Where Do We Go From Here? 2013, Free Agency and Trades, Part 2 (by Ryan C)

Editor’s note: this is the second of Ryan C’s three posts on improving the Braves via free agency and trades. The first is here.

I don’t think that we’ll rely exclusively on organizational talent to fill the holes in our 25-man roster, which means that the Braves will need to improve via free agency or trade. So here are some potential targets for the starting rotation.

Free Agents

As I wrote in my previous piece, the Braves have about $82 million committed to 20 players, after factoring in guesstimates for arb-eligible players. The problem with looking at the free agent market for an “ace” is that a pitcher of that quality will obviously want a multi-year contract. Unless there’s a serious trade that goes down — or Liberty Media decides to spend some of that delicious money they’ve been collecting — the Braves have little financial flexibility this season, and even less next season. If the Braves are going to go after an “ace,” they’ll have to consider fallen-from-grace aces.

These type of players would probably be willing to take 1-year incentive laden contracts to rebuild value. This type of contract would be ideal for a team like Atlanta as it provides an appropriate stopgap for our other potential aces. In this post, I’ll focus on the short list of the aforementioned type of players. (DOB says that the Braves will not be looking for a player like this, but DOB BE DAMNED!)

  1. Roy Halladay: Halladay has not been healthy for a while. He stopped throwing a 4-seamer at the end of 2011, a pitch in which he’d thrown almost ¼ of the time, and his velocity has dropped 3 straight years. In 2013, it was obvious he was not the pitcher he’d once been. In mid-May, Roy underwent surgery to repair just about everything in his shoulder. It didn’t help. He left a start in September after 1 inning topping out at 83 MPH. His exit reminded me of this clip from the Royal Tenenbaums and left many to question whether he’d pitched his last pitch. There’s obvious issues here and there’d have to be many doctors to sign off on his health, but it is Roy Halladay and I’m sure someone will take a flier on one of the greatest pitchers this last decade. Why not?
  2. Johan Santana: He missed all of 2013 due to his 2nd shoulder surgery. He’ll still only be 35, but 35 and 2 shoulder surgeries and 35 and a clean bill of health are much different. His fastball can barely reach 90 and he hasn’t been ACE! material in 5 years.
  3. Phil Hughes: “Ace” may be a bit strong here, but that’s what the Yankees thought they’d be getting from him when he was a prospect. Hughes was everything that one would want as a starter coming out of the minors. He had 2-3 plus-pitches, showed brilliant command (a 2.2/9 BB ratio and a 0.9 WHIP), and looked to have the frame to be a workhorse. Now, some scouts say that his fastball is straight and that he has lost 2-3 MPH over the course of his career. On the other hand, some attribute his homer prone ways to the short porches and heavy offenses in the AL East, which suggests that a change of scenery could rejuvenate his career. The amazing thing: he won’t turn 28 until June.
  4. Joba Chamberlain: Like Hughes, Joba was supposed to be the next ace for the Yankees organization. (Remember, both were declared untouchable when the Yankees were pursuing a trade for Johan Santana in 2007.) When he was 21, he had an upper-90’s fastball and two other plus-pitches and was briefly the best reliever in the majors. Over the following years, partly due to the needs of the team and partly due to injury concerns, they converted him back and forth from the bullpen to the rotation. He developed rotator cuff tendonitis in split time between starter and reliever (which made many to question the decision to change him in mid-season). He has not been the same since. He’s a 3-pitch pitcher that rarely uses a 4th, but he can still bring the heat. He started some controversy at the beginning of this year by stating that he still envisioned himself as a starter. His HR/9 numbers suggest, like Hughes, that he needs a break from the short porches of the AL East.

    Prognosticators have been suggesting a change of scenery for him for a long time, too. As John Sickels wrote in 2011: “If I were the Yankees, I’d leave him in relief. I might consider a switch to the rotation again in a couple of years, but it would not be in the forefront of my mind and it isn’t something I’d even really talk about at this point. Joba doesn’t need the distraction. A change of scenery might do him some good, too.”

