Teheran unlikely to be traded, but Braves not done dealing

It’s been apparent for several weeks that the Braves have no intentions of trading Julio Teheran, whose contract is too club-friendly and whose performance has been too good since late last season to make it likely they would improve the team by trading their best pitcher and blowing a hole in their rotation.

(But the Braves did trade Bud Norris for more pitching prospects Thursday)

They might get back a proven hitter, but they’re not likely to fill a couple of spots in their lineup with impactful young players under contractual control for several years or more, and that’s what it should – and likely would – take for a team to pry Teheran from the Braves before the Aug. 1 non-waiver deadline.

Julio Teheran has the second-lowest WHIP in the majors behind Clayton Kershaw, but is still looking for his first home win entering Friday's start against the Marlins. (Jason Getz/AJC file photo)

Julio Teheran has the second-lowest WHIP in the majors behind Clayton Kershaw, but is still looking for his first home win entering Friday’s start against the Marlins. (Jason Getz/AJC file photo)

Otherwise, it’s the quintessential robbing Peter to pay Paul, in this case the Braves weakening their pitching to such a degree that any improvement they would likely get offensively would not be enough to offset the loss. You just don’t trade young starting pitchers as good and particularly as affordable as Teheran, 25, who is one of the best bargains in baseball this season at $3.3 million, and will be again next season when his salary goes to $6.3 million, and again after that when it climbs to $8 million in 2018.

Who replaces Norris in rotation? 

Try to find a proven veteran starting pitcher as good as Teheran who’s making less than $10 million.

And that’s not even the end of the contract. Provided he stays healthy, he should still be a great bargain – especially the way free-agent pitching salaries continue to soar – when he makes $11 million in 2019 in the final guaranteed year of the deal, and in 2020 when there’s a $12 million team option with a $1 million buyout.

If a couple of their pitching prospects develop into elite pitchers in the next year or three, then yes, trade Teheran to fill other needs. But right now? That’d just make no sense, given the state of the rotation and the fact that there are no other pitchers in the organization that you can legitimately point to and say, I know that guy is going to be a 3.00-ERA type pitcher in 2017 when the Braves are in their new ballpark.

Which brings us to tonight (Friday), when Teheran takes the mound again and looks to continue what has been one of the better pitching runs by any pitcher since the last month of the 2015 season.

Entering this game against the Marlins, Teheran is 3-5 in his past 12 starts despite a dominant 1.61 ERA and .160 opponents’ average in that span, with 82 strikeouts and 16 walks in 83 2/3 innings. The Braves scored two or fewer runs while he was nine of those 12 games, including one or no runs while he was in six games.

Teheran has a 2.23 ERA and .191 opponents’ average in 22 starts since the beginning of Sept. 1, but just a 5-8 record in that span while receiving 2.9 support runs per nine inning pitched. He’s allowed two or fewer earned runs in 17 of those 22 starts, but the Braves have scored two or fewer runs while he’s been in 17 of those 22 games, including one or no runs while he was in nine.

For the season, Teheran has the worst run support among major league starters at 2.72 runs per nine innings pitched.

Consider this:  Teheran is 3-7 with a 2.46 ERA and .183 opponents’ average and 0.89 WHIP (second-lowest in majors to Clayton Kershaw’s 0.73), while the Nationals’ Steven Strasburg is 10-0 with a 2.90 ERA, .220 opponents’ average and 1.06 WHIP.

Strasburg has received 7.06 support runs per nine innings pitched, third-best among NL starters and nearly three times the support that Teheran’s gotten.

Even harder to believe than Teheran’s overall record is his home mark. He’s still winless (0-4) at home this season, even though he has a 2.80 home ERA and .213 opponents’ average with 54 strikeouts and 16 walks in 54 2/3 innings.

Since beginning his superb run in early September, he’s 1-4 in 12 home starts despite a 2.41 ERA and .211 OA, with 75 strikeouts and 22 walks in 74 2/3  innings. The Braves have scored two or fewer runs while Teheran was in the game in all but one of those 12 starts, including one or no runs in the past four.

Against the Marlins, Teheran is 5-3 with a 2.87 ERA in 13 starts, including 1-2 with a 3.03 ERA in five starts since the beginning of the 2015 season. He lost his only start against them this season May 29 in Atlanta, when he gave up five hits, three runs and three walks in 5 1/3 innings.

Braves-killer Justin Bour is 3-for-8 with a homer against Teheran, Marcell Ozuna is 11-for-30 with a homer, Christian Yelich is 9-for-28, Martin Prado is 6-for-21 and Giancarlo Stanton is 4-for-27 with two homers.

