Tim Hudson Rumors

Braves Notes: Bourn, Hudson, McCann

The latest out of Atlanta, courtesy of David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution..

  • Braves General Manager Frank Wren said that he approached Michael Bourn and agent Scott Boras in Spring Training about starting contract talks and Boras said he would wait until after the season, tweets O'Brien.
  • No surprise here, but Wren said that the club would like to re-sign the outfielder this winter (Twitter link).  The GM added that he would have to see how the market shapes up for Bourn, who figures to be a hot commodity.
  • Pitcher Tim Hudson said that he would like to finish his career in Atlanta, even though he knows that's not a given, O'Brien tweets.  The Braves hold a $9MM team option on the 37-year-old for 2013 and are expected to exercise it.
  • Wren says that the team will target premium players but don't plan to "go outrageous" with any one player in particular.  Instead, the Braves are more likely to go for two high-salaried players than one player with an enormous price tag (Twitter links).
  • Catcher Brian McCann told reporters that he believes he'll need shoulder surgery and could miss between 2-5 months of action, according to O'Brien (via Twitter).  Meanwhile, Wren says that unless an MRI shows something worse than the initial diagnosis, McCann won't require surgery (Twitter link).
  • The Braves have asked all of their coaches back for '13 and they are all expected to return, according to O'Brien (via Twitter).

Smoltz Talks Returning NL Pitchers

It happens every spring. Pitchers nurse shoulders, backs and elbows to health in preparation for the season. But there are no guarantees for any injured pitcher, regardless of his resume. 

“You’ve got to know what your body can and can’t do,” John Smoltz told me in a recent interview. “Not every pitcher’s going to be perfectly healthy their whole career, so there has to be some degree of discomfort that you have to pitch through. Once you learn how to do that, you’re able to overcome more.”

Jair Jurrjens - Braves (PW)

Smoltz speaks from experience. He recovered from Tommy John surgery to reinvent himself as a dominant closer and worked through shoulder problems to strike out nearly a batter per inning as a 42-year-old. Now an analyst with MLB Network, he recently caught up with a number of high-profile pitchers returning from injuries for his role on MLB Tonight.  

When Smoltz signed with the 2009 Cardinals, Adam Wainwright was at his peak, in the midst of a season that would see him post a 2.63 ERA in a league-leading 233 innings. Two and a half years later, Wainwright’s returning from ligament replacement surgery and expectations are lofty. 

“That’s where Tommy John surgery is a little misunderstood,” Smoltz said. “Adam basically is looked upon this year I think unfairly as a big cog to replace the departure of Albert Pujols and now possibly the delay of Chris Carpenter. That’s an unfair situation for him to go in, since he needs the same kind of time and grace that everybody does returning from Tommy John.”

Regaining full strength following Tommy John surgery took more than a year for Smoltz, who missed the 2000 season recovering from the operation. But he acknowledges recovery times vary from pitcher to pitcher and anticipates a strong season from Wainwright. 

“Can he go back to the Cy Young type numbers? I don’t know,” Smoltz said. “I think it’s a little unfair [to expect that] the first year. But I certainly can see him doing easily some of the things that we’ve expected him to do in that first year.”

Smoltz believes Marlins right-hander Josh Johnson will rebound from a disappointing 2011 season. In fact, Johnson may have benefitted from his team's cautious approach late last season. He didn't pitch after May 16th last year, and Smoltz suggested the Marlins could have rushed him back under different circumstances.

“That’s a luxury," he said. "I expect that everything is where it needs to be and that he’s going to go out there and, unfortunately for the hitters, probably dominate.”

Smoltz last played for the Braves four years ago, but he spent two decades in Atlanta, so he knows the organization as well as anyone. He says former teammates Tim Hudson (back) and Jair Jurrjens (knee) must make most of their starts to have successful seasons. The Braves will be relying on their starters, since a repeat performance from their relievers may be unrealistic. 

“There’s no way the bullpen can do what they did last year with the amount of times they were used,” Smoltz said. “I think the starting pitching has got to find a way to pitch some much-needed innings over the course of the season.” 

A few months ago, the Braves seemed to have an abundance of starting pitching, and Mike Minor seemed expendable. Now that Julio Teheran has been sent to the minor leagues and Arodys Vizcaino is out for the season, Minor’s a key component of the Braves’ pitching staff. “Sometimes the best trades you make are the ones you don’t make,” Smoltz noted. 

