Would Braves really trade Teheran? Sure they would

 

Remember during the Winter Meetings when the Braves showed interest in getting one of the elite starting pitchers available, Chris Sale or Chris Archer, but ultimately decided the asking price of multiple top prospects and/or young players was too high?

They also discussed starters Sonny Gray and Jose Quintana, but decided if they were going to trade for a starter at that time it only made sense to trade for a No. 1-caliber starter.

Julio Teheran’s name has come up in trade rumors multiple times in the past and nothing happened, but don’t dismiss the latest rumor despite Teheran’s struggles this season that would seemingly reduce his trade value. He could be dealt. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

They had already signed the two oldest active pitchers in baseball, Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey, to one-year free-agent contracts in November and traded for Jaime Garcia, and with that trio joining incumbent Julio Teheran and likely Mike Foltynewicz, they seemed to already have five starters. And Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said at the Winter Meetings that the Braves were committed to having one of their young starters in the rotation, with Folty having emerged as the clear leading candidate among a group that at that time also included the likes of Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair.

Anyway, here’s why I bring up that moment in time, that discussion. Because they kept saying they were committed to having one of their young pitchers in the rotation, yet the Braves had already added the trio of Colon, Dickey and  Garcia all on one-year deals or in the case of Garcia, on the last year of his contract, and they also had their two-time All-Star Teheran back under a very reasonable contract that still had three seasons remaining – his salaries for 2017-19 total $25.3 million — plus a $12 million team option for 2020 with a $1 million buyout.

So how would the Braves have fit a Sale or Archer (or Gray or Quintana) into their rotation if they already had added three veterans to incumbent Teheran and said multiple times that they were committed to having one of their own young pitchers, i.e. Folty, in the rotation?

And the answer, from people I talked to at that time, was that the Braves would’ve likely traded Teheran if they had been able to line up a trade for Sale or Archer. They would never have said publicly that was a possibility because the last thing you want is for would-be opening-day starter to hear he could be or could’ve been traded. But that’s what I heard could’ve and probably would’ve happened if the Braves had gotten Sale or Archer.

I bring it up today only because Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports today (Thursday) published a rumor regarding Teheran, writing “Teams in need of starting pitchers, including the Astros, have been calling the Atlanta Braves about Teheran, as they search for alternatives to the obvious top available duo of Quintana and Gray. The Braves seem to be willing to consider anything, and while last year they eventually told teams that Teheran would be staying put (and he did), they haven’t absolutely ruled out a trade for Teheran to this point.”

And because of what I heard back in December, I don’t at all doubt the validity of what Jon is hearing. Sale was the only one of the above-mentioned quartet of starters who was traded last winter, and the Red Sox gave up a bounty to get him (and right now are glad they did; Sale is 11-3 and leads AL starters with his 2.61 ERA, 166 strikeouts and 120 2/3 innings).

The Rays have indicated that Archer isn’t available, but we’ll see as the July 31 trade deadline gets closer. For now, Gray and Quintana, who is a friend and Colombian countryman of Teheran’s, are the two leading known-to-be-available starters on the market. And the Braves are among the teams interested in adding a frontline starter if they can get one who has multiple years of affordable contractual control, as do both Gray and Quintana (and, yes, Archer).

If they were to get one of those guys — or perhaps even if they don’t — the Braves might’ve decided that Teheran is what he is and, while good, he’s not an ace. And he’s maddeningly inconsistent for a frontline starter. The only reason to question the Heyman rumor at all is the fact that Teheran’s trade value would seem to be at a low point right now, seeing that he has a 5.14 ERA and 1.422 WHIP that would be his highest in a full season in each category if those numbers stay anywhere near that level, and he’s already allowed 20 home runs, only two less than he allowed in the entire season in each of his All-Star seasons in 2014 and 2016 and only seven below his career-high 27 allowed him 2015.

However….

Teams look deeper than the average fan or most of us writers look when evaluating pitchers, and if teams have scouted Teheran recently they know his velocity was higher in his last start at Oakland (he threw several pitches in the 94-95 mph range) than it’s been all season and much of the past few seasons. And even if his overall stats aren’t healthy, Teheran, by all indicates, is healthy. You don’t go 4-0 with a 2.88 ERA in your eight road starts if you’re hiding an injury.

See, Teheran’s overall stats are bad this year only because he’s been terrible at new SunTrust Park, posting a 1-6 record and 7.58 ERA that’s nearly inexplicable, as is his .912 OPS and 13 homers allowed in just 46 1/3 innings at the Braves’ home ballpark. If you’re the Braves, that has to be troubling.