When looking at trading for a pitcher, we may get good value on a one-year rental. Here are some targets we might want to look at, with information on their current contracts (and their ages at the end of their contracts):

  1. Brett Anderson (27): $12MM club option with a $1.5MM buyout- Will make 8.5m in ‘14 and had a horrendous ’13. Could be a bad contract swap for Uggla with the Braves kicking in 15 million or so.
  2. Homer Bailey (29): Coming off of his best year, he’ll likely be expensive, even as a rental.
  3. Josh Beckett (35): Injured year and a 15 million contract in tow for 2014 makes Beckett another bad contract swap candidate.
  4. Chad Billingsley (30): $14MM club option with a $3MM buyout- Coming off of a TJ year, Billingsley will likely be ready in May and could also be a buy-low/bad contract swap type of trade.
  5. Wei-Yin Chen (29): $4.75MM club option with a $372K buyout- Signed cheaply for next year and a cheap option for the year following. Cheap deal likely means an expensive get.
  6. Kevin Correia (34): Signed cheaply for next year but is a fringe starter for much of his career. He’s been very dependable over the last 3 years.
  7. Ryan Dempster (38): After his 2nd mediocre year, Dempster could be a buy-low candidate. However, his 13 million dollar contract would be hard to swallow.
  8. Yovani Gallardo (29): $13MM club option with a $600K buyout- A victim of the ‘13 Brew-Crew Slumber, Gallardo could be a buy-low candidate, but it’ll still cost quite a bit to get his services.
  9. Jon Lester (31): Any Starting Pitcher from the World Series Champs will come with an inflated price tag.
  10. Justin Masterson (30): Been an innings eater the last three years, and pretty darned good in two of the three. He won’t be cheap.
  11. Brandon McCarthy (31) A down year after a trade and a $10M contract makes McCarthy a buy-low candidate.
  12. Jeff Niemann (32): Didn’t pitch at all in ‘13 could be had for next to nothing, although next to nothing is likely what he’ll be worth.
  13. Jake Peavy (34) A big name but a mediocre season. Peavy costs quite a bit and, as stated earlier, will have the World Series Ring inflation applied to his cost.
  14. Max Scherzer (30) There’s nothing like selling high on a Cy Young winner. He’ll be too rich for our blood, but we might as well dream.

In my next piece, I will examine the potential trades and free agents to fill our hole at second base.

51 thoughts on “Where Do We Go From Here? 2013, Free Agency and Trades, Part 2 (by Ryan C)”

  1. Great piece – thanks! Of the candidates listed, Correia appears to best fit the mold of the type of pitchers that the Braves have gone for in the past. Of course, my bet is on someone that everyone gets upset about who winds up with a pretty decent year.

  2. From last thread:

    Even through Profar is off the table, trading Kimbrel to the Rangers could really do some good for our farm system and future offense.
    2nd Baseman- Ryan Rua- 23 y/o .872 OPS with 32 HR between High-A and AA
    3rd Baseman- Joey Gallo- 19 y/o .961 OPS with 40 HR at A-ball
    2nd Baseman- Rougned Odor- 19 y/o .884 OPS between High-A and AA with 32 stolen bases
    OF- Nick Williams- 19 y/o .879 OPS at A ball 17 HR
    1b- Brett Nicholas- 24 y/o .831 OPS at AA with 21 HR
    That is some insane hitters in one organization and I’d take a combo of 2-3 of any of these guys for Kimbrel.

    I was all prepared to drop park factor caveats on these, but TEX plays A ball in a park very similar to Rome’s offensive environment.

  3. “2nd Baseman- Rougned Odor” – I would make some kind of a trade just to have someone with that name on the team. I can imagine the nicknames – Stinky is too easy.

  4. I wrote up Lackey then took him off after I saw the clause in his contract that would renew his contract at .5MM for 2015. One would hope the Braves aren’t dumb enough to overpay for him. Kyle Lohse wouldn’t be a one-year rental.

  5. I would really, really like Rougned Odor. He’s sometimes dinged for his height, but he’s 5’11, which isn’t bad at all for second base, and all he does is hit — last year he had an .825 OPS in 425 PA in High-A, and an .884 OPS in 144 PA in Double-A, at the age of 19. He’s a couple of years off, but I’d definitely target him. Problem is, he’s not exactly unknown. The reasons I like him are the reasons a lot of other people like him.

  6. I definitely envision a trade for a starting pitcher, and as has been mentioned, there are even more options than that already long list. I think Halladay and Santana will be 6th/7th starter options for teams, so I don’t think they would be the only options we’d pick up.

