Braves: Have we seen the last of Julio Teheran?

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Teheran hasn’t been able to blossom into the ace many thought he had the potential of being when he was a younger player in a Braves uniform. His velocity has steadily gone down year-by-year, and with it, so has his consistency. Because of that, many had pitchforks in hand screaming at Alex Anthopoulos to deal him before the season began. In hindsight, that might have doomed the Braves had it happened. The rotation, for most of the season, was in shambles, and Teheran was arguably the best pitcher on the staff for four months from May to September, recording a 2.67 ERA. He was integral to this team’s success, but as this season has waned, and the rotation has become stronger, Teheran might find himself on the outside looking in when talking about the postseason roster.

The longtime Brave undoubtedly has the least electric stuff in the current rotation. That’s not necessarily a knock on him as much as it is a testament to the other four starting pitchers. Dallas Keuchel is going to pitch Game 1, Mike Foltynewicz looks like a safe bet to toe the mound in Game 2, and Mike Soroka – a road warrior – should be penciled in for Game 3. As far as Game 4, the Braves will likely take the wait-and-see approach, but they do have Max Fried and Julio Teheran if necessary. However, with the way Teheran has tossed it of late, I find it difficult for Snitker to justify sending him out there for a start.

In his last three appearances, Teheran’s longest outing has been five innings, which he has done once, allowing three earned runs. Last night, he surrendered six runs in two-plus innings to the sixty-win Royals. And what has been most notable about this stretch, Teheran is falling back into old habits, giving out home runs and extra-base hits like candy. At this point, the only way I see him on the postseason roster is as insurance.

The Braves have better arms they can turn to out of the bullpen, so it doesn’t make much sense to keep him around strictly as a reliever. His best hope is if Brian Snitker views Max Fried as a hybrid reliever that can also start if need be. In that case, he might want to keep Teheran on the roster to make an emergency start in case none of the other four arms can pitch. However, that is a rather defensive strategy, and with the amount of talent on the 40-man roster, I’m not so sure that is how the Braves will approach it. For the first time all season, Teheran’s spot on the playoff roster is up in the air, and he does not have another outing left to prove he is deserving.

I don’t imagine there would be many tears shed if Teheran is not around during the postseason. However, last night might also be the final time we see him in a Braves uniform. Alex Anthopoulos has a decision to make regarding his $12 million option for 2020. The Braves can buy him out for $1 million and allocate that money elsewhere – perhaps on extensions for Josh Donaldson, Dallas Keuchel, or both. Some other free agents might pique Atlanta’s interest as well, and more young arms are waiting on the horizon for an opportunity in 2020.

Keeping Teheran around for $12 million certainly would not be the worst thing the Braves could do. After all, he did put together a marvelous campaign this season. However, there are no guarantees. If this is the last time we see Teheran in a Braves uniform, it is a bit of a tear-jerking moment. He’s the only player besides Freddie Freeman to make it through the entire rebuild, and despite criticism, has been nothing but a class act and a pretty damn good pitcher. Hopefully, the Braves can send him out in style with a ring.

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