Extension Candidate: Kris Medlen

It speaks to Kris Medlen's dominance over the last two months that his quality start last night against the Marlins (three runs on five hits over seven innings, eight strikeouts and no walks) was his worst outing of the season.  Medlen's season ERA rose all the way to 1.64 but the Braves' 4-3 victory means that the club has now won 22 consecutive games that Medlen has started, tying the right-hander with Hall-of-Famers Carl Hubbell and Whitey Ford for the longest such streak in the modern era of baseball. 

It's pretty heady company for a guy who didn't even return to the Atlanta rotation until July.  Medlen underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2010, returned to pitch just 2 1/3 innings in September 2011 and began this season in the bullpen as the Braves both wanted to keep his arm healthy and felt they were already set for starting pitchers.  After some of those starters faltered, however, Medlen rejoined the rotation in July and has posted video game numbers since: a 1.04 ERA, 80 strikeouts and almost a 9.00 K/BB rate in 77 2/3 innings over 11 starts.Uspw_6609726

Unless Medlen is a modern-day Sandy Koufax, it's safe to assume that he won't quite keep up this particular level of greatness, though the righty certainly appears to have turned a corner in his pro career.  This hot streak comes at an opportune time for Medlen; not only did it come during a postseason stretch, but Medlen is also due to be arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter.  He'll certainly get a nice raise over his $490K salary in 2012 and it's possible the Braves could be so impressed by Medlen's performance that they'll look to get some cost-certainty on their surprise ace for the next few years.

Medlen's case is "tricky" according to Matt Swartz, who calculates arbitration projections for MLB Trade Rumors and believes Medlen will probably be treated as a starter for arb purposes. 

"The way I’ve been separating swingmen into starters and relievers, he would actually be projected as a reliever, but those rules were kind of arbitrary and I’m not sure here," Swartz said.  "The reason it matters is that if we call him a starting pitcher he gets $2.4MM, and if we call him a reliever, he gets $1.3MM. He has a lot more wins per games started than he does saves and holds."

You could argue that the Braves have enough set 2013 rotation starters (Tommy Hanson, Mike Minor and Tim Hudson, as his $9MM option is sure to be exercised) and enough other young arms in their farm system that a Medlen extension is unnecessary for the moment, but I tend to disagree.  As this season has shown, the Braves' pitching depth isn't as sturdy as believed, so Medlen's development is a great boon for the club.  Medlen seems to be able to consistently perform at the Major League level, which is something that can't yet be said about their prospects.

Cost-certainty is also of particular interest to a franchise that has kept a mid-level payroll since being bought by Liberty Media in 2007.  The Braves had a $102MM payroll in 2008 but have since ranged between $86-$93MM, with only $15MM in committed salary for 2013.  If they believe Medlen is the real deal, an extension could save the team millions through Medlen's arb years.  Extending him now would cost maybe $10MM over three years ($2MM in 2013, $4MM in both 2014 and 2015) with perhaps a $6MM club option for Medlen's first free agent year.  

The Braves have a lot of business to attend to this winter, since such major names as Hanson, Jason Heyward and Jonny Venters are also arb-eligible for the first time, Martin Prado is only a year away from free agency and the team is expected to at least attempt to re-sign Michael Bourn.  Given Medlen's injury history and the fact that his arb number may be $2.4MM at the most, Atlanta could be in no rush to pursue a multiyear deal quite yet with the right-hander.  

Medlen will get one (very high-profile) further chance to prove himself as he's scheduled to start for Atlanta in the wild card playoff game.  Just the fact that the Braves would give Medlen this start is a sign that they believe he's more than just a pitcher on a hot streak, so they could also be eager to lock him up while his price is still low.

Photo courtesy of Daniel Shirey/US Presswire


18 Responses to Extension Candidate: Kris Medlen Leave a Reply

  1. thekidfromyesterday 3 years ago

    Do it Braves before it’s to late

  2. Kent Kimes 3 years ago

    Hanson is headed for off-season shoulder surgery.

  3. Michael Gallemore 3 years ago

    I don’t believe Tommy Hanson will be in Atlanta too much longer. It is imperative to lock Medlen up.

  4. EcurbTheMighty 3 years ago

    3/$10 would be rather nice. He doesn’t have the pure stuff of a top of the rotation guy, but as the old cliche’ goes, ‘He knows how to pitch’. Met him before at a game in Washington, he stayed after the game to sign autographs in an opponents stadium. Classy guy.

  5. Hanson should be given a bus-ticket instead of an offer. He’s been junk this year and is probably injured.

    • EcurbTheMighty 3 years ago

      Hanson has good stuff, but that delivery of his is just inviting shoulder and elbow problems.

