The Braves already made their first shocking move of this 60-game season by designating Mike Foltynewicz for assignment after his first start last night. The guy who started in a winner-take-all Game 5 for the team just last year likely has thrown his final pitch in a Braves uniform after seeing another severe dip in his velocity, which is down nearly ten miles per hour since the Astros called him up in 2014. In a shortened season, Atlanta doesn’t have the luxury of hoping he can regain some of that juice, so nobody can blame them for acting swiftly. However, it leaves their rotation with even more questions after Mike Soroka and Max Fried.
Yesterday, our Chase Irle talked about the internal options the Braves could turn to immediately, but Alex Anthopoulos also has to be searching the trade block for some rotation help. If Atlanta wants to make a run at a World Series title, what they have now just isn’t going to cut it. The problem is, there aren’t many teams looking to deal so early in a shortened season, especially with an expanded 16-team playoff. Every organization should feel like they have a chance right now, even bottom-feeders like the Marlins and Tigers.
Still, with the trade deadline only a month away, Alex Anthopoulos’ search for a starter begins now. Sean Newcomb was very ineffective in his first start. Mike Foltynewicz is out of the picture. And Kyle Wright has yet to make his 2020 debut, but he’s far from a sure thing. Here’s an early look at who might be available sooner rather than later.
LHP John Means, Baltimore
Even though the Orioles are currently 2-1 and just a half-game outside of first place, it’s pretty clear they won’t be contending in 2020 (if they are, it would potentially be a top-five comeback story in sports history). They have one of the most barren rosters in the league, but there’s a lot to like about John Means. The lefty had a good 2019 on a 54-win team, posting a 12-11 record with a 3.60 ERA and 121 Ks in 155 innings, which led to an All-Star appearance.
Means is also team controlled through the 2024 season — something that will be extra appealing to the Braves because even with all of the pitching prospects that have made their way through, Atlanta still has significant issues with their rotation. However, that means the price tag will be hefty, and the Orioles may feel that they can become competitive well before Means’ contract is up. Baltimore also recently placed Means on the 10-day IL with shoulder fatigue, so the Braves would probably want to see him look comfortable in at least one start before making a deal.
LHP Matthew Boyd, Detroit
Detroit is another bad team that’s enjoying some relative early success. Boyd, however, is not in the same boat. After having an awful 2nd half last year, his first start in 2020 wasn’t great. Four runs in five innings earned him a loss against the Reds. Now his asking price compared to where it was at the last trade deadline is through the floor, but with two more years of arbitration, he still holds some value. However, if I’m AA, I’m not making a massive offer for a guy with a career 4.92 ERA. He’d be a reclamation project for sure, but with the right staff, it could work.
RHP Joe Musgrove, Pittsburgh
Musgrove was roughed up a little in his first start, but he’d be a quality piece to the Braves rotation. Pittsburgh also thought giving up Austin Meadows, Shane Baz, and Tyler Glasnow for Chris Archer was a good idea, so he could potentially be had for a bargain. He’s only on a $2.8 million deal with two years left of arbitration, so he makes a lot of financial sense. Musgrove is not a game-changer, but he’d be a substantial upgrade over the Foltynewicz we saw early this season. The Pirates would probably already be willing to listen to offers for him today too, which is another plus.