Why Worship at the Altar of Options?

Sometimes, a bit of information becomes available to me, and it just becomes too bothersome to ignore.

On Wednesday, that information came in the form of a tweet from Athletic reporter David O’Brien. DOB was, as they say, just reporting the news after it had been announced that Sean Newcomb was being sent down to Triple-A Gwinnett to make room for Wednesday starter Max Fried, who pitched very well in a Braves’ win.

Now, Newcomb being sent down is not really a problem on the surface. Since returning from what was assumed to be a COVID-related absence last month, Newcomb surrendered 5 earned runs in just one inning over two appearances. And with the bullpen heavy on the left-handed side, sending Newk down to Gwinnett to get his mojo back makes some sense.

But the reasoning O’Brien reported, which matches past Braves’ decisions, made my eyes roll so hard I almost strained something.

DOB and I had a little back-and-forth related to that tweet, and despite what he may think, I fully understand the thinking behind decisions like that. Each player has a set number of options – or chances to be sent back down to the minors – in their careers. Newcomb has somehow not exhausted all of his, but others – most notably Jesse Biddle – have already been sent down the maximum number of times.

This means that if the team were to attempt to send down Biddle, he would have to instead be “designated for assignment” and go through waivers. If that happens, other teams obviously have a chance to claim that player for their own roster.

In response to that, I have a very complex and mature question: SO WHAT?

Jesse Biddle has surrendered 5 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings this year, and while most of those were in one outing, he also hasn’t been very good for a while. Since starting his major league career in Atlanta in 2018 with just 14 earned runs in his first 56 1/3 innings – good for a 2.24 ERA – Biddle has been flat-out not good. In 41 1/3 innings starting with the stretch run in 2018, he has surrendered 39 runs, which works out to an 8.49 ERA.

In fact, despite carrying that 2.24 ERA in September 2018, Biddle was so unreliable for the rest of that month that he was left off the playoff roster. And he hasn’t been good since.

This probably feels like I woke up today (yesterday, really, if you follow me on Twitter) and decided to make fun of Jesse Biddle. I promise that isn’t the case, though, because this isn’t an isolated incident. Over and over, even since the Braves started winning the division again in 2018, decisions are made about who to send down to the minors based on who has options rather than who makes the most sense.

Sometimes, that simply has to be a consideration. Sometimes, you’re sending down one of two promising players because of a temporary need, and one of them is out of options. In that case, sure, send down the guy who won’t be going through waivers.

But in other cases, like this one, other factors should take precedence.

First of all, the Braves’ bullpen has been a huge area of concern. The team really can’t afford to be putting a weaker product out there than is absolutely necessary, and there are zero situations in which I would rather see Jesse Biddle on the mound than Sean Newcomb, even with Newcomb’s recent struggles. Newcomb has weapons in his arsenal that Biddle simply doesn’t have. Newcomb also allowed just one run with 12 strikeouts in his first 5 1/3 innings of work this season, so there’s reason to hope these last couple outings are rust-related.

Second, why are we worried that someone will claim Jesse Biddle on waivers? Even if you don’t want to be mean and point out that it would probably be a net-win for the Braves to not have him in the system anymore, what reason would another team have for making a waiver claim for a pitcher that hasn’t been any good for almost 3 full years? That’s not to say it definitely wouldn’t happen, I just don’t understand placing that as a higher priority than giving the team its best chance to win.

Simply put, there’s a time and a season for everything, and the year after the Braves came mere innings away from the World Series is not the time or the season for placing minor-league options higher on the priority list than winning baseball games. If someone wants to claim one of your worst relievers off waivers, let them.

Braves Related News

Spring Training was a tryout and Nate Jones won the tryout because he had good results. It turned out to be the wrong decision and the right decision, Carl Edwards Jr. has been selected. He might not prove to be the end of the line, but I think he’s got a whole lot more to offer than Nate.

Today begins Freddie Freeman‘s hot streak.

51 thoughts on “Why Worship at the Altar of Options?”

  1. I think this is a fairly strong argument. Why exhaust Sean Newcomb’s options when no one is likely to claim Jesse Biddle from waivers? Once Newcomb’s options have been exhausted, I feel like we’re less likely to slip him through waivers.

