The Braves have struck a minor-league deal with righty Kris Medlen, per David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter links). Once a key member of the Atlanta organization, Medlen will now have to earn his way into MLB camp, as his deal doesn’t include an invite.
If Medlen does make the MLB roster, he’ll earn at a $1MM annual rate, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). He can also achieve up to $2MM in incentives, based upon what role he might occupy (games started or total appearances).
Medlen, now 31, last appeared for the Braves in 2013, when he turned in 197 innings of 3.11 ERA ball with 7.2 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9. His career was knocked off course the next spring, however, when he tore his UCL during Spring Training and ultimately required Tommy John surgery.
Atlanta ultimately elected not to tender him a contract before the 2015 season, leaving Medlen to explore the open market. He landed with the Royals on a two-year deal that promised $8.5MM, but never really made good on the contract in Kansas City.
Medlen was able to return to action and provide 58 1/3 innings in 2015 — including eight starts and seven relief appearances. While his 4.01 ERA wasn’t exactly sparkling, Medlen did return to his typical ~90 mph fastball velocity and show that he could pitch competently at the major league level.
While there was some hope for a greater resurgence this past season, that wasn’t to be. Medlen dealt with shoulder injuries and wasn’t effective when he was available. He ended up handling only 24 1/3 MLB innings, posting a 7.77 ERA while uncharacteristically walking more batters (20) than he struck out (18).
Still, it’s an easy risk for Atlanta to take on a pitcher who is still relatively youthful and remains popular with the fanbase. Whether or not he can crack the roster remains to be seen, though the lack of a camp invite suggests that the team isn’t expecting it. Odds are, then, that Medlen will need to attempt to work his way back to the bigs with a stint in the upper minors at least to open the season.