(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien this series)
CINCINNATI – Hello there, denizens. We’re switching around on you again, tag-teaming this road trip, so I’m picking up the team in the land of Skyline Chili for the weekend series against the Reds.
Without further ado, let me pick up on some of the discussion out there today about Carlos Beltran and just give you some insight into what I’m hearing.
In a nutshell, it has legs. From what I understand it pretty much boils down to this: the Braves covet Beltran, a switch-hitting outfielder who could give their offense a boost, especially against left-handed pitching, while playing some combination of right and center field.
The Mets covet Mike Minor, who is a major league-ready left-hander and former first round draft pick, who would be easy on the cash-strapped Mets financially for the next half-dozen years.
So if it comes down to that, those two pieces, the Braves have a decision to make, whether they’d give up what is basically their best insurance policy if there’s an injury to the rotation this season and a potential starter on the rotation for years to come for what would in all likelihood be a two-month rental in Beltran.
They’ve been burned by that in the past. Adam Wainwright? Neftali
Feliz? Elvis Andrus?
In recent years, though, the Braves have shown more hesitancy to go that route, hanging on to Tommy Hanson when teams like the Padres were salivating for him, for example. But with an obvious need for a right-handed bat, how should the Braves play it now?
They have a minor league system with some special pitching prospects, already, albeit none with the major league experience Minor has. Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, Randall Delgado are the Braves’ three prized arms, but all are right-handed. They just drafted left-hander Sean Gilmartin from FSU. Do they figure he’ll be on as fast a track as Minor was?
From what I understand Minor is the guy a lot of teams want; it’s who the Brewers wanted for Corey Hart last year and what the Mets want for Beltran. We’re told scouts from a half dozen teams, as well as Braves assistant GM Bruce Manno, were in Gwinnett last night watching Minor pitch – he went six innings, allowing 10 hits and six runs, though only three were earned, against Louisville.
Based on what Buster Olney of ESPN calls an educated guess, he sees the Braves as a frontrunner for Beltran in a potential deal. Not knowing what the Giants and Phillies would have to offer, or maybe even the Red Sox, I don’t know. But another factor that’s got to weigh on the Braves decision is whether they’d feel the need to play it aggressively so they wouldn’t see the Phillies or Giants get Beltran.
On the other hand, if you’re the Braves would you want to be facing Minor in your division for the next however many years? They never had to worry about that with Wainwright or Feliz.
But wait, there’s more. Giving up Minor would be no small thing, but if you’re trying to acquire say a Hunter Pence from the Astros, it’s apparently going to cost you even more, like two top starting prospects as well as a position player. And Pence is likely to make as much as $10 million in arbitration next year.
Michael Bourn would be a great addition, but the Braves need a right-handed bat, and trading for Bourn would mean they’re giving up on Jordan Schafer. By all accounts, the Braves like the trajectory Schafer is on right now.
There is a lot to consider here, and it makes for good blog fodder too. I don’t think it’s something that would happen in the next day or two but if the Braves lose this series to the Reds, maybe they start getting antsy. Best I can tell you is we’ll keep an eye on things.
The Braves announced this afternoon they’ve called up Cristhian Martinez from Triple-A Gwinnett and sent down struggling reliever Cory Gearrin. The Braves had sent Martinez to Gwinnett on July 2 to stretch out as a starter, getting in some work after hardly being used as a long man for the Braves. He went 2-1 with a 2.86 ERA in four starts for Gwinnett.
Gearrin has been ineffective of late, and struggled against left-handers especially. Gearrin has allowed 10 runs in his past 3 1/3 innings over five appearances since July 3. He gave up four runs in one inning in Colorado on Tuesday night.
Left-handers are hitting .393 (11-for-28) off Gearrin with a double, three triples and 10 RBIs. While righties are hitting only .143 off him the Braves would like to see him continue to develop a change-up to use against lefties.
So the Braves are going from the fire to the frying pan from the hitter-friendly Coors Field to Great American Ballpark for three days. When you couple the fact that their starters were still trying to get back on track after long lay-offs from the All-Star game it wasn’t a good combination for the Braves.
Since the All-Star break, Braves starters are 3-2 with a 6.53 ERA in seven games. The one starter who hasn’t showed any problems despite the longer layoffs is Tim Hudson who has allowed only three runs in 14 innings over two starts.
Jair Jurrjens, who pitches tonight against Bronson Arroyo, had 10 days between starts (he went 1 2/3 in relief in the All-Star game), when he gave up a season-high six runs to the Nationals last Sunday.
Arroyo, who is 7-8 with a 5.57 ERA, meanwhile, has given up four or more runs in four straight starts.
Sorry to cut this short, but I spent a lot of time traveling and on the phone, so I’ve got to close up shop and walk over to the ballpark. More from there.
1. Prado 3B
2. Heyward RF
3. McCann C
4. Freeman 1B
5. Hinske LF
6. Gonzalez SS
7. Conrad 2B
8. McLouth CF
9. Jurrjens P