Asking yet again: Should the Braves trade Julio Teheran?

Julio Teheran after another home run. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang)

Baseball-Reference’s home page for the 2017 Atlanta Braves includes the photos of the team’s 12 most valuable players as rated by B-Ref WAR. Not pictured: Julio Teheran.

Of the five pitchers taking turns in the Braves’ rotation, their Opening Day starter has been – again by B-Ref WAR – the fourth-best. (And that’s by a hair. Teheran is at 0.4; Sean Newcomb, whose first start came June 10, is at 0.3.) Among big-league pitchers who’ve worked 100-plus innings, Teheran ranks among the bottom 20 in ERA, WHIP and WAR. A year ago, we wondered if he was indeed a No. 1 starter; this year would barely qualify him as a No. 4.

Teheran, 26 and twice an All-Star, is on pace to have his worst season via every significant metric since establishing himself in 2013. In none of those categories is there a gentle dip. His worst ERA over the previous four seasons was 4.04 in 2015; this year it’s 4.97. His worst home-runs-per-nine-innings rate was 1.2, also in 2015; this year it’s 1.8. His worst strikeout-to-walk ratio was 2.34, also in 2015; this year it’s 1.91.

There was thought that Teheran’s issues two seasons ago were due to an overreliance on his two-seam fastball, or sinker. Roger McDowell, then the Braves’ pitching coach, had built his playing career on the sinker. But McDowell now works in Baltimore, and here, per Brooks Baseball, are Teheran’s two-seamer usage rates:

2015 (bad year): 19.25 percent.

2016 (All-Star year): 9.53 percent.

2017 (bad year, at least so far): 22.71 percent.

Some among the Braves’ elders – and not just in this administration; in Frank Wren’s, too – believed McDowell and Teheran weren’t a harmonious pairing. If we go by results, Chuck Hernandez has been no remedy. To be fair, Teheran’s ERA has dropped from 5.40 to 4.67 over the past six weeks, and he did just have a run of six quality starts in seven turns. But it’s noteworthy that general manager John Coppolella, asked last summer, about the availability of his best pitcher, said: “We aren’t trading Julio.” There has been no such proclamation this time.

The trade deadline is a week away. The Braves’ playoff chances, never strong, took a hit over a 2-5 week. The almost-but-not-quite trade of Jaime Garcia to Minnesota suggests Coppolella is, as we all figured he’d be, in sell mode. And so we ask again: Should the Braves trade Teheran?

He’s still an attractive lure – a 26-year-old former All-Star with no history of arm trouble who has taken a regular big-league turn for 4 3/5 seasons and who’s due to make $8 million next season and $11 million in 2019, with a team option for 2020 at $12 mil. That’s cheap for even a No. 4 starter. (The Braves paid Bartolo Colon $12.5 million for this season.) At his best, Teheran can be better than a No. 4, which by rights would make him a steal.

Loaded words: “At his best.” He has only intermittently been that in 2017 – started well, went bad, better of late. This time last year, the Red Sox were believed to have interest in Teheran. Had Coppolella dangled Teheran last summer, the asking price would have been Mookie Betts, who finished second in the American League MVP voting, and Xander Bogaerts, who’s an All-Star shortstop. That’s how overheated the market was. It’s cooler now.

In 2016, the Braves keeping Teheran was a no-brainer. (Unless they’d have gotten Betts/Bogaerts, which would have shown no brains on Dave Dombrowski’s part.) In 2017, there’s no kneejerk answer. Teheran’s season has given his team cause to consider life beyond him.

Reasons to keep him: He’s still young, still cheap, still healthy, still possessed of a five-pitch repertoire. Also: None of the pitchers drafted the past three Junes – Wright, Anderson, Wentz, Allard and Soroka – figure to be here within the next calendar year.

Reasons to move him: These substandard stretches are what separate top-of-the-rotation starters from the No. 3s and 4s. Teheran has a new pitching coach, which means the McDowell issue is moot, but through 97 games has had his worst season. His FIP – fielding independent pitching – is 5.52. (As a Brave, Colon’s was 5.09.) When your FIP is lower than your ERA, it’s a sign you might have been a tad unlucky. When your FIP is worse, it’s a warning light.

Also this: SunTrust Park plays small. Teheran is a fly-ball pitcher. He has yielded 13 home runs in 10 home starts against 10 in 10 on the road. Opponents are slugging .509 against him in Cobb County, .403 elsewhere. His ERA splits – 7.05 here, 2.70 there. That mightn’t be a blip. That might reflect new geographic reality.

Conclusion: Given that Teheran in a down year isn’t apt to reap a windfall return, I wouldn’t trade him this month. But I’d be concerned that the window for moving him is shrinking, and I’d look hard over the winter.

Reader Comments 0

16 comments
Brave44
Brave44

I hate this summer trade BS. At the beginning of the year, everyone has their team. It's your team representing your city. Why do teams have to breakup into teams that win vs teams that lose? Then at the end of the season, you unload the player you thought would get you there. I don't care that the Braves wouldn't win this year but I came home from work to watch a team play with some desire. That appears to be gone. I watched a Braves team last night that did not resemble the Brave team I've watched over the last few months. I had plans to see a Braves game in the next few weeks. Not anymore. Looking forward to HS football.

Dawgcatcher
Dawgcatcher

Everyone knows the Braves are not playoff contenders. That said, here we are again...the Braves making yet another useless trade. Garcia is 31 years old, and while not an ace, he really is a viable member to most pitching staffs. The prospect the Braves traded for (as is the case almost always) hasn't shown he will be anything. I guess they think they really did steal Swanson from the Diamondbacks. 

