The Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Kris Medlen left his outing against the New York Mets on Sunday with what has been diagnosed as a right forearm strain, but until he is re-evaluated by team doctors on Monday a more serious injury can’t be ruled out and his status for the start of the season has to be considered up in their air regardless. It’s a bit early to assume he has a major elbow injury, but it’s worth noting that Medlen missed most of the 2011 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August of the previous year.
Will Medlen’s injury put the Braves in the market for a starting pitcher?
One of the most notable names remaining on the free agent market, regardless of position, is pitcher Ervin Santana. The Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles were thought to be the two teams most interested in him, but a report surfaced on Sunday suggesting the Minnesota Twins offered Santana a three-year deal recently. Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes has speculated that the Braves may now have interest in Santana with Medlen’s status in doubt, but should they?
Santana has spent his entire career in the American League to this point, mostly with the Los Angeles Angels (2005-2012), and he had a solid season for the Kansas City Royals in 2013 (9-10 with a 3.24 ERA over 211 innings-32 starts). He has been durable, making at least 30 starts in five of the last six seasons and topping 200 innings four times in that span, so that alone should have him on Atlanta’s radar.
Medlen’s injury adds another level of uncertainty to the Braves’ starting rotation with the start of the season less than a month away, especially since he looked likely to be the Opening Day starter. Gavin Floyd and Brandon Beachy are each working their way back to full strength after undergoing Tommy John surgery, though Beachy made five starts for the Braves late last season and should be good to go for the start of the season.
Mike Minor may not be ready to pitch during the first week of the season after his offseason preparation was delayed by a urinary tract procedure in December and he was bothered by shoulder soreness earlier this spring, but there does not appear to be any long-term concern over his health. The remaining candidates to fill out Atlanta’s starting rotation range from a potential future ace (Julio Teheran), to largely unproven (Alex Wood) to well past their prime (Freddy Garcia), so Santana looks like a good fit on the surface.
Santana’s track record of durability should be the top attribute that makes him appealing to the Braves, with all the current question marks they have in their starting rotation, but I don’t think their situation should force them into a bidding war for his services. Minor and Beachy don’t look likely to be less than full strength very far into the season, if at all, and once Floyd is able to suit up Atlanta should have solid rotation depth as long as everyone stays healthy.
If the Braves can sell Santana on pitching for a potential playoff contender in the weaker of the two leagues, while naming their own price on a one-year deal, then I think signing him could be a good move. But if Santana retains what appears to be an inflated sense of his value, Atlanta should let another team take the risk on a pitcher that has gone unsigned far too long.