Atlanta Braves payroll and future contracts, part one: starting pitchers

Tim Hudson Braves
Tim Hudson will be the number-one starter next year, not Derek Lowe.

After seeing our top prospects come up this year and do well (especially the bullpen), I wanted to focus an article on next year and what that roster could look like. If I was a GM, my favorite part of the job would be the offseason and building a lineup through trades or bringing up top prospects. I know it’s a tad bit early to start looking at this, but with September coming around the bend and our prospects getting the September call-up, I find it appropriate to examine which ones will be here next year. These are just my thoughts, so feel free to prove me wrong.

This year’s opening day payroll: $91,044,524.

The first segment will be on starting pitchers, then batters and finishing it up with the bullpen.

SP Derek Lowe (age 38). Current stats: 8-12 record with a 4.63 ERA in 28 games; 114 Ks in 157 innings while giving up 171 hits and walking 59; 1.462 WHIP and a horrendous 3.4 walks per nine and a low 6.5 strikeouts per nine. In his last 10 games, Lowe is an ugly 4-6 with a 5.50 ERA.

2011: $15M
2012: $15M

Notes:  Lowe is overpriced (and declining to boot!) and isn’t going anywhere unless the Braves tack on some cash in a trade this winter. I can see the Braves trying hard to trade him and, in the end, I believe they will trade him to an AL team, probably an AL Central team. It’s too early to say this was a failed signing by Frank Wren because he was one of the reasons the Bravos made the playoffs last year with his terrific September. If he can do it again this year, and pitch well into the postseason, it will only be a win-win for the Braves, as his stock would go up. Nonetheless, he will be traded. Too many prospects waiting, and the Braves basically got rid of pitching icon Tom Glavine to make room for Hanson, so why wouldn’t they do the same to Lowe?

SP Tim Hudson (age 35). Current stats: 13-8 in 177 innings with one complete game and a 3.10 ERA. Has a 1.107 WHIP and 2.80 K/BB ratio. In his last 10 starts, Hudson is 6-2 with a 2.41 ERA.

2011: $9M
2012: $9M

Notes:  Hudson isn’t the most talented pitcher on the staff, but he sure is the most dependable. If I had a playoff game on the line, he would be the one I would want to toe the rubber. Tim had a great year last year and is playing better than his career numbers this year. Maybe he’s getting wiser? Tim’s a competitor and a mentor to the younger pitchers, so expect him to stick around, although it wouldn’t surprise me to hear his name come up in trade rumors.

SP Jair Jurrjens (age 25). Current stats: In 22 games, Jurrjens has a 13-5 record and sports a 2.71 ERA. In his last 10 starts, Jair is 5-2 with a 3.50 ERA.

2011: $3.25M
2012: Arbitration. My guess would be around $4-6M

Notes: Jurrjens had a stellar first half and fell off the wagon as soon as the green flag was released after the break, although he has settled down recently.  Sports analysts stuck by their predictions that Jurrjens couldn’t keep up the pace, and they were right. He doesn’t strike out many guys and, sooner or later, the balls will find holes. Jurrjens is a bit injury prone, but who isn’t on the Braves? He’ll be a solid number-two next year.

SP Tommy Hanson (age 24). Current stats: Has an 11-7 record with a 3.60 ERA in 22 games. He’s struck out 142 batters in only 130 innings and has an amazing 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. Hanson has 5-3 record with a 4.53 ERA in his last 10 starts. He’s currently on the DL.

2011: $0.4565M
2012: $0.45M – $0.50M

Notes: The man who replaced Glavine as the next future ace still holds plenty of talent and most likely a bright future, although injuries have derailed him recently. If his most recent injury (partial tear in shoulder) is serious enough for surgery (he’s meeting with Dr. James Andrews), then he could be out all next year. Hanson had a brilliant year last year and another brilliant start to this year. He’ll be the future ace of the staff, even if Hudson is still in the rotation.

SP Brandon Beachy (age 24). Current stats: Beachy has a 7-2 record, with a 3.31 ERA and a 10.1 K/9 ratio. In his last 10 starts, he has a 3.57 ERA and a 4-1 record.

2011: $0.4165M
2012:  $0.43M – $0.45M

Notes: Beachy has been a pleasant surprise that no one expected. We expected him to pitch well, but also have his rough stretches. Well, Beachy really hasn’t had any rough patches this season. He’s been consistent. He’s been a battler. What’s more surprising is he’s striking out batters at a high rate, which isn’t what he’s known for. Expect Beachy to be mentioned in trade rumors this winter, but don’t expect him to be traded. He’s drawing praises from management and reminds us of last year’s Kris Medlen.

SP Mike Minor (age 23). Current stats: 4-2 record in 10 games. He has a 4.37 ERA and strikes out 8.4 batters per nine innings.

2011: League Minimum
2012: $0.410M – $0.45M

Notes: Minor was subject to trade rumors during the trade deadline, and a team might finally get him this winter, as he’s sure to gain more interest in the offseason. The Braves are reluctant to trade him, as he’s a promising young lefty who has drawn comparisons to Glavine, who struggled, as well, when he got a taste of the bigs back in the ’80s.  I wouldn’t expect him to be traded.

Julio Teheran
Julio Teheran, often compared to a young Pedro Martinez, will see significant time in the majors next year.

Others to be considered for 2012: Julio Teheran is 15-2 with a 2.22 ERA in triple-A Gwinnet (Baseball America #4 prospect, Braves #1 prospect), Randall Delgado is 2-2 with a 4.15 ERA in four starts (Braves #3 prospect),  Todd Redmond has a 9-8 record with a 2.97 ERA, and Yohan Flande is 8-8 with a 3.88 ERA.

While most consider Teheran and Delgado to hit the majors next year, given the current rotation, only one would have a shot to make the rotation; unless the Braves went with a six-man rotation, which isn’t going to happen. Teheran is the most logical choice as he’s had the most experience at higher levels and is regarded as the better talent.

This is how I see the starting lineup for next year:

  1. Tim Hudson – age 35 – $9M
  2. Jair Jurrjens – age 25 – Arbitration. My guess would be around $4-6M
  3. Tommy Hanson – age 24 – $0.45M – $0.50M
  4. Brandon Beachy – age 24 – $0.410M – $0.45M
  5. Julio Teheran – age 20 – league minimum
How it’s going to unfold: Lowe will be traded in the off-season. He might be traded for a bag of balls and a bench coach to be named later. Wren will not sleep until he is traded. Not that they don’t like him in Atlanta, he’s actually a great guy, but he’s just blocking top talent at this moment. He’s also the most overpriced and underperforming starter we have. More than likely, he will go to an AL Central team; possibly the Royals or Tigers? I believe Minor will start the year as the number-five starter for the Braves, and Teheran will eventually get into the rotation either by Minor being demoted or an injury to the rotation. If Hanson is out for the whole year, then Minor will be the number-four and Teheran will be the number-five. The rotation is young, and given the history of injuries, the Braves will be hesitant to trade any starter other than Derek Lowe. Beachy’s and Minor’s names will be swirling in the off-season as trade bait, perhaps for a shortstop.
Next up: the hitters.

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