Nothing is ever as sure in pitching as with regular players, but you can be pretty confident in the following:
- Tim Hudson will be in the rotation, and will probably be the Opening Day starter;
- Tommy Hanson will also be in the rotation.
Hudson is now a 10-and-5 man and team leader; he’s not going anywhere. Similarly, it would be very strange for the Braves to move a cost-controlled proven starter like Hanson, particularly with payroll likely to be tight. At a slightly lower level of confidence, but still pretty certain, is one thing:
- Derek Lowe will be in the rotation.
Lowe’s good work down the stretch and in postseason may have upped his trade value, making it a little bit likely that he would be shopped, but I don’t think it’s likely, especially as the rotation spots after him aren’t clear. Right now, the pencilled-in fourth and fifth starters are:
Jurrjens, who alternated between pitching better than he ever had before and worse, is probably more likely to pitch with the Braves in 2011 than if he’d had another good year, because it lowers his trade value. If Kris Medlen were healthy, they still might have dealt him, but as it is, I think he’ll be back. Minor is the leader right now for the fifth starter spot because he’s a lefty and because he had a good year in the minors. The assumption is that his poor work in the stretch run was because he was out of gas.
The other starters around are Brandon Beachy and Kenshin Kawakami. Beachy would seem to be the sixth starter, and I expect him to begin 2011 in Gwinnett if everyone’s healthy. I can’t imagine Kawakami will be in a Braves uniform in 2011, but at the same time I can’t imagine anyone trading for him. The Braves might have to release him and eat the last year of his contract.
All we can be pretty sure of in the bullpen, and the only guys who get the bullet points, are:
All else is flux. The only other member of this year’s bullpen who isn’t a free agent, arbitration-eligible, or on an option, is Michael Dunn; presumably he will be in the pen, but the Braves may want to give him some more minor-league work. Peter Moylan is up for his second year of arbitration and is due for a big raise just as his effectiveness has declined, and remember he turns 32 in December. I figure the Braves will either settle with him in advance or let him go. Eric O’Flaherty is up for his first year in arbitration. If he’d been healthy all year he would be a valuable trade chit; as it is, I think that Typhoid Eric will return, but I can’t be sure.
Kyle Farnsworth has a $5.25 million option for 2011 with a $500 thousand buyout. I can’t see the Braves paying that much for a middle reliever, even if they’re thin on the right side. Takashi Saito is listed as arb-eligible, but there are always peculiarities in the contracts of Japanese players, and it’s not even clear that he will pitch next year (at the age of 41). Cristhian Martinez quite likely will make the pen, but if he is anything but a long man that’s a bad sign.
Presumably, the Braves will sign at least one veteran for the back end of the bullpen to support the youngsters. I have no idea who that would be. That might leave two spots open for the usual spring auditions of fringe veterans and minor leaguers.