What do you think of the rotation heading into next year? Will the Braves try and strengthen the rotation at all during the off-season?
Steve D. Writes,
The pitching that Atlanta has gotten out of the starters has obviously been the Achilles heel this year. Once you get past Smoltz and Hudson, the rotation is basically in shambles. Chuck James has been decent but doesn't pitch enough innings to be that high in the rotation and the last two spots have been a revolving door. Mark Redman, Anthony Lerew, Jo-Jo Reyes, Lance Cormier, and Buddy Carlyle (am I missing anyone?) all getting looks in the rotation; the last of whom, Buddy Carlyle, has had by far the most success with an ERA just north of five.
Next year's rotation has three spots locked up as of right now. Tim Hudson and John Smolz will be the dominant 1-2 punch at the top and depending on how the rotation looks on opening day, Chuck James could be slotted in anywhere from the third to fifth spot in the rotation. Mike Hampton is a big wild card but after two surgeries and what I am hearing about the kind of shape he is in, I would expect him to come back healthy and be able to pitch. How many innings he could pitch is a different story. They were only hoping for five per start this year in the beginning so I can't imagine he'd be able to throw any more than 160-165 innings if he is healthy. Unfortunately that would leave two of such pitchers in the rotation, strengthening the need for another innings eater in the rotation, which is something we don't have.
Going outside the organization with a trade is certainly an option for John Schuerholz and the front office but having that need and addressing it are two completely different stories. After all, this is a market where Jason Marquis can land a 3-year $21 million coming off an ERA over six. The possibilities are very thin on the trade market but that doesn't mean there isn't anyone available.
- Joe Blanton's name has been tossed around as a possibility and Yunel Escobar certainly matches up well in a deal. Blanton could provide 200+ innings and has impressive peripherals, meaning he could probably improve upon his performance in the NL. He is under team control though, so the likelihood is the Athletics will hold on to him.
- AJ Burnett also might be a possibility. The oft-injured right-hander is locked up through '10 at a reasonable price. The Jays are in desperate need of a shortstop and aren't strapped for cash so Edgar Renteria seems like a decent fit. The question is whether an AL East team is going to give Renteria a shot after his season with the Red Sox. This would be a big gamble on his health but in the NL, he could be dominant.
- Javier Vazquez is one of my favorite possibilities. Kenny Williams didn't move him at the deadline and it is a longshot, but the team is going to need a replacement for Juan Uribe after the season. They have been rumored to be interested in David Eckstein, but if that falls through, Renteria could be the center of the deal to reel in the right-hander.
There are a couple other possibilities, but these are the three main targets to me that could be attainable and would fill the role that was needed in the middle of the rotation. If the team sticks with Hudson, Smoltz, Hampton, James, and someone like Cormier in the last spot it wouldn't be a horrible rotation, but if they could strengthen it, this could be one of the best in the league.
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