ back was a little sore on Tuesday night. But he will likely return for Thursday night’s series finale.
Short bullpen: Soriano threw 66 pitches while making appearances each of the past three days. So the Braves will likely utilize Gonzalez or Moylan as their closer tonight. Gonzalez and Moylan have pitched both of the past two nights.
While Gonzalez threw 31 pitches through this span, Moylan totaled just 10.