Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Fifth Starter Hunting

While a rebuild is in place, the Braves still need to add to next year's squad. During a Q&A with David O'Brien, John Hart even talked about the need to go searching for a starting pitcher. But who? At this point, the market is still heavily saturated with starters, but many are likely not exactly what the Braves should be searching for. Obviously, bargain hunting and signing James Shields do not mix. Plus, there is several approaches to consider. Do the Braves go after a veteran, either looking toe extend his career or looking to re-establish value after a down year? How about a guy who won't win any awards, but could hold down a job for a couple of seasons? Or should the Braves get back into the trade market and target a team-controlled guy who might be part of the 2017 roster we keep hearing so much about?

For my part, I would go with the first approach. My rationale is that for a team looking to rebuild, they could benefit from grabbing a veteran on a one-year pact and if he produces, sell him off for a prospect at the deadline. Sure, chances are you won't get a star in return, but the Pirates got both Andrew Lambo and James McDonald for Octavio Dotel in 2010. While Dotel wasn't a starter, the idea is that that one-year stopgap could turn into a player or two that might help at some point. Being that the team who acquires this veteran is likely looking at what he's already providing the Braves (dependable innings as a reasonable salary), a team looking to shore up their staff for the stretch run could pay well for the services of our unnamed pitcher. Also, the Braves could theoretically send cash if the interested team is in a bind, which also improve the quality of the prospect.

With that in mind, here's seven to consider. Warning: nobody on this list will excite you. You'll avoid drafting them for your fantasy league. The only positive reaction you'll have is to know that a worse pitcher wasn't signed or that the job was David Hale's.

Kevin Correia - RHP - Tough to find a pitcher who is less impressive than Correia. He wasn't doing so hot with the Twins ahead of his late season move to the Dodgers (traded for a player to be named or cash) and was roughed up then, too. He doesn't have the marks that we would expect from a guy who could potentially have an impressive season and gain a prospect in return. If you're a week away from camp and need to grab an arm, Correia is worth a look, but he's an ugly choice otherwise.

Roberto Hernandez - RHP - Not to be confused with Boom-Boom, the former Fausto Carmona had a decent ERA ahead of his trade to the Dodgers (who grabbed every "meh" starting pitcher last summer). The sabermetric numbers give him no positive marks, though. However, for a few months of decent pitching, the Phillies got a pair of prospects from the Dodgers and while both prospects are years away, they fit the idea of potential sleepers that help build a system. Carmona is homer prone, but in a park that plays down homers like Turner Field, you might fool a team into thinking the old Fausto is back. Compared to others on the market, I would have to be Correia-level desperate before taking a chance on Hernandez.

Kyle Kendrick - RHP - I wouldn't think Kendrick would get to the point this offseason where a one-year deal would be all he could find, but the still just 30-year old might think getting away from Philly's park, where has given up over half of his homers, will go a long way toward getting him a better deal next winter. In that respect, he does fit into our plans, but again, I do think a team will give him multiple years and I'm trying to stay away from committing money to non-core players. Oh, and I'm not keen on the idea of giving a guy with a career 4.42 ERA multiple years.

Paul Maholm - LHP - This guy again? Here's the deal with Maholm. I see his numbers with the Dodgers last year, too, but it's also the worst season of his career. Between 2008 and 2013, his FIP lived in the 3.78-4.24 range, an acceptable landing point for a guy we want to get roughly 20-24 starts from. His velocity remains as underwhelming as ever so the only thing I can chalk up last season's failures to was his move to the bullpen for most of the season. Returning to a park he's comfortable pitching in, Maholm could look like a solid cog at the bottom of the rotation and someone another team would target.

Kevin Slowey - RHP - The problem with Slowey for this exercise is that he has just two seasons with 150 or more innings and we are searching for innings eaters. On the flip-side, what makes him appealing is that his FIP is constantly lower than his ERA. That also makes him confusing. We should expect him to perform better than he has, but he's not only failed to that year-in and year-out, he has failed to either stay healthy or stay in the rotation. Nevertheless, if my choice is Correia, Slowey, or Hale, I'll give Slowey a long look.

Ryan Vogelsong - RHP - A feel-good story when he came back to reach the majors in 2011, Vogelsong's numbers have taken a bit of a tumble the last two seasons, though he pitched just about as well last season as he did in his 14-9, 3.37 ERA year of 2012 when you delve deeper into his FIP and xFIP. One issue he has had over the last two seasons is a declining groundball rate, which has led to a higher line-drive rate. That never works out for the pitcher. He also has thrown a lot more cutters the last two seasons rather than his two-seam fastball which can help explain why he's getting fewer groundballs. Maybe using his cutter more sparingly will help him recapture his former glory, at least until the Braves trade him.

Finally, there's Aaron Harang. Coming off his best year since the Bush administration, he should be able to get a two-year offer somewhere and I would hope that it didn't come from the Braves. He had a great year (for him, at least) last season and it wasn't only smoke-and-mirrors, but hoping for lightening to strike twice (or three times in a two-year pact) is chancing our luck. However, if he wants to go the one-year route, he's as good as any of the above to post a reasonably effective season and get some trade interest.

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