    This is where I have confidence in Wren and McDowell that they’ll identify the player most likely to rebound, and he’ll have a great year in Atlanta.

    My only real questions for next season are second base and relief.

  7. My last sentimental thank you to Alex and company at Braves Journal…

    I’m a 5th grade school teacher at a school that is well-beyond ordinary. My students build their own skateboards, refurbish bikes, present real information relevant to today’s society, use their iphones as learning tools, calculate baseball stats for Math, and sing in rock-n-roll bands, learning the instrument of their choice. Being a teacher of young kids has its perks, and one of them is being a bit out of touch with reality. I know there are times when I’m very much a homer in my trade proposals or projections for players, but dammit, that’s who I’m meant to be in this world. I don’t always see things quite like others ’round here, and truthfully, my mentality meshes better with an organization like the Rays, but that’s not who I’ve loved throughout my life.

    With that being said, there’s quite a bit of editing involved in my posts, and for that, I thank Alex. Alex took my pieces and converted them into analysis rather than teetering on a child’s Christmas wishlist, and I thank him for that. My strength as a person and as a writer has never been earthly, factual writing, but living among unicorns in the clouds.

    Studies suggest that a person is most similar to the 20 people that he/she associates with, and I spend 40 hours a week with some of the most intellectual and free-minded 5th graders that most will ever come across. I’m very thankful for that, but I’m equally thankful for people like Alex who bring me down to reality with a kiss of class.

    Thanks to all that make Braves Journal and I’m more than honored to be apart of this place!

  8. @8, Yes, please. Samardzija is not only better than any pitcher on that list (except Scherzer and Bailey), he’s better than he seemed last year. Check under the hood. Samardzija the closest reasonable thing to what we need. And he’s available.

    I will buy Lucas Sims a plane ticket and a good coat for the Windy City. YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO, WREN.

  9. I think of Samardzija in much the same way I thought of Randy Johnson; I refuse to acknowledge the talent due to the mullet. For god’s sake, son, get a man’s haircut!

    That said, I would take the chance on that deal. The Mullet has skills.

    I too now must have Rougned Odor on our team. Free Rougned Odor!

  10. Oh, just as a point of future reference, should the Braves acquire Rougned Odor, I will most often refer to him as Hodor.

  11. Samardzija will cost a lot. Simms, Wood and at least one more. That being said, I would at least look at it.

    I wonder if a Simms, Wood, Gattis, Uggla and some cash for Samardzija would work?

  12. From the darkest depths of Hodor,
    I met a girl, so fair….
    Then Uggla, the evil one, crept up,
    and slipped away with her..with her…

  13. Having watched Joba Chamberlain & Phil Hughes a lot in the last several years, can’t say I’d be terribly inclined to acquire either, to be honest. Yes, they need to exit The Bronx (and they will), but both guys strike me as a little damaged at this point.

    The Yanks had a lotta bad luck last year, but there was one thing they could count on: Phil Hughes getting hit hard in the early innings at Yankee Stadium—-not the performance you want during your walk year.

    In late Aug/early Sept when the Yanks got a little healthier & they made a momentary pennant push, every Hughes start became a real slapdown moment. The last 2 months of the season, opponents hit about .355 against him. IMO, Hughes should be wearing a Padres uniform. Big stadium, little pressure.

    Some see Joba as #3 or #4 starter. I don’t it. That’s been tried & it didn’t work out so well. (He always seemed to hit 100 pitches by the 5th inning.) He strikes me as fairly disinterested these days. Unless something changes, I see him as an out-of-shape closer for a bad team.

  14. Unless I’m missing some sort of inside joke, the Zeppelin lyrics referred to the “darkest depths of Mordor”, not Hodor.

  15. I would be loathe to give up Sims or Wood alone for Samardzjia, let alone both of them (or both of them plus Gattis!). There is a perfectly good reason the guy has a pretty good xFIP but pitched to a 4.34 ERA and a 91 ERA+:

    he’s an idiot prone to fits of lunacy.

    You don’t give up lots of cheap, projectable talent for that.

  16. Anderson or Beckett swap for Uggla and money/prospects sounds good. Santana for 6 million in 2014 sounds like a smart move to me. As an expensive flyer, of course.

