The urgency to acquire another high-quality starter spiked after Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman’s erratic performances. Both tote ERAs of around six and are well in the negative when it comes to WAR.
Mike Foltynewicz was an All-Star last year and finished with over 200 strikeouts and an ERA below three. He also suffered a pretty significant injury in spring training. Those things considered – he will get a few more opportunities to try and regain his 2018 form. Gausman, on the other hand, might not be so lucky.
The top four in the starting rotation should look like this when Keuchel is ready for major league action:
The fifth spot will be decided between Folty and Gausman. And unless things change dramatically, Gausman is going to have a tough time winning that battle, meaning he will have to adjust to a new role in the bullpen or find a new home. Whatever the Braves decide to do; they will look back on the acquisition of Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day at last year’s trade deadline as a failure.
What they gave up prospect-wise was nothing to write home about. Jean Carlos Encarnacion, Evan Phillips, catcher Brett Cumberland, and left-hander Bruce Zimmerman most likely didn’t have a place in the Braves future. Atlanta needed another starter and wasn’t ready to give up the top prospects necessary to make a noteworthy splash. Gausman made sense as a pitcher that wouldn’t require much of a hall, was cost-controlled, and comes with upside given he was the fourth overall draft pick and was a part of an Orioles organization that is notoriously bad at developing pitching.
For the Braves to avoid handing over top prospects, they had to eat some money in return – in the form of Darren O’Day. O’Day was ruled out for the year when they dealt for him, but he was supposed to be a critical piece to the bullpen in 2019. His superb numbers in the AL East earned him a 4-year/$36 million contract – the last $9 million of which the Braves are on the hook for this season.
The thing is O’Day mysteriously was injured during spring training. It was labeled as forearm tightness, but since then, there have been minimal updates, and the only thing we know is the Braves think he will be available sometime after the All-Star break. Hopefully, he can come back and be a valuable piece down the stretch. But regardless, he won’t have been worth anywhere near the $9 million the Braves are paying him – and we know how cash strapped Atlanta was this offseason.
Jumping back to Kevin Gausman – he performed splendidly in the final two months of 2018 for the Braves, going 5-3 with a 2.87 ERA. He wasn’t much of a factor in the playoffs but was worth the price paid by the organization. Then this year happened.
Gausman is 2-5 with a 6.15 ERA. He’s allowed 15 earned runs in his last six innings pitched – a two-pitch pitcher that can only throw one pitch right now. When Dallas Keuchel returns, the Braves will likely move on from him as a starter altogether. Oh, and Atlanta settled at $9.35 million for him in arbitration. That’s $18.35 million – almost a sixth of Atlanta’s below-average payroll – taken up by two players who may barely even be considered contributors at the end of the year.
It may not be the prospects the Braves look back on with regret, but that money and what it could have been allocated on will remind Alex Anthopoulos to think twice next time before he pulls the trigger. Dallas Keuchel is set to make his first start tonight in Rome. His agent Scott Boras said it would only take him a week to be ready. If that’s the case, Gausman only has a couple of opportunities left to show the Braves’ brass something. Even then, it might be too late.