Let’s be clear about the reality of baseball trades. Despite all of the rumors and all of the posturing, every team has the same stance on just about every player: The player is available for trade, given a good-enough offer. That second part is where it gets complicated, because “good enough” can mean very different things. Not all teams value all players in the same way, so when you’re trading, you’re looking for guys who might be undervalued, or you’re looking to move guys who might be overvalued. Ultimately, though, all you need is a match. When you have a match, you have a trade, no matter what’s been said to the public.
What the Braves have said to the public is that they’re not real interested in trading Julio Teheran. They’ve said this on multiple occasions, in response to rumors that would have Teheran joining any number of current contenders. The point the Braves are effectively getting across is that they’re not motivated to move Teheran. They want other teams to know they value him highly. And, you know, they should! Good pitcher. Good contract. He shouldn’t be cheap to acquire, but at the same time, I don’t think the Braves should be that interested in holding steady. The present market circumstances might never repeat.
The Braves have been the worst team in baseball this season. You knew that, right? The Braves have been the worst team in baseball this season, and the Braves project out as still the worst team in baseball over the rest of the season. It’s crucial to understand where they are. They’re rebuilding, and they’re still rebuilding. They’re not on the verge. They’re almost certainly going to be bad again in 2017. If I had to guess, they probably won’t be good yet by 2018, but, who knows? Let’s say they won’t be good until at least 2018. Quite possibly 2019. Quite possibly even later than that. I’ve seen rumors linking the Braves to Jonathan Lucroy. I don’t understand. In the short-term, the Braves still have a lot of baseball games to lose.
I assume that the Braves get this. Now, granted, those same Braves thought they’d be all right in this very season, and, welp. But everyone makes miscalculations, and that doesn’t make them stupid. The Braves have to know they’re still building, and so when they talk about how they want Teheran starting the first game in the new park next season, it doesn’t land.
Sure, there could be a little value in the symbolism. You want to make a good first impression. But those Braves won’t be competitive, and the first game will be forgotten by the second game. The Mets starter who opened Citi Field was Mike Pelfrey. The Twins starter who opened Target Field was Carl Pavano. The Nationals starter who opened Nationals Park was Odalis Perez. Nobody cares. Not today. More than anything, everyone just wants a winner, so that should be the real goal. I’m sure that is the Braves’ real goal.
There’s an important point to make here. Teheran could conceivably be a part of the next good Braves team. He could even be the ace. That’s a huge component of the argument against trading Teheran. In theory, don’t rebuilding teams want players just like this? Teheran is 25 years old. He’s pitching well now, he’s pitched well before, and he’s under affordable team control through 2020. He looks like part of a core. He could be part of a core.
But while Teheran could be a long-term asset, he’s still a win-now kind of player. Pitchers don’t follow the standard familiar aging curve. Pitchers get worse, and pitchers come apart. Since he was a rookie, Teheran has already lost a tick or two off of his fastball. And, as a reminder, he’s 25. I looked at qualified 25-year-old starting pitchers since 1980. I narrowed further to those starters worth between 3 – 6 WAR. At age 25, they averaged 4.0 WAR, with a median of 3.9. At age 27, those same pitchers had their numbers drop to 2.7 and 2.6. At age 28, 2.5 and 2.3. This isn’t telling you anything you didn’t already know — pitchers are unreliable long-term pieces. It’s just something the Braves have to keep in mind. Teheran looks desirable right now. It can’t be assumed he’ll be just as good down the road.
Teheran is valuable right now, and that’s mostly wasted on the Braves. Teheran could be valuable again in 2017, but I’m guessing that would be mostly wasted on the Braves. He and the Braves have different timelines, which is why he’s been involved in rumors in the first place. That’s how this always goes. And while the Braves could try to just re-visit the market this winter, or next summer, think about the circumstances today.
Today, Julio Teheran is good. There’s no question. Today, the market of available starting pitchers is thin. There’s no question. I know the coming free-agent pool is lousy, but there are also going to be trades. The market now is mostly known, and Teheran has a particular advantage. Drew Pomeranz just got a really good prospect as a cost-controlled young starter, and Pomeranz hasn’t thrown many innings before. Rich Hill is out there and incredibly good, but he also hasn’t thrown many innings in a while, and he has blister issues. Teheran last year cleared 200 innings. The year before, he cleared 220 innings. Teheran has proven he can last a full season, which means there are fewer questions about what he could do this September or October. Those are the months that matter to buyers the most.
Hill isn’t the only other guy out there, but Teheran is preferable to Jeremy Hellickson. Sonny Gray hasn’t rebuilt his value yet. Chris Archer hasn’t looked like himself, and the Rays have applied an impossible price tag. Maybe Matt Shoemaker is an option, but maybe he’s not, since the Angels are motivated to be good as soon as possible. Teheran is good now and affordable long-term, and Pomeranz just got Anderson Espinoza. Teheran is more proven than Drew Pomeranz. For the Braves, the market has developed perfectly.
They just have to acknowledge it. Now, I don’t know what the Braves are saying in private. And I don’t know specifics of offers, so I can speak only in generalities. If the Braves just don’t find a good offer for Teheran, they don’t have to move him. He’s not some toxic asset. He probably will be effective again next season, and the Braves should be better. It’s just, based on where the market is, I’d be surprised if the Braves weren’t fielding offers every day. And it seems to me they should be more interested in making a move than they so far have let on.
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.