Have Braves done enough to fix their starting rotation?

Braves president of baseball operations John Hart (center) is flanked by manager Brian Snitker and general manager John Coppolella. The team has attempted to make several low-level fixes to the starting rotation this offseason. (Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com)

Braves president of baseball operations John Hart (center) is flanked by manager Brian Snitker and general manager John Coppolella. The team has attempted to make several low-level fixes to the starting rotation this offseason. (Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com)

Let me start with this, because I believe some Braves fans view me as the “anti-rebuild” guy, which simply isn’t true. It was obvious the organization needed rebuilding at the major and minor league levels after too many of Frank Wren’s big-money moves failed and player development fell off significantly.

So when John Hart and John Coppolella looked at the organization and concluded, “We have a big problem,” it would’ve been silly to dispute. My biggest issues always have been with the lack of honesty along the way about what Hart and Coppolella were doing — the whole “travelling down parallel roads” talking points as a flailing attempt to get people to buy tickets for what obviously would be an inferior product for at least two years and likely more; their lack of taking ownership for handing former manager Fredi Gonzalez a disaster of a roster; and some individual moves along the way. (The first Hector Olivera deal, the Andrelton Simmons trade, the decision to fire pitching coach Roger McDowell immediately come to mind.)

So fast forward to this winter. Hart and Coppolella have gone the short-term fix route for baseball’s worst starting rotation. The Braves signed free agents Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey and traded for Jaime Garcia. In short, they’re going to rely on a 43-year-old (Colon), a 42-year-old (Dickey) and a left-hander (Garcia) who was pretty solid in St. Louis when healthy, the problem being that he often wasn’t healthy.

I look at it this way: No matter what happens, it’s going to be a great story.

Either this rotation, which also will include Julio Teheran and Mike Foltynewicz, barring a trade, will succeed with a collection of relative spare parts, or it will blow up. (Sports writers often get accused of rooting for one team or another. The truth is, we only root for ourselves. The criteria: a good story, afternoon starts, a fast game, late deadlines, not that I ever really pay attention to deadlines.)

Here’s what Hart said Monday at the winter meetings on the subject of trading prospects/assets for a quality starting pitcher like Chicago’ Chris Sale or Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer, via the Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien: “Because we have the new ballpark coming and because our ballclub played so well offensively at the end of the year, and because our bullpen is showing the makings of something that can be good, we (think we) can compete. That was our take on what we’ve done, that we have a chance now to compete. But this step is one I think that deviates from (the rebuilding plan). If you go jump that one guy, does that guy take us to where we now become the team to beat? I don’t think so. Does it make us better and give us a better chance to compete? Absolutely. But at what price?”

And this, from Coppolella: “The last thing I want to do is just blow it up so we can get one guy.”

UPDATE: The Boston Red Sox have traded for Chris Sale, reportedly sending four prospects to the Chicago White Sox. Read more here.

Nobody has ever suggested the Braves’ should “blow it up,” to use Coppolella’s phrasing. Nor do I think they should deal Dansby Swanson (if that’s who the White Sox are holding out for in a Sale deal, as has been reported). But I do believe this pitching rotation needs a relatively sure thing next year, and beyond Teheran they don’t have one. The Braves have more than enough assets to get a deal done for someone.

Hart was correct when he said getting a pitcher like Sale doesn’t make the Braves “the team to beat.” But if that’s true, what are they without Sale? How does he define “good”? How does he define having an ability to “compete”? Do his definitions align with a fan’s definitions?

I define good as a potential playoff team. I define competing as being in the playoff race in early September.

The offseason is not complete yet. But there’s little comforting about the rotation right now. My default position is to keep expectations low. At worst, I’ll be wrong and pleasantly surprised.

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19 comments
Mattster08
Mattster08

I clicked on this article just to see if Schultz included his obligatory "the Braves dealt Fredi a bad hand" line which has been included in all of his articles since the Cap-Tipper was fired.  Get over it already Jeff.  He was not fired for 2016, he was fired for the collapses (plural) that happened in years past.  He should have been fired after leaving Kimbrel in the pen in the 2013 Division Series.  Were it my call, he would have been gone after the 2011 collapse.

Biff_Pocoroba
Biff_Pocoroba

Depends on how confident you are in the Braves' young pitchers. 

TideDawg
TideDawg

Tweaking is over.....fine tuning what you have is now in order. The Braves are not going to be great....yet.....but they are going to be better.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

When it comes down to the question of whether the rotation has been fixed, it is relative to one's definition of fixed.  If the definition of fixed means maybe having a chance of finishing third in the East and getting to .500 -- the answer is probably yes.  If its about elevating the franchise to where it used to be not that many yrs ago -- I say heck no.  No way are we getting back to the 94 wins of 2012 and 96 wins of 2013 anytime soon -- not with this ownership and management. 

