There is no substitute for good luck. Unfortunately, baseball teams cannot purchase good luck on the free market. There is no international spending pool on good luck and good fortune is not represented by Boras Corp.
When it comes to constructing a baseball team, one to survive the rigors of six weeks of Spring Training plus 162 games and beyond, there is no discounting the role of good luck. Especially when it comes to assembling a pitching staff. Peril lurks around each and every corner.
The Atlanta Braves had a good thing going in their rotation. After losing Tim Hudson to free agency, their staff was young and cheap and, at times, quite good. The Braves management liked their group enough to decided against upgrading this winter. The rolled into camp with Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy, Alex Wood, And Julio Teheran at the top of their depth chart. That could totally work. For a team that won more than 90 games and features a high-powered offense, you could do much worse.
But insurance companies are billion dollar entities for a reason. Things happen, necessitating the existence of Freddy Garcia. You might need some cover for a few starts and Garcia can fill that void, if needed.
After two days of worrisome signs from counted-on starting pitchers, Freddy Garcia becomes more than a necessary evil. Suddenly Freddy Garcia is a savior, the glue holding the entire Braves enterprise together.
Just as there is risk in all pitchers, there is risk in overreacting to mid-spring injury reports. When Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy stomp off the mound early in consecutive starts, alarm bells sound. It doesn’t mean either or both hurler is destined for the orthopedic surgeon any time soon but it enough to worry the Braves into the Ervin Santana sweepstakes, reports suggest.
A strange and not unsurprising turn in the ATL. In December, I wrote the following about the Braves:
[T]he Braves are risking a lot in terms of real-life consequences by not risking a little bit of capital (be it cash or prospects) to make their team better right now.
As happens whenever injuries occur to starting pitchers, the Braves are forced to make a choice. Do they hold it all together until the cavalry arrives, whether that’s in the form of Gavin Floyd or the rest of their core starters returning to form. Again – only Spring Training. But the lack of clarity is an issue. The Braves must wait and see how Medlen’s forearm and Beachy’s bicep and Minor’s urethra (!) react to treatment before mapping out their plan of attack.
For teams inside that 90 win bubble, it seems like doing just about whatever you can to maintain that status is a worthwhile risk. No matter what the Braves did this winter, losing three key starters to injury was always going to hurt. But prying open their wallets and at least adding a legitimate depth piece to their rotation stabilizes their staggering rotation ever so slightly. And that’s not nothing.
Of course, the season is long. So very long. The season is so long that losing Mike Minor to a urethra injury (and urethra-related complications) for a few weeks and getting Gavin Floyd at some point and the rise of David Hale could put the Braves back into a position where they have too many starting pitchers and not enough games to share among them.
Just ask the 2013 Dodgers what it is like to have too many pitchers. Or the 2013 Nationals what it means to make one minor acquisition and just hope the health and performance remains unchanged at the sport’s most volatile position. It happens. It happens to the best. It isn’t insurmountable, as the World Series champs can attest. You can hand a half-dozen starts to Alfredo Aceves and still win the World Series.
For Braves fans, this freakish spat of injuries is a case of worst fears realized all at once. Provided Alex Wood’s 2013 was real and Brandon Beachy could rediscover what made him so good in 2011, the Braves didn’t have to worry about their starting rotation. Except you always have to worry about the starting rotation. There is never enough depth. There are never enough viable options. Be careful when descending the depth chart – make sure to use both hands and be mindful of any broken rungs.