All of the chatter going on regarding Atlanta’s offseason, I like an opportunity to remedy the worst move the Braves made during the rebuilding era.
After being sent to LA in 2015 in the now infamous Hector Olivera trade, Alex Wood broke out in 2017. He was among the best pitchers in baseball, posting a 16-3 record with a 2.72 ERA and 8.9 K/9. Wood had some impressive feats that season. He notched a 1.27 ERA and 41 Ks in May and started the season with a 10-0 record along with 28 straight scoreless innings from mid-May to mid-June.
He was shaky in the NLCS but pitched well in the World Series, so he has some valuable postseason innings under his belt. 2018 was not as kind to him. He still pitched well, throwing one less inning and posting a 9-7 record with a 3.68 ERA before being moved to the pen and traded to the Reds. Injuries plagued his time in Cincy, but I think 2017 Alex Wood is still in there somewhere, and he’s a hometown kid that may benefit from a return.
With Dallas Keuchel having one foot out the door, Max Fried is the last lefty in Atlanta’s rotation as it stands. There is a quality foundation, but the Braves will need to add a middle of the rotation guy, and Wood has proven to have a top of the rotation ceiling. Alex Anthopoulos is familiar with Wood from his time in LA, and Wood is obviously familiar with the Braves.
The UGA standout will likely be thrilled to exit the Great American SmallPark after seven horrid starts there in 2019, and the Reds neglected to hand him a qualifying offer. He slots pretty nicely into Julio Teheran’s spot, should cost a similar amount, while possessing a little more upside.
The Wood trade was one of the only substantial blunders John Copollela’s regime made, and bringing him back makes too much sense. His consistency when healthy, combined with the Braves depth if he isn’t, makes the risk even smaller. His potential when he’s at his best, combined with Atlanta’s payroll, makes buying low a risk worth taking.
Wood is coming off of a $6 million deal with LA and $9.65 million contract with the Reds. It’s pretty safe to say Wood wasn’t worth that in 2019, but he still possesses some value in terms of past performance and potential. After a forgetful 2019, Wood might be a candidate for a one-year, “prove it” deal, which would be much less than the $17.8 million qualifying offer the Reds did not offer.
On a one year deal, I like $10 million for Wood, slightly less than what the Braves would have paid Julio Teheran had they picked up his 2020 option. For multiple years, I wouldn’t be opposed to two years and $16 million. Wood’s had success out of the pen. If he needs to be moved there, he still retains some of his value. Coming off of injury, he’s one of the better lower-cost options for the Braves, who might not be able to afford any of the top dogs in this free-agent class. 2017 Alex Wood, paired with Max Fried, creates one of the most intimidating lefty combinations in baseball. 2018 Alex Wood is still a solid starter that can throw over 150 innings with a sub-four ERA.