The rumors have already started. Atlanta is reportedly thinking about shopping starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens to get a bat.
Some may wonder if the Braves can afford to trade Jurrjens. But the answer is a resounding YES!
First off, Jurrjens is two years away from free agency. So this is the offseason to trade him. Sure, his second half injuries might decrease his value compared to if he had been healthy. But it would be about the same value if he had only one year left before free agency and you decided to trade him then.
Teams will trade more for a pitcher with two years of service time left, compared to if they only had one year before free agency. So this is the time to trade Jurrjens, not next offseason.
We know the Braves will have Tim Hudson lead the rotation in 2012. He's the ace at the top. Then there is Tommy Hanson, who missed significant time in the second half with a shoulder issue.
There is concern that if you traded Jurrjens and then Hanson's issues continued into next year the Braves would be needing help in the rotation. But it's just not the case. The depth is so strong it could overcome both things.
We should point out that Hanson's progress has been positive. He's in Orlando working out and strengthening his shoulder. The Braves are confident Hanson will be OK for 2012.
If Jurrjens were traded, Hanson would be the number two pitcher in the rotation behind Hudson. Then you'd have Brandon Beachy as the number three starter. Beachy had a very good first full season, and there is confidence he will continue to grow as a major leaguer and could handle being a middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.
Then the fourth starter would be left-hander Mike Minor, who really showed progress in the final two months of the season in Atlanta. Minor is ready to be a full-time member of the rotation. The Braves refused to put him in the Hunter Pence trade, so that means they feel he can handle this responsibility.
The fifth starter would be either Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado. I feel both are ready for a spot in the major league rotation. And that's what gives the Braves confidence in Jurrjens trade. They know the rotation with Hudson, Hanson, Beachy, Minor and either Teheran or Delgado is pretty good.
But let's say something does happen with one of the other starters, and we'll use Hanson as an example. Take Jurrjens and Hanson out and you'd have Hudson, Beachy, Minor, Delgado and Teheran. That would be a very young rotation, but can you argue at the talent?
Teheran is right there with Tampa Bay's Matt Moore as the best pitching prospect in the game. He won 15 games in Gwinnett, so he really doesn't need to go back there. He's young, but he's talented and it's time to give him his shot.
Delgado was outstanding in his late-season starts for the Braves in a pennant race. If he can handle that pressure, he is ready to be a full-time starter in the big leagues. Again, hes young, but if you couldn't see the talent late in the season from that kid, you just weren't watching.
Let's say they had a rotation of Hudson, Beachy, Minor, Teheran and Delgado. Who would be the backup? Todd Redmond? Erik Cordier?
How about Kris Medlen? He showed in his two games at the end of the season that everything should be OK for him in 2012. Having a guy that has already had success as your backup option is ridiculous. And let's be honest, Medlen might find himself in the rotation anyway. He's that good.
This is unprecedented depth. Now, you can never have too much pitching, and we've had seasons when a rotation has fallen apart. But Atlanta's need for offense dictates that they use their depth in the rotation and find more offense.
And as you can see, the Braves have plenty of pieces to use in trades to make that happen - and still have the depth to have a formidable rotation in 2012.
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on
WPLA Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, GA and WCOH Fox Sports 1400 in Newnan, GA. Shanks is a columnist for The Macon Telegraph. Email Bill at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.
Bill Shanks writes about the first big trade rumor of the offseason…