According to all accounts, the Braves are far from done this offseason, and may even be in a position to land one of the remaining star talents on the free agent market. The latter sounds a bit too good to be true considering the frugal way the Braves’ front office has gone about things since signing Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann on the same day. And while it’s unknown exactly how much money the Braves have left to spend, somewhere between 10 and 15 million seems like a reasonable guestimation – not nearly enough to land a player like Harper, Machado, or even Keuchel.
However, while the Braves don’t have many contracts they can unload to free up some more money, there is one, in particular, they have to be seriously evaluating.
Long-time Brave, Julio Teheran, is set to earn $11 million in the second to last year of his contract. And frankly, he is not needed in the Braves rotation for this team to succeed. His previous two seasons have been underwhelming, and the Braves have potentially nine guys who could occupy a starting rotation spot with more on their way. Atlanta is also looking to bolster the rotation with a front line starter (free-agent Dallas Keuchel fits that mold).
But why would a team deal for a struggling pitcher owed $11 million in 2019?
This is the much more intriguing question. It is hard to imagine the Braves have not explored all their options regarding a possible Teheran deal, which means Teheran either holds little to no value among other MLB clubs, or the Braves still believe Teheran’s best could be ahead of him.
I have a hard time believing the first part of that is accurate. Teheran is a player the Braves have held onto throughout the rebuild despite several teams attempting to poach him. He may have had back-to-back below average years for his standards, but he is still a 28-year old pitcher in his prime with a high-quality track record on a team-friendly deal. Sure, he may be owed $11 million next year, but he has a buyout in his deal for $1 million the year after that if he struggles.
There has to be a competitive team with a rotation that is not nearly as loaded as the Braves’ that would be willing to take on that kind of a deal, especially if Atlanta were to eat some of that money – which tells me the Braves must not be pushing hard enough. Perhaps they do not want to deal their only pitcher with significant MLB experience, or maybe they are not satisfied by parting ways with Teheran for nothing. Instead, they want a quality prospect or two in return.
Both of those concerns – after all – are justified, but they should not prevent Atlanta from making another blockbuster move in free agency that could make this team a championship contender. If the Braves want to take the next step this year, the easiest way to do that is to find a taker for Teheran’s contract and allocate that money on a piece(s) that can solidify their good, but not great, roster.