Braves exercise options for Hudson, McCann and Maholm
Brian McCann, Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm can now begin preparing for next season with the confidence that they will indeed be back with the Braves.
The Braves announced on Tuesday that they have exercised the contract option that each of these three players had for the 2013 season.
While it has long been assumed that Hudson and Maholm would return, there was at least some reason to wonder about McCann, who could miss the first month of next season while recovering from right shoulder surgical procedure he underwent two weeks ago.
Even with the possibility that McCann could be sidelined for all of April, the Braves opted to exercise the six-time All-Star catcher’s $12 million option. Hudson’s option was worth $9 million and Maholm’s was worth $6.5 million.
McCann certainly did not look like himself as he hit .230 with 20 home runs and a .698 OPS this past season. Still the Braves certainly took notice of the fact that he was able to produce this much power while being limited by constant right shoulder discomfort.
With a thin free agent market for catchers, there is at least a remote possibility that the Braves could attempt to trade McCann over the course of the next few months. But it is much more likely that the 28-year-old catcher will be back in Atlanta for one last season.
Even before McCann struggled this season, there was a belief that highly-regarded prospect Christian Bethancourt would be Atlanta’s starting catcher by the start of the 2014 season.
If McCann enjoys a bounceback season next year, he could enter next year’s free agent market as one of the top available catchers. Given that he will be 30 years-old by the start of the 2014 season, his greatest value could be with an American League club that could use him both as a catcher and designated hitter.
Whatever the case, McCann certainly has plenty of reason to be motivated next year as he prepares to get what would likely be the last significant contract of his career. Before returning from an oblique strain too soon in 2011, his career statistics included a .291 batting average with a .361 on-base percentage and a .492 slugging percentage.
Hudson would like to end his career in Atlanta and the Braves would not be opposed to granting him this wish. But his long-term future with the club will be influenced by how he pitches next year. Given that he will turn 38 in July, there is some hesitancy to give him a multi-year deal this winter.
There were times this year where Hudson still appeared quite capable to serve as a top-of-the-rotation starter. But on the way to compiling a 3.62 ERA — his highest mark since the 4.86 ERA he produced during his career-worst 2006 season — he was routinely victimized by big innings.
Hudson allowed four runs or more in an inning in eight of his 28 starts. He had allowed that total in an inning in just two of the 33 starts he made in 2011.
Within those eight rough innings he allowed a total of 34 runs, or 44 percent of the 77 runs that he allowed over the course of the 179 innings that he pitched this year.
Hudson will be joined in the rotation by Maholm, who went 4-5 with a 3.54 ERA in the 11 starts he made after the Braves acquired him from the Cubs on July 30. The 30-year-old left-hander posted a 1.19 ERA in the nine starts that he made from June 29-Aug. 15.