  17. Would Odor, Joey Gallo, and Neftali Feliz for Kimbrel and David Hale be an overpay by the Rangers?

  18. It will be interesting to see what happens with Hale this year.

    I remember after his first ML appearance, something he said about McCann encouraging him to use a pitch that he seldom used. It was either a change up or a spike curve. In the first start, that was obviously a surprise not in the scouting report. And one more start by a previous minor leaguer wouldn’t necessarily be noticed or in the scouting report.

    But, if that adjustment in approach has helped Hale step forward (maybe to an ML 4 or 3), then we will have an awfully good parting gift from McCann.

  19. The problem with the proposed deal is that you require Texas to give us Neftali Feliz, which negates much of the value of the deal to them. Feliz is going to be cheap for two more years and then he’ll be expensive, like Kimbrel, who has three years of team control but will have much a bigger salary in arbitration. Our closer is better than their closer, both in talent and in the extra year of control, but the difference isn’t massive enough for us to also ask for two of their top hitting prospects.

    If you took Feliz out of the deal, it looks a lot more reasonable to Texas. Of course, we’d still have to replace Kimbrel in the pen, but we could basically make Avilan the closer, Carpenter the setup man, and then just find a few more 7th-inning guys. We don’t need a “proven closer” like Feliz; we just need more people who know how to throw strikes when there are men on base in late innings. Frank Wren and Roger McDowell have done a pretty good job at putting those people to work.

  20. The intensity of my support for same sex marriage is contingent on Wonderful Monds and Rougned Odor tying the knot. I would throw the wedding reception for Wonderful Terrific Odor-Monds.

  21. Hodor could work, but I’m not a Thrones guy. How about Baton? Either way, Wren needs to get it done.

  22. Alright fellas, who is on your HoF ballot? Of course, if you had one.

    My ballot:

    Jeff Kent
    Barry Bonds (yep)
    Mike Piazza

    That’s all I got. I’m a Small Hall guy. No Crime Dog, no Bagwell, no Edgar or Raffy Palm. Power-hitting first basemen were dime-a-dozen back then.

  23. Bonds
    Glavine…I really should pick Mussina here, but…

    EDIT: Just wanted to throw a JACK MORRIS SUCKS in there.

    EDIT #2: Despite the good point made in @26, I still want to trade for Samardzija. I would rather not give up Wood, but a package headlined by Sims isn’t going to be enough, I don’t think.

  24. I’d prefer to hold onto Sims for one more year. You’re just not going to be able to get much for a guy in A-ball. If he follows up his great 2013 with a monster 2014, he could wind up as a top-10 pitching prospect, and then he’d have serious value, both to our organization and to others. Right now, he’s too far away to bring back anything huge in a deal.

    Of course, anything could happen — the attrition rate of pitching prospects is legendary, and that’s a big part of why no one would pay much for him now. But that’s why the Braves have to hold onto him for at least one more year.

  25. Here’s my ballot:


    I’ll have to vote for Piazza and Thomas in 2015. I’m on the fence about Martinez and Walker. Wouldn’t kill me to see them get in, but there were a whole lot of other great players in the same era, and both are a little light on counting stats — Walker couldn’t stay healthy, and Martinez didn’t become an everyday player till he was relatively old.

  26. Also, as to Palmeiro, Sosa, McGwire… I basically try to take a guy and subtract the effect of PEDs from his numbers. Even when you take a lot of air out of Bonds and Clemens, they’re Hall of Famers. I just don’t feel that way about McGwire, Palmeiro, and Sosa. It’s not necessarily all that intellectually consistent, but there you go.

  27. From Prospect Watch:

    “Shae Simmons, RHP – The diminutive Simmons (I’ve seen him listed anywhere form 5’9″ to 5’11”) has a power-arm and a mid-90’s fastball that he’s still learning how to use, especially in a relief role. He’s served as the closer in Low-A Rome this season and thrived, striking out 14 batters per nine innings. There are some command issues there, but Simmons misses enough bats to make them work. He was jumped up to Double-A towards the end of the season and still struck out 16 batters in 11 innings. If he returns there to begin the 2014 season, he could be a factor in the Braves big league bullpen by the end of the season.”

    Uh, Craig Kimbrel? He’s 21, and fits Kimbrel’s profile to a T.

  28. I love to follow oue farm and have thought the same thing about Simmons v. Kimbrel.

    The caveat is: There are a lot more guys that look like Kimbrel in the low minors than look like Kimbrel in the Majors.

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