His counterpart tonight is Marlins lefty Justin Nicolino, who’s 2-0 with an 0.64 ERA and .178 opponents’ average in two starts against the Braves, both last September. He had only five strikeouts with eight walks in 14 innings of those games, but gave up only eight hits and one run.

The good news for the Braves: Nicolino has really struggled of late. As in, struggled to the tune of 0-4 with a 5.95 ERA and .358 opponents’ average in his past eight major league starts, with 25 strikeouts and nine walks in 42 1/3 innings.

He lasted fewer than six innings in each of his past seven starts, and gave up 22 hits and 10 runs in 10 1/3 innings of his last two starts for the Marlins before being optioned to Triple-A New Orleans.

Nicolino last pitched in the majors June 15 at San Diego, where he gave up 10 hits and five runs in 4 2/3 innings. In his start before that, June 10 at Arizona, he gave up12  hits and five runs in 5 2/3 innings. He pitched well in two starts for New Orleans since then.

• Trade possibilities: They’re not likely to trade Teheran, but the Braves would move shortstop Erick Aybar in a heartbeat if they get an offer this month for the veteran, who’s making $8.5 million this season and got off to a horrendous start. He’s played a lot better lately, and the Braves need Aybar to keep doing for the next few weeks what he’s done in his past 15 games: hit .306 (15-for-49) with four doubles, five walks, .404 OBP, .388 slugging percentage…..

Braves’ middle infield of the future is paired now at Double-A

  Arodys Vizcaino’s recent struggles might’ve dampened his trade market, but there will still be plenty of interest in the Braves closer, and I think they’ll move him for the right offer. Vizcaino has a 4.35 ERA in his past 13 appearances while allowing 10 hits, seven runs (five earned) and 12 walks with 13 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings in that span and taking three losses. Before that stretch, Viz had posted a 1.57 ERA and .208 opponents’ average in 59 appearances, since returning from an 80-game PED suspension that cost him the first half of the 2015 season. He had 71 strikeouts and 20 walks in 57 1/3 innings in that impressive run.

Any veteran (and perhaps a few others) from the Braves bullpen are also available, meaning Jim Johnson could be dealt if a team thinks he could help in the stretch drive.

There also could be some renewed interest in veteran right fielder Nick Markakis, who has hit .296 (29-for-98) in his past 24 games with eight doubles, a homer, 13 RBIs and a .330 OBP and .408 slugging percentage, and particularly in Jeff Francoeur, who has hit lefties well all season, still has a strong outfield arm, and is highly regarded as a teammate who can slip into any clubhouse seamlessly and strengthen rather than detract from chemistry, a consideration plenty of teams have during playoff runs…. And if Gordon Beckham comes off the DL and picks up where he left off, it wouldn’t surprise me if a team or two shows interest in the veteran infielder, who has revived his career in his first season with his hometown Braves.

• Freeman resurgence: Freddie Freeman was always the guy whose simple swing mechanics – and sheer talent — allowed him to avoid the kind of extended slumps that most other hitters dealt with at least occasionally. But not this season. For the first two months, Freeman had some long cold spells and only a couple of hot streaks.

That changed in June, the first month in which the big first baseman produced the kind of numbers the Braves are used to seeing from their franchise player. He hit .346/.426/.654 with 18 extra-base hits in June, after posting slash lines of .245/.314/.427 in May and .259/.368/.407 in April.

In his past 17 games Freeman is 29-for-68 (.426) with 14 extra-base hits (three triples, four homers), 11 RBIs and a .487 OBP and .794 slugging percentage.

And no, I don’t think Coppy is reconsidering his right-arm pledge regarding Freeman.

• Since we’re entering the long Fourth of July weekend, here’s probably the best song ever about the holiday. From the mighty L.A. band, X.

“FOURTH OF JULY” by X

X

X

She’s waitin’ for me when I get home from work
Oh but things just ain’t the same
She turns out the light and cries in the dark
And she won’t answer when I call her name

On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone
Mexican kids are shootin’ fireworks below
And hey baby, it’s the 4th of July
Hey baby, it’s the 4th of July

She gives me her cheek when I want her lips
Oh but I don’t have the strength to go
On the lost side of town in a dark apartment
We gave up trying so long ago

On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone
Mexican kids are shootin’ fireworks below
And hey baby, it’s the 4th of July
Hey baby, it’s the 4th of July
Whatever happened I apologize
Dry your tears and baby
Walk outside, it’s the 4th of July

On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone
Mexican kids are shootin’ fireworks below
And hey baby, it’s the 4th of July
Hey baby, baby and baby take a walk outside

Hey baby, hey baby
Hey baby, it’s the 4th of July
Hey baby, don’t bother for 3rd of July
We’ve got into 4th of July
Hey baby, hey baby

 

 


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