The narrative for the Braves going into this season is that their pitching will be fine and their offense will be challenged — and there’s no reason to believe that won’t be the case.
But it says something that the Braves just made a trade for a starting pitcher who went 3-13 with a 5.61 ERA last season and the team views it as a gain. President of baseball operations John Hart acquired the struggling Trevor Cahill from Arizona for minor league outfielder Josh Elander.
The Diamondbacks were so eager to get rid of Cahill that they will pay $6.5 million of Cahill’s $12 million salary.
The Braves were so eager to add Cahill that they were willing to pay $5.5 million for a pitcher who has a career ERA of 4.07, struggled with a hip injury last season and didn’t make it through five innings in seven of his 17 starts.
But assistant general manager John Coppolella told our David O’Brien, “We saw his last outing, where he showed a real good fastball to 94 (mph) with real good sink.”
Bottom line: They needed help, especially with Mike Minor starting the season on the disabled list with inflammation in his shoulder (again). They also needed a right-hander. For as much as pitching is this team’s strength, things fall apart pretty quickly in the starting rotation after the top three. That assumes No. 3 Shelby Miller will have a solid year after some control issues last year in St. Louis.
Here’s the likely rotation:
No. 1: Julio Teheran (24 years old, RH): He eased any concerns that may have existed before last season that he was ready to make the leap to staff ace, with a career-low 2.89 ERA and a 186 strikeouts (51 walks) in 221 1/3 innings, and an All-Star Game appearance.
No. 2: Alex Wood (24, LH): He exceeded expectations in his first full season, with a 2.78 ERA and 170 strikeouts (45 walks) in 171 2/3 innings. There’s no reason to think he’ll take a step back but he wouldn’t be the first young pitcher to go through some early struggles.
No. 3: Shelby Miller (24, RH): He came to the Braves in the Jason Heyward trade and could be a solid third man. But he struggled with his control last season, particularly in the first three months.
No. 4 or 5: Wandy Rodriguez (36, LH) or Eric Stults (35, LH): Both were non-roster invitees. The bar is low.
UPDATE: Rodriguez has been released by the Braves, presumably leaving a spot in the rotation for Stults.
No. 4 or 5: Cahill (27, RH): He consumed a lot of innings in his last two years in Oakland (196 2/3, 207 2/3) and his first in Arizona (200). But that hasn’t been the case the last two seasons (146 2/3, 110 2/3).
The starting pitching needs to be there because there’s a good chance the run-scoring won’t be.