Braves Have Tough Decisions Looming
Beachy had a solid rookie year in 2011, and then last season in 13 starts he had one of the lowest starter ERAs in the majors at 2.00 before suffering an elbow injury and undergoing Tommy John surgery. If Beachy picks up where he left off, he will be a top 10 starter in the National League.
So what does this mean for the 5 current starters in the Braves rotation? Fredi Gonzalez almost certainly will not go to a 6 man rotation. One of the current starters will have to exit.
When asked what will happen when injured players come off the disabled list and about the players now manning the positions playing well, Gonzalez has invoked the cliché that “in baseball, things always have a way to work themselves out.” The translation is that the manager doesn’t want to speculate about what will happen with players in the future, ’cause in reality things don’t always work themselves out. Oftentimes tough decisions have to be made.
Conventional thinking is that Julio Teheran will be sent down to AAA Gwinnett. But will that be the right move to make? Teheran has already had two seasons at AAA, and is now developing very nicely as a regular in the Braves rotation. Teheran is making adjustments, and growing every start. Will Teheran lose valuable momentum and confidence if he is optioned to Gwinnett?
I think there is risk in sending Teheran to Gwinnett with the thought of calling him back up later in the year. Young pitchers are fragile, you don’t want to yo-yo a young guy who is just starting to find his groove and pitching well.
In Teheran’s last 3 starts he has pitched 19.1 innings, and given up only 6 runs, a 2.83 ERA. Those three games weren’t against chumps either. They were against the best offensive team in the National League, the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field, the defending Eastern Division champion Washington Nationals, and the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants.
The three options I think the Braves will consider are sending Teheran to Gwinnett, putting Teheran in the bullpen, and trading Paul Maholm. The Braves will be willing to trade Maholm because his contract will expire after this season, and Maholm will command in the neighborhood of $10 to $12 million on the free agent market. The Braves don’t want to pay that much for a fifth starter, and they would rather get something for Maholm when they can, rather than getting nothing after this season is over.
The Braves also don’t want to jettison a quality starter like Maholm until they know that Beachy is not only healthy, but is pitching at a high level.
I think what you will see is Teheran going down to Gwinnett, but he will only make 4 or 5 starts there. I expect Beachy to pitch well, and Maholm to be traded in early to mid July. The Braves won’t drag out Maholm trade negotiations right up to the July 31st deadline to squeeze every last bit of value out of him. They will want to get a deal done and get Teheran back into the starting rotation.
But I’m also going to hedge my bets and say that I wouldn’t be surprised if the Braves put Teheran in the bullpen rather than sending him to Gwinnett at all.