MARCH 17: Medlen will undergo the second Tommy John surgery of his career tomorrow, tweets Mark Bowman of MLB.com. Meanwhile, Beachy is headed to Los Angeles for further evaluation after also being seen today by Dr. James Andrews.
Comments from GM Frank Wren certainly made it sound as if Beachy could be headed in the same direction, even if he is holding out hope, as Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. “I think it’s natural for guys to want to exhaust every possibility before they ultimately make that decision that I’m going to have surgery,” Wren said. “Sometimes these decisions aren’t black and white. There’s enough gray that they want just another set of eyes and another impression on what’s being seen.” The possibility of a second Tommy John procedure for Beachy was reported several days ago.
Looking ahead, the Braves could be in a tough spot next fall, when Medlen will qualify for his final trip through arbitration. He avoided arbitration this year by agreeing to a $5.8MM salary, and the resulting high salary floor could make it tough for Atlanta to tender him a contract for 2015. Medlen will not even be nine months into the recovery process at the point at which tender decisions are due. Teams have guaranteed money under similar circumstances — indeed, the Braves promised Gavin Floyd $4MM to join the club for 2014 — but the fact that this is Medlen's second UCL replacement certainly increases the risk.
MARCH 12: Medlen told reporters, including MLB.com's Mark Bowman (Twitter link), that he has spent the past two days preparing himself for a second Tommy John surgery. David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says there is a "high likelihood" that Medlen will need Tommy John. O'Brien relays that Medlen was "angry and in denial" after injuring his arm on Sunday; he threw two more pitches before exiting the game (Twitter links).
MARCH 11: Braves right-hander Kris Medlen received his MRI results Tuesday and consulted with team doctors before GM Frank Wren addressed the media. David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was on-hand as Wren revealed to the public that the MRI showed "some involvement in the ligament." However, MRIs on patients that have already undergone Tommy John surgery are difficult to read, and Medlen will therefore undergo further tests and meet with Dr. James Andrews to get another opinion before determining if surgery is required.
While Wren wouldn't comment on specific names, he admitted that the team is exploring the starting pitching market for additional help. O'Brien reports that the Braves have definitely reached out to Ervin Santana as one possibility. Wren called the Braves' mounting pitching injuries "worrisome," though the team believes Brandon Beachy's biceps tightness to be routine for players who have undergone elbow surgeries in the past (per O'Brien's Twitter).
Santana threw a two-inning simulated game yesterday and may wait a day or two before signing, Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reported last night. In that report, he added that financial concern is the main deterrent for the Braves, whose primary competition is the Orioles and Blue Jays. Baltimore has offered a one-year, $13MM deal plus incentives, while Toronto is offering one year and $14MM without incentives. The Twins have offered a three-year deal reported to be in the $30-33MM range, but Santana's preference is a one-year deal, as he could essentially guarantee himself roughly that amount over two years by signing for roughly $14MM for this season and getting a qualifying offer next offseason.
The potential loss of Medlen would be a devastating blow for a Braves rotation that already lost Tim Hudson to free agency and could be without Mike Minor for the early portion of April. Atlanta was projected to have a rotation of Medlen, Minor, Beachy, Julio Teheran and Alex Wood to open the season, with Gavin Floyd eventually slotting in once recovered from Tommy John surgery. Now, they may have to turn to Freddy Garcia, David Hale and other internal candidates, which would be less than ideal for a team expecting to contend in 2014.