With rumors continuing to swirl around premium starters such as Madison Bumgarner and Corey Kluber, one potential trade candidate is flying under the radar. Interestingly enough, he was once a prized prospect and consistent presence in the Braves rotation for the better part of five seasons. This hurler, of course, is none other than former Vanderbilt standout, Mike Minor.
The Braves took Minor with the 7th overall pick in the 2009 draft. After a meteoric rise through the minors, he would make his big league debut just one year later at 22 years old. From there, the lefty was a mainstay in the Braves rotation through the end of the 2014 season. Throughout his career in Atlanta, he started 110 games while pitching to a respectable 4.10 ERA across over 650 innings. Most Braves fans may remember Minor as a mediocre pitcher that would occasionally show flashes of brilliance. However, after missing two full seasons to shoulder injuries followed by a stint in the Royals bullpen, those flashes have turned into a bright shining light.
Playing on an otherwise nondescript Texas Rangers team, Minor has been phenomenal so far this year. Through 11 starts, he has put up a sensational 2.55 ERA with 72 strikeouts over 70.2 innings. His performance thus far coupled with his team friendly 3 year/$28 million contract that is set to expire at the end of next year has caught the eye of many organizations in contention. If Alex Anthopoulos decides to add a starter before the deadline, let’s take a look at the possibility of a Mike Minor homecoming in Atlanta.
Why It Would Work
The Braves, as with any other contending team, could improve their chances at postseason success via a starting rotation upgrade. Even with Max Fried and Mike Soroka emerging as a bright 1-2 punch, how they will perform in the playoffs will remain a question mark until they show us otherwise. This is where Minor’s excellent make-up would come to play. As calm, cool, and collected as ever, Mike would bring a steady anchoring presence in a postseason rotation full of youngsters.
He would be significantly cheaper than Bumgarner or Kluber. As rumors linking Kluber to the Braves ran rampant this past offseason, nothing materialized likely due to the Indian’s astronomical asking price. It was understood that Cleveland wanted MLB ready outfield help and at least two prospects from a group of Austin Riley, Cristian Pache, Max Fried and Touki Toussaint. The return that San Francisco will seek for Madbum is said to be in a similar range. The Braves are not going to entertain conversations about Riley or Fried after their success so far this year, but the expectation of at least two, if not three, top prospects will remain. The Rangers should be much more motivated to move Minor, especially while his value is high. Being 31 years old with a lengthy injury history and a contract expiring next year, Texas may be content with letting him go for a solid MLB player and one mid to high tier prospect.
Why It Wouldn’t
Minor would not be my first choice if the Giants and Indians reduce their asking price on Bumgarner and Kluber. Seeing as how both starters have an abundance of postseason experience, they would be a clear cut favorite over Minor given a reduction in cost. The Braves will have to contend with many other teams and could get caught in a bidding war. However, it is realistic to think the Giants would take a guy like Ender Inciarte packaged with one top and one mid-tier prospect when push comes to shove at the deadline. Atlanta will undoubtedly have the upper hand when it comes to farm system resources, especially up against the Phillies’ depleted system.
Although his lone postseason start was superb for the Braves, Minor has next to zero playoff experience. If the Braves are looking to make a deep run at the deadline; postseason miles should be at the top of the criteria list when evaluating trade candidates. Even with off the charts make-up and mound presence, playoff baseball is an entirely different animal. It may make sense for Atlanta to overpay for a guy like Bumgarner who is one of the best postseason pitchers of all time.
There is also the possibility Minor’s shoulder issues reemerge before the Braves get their chance at the deadline. This would be terrible to see after a career so heavily plagued by injury, but the possibility cannot be ignored. A Minor setback completely erases all hopes of a potential reunion.