Now subbing for Javier Vazquez, a rejuvenated Tim Hudson

Tim Hudson works on Day 1 of Camp Roger. (AJC photo by Bob Andres)

Here's Tim Hudson, back at work. (AJC photo by Bob Andres)

On the first day of February and Camp Roger, Bobby Cox called Tim Hudson “kind of the forgotten man.” While true for now, it won’t be true for long. Because Tim Hudson has to approximate Javier Vazquez for the Braves’ winter maneuvers to pan out.

Even Hudson concedes the point. “If I don’t come back, I don’t see how they could have [traded Vazquez],” he said. “I don’t think any team could have traded a pitcher like that.”

Hudson offered a cheaper, longer-term option. He took a hometown discount to re-up for three years at $28 million, with a club option for the 2013 season. Vazquez was due to make $11.5 million this season and then would surely have left as a free agent. Monetarily, the trade-off — Hudson in, Vazquez out — makes great good sense.

At issue is whether it makes competitive sense. Vazquez would likely have started on Opening Day. He won 15 games last season and finished fourth in the National League Cy Young voting. Hudson won two games in 2009, but those two games — coming as they did after a year’s layoff due to Tommy John surgery — convinced the Braves that he was the Hudson of yesteryear.

“Huddy will be very good,” Bobby Cox said Monday. “He’s throwing the ball really good right now. He’s an ace — we forget that.”

Certainly that’s what the Braves thought they were getting when they acquired Hudson from Oakland in December 2004. But in his first four seasons as a Brave — his 2008 campaign was truncated by injury — Hudson more often looked like a No. 3 starter than a No. 1. He was 54-38 with an ERA of 3.78. (Over six seasons with the A’s he was 92-39 with an ERA of 3.30.)

Not once as a Brave has Hudson had a season to match what Vazquez did last year — 15-10 with 238 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.87. The Braves are betting that a rotation can be just as strong without its No. 1 man, but for that to happen Hudson must produce at a higher rate than he has since switching leagues.

Cox: “Nobody wanted to lose Vazquez, of course. [But] if we weren’t sold on Huddy we wouldn’t have [re-]signed him. He’s still young [Hudson turns 35 in July]. He’s a top-of-the-rotation guy.”

And maybe he is, because maybe we haven’t yet seen the real Tim Hudson. There were times over his first four seasons when he looked so hittable you asked yourself, “Is something wrong with his arm?” Hudson kept insisting there wasn’t, but now, in the cold light of hindsight, he thinks there might have been.

“I understand how healthy I am,” Hudson said. “Physically I feel better than I did five or six years ago … My arm hasn’t felt this good in eight years. It feels good to be in that good a shape. I’d been having aches and pains, and I just thought that was part of getting older, but now I know my arm wasn’t what it needed to be.”

The surgery rebuilt his elbow, and during the rehab Hudson also strengthened his shoulder. The result: One rejuvenated right arm. And perhaps, down the road, an affirmation of Frank Wren’s busy winter. The general manager traded his best pitcher from 2009 and didn’t get a full-time starter — Melky Cabrera is seen as a fourth outfielder — in return. The move looked strange at the time. It will look better only if Tim Hudson holds up his end.

160 comments Add your comment

JEZ

February 1st, 2010
1:31 pm

jimmy

February 1st, 2010
1:34 pm

don’t worry about huddy he will hold up his end worry about the bats seven out of nine have quustion marks

chem

February 1st, 2010
1:38 pm

Even if Hudson gives his best Vazquez impersonation, the Braves still need to score runs. Shouldn’t they have some money still leftover from dumping Vazquez?

Coach (2011 or Bust)

February 1st, 2010
1:40 pm

By trading Vazquez the Braves went from potentially having the best rotation in baseball to merely having one of the top five. But yes, Huddy is an Ace. So are Hanson and JJ. Derek Lowe is in slow decline but how many teams have a fifteen game winner as their projected fourth starter? Throw in Kawakami and I really like our chances.

The only potential hitch in Atlanta’s starting pitching is the lack of proven depth beyond Kris Medlen. So let’s be hopeful that the starting five will stay healthy. Ditto for Chipper and Troy Glaus.

Mark Bradley

February 1st, 2010
1:41 pm

About $5 million, as I figure it, Chem.

