Braves complete search for rotation depth with Floyd
Wren opts for one-year deal with rehabbing righty rather than big payout via trade
ATLANTA -- As Braves general manager Frank Wren prepared to exit last week's Winter Meetings, he acknowledged he was aware of the impatience being expressed by those fans who have been anxiously waiting for him to make a notable offseason acquisition.
It seems safe to say impatience was replaced with displeasure Monday afternoon, when Wren revealed that by signing Gavin Floyd to a one-year contract, he likely ended his pursuit of a veteran presence for Atlanta's starting rotation.
Even if Floyd was not facing uncertainty as he attempts to return from Tommy John surgery, he would never be confused with Rays southpaw David Price. Nor does he create the same kind of excitement as Cubs righty Jeff Samardzija.
But to the Braves, Floyd stood as the most logical fit as they shopped an unattractive starting pitching market with limited dollars to spend and the desire to find a short-term solution who would not block the path of some of the organization's talented young starters.
"You are looking at who is the best fit for you, who fits your team, who fits your payroll, all of those things," Wren said. "We felt Gavin was a real good fit for us."
After having to face Clayton Kershaw twice within a span of four games against the Dodgers in the National League Division Series, Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez both acknowledged the obvious by saying the Braves could benefit from adding an ace to a rotation that currently contains a number of solid No. 2 and 3 starters.
With this year's free-agent pool not containing an ace, Price has stood as the only one that has been available (via trade) since the World Series concluded. If there were any doubts about the fact the Rays are looking for a significant return in exchange for Price, they were confirmed when the Braves learned the cost would likely include Alex Wood, Christian Bethancourt and at least two other top prospects.
While thoughts of landing Price might have only existed in the fantasy world, the Braves were genuinely interested in finding out what it would take to bring Samardzija to Atlanta. That interest quickly died when the Cubs indicated they would be looking for a return package that included either Jason Heyward or Justin Upton.
And for those of you who wondered about Chris Sale, the White Sox were looking for a return that rivaled what the Rays wanted for Price.
"If there's somebody out there that fits, then yeah, sure, you always wanted one of those aces," Gonzalez said last week. "But, again, I've wished for a lot of presents during Christmas and never got them."
Once it became apparent they would not find the starter they were seeking via trade, the Braves scoured the free-agent market looking for an affordable solution that they could control for a year or two. Their options became more limited as 41-year-old Bartolo Colon signed a two-year, $20 million contract with the Mets.
As they navigated the more-affordable aisle, the Braves evaluated Chris Capuano, Bruce Chen and Edinson Volquez, who signed a one-year deal worth $5 million with the Pirates last week. But in the end, they opted to take a chance on Floyd, who on Monday signed a one-year, $4 million contract that could be worth $8.5 million if all of the incentive clauses are exercised.
There is no doubt the Braves are taking on a risk with Floyd, who is seven months removed from Tommy John surgery. Initially, it appeared Floyd would need 14-19 months of rehab.
But after reading Dr. David Altchek's latest reports and informing their own doctors about how Floyd is already throwing pain-free from a distance of 180 feet, the Braves were willing to take this risk and tab Floyd as the man who could eventually provide the depth and insurance they needed in the rotation.
Wren is confident Floyd will be available to join Atlanta's rotation at some point in May. In the meantime, he will field a more-than-respectable rotation that is projected to include Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Brandon Beachy and Wood.
With Beachy facing uncertainty as he attempts to bounce back from last year's frustrating return from Tommy John surgery and Wood set to be on an innings limit during his first full Major League season, the Braves had to create the depth they hope Floyd will provide.
While highly regarded prospects Jason Hursh and Lucas Sims might be ready to join Atlanta's rotation by the start of the 2015 season, the only other Major League-ready starting pitcher the Braves currently have in their system is David Hale, whose promise was not even realized until he took advantage of two unexpected starts he made this past September.
"We're very young in our rotation," Wren said. "We like our rotation. I think you use the line [Braves top scout] Jim Fregosi always uses, 'When you've got six [starters], you've really got four or five. And when you have seven, you really have five.' This gives us that depth to get through a season."