If the Braves are able to re-sign Josh Donaldson, all of the substantial work will be done for the offseason. Even if they don’t win the Bringer of Rain sweepstakes, they have one more splash in them. Because regardless of whether their big move is at third base, the Braves need protection in the lineup for Freddie Freeman.
After that, outside of potentially adding another bench bat, there is only one more move Alex Anthopolous should make – find a veteran starter they can sign to a minor league deal. Sean Newcomb, Kyle Wright, and Bryse Wilson will all have their opportunity to solidify themselves as the fifth starter. But given the unpredictability of that group and the potential for injuries during the season, the Braves should bring in at least one veteran in case of an emergency.
In a perfect world, sure it would be ideal for Anthopoulos to sign a guy like Alex Wood. However, it seems the organization believes in Newcomb, and unless they are dead set about keeping him in the bullpen, it makes no sense to guarantee money to a starter. At the same time, they do not want to promise Newk a spot; they want him to earn it. We all remember Anibal Sanchez in 2018 when he signed a minor league contract with the Braves and ended up becoming an X-factor. This is not to say that it will happen again, but pitching is volatile, and if the money is not guaranteed, it is to the Braves’ benefit to have as many arms competing as possible.
Felix Hernandez has fallen off just about as bad as I have ever seen a pitcher. 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 Rodriguez 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. 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 would be health-contingent, but if he shows up ready for Spring Training and outperforms Newcomb, he can be the fifth starter if the dice roll in his favor. And it appears teams have the same sentiment because there has been some interest in the industry:
Felix Hernandez is receiving interest and will continue to evaluate opportunities into the new year. Said to be excited to pitch in 2020.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 18, 2019
Hernandez is still just 33. Gun to my head, I would say there is probably a 10-20% chance of him being an effective fifth starter next year. His best days are behind him. But with that being said, a lucky team may be able to catch lightning in a bottle. At the very least, he can buy the Braves 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. If the Braves are looking for a minor league deal with some upside, they might want to turn to one of the most electric pitchers we have ever seen.