      • fireboss 3 years ago

        Hanson’s avg velocity has consistently decreased over the last 2 years, he no longer has a FB batters whiff at, the difference between change and FB was about 6-7 MPH last time I checked. He has not out pitch save that curve and his control is not good enough to pitch the way Medlen does. The Braves do have an option on Maholm who I understand is a back of the rotation guy but as a lefty who eats innings could be useful. A Medlen, Hudson, Minor, Maholm, Delgado/Teheran rotation is pretty good and at some point after the ASG Beachy will return. Trading Hanson for depth makes tons of sense for the Braves and for Hanson A new start with a different pitching coach would be good for him and the Braves really need to rebuild their depth chart. Besides as a Boras client he isn’t destined to be in ATL long anyway.

    • Colin Christopher 3 years ago

      He’s been one of the better pitchers in baseball from 2009-11, yet you’re ready to ship him out of town after one sub-par season? A season in which he went 12-9 with 151 Ks in 163 innings? You’ve got a right to your opinion, but as a Braves fan I have to say that I’m glad Frank Wren has a clearer view of the big picture than it seems you do.

      • fireboss 3 years ago

        It’s not one bad season. He hasn’t fooled hitters lately . Opponent batting averages are up and slugging is over .500 on his FB, over 400 on his change, curve slugging shot from 189 to 506 from last year to this and last year was up on 10. IN 2010 his FB averaged 93.8, last year 91.8 and this year 90.41. he’s lost horizontal movement too but worst is that he’s getting way too much plate with hittable pitches. In 2009 he gave up 10 homers in 401 AB, in 2010 only 15 in 725 AB but in 2010 17 in 452 and this year 22 in 532. He’s never been a good second half pitcher 32-14 first half 12-17 second, So it’s not just this year and we have others as good waiting. He’s great trade bait though. We shall see what happens

        • EcurbTheMighty 3 years ago

          He pitches like a power guy, which until the injuries started flaring up, he was. But watching a good number of his starts this year, you can’t live up in the zone with a 91 MPH fastball.

        • notsureifsrs 3 years ago

          he’s so bad and not going to get better but he’s great trade bait huh

          • fireboss 3 years ago

            Yes he has value, not as much as in 2010 but he isn’t a non-tender candidate yet. He was once rated highly, is controllable for 3 years and won’t be expensive so teams seeking major league ready pitchers will take a chance on his pedigree and hope they can make the adjustments needed to improve his numbers. From the Braves perspective he’s slipped from a top to a bottom of the rotation guy numbers wise and until his Washington start refused to believe he wasn’t pitching well. They have Teheran and Delgado waiting – Delgado was as good as him this year only lack of run support kept him from winning more games – and Beachy coming back. If you keep Hanson you have no room for them unless you want to trade one or let Maholm or Hudson go. Huddy is staying unless he wants to retire and he shows no signs of that. Maholm isn’t a star but he’s inexpensive, a lefty and a steady innings eating back of the rotation guy. He’s not going to bring 3 top prospects back but as shallow as the
            everyday player pool is in our system even a couple of mid level guys
            would help.

      • Dude, he’s basically lobbing the ball up there now and getting murdered. I’m not sure they could get a whole lot for him right now actually.

  6. -C 3 years ago

    I’ve long believed that this offseason will be the year of extensions for the Braves as they lock down current players rather than shop for new ones…actually, I thought last year would have been, but the end of the season and the poor performances of several players (Heyward, Prado, et al.) probably delayed that a season.

    Medlen’s the surprise candidate of the bunch, and good for him. I hope they can get him and a few other deals hammered out.

    -C

  7. Seth 3 years ago

    Someone explain to me how Hanson in are 2013 rotation is a gimme? He is a weak link at best right now. Terribly inconsistent and lacking in confidence.

  8. utahjazzfanforever 3 years ago

    This isn’t just about “The Braves have enough pitchers”. Medlen is currently their *BEST* pitcher. Period. Of course he hasn’t shown over a long period that he can keep this up but given the unreal dominance he has had you can expect that he will pitch somewhere between brilliant like he has and what he has done previously as a starter which is pretty darn good. Can you imagine what this pitching staff is going to look like next year? Look at all the options they will have and mid-season they get their best pitcher of the first half of 2012 back.

    Does this team really truly need to bring back $9 million Hudson? Granted he is their “ace” at the moment and the veteran of this club. Love the guy but the Braves could use that money to buy a $20 million 3rd baseman or left fielder or invest in two $15 million players. They will have a ton of money to spend in the off season. There isn’t a problem with pitching now. It’s hitting. They need more power and they need better hitting (BAs are way down). With Chipper gone that’s going to leave a huge hole.

    Medlen
    Maholm
    Minor
    Hanson
    Delgado
    Teheran (come on, if he can’t join the rotation next year there is something seriously wrong)
    Sheets (he could go down but if they can even get 1/2 a season out of him he can pitch until Beachy is ready)
    Beachy (mid-season)

    That’s 8 pitchers. What are they going to do with Hudson? Seriously?

    And this doesn’t even count any of their minor league talent which might be ready like Gilmartin.

  9. utahjazzfanforever 3 years ago

    The point is that they should lock Medlen up. I think he is going to be a pretty special pitcher.

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