The news regarding Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Brandon Beachy was not good on Thursday morning – he’ll need to undergo a second Tommy John surgery. But while this seems like a crippling blow on the surface for Atlanta, it’s really not all that bad for the Braves.
Remember, Beachy made just five starts for the Braves in 2013 after recovery from his first Tommy John surgery in 2012 didn’t exactly go as planned. Projection systems weren’t exactly optimistic about Beachy’s success in 2013, as Oliver pegged him at a 3.55 ERA in 86 innings and ZiPS posted him at a 3.76 ERA in 95 2/3 innings. The bigger loss is undoubtedly Kris Medlen, whose real life contributions over the past two seasons and 2014 projections both clobbered Beachy’s.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding Beachy in 2014, it’s not as if Atlanta is losing someone who was guaranteed to be a critical part of their team this year. Hell, you could argue that Beachy was at best, the fourth-most important Braves starter this year, behind Medlen, Mike Minor, and Julio Teheran. Yes, the Braves will have to fill two holes in their rotation as opposed to one after the second surgery, but it wasn’t set in stone that Beachy would have been ready for Opening Day anyway. Atlanta signed Ervin Santana in an attempt to replace Medlen in their rotation, and will make do with some combination of David Hale and Freddy Garcia to replace Beachy, with Gavin Floyd probably taking over that fifth starter’s role in May when his recovery from Tommy John surgery is complete.
Who does this really suck for? Beachy, of course. The Braves will probably tender him a contract next season, but it won’t be for much more than the $1.45 million he’s making in 2014 – it’s a similar situation to Jonny Venters following his second Tommy John surgery last spring. But Beachy will lose his opportunities for a larger payday. He didn’t pitch much last year, losing his chance for a bigger raise in his first year of arbitration. He won’t pitch at all this year, losing his chance for a bigger raise in his second year of arbitration. And next year, Beachy may not pitch much at all either and may not even be effective doing so, losing his chance for one more big raise in arbitration.
He might not even be a starter after he comes back. Beachy will go into next season at age 28, and will have under 300 major league innings and two Tommy John surgeries under his belt. Is that a guy that the Braves want to count on for 20+ starts and 120+ innings? He might be forced to the bullpen, but unlike Medlen, his low salary actually makes that a viable option. And frankly, that could be the best role for him if he gets back to where he was. Because of his relatively anonymous start and eventual leap into a key role in the Braves organization, expectations always seemed elevated for Beachy. But when he served as a reliever earlier in his minor league career, Beachy was dominant, and he could end up being more of a difference maker throwing 50 innings out of the bullpen than throwing 120 innings in the rotation.