There's never an ideal time for injuries, but the forearm strain that caused right-hander Kris Medlen to be pulled from Sunday's spring training game and the biceps tightness that ended Brandon Beachy's start against the Phillies Monday may give the Braves an opportunity to improve an ailing rotation.
There is no timetable yet for Medlen's or Beachy's return, but the Braves may look to fill the rotation hole(s) by signing free-agent pitcher Ervin Santana, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Santana has been courted in recent days by the Blue Jays, Orioles and Twins. The Phillies also did their due diligence on Santana, according to the Boston Globe (see story). He is seeking a one-year deal after not finding the long-term contract he sought this offseason. The O's and Twins have reportedly extended three-year offers in the $30 million range, but Santana would prefer to pitch one year and reestablish his value for next winter.
As it stands, Atlanta figures to open the season with a rotation of Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Freddy Garcia, David Hale and either Medlen or Beachy. If both Medlen and Beachy are healthy, Garcia or Hale would be pushed out.
Lefty Mike Minor, the Braves' best starter in 2013, could join the rotation in mid-April. He's recovering from shoulder soreness and hasn't pitched in spring training.
The Braves also have former Phillie Gavin Floyd signed to a minor-league contract. Floyd, who underwent Tommy John surgery last May, just began live throwing sessions.
Longtime Braves ace and team leader Tim Hudson joined the Giants in free agency, which removed stability from a team typically built on starting pitching.
The one-year offers Santana was reportedly mulling were for $13 million to $14 million. The Braves have about $92 million already committed, and signing Santana would likely push them past their record payroll of $106.2 million set in 2003.
Santana went 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA and 1.14 WHIP last season, and had the lowest walk rate (2.2 per nine innings) of his career.
If the Braves were to sign Santana and have Minor and Medlen eventually return, they'd have a deep and formidable rotation filled with No. 2 starters. Joining the Braves would be the best move for Santana if he's seeking a big contract after the season. The NL is easier on pitchers and the Braves appear capable of winning 85-plus games, which would allow Santana to stack victories, unlike last year. In the real world, pitcher wins are overrated, but in contract negotiations they still matter.