Mark Bradley

February 1st, 2010
1:42 pm

Oh, and kudos to JEZ.

Poorbrave

February 1st, 2010
1:45 pm

Boy this team is full of “If”. You can bet one of those “if’s” will jump up and bite you in the A@@. Praying for a miracle. Go Braves.

Bill

February 1st, 2010
1:51 pm

Thanks Mark for a little Braves news. Braves still need another power hitter that Wren has promised for two years. Whats your thoughts on Braves signing Damon? Always respect your opinion.

Astro Joe

February 1st, 2010
1:54 pm

If TJ surgery works out well for Huddy and Wagner… can we see if Chipper can have TJ surgery too?

TruthSeeker

February 1st, 2010
1:56 pm

I don’t think Hudson necessarily has to be as good as Javy was last year. Personally, I don’t know what to expect from Huddy. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s lights-out, nor would it surprise me if he gets pounded the same way he did in ‘06.

I expect our top two starters to be JJ and Tommy Hanson, in either order. Both guys are capable of competing for the Cy Young. I’m not a huge Lowe fan, but I do expect him to be a littler bit better than he was last year. If Hudson can just be a dependable 3rd or 4th starter (12-14 wins, 3.75-4.00 ERA) I’ll take that in a heartbeat.

Regardless, we’ll have enough pitching barring a rash of injuries or a bunch of guys underperforming. The question remains: can we score enough runs? That I’m a lot less confident about.

jmarable

February 1st, 2010
2:01 pm

the braves r thinking save money b 4 they think winning.unlike the yankees,red sox.phillies,dodgers.mets.anyone who wants to win would not give up there number one arm,4 a bench riding melki cabera.my lord.who can take the braves serious i sure cant.i go to 25 games a year.not this summer.im not impressed with whats happening.its said .we downgraded ever one else upgraded,go figure

F-105 Thunderchief

February 1st, 2010
2:08 pm

What’s he looking at?

Bigstack O' Pancakes. It is an Irish name.

February 1st, 2010
2:08 pm

It won’t matter who is pitching if they can’t score runs when their old, often injured 3 and four hitters are on the bench nursing injuries. The lineup is a joke. The back end of the bullpen scares me too. You replace a fireballing Soriano with a guy pushing 40 who is coming off major surgery. You replace Gonzo with another guy pushing 40 who had his best years long ago. That is also a joke to me. After Cox retires the Braves need to get into rebuilding and build for 2012 and beyond. Quit adding all of these question mark vets who are past their prime hoping they don’t fall apart and can squeeze out one more productive season. I have seen this before. Where was it? Oh yeah, Baltimore when that idiot Wren was the GM and ran the team into the ground. The Orioles have been in the toilet ever since. Also, people who brag about being the first post on any blog are giant losers who need to move out of their parent’s basement, get a job, actually talk to a girl, grow up and get a life.

lefty fielder

February 1st, 2010
2:12 pm

i still feel like vizcaino and dunn might have been the main targets of the vazquez trade . . . whatcha think?

lefty fielder

February 1st, 2010
2:13 pm

For the record, a lot of Yankee fans don’t have much confidence in Vazquez . . . say he won’t be nearly as effective in the American League.

F-105 Thunderchief

February 1st, 2010
2:13 pm

This team feels as rickety going into spring training as the 2008 club did. Sorry, but I don’t think Wren upgraded the team at all. Reagan asked, “Are you better off …?” I’ve got to say, no.

Willy

February 1st, 2010
2:16 pm

Still, couldn’t we have gotten more from the Vasquez trade? It’s almost like saying it makes sense to cut somebody, because this other guy might be almost as good.

Barnacle Bill Bavasi

February 1st, 2010
2:24 pm

For the record, I’m just thrilled about Milky Carerra, that is his name, right? I mean, can you imagine being able to get that guy in trade – we’re talking a fourth outfield here – for a top-notch starter? I sure didn’t. Wow

banshee29

February 1st, 2010
2:24 pm

and if he doesnt pan out? Love Huddie, but he makes me nervous. Braves are waiting on the missing link, as usual. Too many old superstars…

Bravissimo

February 1st, 2010
2:26 pm

lefty fielder.. a lot Braves fans didnt have much confidence in Vasquez before the 09 season either..

