After Hudson, Braves seek short-term veteran starter
Club looking for sensible trade to complement young rotation; Lohse would fit bill
ATLANTA -- Tim Hudson stood as the most logical target when the Braves began planning to add a veteran presence to their starting rotation. Along with having the capability to serve as a reliable No. 2 or No. 3 starter, Hudson would have been able to continue having a positive effect on Mike Minor, Kris Medlen and Atlanta's other young starters who have spent the past few years looking up to him.
In addition, the Braves saw Hudson as the kind of short-term solution that would not block the path for some of their top pitching prospects who have either already reached Atlanta or might be just a year or two away from doing so. But it did not take long to realize the demand was going to create a cost that the Braves were not willing to pay for a 38-year-old pitcher who missed this past season's final two months with a fractured right ankle.
The Red Sox, Royals, Indians and A's all expressed genuine interest in Hudson. But in the end, the veteran right-hander, who had spent the past nine years in Atlanta, opted to go cross country to accept the generous two-year, $23 million offer provided by the Giants.
"We hoped it would work out," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "But the market for Huddy was such that there were other teams that needed to fill holes. That was not our situation."
While the wish list might now be one name longer, Wren's objective has not necessarily changed. Over the next few weeks and months, he will continue searching for a veteran starting pitcher who has the capability of providing value to his rotation for a year or two.
There was some thought that the Braves might be among those teams that could be in the market for David Price or any of the other legitimate aces that could be available on the trade market. But Wren has made it clear that he is not willing to mortgage his club's future by offering the kind of package it would likely take to get one of these pitchers.
Instead, it seems more likely that Atlanta will evaluate the trade market in search of an accomplished veteran who would not require as significant of a return package. One possible target seems to be Milwaukee's Kyle Lohse, who has compiled a 3.19 ERA in the 95 starts he has combined to make with the Brewers and Cardinals over the past three years.
If the Brewers are willing to trade Lohse, they will likely be seeking a first baseman in the return package. The Braves might be able to satisfy this need with a package that would include Joey Terdoslavich and another prospect.
Lohse's contract makes him even more attractive to pitching-hungry clubs. The 35-year-old right-hander is owed $22 million over the final two years and then would be eligible for free agency after the 2015 season.
"We like our young pitching a lot, and we are also mindful of not inhibiting their development and growth over the next couple of years," Wren said. "So we were looking for more short term than long term in the standpoint of adding a veteran."
A.J. Burnett, Matt Garza, Bronson Arroyo and Ubaldo Jimenez are among the top available starting pitchers on this year's free-agent market. Burnett would seemingly make some sense given that he has indicated he might not want to pitch more than another season or two.
But given what Hudson and Tim Lincecum (a two-year deal worth $35 million) have already received, Burnett's cost could prove to be greater than what Atlanta is willing to spend. Burnett has indicated he might retire if he does not return to the Pirates. But there is certainly reason to wonder if the 36-year-old hurler would pass up the payday he has positioned himself for while compiling a 3.41 ERA over the past two seasons.
If the Braves do not add a starting pitcher, their rotation would consist of Medlen, Minor, Julio Teheran, Brandon Beachy and either Alex Wood or David Hale. While most of the members of this group have already displayed their potential at the big league level, none of them have made more than 85 career starts.
Wren and his staff have also spent the past couple of weeks evaluating the possibility of adding some depth to their bullpen. But with Craig Kimbrel, Luis Avilan, Jordan Walden and David Carpenter all set to return next year, this is not necessarily a pressing need.
"I think you're always looking just to add depth," Wren said. "You want to put depth where you can spread the load. None of us know what is going to happen in April, May or June. This year, we lost [Jonny] Venters and [Eric] O'Flaherty early on. That put a big strain on us to be able to manage our bullpen."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.