Monday, November 10, 2014

Notes: Medlen, Gattis

I don't want to get too bogged down with current news while I still have two posts to write about where the Braves stand with the left side of the infield and the outfield, but I felt these little snip-its were important enough to discuss.

First, DOB reports the Braves are at least kicking the tires on bringing back Kris Medlen for 2015. DOB says "it's believed" that a return for Medlen is an option, albeit at a decreased rate than what is likely in arbitration. It is not specified why that is believed, but regardless, let's investigate this as a possibility. With Ervin Santana as good as gone, Aaron Harang unlikely to return, and the Gavin Floyd Experience likely coming to an end, the Braves have a lot of innings to replace and that's not getting into the questions surrounding Mike Minor. While Medlen will probably need time at the beginning of the year to finish his recuperation, sometime before June 2015, he likely would be ready to join the staff. Is that a choice the Braves should make?

It all comes down to money. I've been saying since last spring after the injuries occurred that if their rehabs were going well, you could give either Medlen or Brandon Beachy an offer that was heavy on incentives to come back. Basically, a two-year deal where they a suppressed salary with incentives in the first year. The second year could be both a vesting clause and a mutual option. How would this contract look like in pure numbers? Let's say $3.5M in 2015 with $500K increases for 100, 125, 150, and 175 innings along with $250K increases for finishing with votes for the Cy Young, MVP, for being on a postseason roster, and postseason awards. In the second year, if he pitches 175 innings, he books $9M right away. If not, his salary starts at $6M and can climb based on innings. If he pitches 100 innings in 2015, he could earn $6.5M. Another half-million for 125 and another half-million for 150. Or he could decline the contract and hit free agency. Or the Braves could decline his return.

Seems complicated? It has to be for the Braves to both cover their own asses and attract the player's attention. What is more likely is that the Braves will offer a "make-good" contract for one season. For Medlen, it would be his final year of arbitration. Beachy has another year to go. The Braves will still need another starter even if they go this route with one of their injured hurlers. Their rotation depth is not where it needs to be.

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Elsewhere, Joel Sherman tweets that the Braves are pushing Evan Gattis hard. First, oh my. Second, no team is ever pushing a good MLB player hard. They might let you know he's available, but the Braves wouldn't be pushing Gattis hard like they would with B.J. Upton. Third, we were already aware of this.

The Braves have precious little that will excite other teams for a trade that Atlanta is willing to get rid of. Gattis, though, fits the bill. He's cheap, has a big bat, and can even catch. For an American League team, that sets up for an intriguing situation, especially when they can DH Gattis at least half of the time.

There are two ways of going about this. One, use Gattis to improve a weakness. Some have speculated that a Gattis for Jeremy Hellickson trade (with other pieces likely) makes sense. After all, the Braves need starting pitching depth. However, this deal swings heavily in the Rays favor so another player (or even two) needs to be added. Hellickson is a back-of-the-rotation guy whose ERAs in 2011-12 masked how mediocre he is. Is there value for 170-180 innings of 4.30 FIP? Some. Not a lot, though, especially when the guy is arbitration-eligible.

Remember I said there are two ways? The other way is to package Gattis with a bad contract, like the aforementioned Upton or Chris Johnson, for what is almost certainly going to be the kind of deal you come away from saying "well, at least we don't have that guy anymore." This would be a sad way to lose a marketable piece like Gattis, but long-term, it would open up money for the Braves to use. Of course, that last part depends on how much the Braves will still have to cover.

Overall, I think Gattis is being shopped around and has a good shot of being traded. Sure, the Braves will have to replace his production, but you trade from strengths and right now, catcher is one of those for the Braves. It'll be interesting to see just how much they can get for an older player going into his third-year.

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