The Atlanta Braves are in a position where the right trade could move them closer to a playoff berth and if what ESPN reports is true, righty Julio Teheran could be on the move. But is he indeed the Braves’ best trade chip?
Atlanta is currently second in the NL East and 9.5 games behind the Washington Nationals, not to mention six games out of the second NL wild-card spot. A trade for a more reliable arm or big bat could indeed provide the Braves the second-half surge they’d need to get back to the playoffs, but moving Teheran could wind up being easier said than done. Rather than commit to moving him and only him, team president John Hart should explore any and all options, including Teheran, to make sure the Braves continue moving forward.
Teheran in 2017
The 2017 season has not been an easy one for the 26-year-old Teheran. Across 18 starts, he is 7-6 with a 4.79 ERA and 1.38 WHIP.
But there is an interesting twist to Teheran’s stats this year. While he is 1-6 with an abysmal 7.58 ERA pitching at SunTrust Park, he is 6-0 with a 2.53 ERA on the road. Opposing hitters bat .298 against him when he is at home compared to .225 on the road. On top of that, multiple reports that SunTrust is indeed a hitter’s paradise could help the Braves’ case in demanding top prospects for Teheran.
Keep in mind that Teheran posted a 3.21 ERA and 4.8 WAR for the last place Braves in 2016 and a 2.89 ERA and 4.0 WAR in 2014. His potential is indeed there and this season could indeed just be stadium-related. Atlanta ranking 28th in baseball with a staff ERA of 5.00 at home certainly supports that argument.
That said, if teams can look deep into the splits from this year and understand that Teheran is far from done at age 26, then they should be willing to pony up at least one top prospect in exchange for his services.
Paging Mr. Freeman?
The hard truth is that though any GM worth their weight in gold will surely look past Teheran’s 2017 numbers and see the difference in home-away performance, there is still the reality that the young starboard-sider has struggled with consistency in recent years. After posting a 3.03 ERA across 2013 and ’14, Teheran took a step back with a 4.04 ERA in 2015. He rebounded to a 3.21 mark last year, and here we are today.
Talented though Teheran is, those recent jumps could make a rival GM just a bit wary of giving up top prospects in exchange for the Braves’ hurler.
This is why when it comes to making a deadline deal, Hart could instead focus his efforts on trading strong lefty bat Freddie Freeman, who has been a model of consistency his entire career. Freeman recently returned from a broken wrist and has moved from first base to third base thanks to the strong performance of Matt Adams, and is currently batting .335 with 17 home runs and 35 RBI.
There are no bones about it, Freeman is a much better trade chip than Teheran in terms of playing the long game. He is only 27 years old and hit a career high 34 home runs last year. On top of that, RealSport’s own Toby Durant recently penned a piece on why trading Freeman makes sense just because of the prospect haul he would fetch in return. Freeman also owns a career WAR of nearly 25, so whichever team lands him in a theoretical trade would be acquiring a model of consistency.
The only hitch in trading Freeman would be his contract. He is earning $20.5 million this year and is due another $86 million through 2021, whereas Teheran is due just $19 million across 2018 and 2019. Teheran’s deal also has a $12 million club option for 2020.
Thus, though Freeman’s contract is well worth taking on and fairly affordable, his trade market is going to be small compared to that of Teheran. He will indeed fetch the better overall package, but will also be much harder to move.
Both Freeman and Teheran have their merits as trade chips, so the reality of the matter is that Hart should listen to offers for each player as the July 31 deadline draws closer.
When push comes to shove, however, he should look to prioritize moving Teheran for one reason: the demand for strong pitching is always going to be greater, regardless of how strong a hitter someone like Freeman is. On top of that, Teheran surely could use a change of scenery given how SunTrust Park has treated him and the rest of Atlanta’s hurlers.
Moreover, there are enough playoff-caliber teams out there who would be more than willing to part with strong minor league talent in exchange for a talented arm in Teheran. The same can be said for Freeman, but Atlanta hasn’t yet reached the point where he absolutely MUST be traded.
Thus, though Teheran is not without some hiccups, better to try and sell him on his away splits alone than to just try and dump salary in return for prospects with Freeman.
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