The season-ending injury to the Atlanta Braves’ Tim Hudson on Wednesday against the New York Mets has fueled speculation that the Braves will now be in the market for a new starting pitcher to strengthen their rotation.
Hudson was by far the most battle-tested of the Braves starters, boasting 54.2 playoff innings pitched with a 3.42 ERA. He may not be a John Smoltz or Andy Pettite when it comes to playoff performance, but his experience and veteran moxie are invaluable to the Atlanta pitching staff. In Hudson’s absence, the rotation will be some combination of Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, Julio Teheran, Brandon Beachy, Paul Maholm and Alex Wood.
This makes the Braves’ rotation one of the youngest and most inexperienced in baseball – and for all their talent, they desperately need veteran leadership at the top of the rotation. It is well known that the Braves will be buyers before the trade deadline, and they may now be in the market for a veteran arm. However, as Braves GM Frank Wren has outlined, this year’s market is much thinner than in year’s past.
The best arms available seem to be the Chicago White Sox’ Jake Peavy, Kansas City Royals’ Ervin Santana, Milwaukee Brewers’ Kyle Lohse and Houston Astros’ Bud Norris. None of these pitchers have extensive (or impressive) playoff experience and numbers. Lohse is the most experienced with 46.1 IP and a 4.86 ERA. Should the Braves go after one of these arms, Santana and Lohse provide them with the best options. Both players are having good seasons, with sub-3.50 ERAs and below-league-average WHIPs. Their records leave something to be desired (both are at .500), but that is likely more a symptom of the teams they play for than it is their pitching performances.
However, neither Lohse nor Santana give Atlanta the veteran leadership they need in the rotation. As such, it may be best that the Braves stick with what they’ve got. They should allow Wood to develop at the major league level for the rest of the season, give Beachy the chance to return to his previous sparkling form, let Minor and Teheran blossom into the potential aces they are quickly becoming and leave the fifth spot in the rotation for either Medlen or Maholm, moving the other to the bullpen.
The Braves may well dip into the trading market for a pitcher, but they certainly don’t need to. Their pitching staff has sufficient depth and talent to be able to absorb the loss of Hudson, and with the market as thin as it is, looking in-house to solve the problem is likely their best option.