No need for the Braves to attempt to upgrade rotation via the thin trade market
As Brandon Beachy labored through last night’s outing against the Rockies on Monday night, it became more apparent why before losing Tim Hudson last week, the Braves were at least contemplating the option of allowing Beachy to make one more Minor League rehab start.
Beachy’s bid to become one of the few pitchers who have ever encountered a smooth return from Tommy John surgery quickly evaporated as he allowed seven earned runs and eight hits in just 3 2/3 innings. All was not lost as he displayed his normal velocity – his fastball rested between 91-92 mph – and exited this 84-pitch outing healthy.
But when Beachy makes his next start on Saturday against the Phillies, the Braves can only hope that he displays more consistency with his slider and simply looks more comfortable than he did while making his first big league start in over a year last night.
Beachy’s less-than impressive effort did not seemingly alter the Braves plan to stay away from the less-than-impressive starting pitching market that exists leading up to tomorrow afternoon’s Trade Deadline. The potential cost of landing Jake Peavy remains far too steep and as has been mentioned multiple times over the past few days the Braves never had contact with the Royals regarding Ervin Santana, who is expected to stay in Kansas City.
After losing Hudson, the Braves did their due diligence and at least discussed the possibility of attempting to land a frontline starting pitcher. Peavy and Santana were the only pitchers that even piqued their interest.
As the Braves evaluate the potential makeup of their starting rotation for the remainder of this season, they will certainly have great interest in how Alex Wood performs against the Rockies tonight. Wood has totaled 7 1/3 innings in his only two previous Major League starts. But it’s not necessarily fair to judge him on those outings — both against the Mets.
Wood’s June 18 start came three weeks after he had left Double-A Mississippi’s rotation to join Atlanta’s bullpen. His four-inning performance at Citi Field last week was just the third start (Major League and Minor League combined) that he had made since late May. Had Paul Maholm not injured his wrist five days earlier, Wood might have had a chance to make at least two starts with Triple-A Gwinnett before making his return to the Majors.
If Wood proves effective tonight, and again on Sunday in Philadelphia, the Braves might at least gain some confidence that he would be capable of filling a rotation spot if necessary during the regular season’s final two months. But with the expectation that Maholm will be ready to rejoin the rotation on Monday, Wood might spend the next couple of weeks either in Atlanta’s bullpen or Gwinnett’s rotation.
Yeah, I know that I am the one who has indicated the possibility that Wood could replace Kris Medlen in the starting rotation. That was simply a product of the reporting process. Those were not my thoughts alone and it was a mindset that was developed before the Braves lost Hudson’s veteran presence from their rotation.
Medlen provided some signs of encouragement as he displayed improved fastball command while limiting the Cardinals to two earned runs in six innings on Sunday night. This year has been a battle from the start for the ever-competitive Medlen, who has simply not found the form that enabled him to post a 0.97 ERA in the 12 starts he made after joining the rotation at this time last year.
Still it is hard to ignore the fact that Medlen has posted the fourth-best ERA (2.63) among all qualified Major League starting pitchers dating back to July 31, 2012. The only pitchers who rank in front of him are Clayton Kershaw, Matt Harvey and Bartolo Colon.
There is certainly reason to wonder if Beachy will gain his previous dominant form before the start of next season. But regardless of how he fares, the Braves already possess the pieces to form a rotation that can preserve the club’s comfortable lead atop the National League East standings and also prove competitive once the postseason arrives.
Those who have pushed for the Braves to upgrade their starting rotation have asked if the team would feel comfortable pitting either Julio Teheran or Mike Minor against Kershaw in the first game of a postseason series. To this I ask, how many pitchers would actually fit this bill? Regardless of who you chose to put in this select list, he is not available on this year’s thin trade market.
To play off Rick Pitino’s famous line during his days with the Boston Celtics, “John Smoltz is not walking through that door fans. Tom Glavine is not walking through that door and Greg Maddux is not walking through that door. And if you expect them to walk through that door, they’re going to be grey and old.”