MichaelDavis1951
MichaelDavis1951

I like where we are.  Let's give what we have a chance.  I think we saw the last 30 games we can compete.  I say tweak later.  We've signed some innings eaters, I liked the lineup I saw at the end of the year.  

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

A solid no. 1 will not cover for subpar 3-4-5 slots in the rotation. Need to assess what they have and continue to build a core sustainable foundation. If an opportunity to land a better starter at a reasonable price falls into their lap I'm sure they would bite.

Before their visit to the assisted living center it was likely they would once again get buried in April. Now, they need to focus on who can chew innings July forward.

jmccoy1252
jmccoy1252

People need to realize that the Free Agent Market is very thin this year.  Do we give up the Farm for Chris Sale?  No!  Do we have the best rotation in  Baseball? No!  But, this rotation will be better than last year. The Free Agent Classes for the next two years will be better than this year.  Also, the best thing to do is sign Free Agents to build around the young talent in the Farm System.  This is the direction the Braves committed themselves to and I think it's the direction they should continue on.  There is not a team in Baseball that has success 100 percent of the time.  Spending a ton of money does not guarantee success either.  Ask the Dodgers and Angels.  The Dodgers have spent all kinds of money the last 5 seasons, what do they have to show for it?  No more than the Braves did under Frank Wren.  Not one World Series appearance.  Sure, they've won a few division titles, but the Braves have been there and done that too. 

58Supersports
58Supersports

Question, the one year fix, 3 pitchers we just signed, a bridge for the prospect to 2018, right. Okay, next year what if the prospects are not ready, do we sign another group of 1 years old men to fill in again?  All prospects won't be ready at same time and GM will have same problem again...  

Need  to trade for Archer (5 years) in my opinion and I know it don't count for nothing... Julio  is not a #1 except on Braves team he need help.

Therut
Therut

Good god no, the rebuild is not complete. Not a one of our five starters will win 10 games next year.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@Therut  They might win 10 games -- Folty won 9 and with any luck Teheran would have won a dozen games easily

Gritzblitz
Gritzblitz

Actually Schultz, I'm pretty sure from reading your columns you are indeed anti-rebuild. Anyway, this team is still in rebuild mode for one more year and it makes sense. Be patient and finish the rebuild. We'll have a better idea about our prospects in 2018. Some will be ready to bring up, others will still be solid trade bait.


58Supersports
58Supersports

@Gritzblitz Disagree, Schultz was giving a response to what Coppy/Hart said and did... he said he was not anti-rebuild and made good points. I usually don't agree with Schultz but this time I agree. We need a #1  pitcher and Julio is not it.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@Gritzblitz  Hart & Coppy went about things in a disingenuous way -- remember the things said a couple of winters ago.  I see a lot of Don Waddell in Hart especially the way he has defended this ownership

GymAnalytics315
GymAnalytics315

The Braves will definitely be more fun to watch next season compared to last season (first half especially).

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

Be patient, we are still a full year away. The Braves have done what they need to do but they are not yet to the "fine-tuning" level. That is when you start looking at sacrificing so prospects.


Just not quite yet.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

@RoyalDawg A full year away from what exactly? It's not like next year the Braves will be a team interested in spending money or making an impact deal. This is exactly the BS holding pattern Wren kept the team in for near a decade, "We're not gonna sacrifice the '18, '19, or '20 seasons for the '17 season." At some point, an organization has to decide to make a leap. That's how you win championships.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@FineousMcDirtyBird  Wren actually made aggressive moves unfortunately some of them did not work out.  Like Uggla, Mc Louth and Melvin Jr.  Wren had the major league roster competitive & had two yrs of 94 and 96 wins respectively.  Its Hart & Coppy who have kept payroll low & put the future of the team with unproven talent and of course 2 90 plus loss yrs

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

Let me be the first to say,I hope the Braves can make a deal for Chris Archer from the Rays.I have been harping on this deal since the 2016 season ended. Now that Sale is off the Board, and the Red Sox paid a high price for him.Maybe Hart/Coppy will make a decent offer for Archer,he will be under team control for 5 years and has shown ability to compete for a #1 spot in the rotation. Plus he has the type of personality that can put fans in the seats. Something I am sure HartCoppy's bosses at Liberty can appreciate.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@Buschleaguer  Truth be told we do not have as much as some people would like to believe to make an offer that would blow away a team like the Rays for Archer.  No way do we have what Boston had to offer to get Sale.  Our guys are not that good and the better pitching prospects are in the lower minors at this time.