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Dawgcatcher i think Inciarte will be the piece that makes the Miller Trade a good one for the Braves. If Swanson can mature into a .250 hitter he will be an added asset. Hopefully being a #1 overall pick he will be able to adjust to MLB breaking balls and become an adequate MLB player.

colt07
colt07

There is a huge difference between wanting to trade someone and actually trading someone. The latter requires a team desiring to get Julio. Other teams are not dumb. Julio is a head case. Maybe you could convince someone all he needs is a change of scenery. Honestly that may be true.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

They need to be very demanding if they consider trading a young healthy innings-eating pitcher under contractual control. Very demanding.

The old vets who won't be here when the team starts winning and 3-4 younger players have performed just we'll enough to tantalize some into believing the Braves are closer to playoff contention than they really are. The young pitching pipeline is not ready to blossom at the MLB level and likely won't next season and perhaps or likely even longer. If they start trading their top prospects the bleeding could become a lost decade, and trading Teheran could easily cost more to replace his innings or potentially land them in the cellar again.

I don't like what they did (tanking) one bit, but now you stick with the plan or sell the team.

Zing
Zing

I agree that if you want to trade him, you want to do it over the winter - but I can't see why the Braves would trade a guy who is usually very good and is under contract for 2-3 more years at reasonable pay.  Who replaces him?  You need a guy this guy even if some kind of trade for a bigtime #1 happens or Soroka or one of the young guys turns into an ace.  You still need to fill out your rotation with quality guys, and he's a quality guy.  

Or, I guess they could re-sign Colon... 

sea8491
sea8491

Question really is, what will Teheran bring back  to Atlanta from a Trade?

Craig1960
Craig1960

Time to dump him and make better choices,one is get rid of the G.M,they have put Double A players out there year after year,Atlanta,the home of loser's.

I_was_there_for_715
I_was_there_for_715

By now, we know what Teheran is and will be.  He will never be a consistent #1 and probably never a consistent #2 (over the years) on a really good team.  Yes, he can have 2-3 really good games in a row, but, he is just as likely in one of those games to give up back-to-back-to-back homers in the 7th inning.  He doesn't seem to be a leader among the young pitchers and he doesn't seem to be learning long-term from his mistakes, despite multiple pitching coaches, managers, and, catchers helping him.


Yes, trading him now or this upcoming offseason may not be selling high on him, but, there are a number of replacements quickly rising through the minors.  Trading him for prospects will not hurt the Braves' pace to reach their next postseason.  He is a solid enough pitcher to attract attention from multiple teams willing to part with some prospects.  In addition to the "reasons to keep him" listed above, the Braves can highlight his excellent bunting and pickoff skills, and, that he stays out of trouble off the field.


I think we have seen his ceiling - and we can do better.

Bob_the_Blogger
Bob_the_Blogger

Since the Braves are starved for starting pitching, and Julio is under contract for a reasonable price for years to come, the Braves should keep him. My hope is that (1) he regains his elite form and (2) the prospects turn out so well that Teheran gets bumped down to #4 in the rotation.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

If Kershaw has to miss any serious time with his bad back, the Dodgers may be a good fit for Garcia. Maybe trade Jaime for OF prospect DJ Peters and former UGA SS Kyle Farmer who has become a catcher in the Dodgers system. Neither is a sure thing ,but Peters has hit for power in the minors and Farmer could possibly bridge the gap as a backup catcher until some of the Braves catching prospects are ready.

Chilidawg
Chilidawg

Trade Julio! That would open a spot for youngster.  Also, while thinking of youngster help Newcomb develop a 3rd and 4th pitch.  

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Chilidawg It would be nice if Newcomb could throw strikes with the pitches he already has. The walks are what cost the youngster yesterday, 2 walks before the home run cost him a chance for a win.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

Braves might as well stand pat at the deadline, Garcia seems to be the only player in demand.If the Braves can dump Jim Johnson and his 2018 salary in a trade with Garcia and get back one decent prospect it might be worth doing. Otherwise just don't see any contenders wanting what the Braves have to offer on their MLB roster, Teheran, Markakis, Kemp, Phillips. Front office says they want to keep Matt Adams ,he could possibly bring back a quality player or two if Coppy changes his mind .

I_was_there_for_715
I_was_there_for_715

@Buschleaguer The reasons to trade Garcia and Phillips is because they become free agents at the end of 2017 and the Braves get nothing if they don't trade them.


I think Garcia has become pretty much what the Braves hoped for, but, they have to get back more than what they traded to get him (John Gant, Chris Ellis, and, Luke Dykstra) to make it all worth it.


I think that Phillips has been better than hoped for.  His being an Atlanta-native is a nice story, but, he has no long-term future with all the infield help (Swanson, Albies, Ruiz, Camargo) on the cusp of staying in the majors - not to mention Sean Rodriguez signed through 2018, Micah Johnson, Adonis Garcia, and, Jace Peterson still in the mix.  At 36 you just don't know how many more good seasons Phillips has left, especially when you can sell high on him now.


Markakis and Kemp, with their limitations, are not showing any serious signs of slowing down.  But, both could be gone at the trade deadline of their final contract years, depending upon where the Braves are in the playoff race and how much Acuna and Dustin Peterson show they are ready to take over.


I am not sure about Matt Adams.  Freddie seems to be doing well enough at 3rd and Adams is putting up the power numbers. But some of his limitations are showing up - average fielding and the ceiling on his batting average.  If the Braves can produce an adequate backup in case of injury to Freddie, sell high and trade Adams now.  Otherwise, I never wince when I see him in the lineup or on the bench - unlike some other players wearing a Braves uniform this season.