Braves, Floyd come to terms on one-year deal
Right-hander, 30, made five starts in '13 before undergoing Tommy John surgery
ATLANTA -- The Braves believe that if right-hander Gavin Floyd makes a successful recovery from elbow reconstruction surgery, he could provide the depth and experience they have been seeking for their rotation.
After evaluating the cost of the options available via trade or free agency, the Braves opted to take a chance on Floyd, 30, signing him to a one-year, $4 million contract that provides an opportunity for him to earn another $4.5 million through incentives.
"As we developed our offseason wish list, he was one of the pitchers we wanted," general manager Frank Wren said. "We moved up those conversations prior to the Winter Meetings. Then we had some really good conversations with his representatives at the Meetings to the point where we knew we could get a deal done."
After passing a physical on Monday, Floyd went to Turner Field, where he met manager Fredi Gonzalez and spoke to a small group of reporters about his hope to be ready to pitch at some point in May.
"It just seemed a lot of arrows were pointing to Atlanta," Floyd said. "It felt good for the family, and it felt good for me. I like the fact they are always a competitive team and always in the hunt. They have a good pitching coach and a good ballpark [for pitchers]."
Wren said that the Floyd signing likely ends his pursuit in regard to starting pitching; the Braves will likely begin the season with Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Brandon Beachy and Alex Wood in their rotation.
The Braves initially showed interest in Jeff Samardzija, but quickly eliminated him as an option once it was apparent the Cubs were asking for much more than they envisioned. This led Wren and his staff to begin looking at Chris Capuano, Bruce Chen, Edison Volquez and Floyd.
With uncertainty surrounding Beachy, who was limited to five starts this past season after returning from Tommy John surgery, and Wood, who will be on an innings limit during his first full Major League season, Floyd will be able to provide insurance once he is cleared.
"I don't think we'll be actively pursuing starters at this point," Wren said. "You never stop trying to get better, but we do feel we have filled a major need and added depth to our rotation.
"You're always looking to improve. In [Floyd's] case, he gives us that solid starter that has been around and understands what needs to be done. We are very young in our rotation. We like our rotation. But I'll use the line [top Braves scout] Jim Fregosi always says: 'When you've got six [starters], you've really got four or five.' So this gives us that depth to get through a season."
Floyd made just five starts for the White Sox before undergoing Tommy John surgery on May 6. During the procedure, Dr. David Altchek reconstructed the right elbow by repairing a torn ulnar collateral ligament and torn flexor tendon.
Because both the tendon and ligament were repaired, there is a chance Floyd could need more than the 12-month rehab schedule starting pitchers often do after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but Wren is confident that Floyd will be ready to pitch during the first half of May.
Although Floyd did not dispute that projection, he acknowledged that he still has a number of hurdles to clear before gaining an indication of when he will join the rotation.
"I have no idea," Floyd said. "The way I've been going, if I had to say, I'd say I'd be ready tomorrow. But obviously, that is unrealistic. I have to realize I have never been through this. I have to realize this is all new to me. The Atlanta Braves have experience with [pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery] and know different guys heal differently. I don't know if there is going to be any setbacks."
After spending the past few weeks encountering no discomfort during his long-toss exercises, Floyd now finds himself with the sense of encouragement that has been expressed by many pitchers when they are seven months removed from Tommy John surgery.
Within the next week, Floyd will begin throwing off a "half mound," which is designed to lessen strain on the elbow.
"If everything goes well, he should leave Spring Training ready to go out on injury rehab to start the buildup," Wren said. "So his Spring Training will really be in April."
Floyd has gone 70-70 with a 4.48 ERA in the 199 Major League starts he has made since the Phillies selected him with the fourth overall selection in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft.
After producing a 5.89 ERA in 29 starts from 2004-07, Floyd showed promise, going 17-8 with a 3.84 ERA in 33 starts in 2008, but he compiled a 4.22 ERA in the 125 starts over the five seasons that followed.
"We've been involved in a lot of different conversations," Wren said, "but he was a pitcher we liked a lot. We not only like his stuff, we like his makeup and everything about him. We feel like he's really grown over the past few years, especially pitching in a tough park in Chicago."