Mets fans who wish their team had never traded for Johan Santana might agree with that sentiment whole-heartedly. But there’s optimism that the Mets will see some return from the $24MM left-hander in 2012. Smoltz says the two-time Cy Young Award winner seems just as motivated as the 26-year-old Jurrjens. 

“They both have the urgency to want to pitch, but it’s different,” he said. “You’ve got a guy in Johan Santana with all of the hardware, big contract. He wants to get out there and compete. I’ve heard nothing but unbelievable things.”

Cy Young Awards are a motivator for pitchers coming back from injury, but contracts also lurk in the background. Even Smoltz, a future Hall of Famer, wasn’t able to generate interest based on his resume alone during his playing days. Successfully returning from an injury can make all the difference when it’s time for a new contract.

“In sports you’re as good as your last impression,” Smoltz says. 

For these pitchers, the 2012 season represents the opportunity to create new impressions and erase old ones. 

John Smoltz will be a game analyst for the MLB Network Showcase schedule this season beginning on Friday, April 20 featuring the Red Sox v. Yankees at 3pm ET. MLB Network will feature a package of live 30 games featuring all 30 Clubs beginning on Thursday, April 5 between the Dodgers & Padres. Photo courtesy of US Presswire.

Atlanta’s Starting Pitching Depth

The Braves blew a late-inning lead before losing a painful game to the Phillies tonight, but if Atlanta goes on to win in the playoffs this year, their bullpen will probably be a major reason for their success. The Braves’ late inning trio of Eric O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel is as good as it gets.

Brandon Beachy

Health permitting, the three relievers figure to return to Atlanta in 2012, but the same can’t necessarily be said for the Braves’ starting corps. Every one of the eight pitchers who has started a game for the Braves in 2011 is under team control next year and with a trio of MLB-ready arms entering the discussion for big league rotation spots, it won’t be surprising if the Braves hear an offer or two for their surplus arms.

Before we get too carried away with assumptions about health, it’s important to note that two Braves starters are on the disabled list and another one is dealing with an injury. Kris Medlen hasn’t pitched since undergoing Tommy John surgery last August and won’t be ready before 2012. Tommy Hanson is also on the disabled list (shoulder) and Jair Jurrjens (knee) is banged up as well.

Despite those injuries, the Braves have a full rotation: Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Brandon Beachy (pictured), Mike Minor and Randall Delgado. Top prospects Arodys Vizcaino and Julio Teheran (who will start one of tomorrow’s games) also represent viable rotation options for manager Fredi Gonzalez.

All told, the Braves have nine options. Hudson, Lowe, Jurrjens, Hanson, Beachy and Minor have all had extended looks in the rotation this year, Teheran, Delgado and Vizcaino spent most of the 2011 season in the minors and Medlen, a wild card heading into 2012, hasn’t pitched at all. 

Not only do the Braves have nine pitchers around in 2012, most of them are under team control in 2013 (Lowe’s contract expires after next season and the Braves have a $9MM club option for Hudson in ’13). This group isn’t going anywhere.

As unusual as it is for a team to have too much pitching, this Braves team may find themselves with extra arms over the winter. Unlike most teams, however, the Braves already have the main components of their roster in place for 2012. They won’t have many obvious holes to address over the winter.

Yet the Braves aren’t set at every position – shortstop Alex Gonzalez hits free agency and Martin Prado hasn't shown the on-base skills or power you'd expect from a left fielder. If the Braves decide not to retain the slick-fielding Gonzalez and opt to move Prado back into a utility role, they could have holes at shortstop and left field (assuming they don’t view Jose Constanza as a permanent solution). 

The Braves are a playoff-caliber team and they seem poised to contend in 2012, but significant needs could emerge within a month or two. Wren avoided last year's free agent frenzy and if he hopes to do the same this offseason without ignoring possible weaknesses, he could make the organization's pitching depth available in trades.

Photo courtesy Icon SMI.