I think Huddy will be just fine…we just need to score runs!

jmarable

February 1st, 2010
2:27 pm

have the braves 4gotten u can steal second u dont have to wait on back to back to back hits to get a run.OH my bad.we have no speed.or power in the outfield.how r we gonna score.oh my bad.we just want to save money.we r the best at that.go braves.who we trade next Hanson 4 a 40 yr old set up guy.braves suck in 2010.believe it fellas

Wren Hater

February 1st, 2010
2:33 pm

Could we please get Frank “Wrong Again” Wren to stand in as catcher for Cap Roger, preferably WITHOUT using a glove, padding or mask?

collegeballfan

February 1st, 2010
2:36 pm

I can live with the starters. I just hope the old guys in the bullpen can hold up. And are we gonna get JJ some runs this year?

NC Braves Fan

February 1st, 2010
2:37 pm

Great post, Mark. Hudson, combined with a full year of Hanson and another year of JJJ should equal or surpass what JV gave us in 2009.

Wren Hater

February 1st, 2010
2:38 pm

CORRECTION:

CAMP ROGER

(I wish it were “CAMP LEO” instead.)

Ryan

February 1st, 2010
2:39 pm

Vazquez in 2008 was the blind squirrel finding an acorn. He’s simply not a #1 starter.

Even last year, I’d have trusted Hanson and JJ in a critical game much more than I’d have trusted Vazquez.

Kurdt Kobain

February 1st, 2010
2:45 pm

I’m with some others in that I think Hanson and JJ are collectively going to pick up the slack, not Hudson.

Barnacle Bill Bavasi

February 1st, 2010
2:48 pm

Jair is the No. 1 starter and was last year. That said, we sure haven’t improved this year’s team with the trade. Not unless Dunn turns into another Gonzalez or Soriano. It’ll be a fine trade if (and it’s a BIG if) Vizcaino makes it clear he’s the next Tommy Hanson.

Kentavo

February 1st, 2010
2:53 pm

Ever since the purse strings were tightened we’ve been told that so-and-so coming back from an injury is “just like signing a major free agent.”
Hogwash.

JEZ

February 1st, 2010
2:59 pm

It appears Wren is putting all of his eggs in the Heyward basket, expecting him to be our starting RF without actually saying it. I don’t doubt the guy is a beast, but he STILL has not had much experience above AA-ball…not very confident at this point.

BSIATL

February 1st, 2010
3:03 pm

It wasn’t Vasquez for Melky people…stop thinking that way. Vasquez is unlikely to repeat his breakout year this year and was owed 11.5 mil. They got a very reliable 3rd or 4th outfielder in Melky who gets on base and plays a decent outfield. They also got a stud prospect in Vizcaino and a good power arm for the bullpen that will be on the 25 man roster. In addition to that swap of players that also freed up the money to get Troy Glaus at first and Eric Hinske who can play both 1st and 3rd quite well and can help keep the injury prone Chipper and Glaus rested and hopefully healthy. So you see it was a 5 for one swap and we already had enough starters with Hudson coming back. Hudson’s WAR rating is +2.5 and Vazquez has a WAR rating this season of +3. So you really want to keep Vazquez for a half of a win and not aquire those other 5? Glaus and Hinske both have WAR ratings of +1/1.5 so we actually made out like bandits in this deal.

Kentavo

February 1st, 2010
3:07 pm

The thing that worries me about Heyward is not ability – it is the injury bug – he’s been injured quite a bit in his brief career – including being shut down in the AFL for a bad back. That ain’t good for a guy who can’t even legally drink yet.

Bristol Palin 2012

February 1st, 2010
3:08 pm

I’ve always liked Huddy & hope he has a great year. Mark, how old is he now, 34 or 35? Hope his arm holds up after that kind of surgery, otherwise JJ & Hanson will have quite a load.

Man Ray

February 1st, 2010
3:10 pm

BS Institute of Atlanta? Is that what your handle stands for? Made out like bandits. Pfft.

BSIATL

February 1st, 2010
3:16 pm

Which part of my post didn’t make sense to you Man Ray?

polskidawg

February 1st, 2010
3:17 pm

Huddy hasn’t been an ace in 8 years, but he doesn’t have to be one. Using any reasonable thought, the rotation will be Hanson, JJ, Huddy, Lowe, Kawakami – possibly switching the first two.

As mentioned several times, the offense is the real question mark.

