Tim Hudson, 2014 Starter?


Oct 4, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves injured pitcher Tim Hudson in the dugout during game two of the National League divisional series playoff baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

In the wake of a devastating end to the 2013 season for the Atlanta Braves, there hasn’t been much “Major League” related chatter. However, general manager Frank Wren took to the microphone on Monday, and while most of his chatter was non-committal, he did provide an interesting tidbit with regard to the 2014 rotation.

For starters, I’ve been banging the drum for the return of Hudson for weeks, and this is extremely encouraging for me. However, there has been some (muted) opposition to the return of Hudson for fear that it would “block” the progression of some young pitchers, so not all opinions are aligned on this one.

Hudson was certainly a quality option in 2013 prior to his season-ending ankle injury in late July. In 131.1 innings, Hudson put up a respectable 3.97 ERA, but more than that, his peripherals (3.46 FIP, 3.56 xFIP, improved 6.51 K/9) indicate that, if anything, he was a bit unlucky in achieving that ERA number. More than that, however, Hudson has been incredibly consistent in putting up solid-to-great stats throughout his career, and he should be considered extremely “safe”.

Now, there is the issue of “blocking” that we discussed earlier. As of this moment, the only “guaranteed” starting options for the 2014 Atlanta Braves (barring trade) are Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, and Kris Medlen. I can’t imagine any scenario (again, short of trade) where any of them isn’t a member of the opening day rotation, and that is not a controversial stance. After that, the race is wide open, as Brandon Beachy and Alex Wood would currently be the “penciled-in” starters among in-house options, with David Hale receiving some faint buzz after a good year in 2013.

Many are pointing to the Minor-Teheran-Medlen-Beachy-Wood quintet as the near-“definite” rotation, and while that isn’t outrageous, it’s probably misguided. Beachy is recovering (still) from major injury concerns, and even his “established” level of performance is based on a very small sample of innings. In the case of Wood, he’s made exactly 11 starts at the MLB level, and while he was very effective, the young left-hander seemed to run out of gas in a visible way in 2013.

If that doesn’t scare you in a significant way, consider this. Virtually every team in the Major Leagues will employ (at least) 6 starting pitchers throughout a season, and most need to field 7-8 starters (or more) during the season. It is basically irresponsible to go into the 2014 season with only those 5 starters (and presumably, David Hale) as the options available to Fredi Gonzalez, and the supposition that the Braves would enter the year with them seems insane to me.

Enter Tim Hudson, who is a) familiar to the organization, b) available at a presumably reduced cost thanks to injury and “loyalty”, and c) a very good pitcher. We can debate endlessly on just how good Hudson is at this advanced stage (he will be 38 years old on Opening Day, and 39 in July), but paying him in the $5-7 million range seems possible, and that would be an absolute steal given his production level.

For me, the attempt (at minimum) to re-sign Hudson at a reasonable cost should be an absolute given for Frank Wren and company. There is no “number 1” starter on the real-life market (that we know of), and short of giving up the entire farm for someone resembling Tampa Bay’s David Price, the “we need a #1 starter” anthem should be quieted for lack of options.

In reality, Tim Hudson seems to be the most likely option on the board, and he would be a fantastic one if the price is right.