Pitching Notes: Hudson, Buehrle, Carpenter

A few pitching notes from around the league…

  • In today's blog post at ESPN (Insider req'd), Buster Olney reports that the Yankees did not inquire about Tim Hudson. Yesterday we heard that the Braves aren't looking to move one of their starters anyway.
  • Within the same post, Olney says he finds the timing of the report about White Sox ace Mark Buehrle's willingness to accept a trade interesting. It's been presumed that the Missouri native would embrace a chance to pitch for the Cardinals at some point, and St. Louis now has an opening in its rotation with Adam Wainwright headed for Tommy John surgery.
  • Joel Sherman of The New York Post believes Cardinals co-ace Chris Carpenter could potentially be a fit for the Yankees, and the news of Wainwright's injury makes him wonder if Carpenter will "become available in a stronger way." I looked at how Wainwright's injury could have a trickle down effect on the Yankees over at River Ave. Blues

Odds & Ends: Ruiz, Braves, Offenses, Yankees

Links for Thursday…

Odds & Ends: League, Bourgeois, Giants, Uggla

Some links for Wednesday night…

Braves Announce Tim Hudson Extension

1:41pm: O'Brien says Hudson received a three-year, $28MM deal – $9MM annually plus a $1MM buyout on the option.

8:41am: The Braves announced Tim Hudson's extension today, according to Dave O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  He says it's a three-year deal worth around $9MM per year, with an option for 2013.  Hudson's new deal overwrites the $12MM mutual option he had for 2010.

Yesterday, MLB.com's Mark Bowman wrote, "We've long known that the Braves are going to end up trading either Derek Lowe or Javier Vazquez."  O'Brien feels that Kenshin Kawakami is another possibility.  Bowman suggests that the Yankees or Angels could be suitors for Lowe, should they decide not to sign John Lackey.  Vazquez could be extended if Lowe is moved.

Braves Discussing Extension for Vazquez

David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that "Someone here at the meetings who would probably know, told me the Braves have at least discussed trying to sign [Javier] Vazquez to a contract extension."

Vazquez was quietly an elite pitcher for Atlanta in 2009, posting a 2.87 ERA in 219 1/3 innings, striking out 238 and walking just 44. He's signed to an $11.5MM deal for 2010, after which he will be a free agent.

There has been speculation that Atlanta will deal Vazquez, since with the return of Tim Hudson, they appear to have six starting pitchers for five spots. Meanwhile, a deal for the underachieving Derek Lowe, who was far worse than Vazquez and has $45MM left on his contract, would presumably yield far less than Vazquez.

Odds & Ends: Holliday, Putz, Lopez, Teahen, Reds

It's been a busy first day on the hot stove, so here's another batch of links…

  • Derrick Goold of The St. Lous Post Dispatch says there are eight teams "that have the need and the financial wherewithal" to sign Matt Holliday. It's the usual suspects (i.e. big market clubs), and Goold explains why each may be interested in Holliday.
  • Craig Landis, agent for J.J. Putz, said that his client "hasn't ruled out returning to the Mets with a cheaper, incentive-laden deal," according to Bart Hubbuch of The NY Post. Earlier today we learned that the Mets informed Putz that they wouldn't be picking up his 2010 option.
  • MLB.com's Adam McCalvy says the Brewers are waiting to see whether Felipe Lopez qualifies as a Type-A or B free agent, and that will likely play a role in their decision whether or not to offer him arbitration. Eddie Bajek's work projects Lopez to be a Type-B, but he's right on the cutoff.
  • ESPN's Keith Law loves the Mark Teahen trade for the Royals, noting that they traded one average player close to free agency for two average players with several years of team control left.
  • John Fay of The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Reds' relievers Nick Masset and Jared Burton are arbitration eligible as Super Two's, but Micah Owings is not.
  • Meanwhile, the Reds are expected to decline Ramon Hernandez's $8.5MM option for 2010, according to MLB.com's Mark Sheldon
  • David O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal Constitution has some quotes from Tim Hudson about his contract extension.
  • Did you catch Mariano Rivera saying that he wants to play another five years during the Yankees' World Series celebration last night? It turns out he wasn't kidding. Chad Jennings of The Journal News quotes the Yanks' closer as saying “I’m serious. I hope the organization does whatever it takes to bring me back.”

Tim Hudson Extension Close

Multiple journalists said to expect the Braves' three-year extension for Tim Hudson to be finished last week, but that didn't happen.  David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains why:

The delay on Hudson extension resulted from the team having to find a doctor the insurance company approved of to do the physical. But they got the doc and Huddy passed the physical, from what I’m told. If so, it shouldn’t be much longer before they sign this deal and it gets announced.

The Braves may also prefer to wait until after the World Series to announce the deal, though Freddy Sanchez's extension with the Giants was publicized mid-Series.  MLB.com's Mark Bowman agrees with O'Brien's info.

Hudson's signing could lead the Braves to trade a starter for a hitter.  O'Brien discussed the idea of trading Javier Vazquez in a blog post yesterday.