Whether it’s in his head or he’s just leaving too many pitches up in a park that is unforgiving many nights on well-hit fly balls, there has to be some concern from Braves officials when they’re opening-day starter and top starter is pitching like a fringe major leaguer in most home games. And even if his value right now isn’t as high as it might have been last winter, perhaps it’s higher than it might be in the coming winter should his struggles continue or worsen.

Keep in mind, there are a lot fewer starters available now than there will be in the offseason. The market might be better now for a Teheran regardless of his stats, with only a few frontline starters likely to be available and a half-dozens or so teams looking to add a starter for a playoff push.

And if the Braves could land a Sonny Gray, Jose Quintana or – unlikely as it seems at this point – Chris Archer, then they wouldn’t need to cross their fingers and hope Teheran gets it turned around for the remaining years of his deal.

The Braves are expected to trade Jaime Garcia before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, and they’ve already seen his trade value plummet after four consecutive starts in which he’s allowed six earned runs three times and five earned runs last night. Would they trade both Garcia and Teheran?  I wouldn’t rule it out regardless, and especially if they were able to trade for another starters with multiple years of contractual control.

They’ve got several top pitching prospects getting closer and closer to being ready, but the ones who’ve been most impressive, Mike Soroka and Kolby Allard at Double-A Mississippi, are still just 19 years old. That’s what some folks fail to take into account when they ask me and others, why would the Braves need to trade for another starting pitcher when they’ve accumulated all of these prospects through trades and drafts during the past couple of rebuilding years?

If they trade a couple of guys from the group that includes starters Garcia, Dickey or possibly even Teheran, would the Braves be waving a white flag on the rest of the season? Not necessarily. Not if they acquired one of the guys mentioned above. But if they don’t, then yeah, they’d clearly be aiming entirely for the future and not overly concerned about the rest of this season if they moved a couple of those guys without trading for a top-half-of-rotation pitcher this month.

It hurt losing starting prospect Patrick Weigel, who’ll turn 23 on Saturday and was poised for his first major league call-up before undergoing Tommy John surgery last month. But there are others at Triple-A Gwinnett who could help get the Braves through this season including Lucas Sims, who has been inconsistent but is 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA and 34 strikeouts (11 walks) in 29 innings over his past five starts including one really bad one that inflated his ERA in that span.

And at some point after the All-Star break the Braves could turn to old friend Kris Medlen, the popular former Braves veteran who’s worked his way up the minor league ladder in his comeback attempt. Medlen has a still-bloated 6.25 ERA in six starts since he was promoted to Gwinnett, but made considerable progress in his past two starts, allowing four earned runs and one walk in 6 2/3 innings on June 30 and two earned runs with no walks and five strikeouts in six innings of a win Wednesday night against Norfolk.

Would they really trade Teheran? All I know is that the Braves would’ve certainly considered it last winter if they had pulled the trigger on a deal for another frontline starter. And if they were willing to do it then, when he was coming off an All-Star season, it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if they’d do it now.

• I’ll close with this one from Nikki Lane, the title cut off her recent album Highway Queen.

Nikki Lane

Well I heard tell of a woman out there
With tight blue jeans and long black hair
She’ll come to play but she won’t stay
And it always brings ’em down
Some folks say there will come a day
When she’ll settle in some old town
But as best you know this long, long road
She ain’t gonna come around
Sixty thousand miles of blacktop
Countless broken hearts between
Winding lies and wide but don’t stop
Living the life of the highway queen
She’s decided, leaves your party
Haunts your mind like a melody
You can tie her down with a Marlboro Light
But the highway queen don’t need no king
Well one or two, they might have broken through
They might have nearly roped her in
But a fire like that is far too hot
It’s gonna burn and burn again
Seasons fade and so does the pain
It blows away like a like a tumbleweed
You can’t blame the girl for loving this old world
She can’t help it she’s a highway queen
Sixty thousand miles of blacktop
Countless broken hearts between
Winding lies and wide but don’t stop
Living the life of the highway queen
She’s decided, leaves your party
Haunts your mind like a melody
You can tie her down with a Marlboro Light
But the highway queen don’t need no king
Highway queen don’t need no king
Well miles and miles she keeps on rolling
Place your bets if you ain’t folding
Miles and miles, no sign of slowing
It ain’t who she loves, it’s who she’s holding
Sixty thousand miles of blacktop
Countless broken hearts between
Winding lies and wide but don’t stop
Living the life of the highway queen
She’s decided, leaves your party
Haunts your mind like a melody
You can tie her down with a Marlboro Light
But the highway queen don’t need no king
Highway queen don’t need no king
Highway queen don’t need no king
Well miles and miles she keeps on rolling
Place your bets if you ain’t folding
Miles and miles, no sign of slowing
It ain’t who she loves, it’s who she’s holding