Although the Braves bought out right-hander Julio Teheran’s 2020 option on Monday, that doesn’t necessarily mean the two sides’ longstanding union is over. General manager Alex Anthopoulos indicated after letting Teheran go that he hasn’t slammed the door on signing the hurler to a new contract, per David O’Brien of The Athletic (subscription link).
“We’ll continue to stay in contact with him,” Anthopoulos said. “Obviously, he’ll have a chance now to test the market and talk to other teams. But I think there’s an openness on both sides to continue the relationship. So, we’ll see where that leads.”
While Teheran’s no longer the front-end starter he looked like earlier in his career, the two-time All-Star has at least been a productive source of innings throughout his MLB tenure. Teheran just turned in his seventh straight season with no fewer than 30 starts (33) or 170-plus frames (174 2/3). He pitched to an above-average 3.81 ERA along the way, but as has typically been the case, ERA indicators such as FIP (4.66), xFIP (5.26) and SIERA (5.11) were far less bullish. Teheran did strike out a career-high 8.35 batters per nine, but he also walked 4.28, continued to induce grounders at a less-than-stellar clip (39 percent), and saw his average fastball velocity drop to a personal-low 89.7 mph. Those are just some of the red flags that may have scared off the Braves, who turned down paying Teheran $12MM for next season in favor of a $1MM buyout.
Now that he’s on the free-agent market, Teheran – who still has one more season left in his 20s – has a chance to score an overall larger guarantee than the one the Braves rejected. MLBTR regards Teheran as one of a few starters who could secure a pact in the $18MM range over two years.
Anthopoulos’ words aside, it obviously looks doubtful Atlanta will end up as the team to hand Teheran his next deal. The Braves instead appear poised to redirect some of what would have been Teheran’s money in an effort to reel in a bigger fish, as they’ll go after “a front-line starter” to join the returning trio of Mike Soroka, Max Fried and Mike Foltynewicz, O’Brien writes.
Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg are hands down the top unsigned starters in the sport, but both seem like unrealistic targets for Atlanta. Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Jake Odorizzi, Dallas Keuchel (a Brave in 2019) and Cole Hamels are among the best of the rest, and no one there will rival Cole or Strasburg in earning power. However, it’s up for debate how many of them are legitimate rotation headliners at this point. The Braves could also explore the trade market, where the Tigers’ Matthew Boyd (an ATL target over the summer) and the Indians’ Corey Kluber are among those who may be rumor mill regulars this winter.