You hear all sorts of things about what the Braves might do to fortify the rotation. They’re not happy with it, and really shouldn’t be. But getting another Andy Ashby-type pitcher who can pitch six innings of mediocre baseball every fifth day really doesn’t do any good. They have that. They need a good pitcher, a #1 or #2 starter. Thankfully, Schuerholz seems to realize that. However, there isn’t a pitcher on the market right now who’s really that good — an established ace pitcher. It seems more likely that the Braves will go after a younger pitcher — one in his arbitration years — with ace potential and hope he grows into the role.
In recent days, Sidney Ponson of the Orioles has emerged as probably the most frequently rumored trade target. There are different reports on his availability, but the latest word is that he’s likely to stay in Baltimore and sign a long-term extension. That’s fine by me. Ponson’s been hurt a lot in the past, and I’ve heard that his shoulder is a time bomb, and he doesn’t have any history of success in the past. The good: he’s 13th in the AL in ERA, and his peripherals are right in line with that, so he really has pitched that well.
For most of the season, Brad Penny of the Marlins has been a rumored Braves target. Talk about that has cooled down. I think there are two reasons for that: 1) The Marlins are in the wildcard race (but 5 1/2 behind the Phillies), and 2) Penny has been shellacked in several recent outings, with only one quality start in his last five and the dubious distinction of giving up eight runs to the Mets.
Javier Vazquez of the Expos is always mentioned as a trade target for the Braves. Archaeologists now believe that the lost portions of the Rosetta Stone largely consist of speculation about Javier Vazquez coming to Atlanta. Kidding aside, this would be a good time to get Vazquez, while his perceived value is a little lower. He has a middling 3.95 ERA, 22nd in the NL. But his peripherals are great. He’s third — after a couple of guys named Wood and Prior — in strikeouts per nine, and also third in strikeout/walk ratio to Prior and Schmidt. He’s allowed a bunch of homers, but I’m tempted to say that’s in part because of the Puerto Rico games, and he’d likely pitch better — or seem to — with the Braves’ defense behind him than the Expos. If Montreal/San Juan falls out of the race — and they’re on the verge — they’ll likely shop Vazquez, who is either about to enter his last arbitration year or free agency, I’m not sure which.
You also hear rumors of Kris Benson of the Pirates, though I’m not sure why. Taking a flyer on him in the offseason might be one thing, but he has a 5.01 ERA and uniformly terrible numbers all around. He might pitch better than Shane Reynolds, but even that’s not a given, and taking starts from Horacio Ramirez for him would be senseless. Has a girl’s name; Kris is short for Kristin.
Another putative ace I’ve heard whispers about is Joe Kennedy of the Devil Rays, but Kennedy’s stats make Benson’s look like Pedro Martinez’s. I know he’s in the American League and a hitter’s park, but a 6.08 ERA? 35 strikeouts to 23 walks, in 77 innings? Heck, if we wanted that we could put Gryboski in the rotation.
There may be others, but those are the ones I’ve heard rumors about. I open the floor for comments and suggestions.