The Braves have brought in a veteran to push Sean Newcomb for the fifth starter spot. A guy we thought could be an option earlier this offseason, the Braves have acquired longtime Mariner Felix Hernandez on a minor league pact worth around $1 million:
King Felix Hernandez signs NRI deal with Braves.
$1,000,000. Will try for 5th starter
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 20, 2020
Felix Hernandez fell off fast after hitting 30-years old after being one of the most dominant pitchers in the game. But it is worth noting that while he has struggled mightily the last few seasons, we have yet to see if he can benefit from a change of scenery, as he has spent his entire career with the Mariners. Perhaps moving to the National League would be fruitful for him during this decline. Of course, shoulder injuries are mostly to blame for the big-time regression, and Hernandez will likely never be the same as he was in his prime. They have bothered him for the last few seasons, and his statistics reflect that. He has seen a significant dropoff in velocity. Now, he will have to prove he can stay healthy and can still provide value even as a low-end starter.
Hernandez may be “washed up,” but people said the same thing about Sanchez for the three years before his rejuvenation in Atlanta. The difference is, Felix was one of the most dominant starters of the last decade. He is a former Cy Young winner and has finished in the top five four times. This experiment is health-contingent, but if he shows up ready for Spring Training and outperforms Newcomb, he can be the fifth starter if the dice rolls in his favor.
Hernandez is still just 33. I would say the chances of him being an effective fifth starter next year are not likely. His best days are behind him. But with that being said, the Braves may be able to catch lightning in a bottle and hope he can undergo a career renaissance. At the very least, he can buy the young arms some more time. With Cole Hamels being the only veteran in the rotation, it does not hurt to have one more on hand, especially one with so much success. With this being a minor league deal, it could pan out to be a good upside play.