It has been a Roller Coaster week at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in the middle of Walt Disney World® Resort.
It all started when #1 starter Kris Medlan hopped off the mound, holding and flexing his elbow and forearm. This was a sight that has been seen before and that resulted in him taking an unwanted trip to Alabama. Lets make this clear, not good happens on trips to Alabama unless you are a QB, WR, RB or a 300lbs Lineman. This trip was to the clinic of the number one, but most hated name by fans in all sports, Dr. James Andrews. Dr. Andrews is the foremost authority and surgeon for Tommy John reconstructive surgery.
For the second time Medlan left a game and it is not only feared but is generally believed that he will have to undergo a second Tommy John procedure and will likely miss the entire season and probably the first bit of the beginning of next season. A lot of people are not aware of Medlan as he is not as well known and is regarded as one of the most under appreciated and under the radar pitcher in all of baseball. Since his return he is second to only Clayton Kershaw in ERA (2.47). Needless to say a big loss the the Braves rotation and team.
Just when you think things are starting to look bleak in terms of the rotation, the next man up, another Tommy John client took the mound in a Spring outing. Brandon Beachy still working his way back after being shut down last season after his return from the procedure. Since then he has had another smaller procedure to clean things up. Beachy started the game and was pitching well but then he too had to shut it down early mid game. In terms of Beachy, at least it seems like he just needs of rest and strengthen his arm but in any event he will not be ready to start the season when the teams breaks camp.
A once relatively deep and good looking young staff has been decimated in a very short period of time. The Braves wasted little time in addressing this gaping hole in their team that has been built to try to win now. 2-9 in the lineup are a pretty solid team on paper. If BJ Upton and Dan Uggla can bounce back and be just average the lineup has the potential to be a strong one. After brutal seasons by both those guys anything above average should bolster an already solid offensive line up.
Then right out of the blue Braves GM Frank Wren jump at the lone big name free agent out there Ervin Santana. Santana is liked by many and questioned by maybe more. Wherever you sit on this guy it was a gutsy move that had to be done. Was it the right move? Maybe, maybe not, but it was a gamble that had to be made. The Braves had to show their fans that they are willing to spend to make the team better and more importantly show the team that management is backing you and believe they are a good club and are expecting to win.
The deal is for 1 year for $14.1M. Like they say there is no bad one year deal. The one knock is that they had to give up the ever valuable 1st rd pick to the Royals who qualified Santana. That is the bad news. Here is the good news.The Braves have stated they are here to win not rebuild so losing the pick is the cost of doing business. Santana's $14 million salary wasn't in the budget, and the Braves do stick to budgets. Teams that do that have to be prepared to make difficult decisions. If that means walking away from a player they love -- Tim Hudson, for instance -- they do it. You have to give to get.
The Braves do have a silver lining for this too that help take the sting out of losing that pick. They are getting one from the Yankees for the Brian McCann signing and also they may be able to recoup that pick next year if they qualify Santana and he declines and tries his luck again in free agency for a long term deal.
Santana is coming to the National League for the first time. It is known as more pitcher friendly league and the stadiums lend themselves to being a little more forgiving as well. An added benefit for Santana to boost his stock this year is that the Braves on paper are a decent team but also have one of the best defenses in the NL. The outfield has speed and good gloves, the infield has the best defensive SS in all of baseball in Andralton Simmons and Freddie Freeman can pick it as well as any first baseman in the game. I know it sounds weird that a guy that sports a sideways straight brimmed hat can create this buzz but it is true. here is a quote from Richard Justice’s piece on the issue ”...Santana has pitched 200-plus innings in three of the past four seasons, and only James Shields, Max Scherzer and C.J. Wilson had more quality starts among American League pitchers in 2013. Santana is a low-key, professional guy who will fit well in the Atlanta culture.”
Hopefully the team can break from spring training without any more injuries and get off to a decent start. It looks like it will start with Julio Tehran, Alex Wood, Freddy Garcia and David Hale.
Hopefully they can then get some help with Minor, Beachy and Santana coming back hopefully in the first month and then Gavin Floyd sometime in mid May.
It will be an interesting beginning to the season and if they can stay afloat until they get some reinforcements back they should be in a good position to keep up with or close to the Washington Nationals.