Man Ray

February 1st, 2010
3:23 pm

The part that says trading a top-of-the order starter for a reserve outfielder, a mediocre reliever and a very young, very far from the Big League roster starter is making out like a bandit. Oh yeah, I’m sorry, you have to throw in Glaus, a broken down .255-hitting third baseman who we are counting on to be an All-Star at first base, along with Hinske, a reserve infielder. Yeah, what a load … er, I mean haul.

BSIATL

February 1st, 2010
3:24 pm

So Man Ray…you’re ok with keeping a +3 WAR pitcher in exchange for players totaling +5/5.5. That extra 2 to 2.5 wins just may be pretty darn important come September (it would have made a BIG difference last year). But I get that you are ok to take less wins from a pitcher who will walk at the end of the year and we get nothing in return. Sure am glad you’re not the GM!

todd grantham

February 1st, 2010
3:27 pm

let’s just hope Huddy doesn’t blow out that elbow.

Tech Rules

February 1st, 2010
3:30 pm

How weird is it that an outfielder who started for the Yankees last year won’t start for the Braves this year?

Man Ray

February 1st, 2010
3:31 pm

I don’t want the Braves to operate on the shaky prayer than Glaus and Hinsky (hey, Greg Norton was a reserve infielder) are going to push the Braves over the top. And, your +5/5.5 held tightly to your breast as a certainty is most certainly not that. Glad you’re not the GM.

Man Ray

February 1st, 2010
3:33 pm

Oh wait. Maybe you are.

BSIATL

February 1st, 2010
3:35 pm

The two worst statistics to judge an offensive player by are batting average and RBIs. The two worst for pitchers are wins and ERA. So please stop quoting these statistics to back up arguments on why this player is better than that player etc…

Man Ray

February 1st, 2010
3:37 pm

The two worst statistics to judge an offensive player by are batting average and RBIs. The two worst for pitchers are wins and ERA.

Like I said BS Institute. Done paying you attention, you leg puller you.

BSIATL

February 1st, 2010
3:38 pm

Man Ray…you can have Javy Vasquez and Greg Norton…I’ll field a team with Hudson, Glaus, Hinske, Cabrera and Mike Dunn (with Vizcaino coming up in 2012 or 2013 as one of many stud starting pitchers we’ll have ready). Best of luck to you!

P.S. – I don’t make up the WAR ratings…I just look at them to judge players values like we are in this debate. It’s the closest thing we have to go by to determine a players value against their cost and is shockingly accurate.

MAYOR OF PONCE

February 1st, 2010
3:40 pm

The Lemer

February 1st, 2010
3:42 pm

I find it hilarious that Atlanta writers are talking about how Hudson has some big shoes to fill. Vasquez was a number 4 starter in the American League. He comes over to the NL, where hitters are much easier to get out, and does well. A year ago, Atlanta writers were scratching their heads as to why the Braves picked him up from the White Sox. Vasquez is not that great of a pitcher and he will probably win 12-13 games in NY. Hudson is a sub-par pitcher who hasn’t done anything great since leaving Oakland. The biggest problem with Atlanta is lack of planning. Instead of building teams from the ground up, they always put band aids on their teams. Hudson has maybe 2-3 years left in him if that. The Braves biggest problem is their hitting. Start there and THEN talk about pitching. So far, their pitching staff looks fine. Not great but not bad.

BSIATL

February 1st, 2010
3:50 pm

OBA, OPS and BaBiP are the three statistical categories you should look at to judge one’s offensive abilities…WHiP and FIP are the best for pitchers. For defense look at a players 150/UZR rating. Done with educating you on baseball stats Man Ray!

bill-1956

February 1st, 2010
3:59 pm

All of these young players and we have a manager in his last year. I sure hope the next manager is not one of the current coaches, especially pendleton. I for one would have liked to see Greg Madduix hired as a coach and understudy to cox this year.

Joe Fan

February 1st, 2010
3:59 pm

To Bobby Cox every player looks like Cy Young or Babe Ruth. I wish, I had his rose clored glasses. Hence his comments calling Hudson an ACE. Hudson has not been much more than an average pitcher for the Braves. Hopefully , he takes the next step up this year. The Braves need offense. They feel like an old team. No much to get excited about going into the season except for watching Hanson and JJ pitch.