  2. That’s not how options work. In all likelihood. Newcomb will not have options next year unless he stays at AAA for several months. However, he can be optioned back and forth from AAA all year and it still acts as only 1 option. That option would’ve disappeared in 2022 no matter what.

  3. @ iceberg584 from previous thread:

    Thanks for posting AAR’s piece on the last remaining Boston Braves. Now that Dale Crandall has died, his prediction has, sadly, come true.

    “In ten years, there is a good chance that the last of the remaining Boston Braves will be lost to mists of time.”

    Thanks, Alex, for remembering a part of the franchise’s history that could have easily been overlooked or forgotten.

  4. Today, I showed my 5th and 6th grade students the difference in Braves Journal and Talking Chop. In our classes, I’ve had them create blog posts in hopes that they’d find a passion. Several of them have and it’s been cool to see their passion grow. I showed them the difference in a “large audience” blog and a “coffee shop blog” (I couldn’t call it a bar). What was awesome is that the majority said if they were to create a blog they’d like the “coffee shop blog” because they could get to know their audience.

    Braves Journal, man….it’s a beautiful thing and the kids get it.

  5. I agree with where you’re coming from Jeremy. Nice writing. I think in this case, they had two goals: get Newk some low-pressure work, and keep a long reliever in the pen. If Newk was perfectly healthy, and they just played the options game, I’d be mad. But I think it made sense for Biddle to be in Atlanta as a long reliever and Newk to be in Gwinnett.

  6. @6
    If this were the only time this came up, I’d just let it pass unnoticed, but they frequently keep the lesser player on the big-league roster in the interest of options. Like today, Edgar Santana wasn’t awesome yesterday, but he’s looked much more capable of helping the team than Biddle has.

  7. @4, that post was actually written by iceberg584 — I just put it online! It was a great piece, though, and very glad to see it remembered.

  8. Don’t forget that we acquired Biddle only recently via the waiver wire ourselves.

    @8 I absolutely did not like what I saw out of Santana. He was acquired even more recently than Biddle and given a longer leash. He threw very few strikes over the two appearances I saw – not even effectively wild. The main difference in Spring Training between Jones and Edwards was strike throwing. Jones had no swing and miss and I hope Edwards is now throwing strikes.

    The contrast between the gNats bullpen and ours just in terms of strike-throwing was very stark and disturbing. I sure wish we could find a guy like Finnegan (he of the perfect nine-pitch inning).

  9. @12
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ready to push Santana to the back end of the bullpen. I just think there’s more there worth seeing, while Biddle is seemingly just biding his time on the roster until they can’t avoid the DFA anymore.

  10. @7 It was for an AAV of 26M.

    https://www.spotrac.com/mlb/st-louis-cardinals/paul-goldschmidt-9144/

    I wouldn’t. I sometimes think that too many of you have irrational attachment to some of these players because they are Braves. I’ve felt this for years.

    I think FF has started a decline. Do I think his numbers at the end of this season will be what they are today? No. Do I think he’ll recapture last year’s numbers pro rata. No way. Would I want him to to give him a big payday, yep. For all his plaudits, he hasn’t led the Braves to squat. His contributions, though good as an individual player have led to a few East titles and nothing more.

    I see it differently. I’m a Braves fan. I’m not an Insert player X fan. I’m way more Belichick than I would be someone else as I see the players. Players change, the jerseys don’t.

  11. @14
    If they Braves let Freddie Freeman walk over an AAV of $26M and anything less than 6 years, they’ll regret it.
    They will not be able to replace the reliably high level of production he provides offensively for significantly less than that.

  12. For what it’s worth, on Freddie Freeman’s player comps on B-Ref, the two most noteworthy names are Goldschmidt as the closest current comparison by a long shot. Historically, he draws strong comps to Eddie Murray, one of the highest-paid players in baseball at a similar age.

  13. many of you have irrational attachment to some of these players because they are Braves. I’ve felt this for years.

    Probably. I hope so! My attachment to the Braves isn’t “rational,” and I can’t imagine what it would be like if it were. I love ’em cuz I’m from there and they’re my team and I holler at ’em when they lose and I holler for ’em when they win. Why would you want your attachments to be rational?

  14. I’m a dad, and I can tell you that there are very important reasons these players matter as much as the clothes they wear: young fans. My oldest son was born in 2012, and it was very difficult for me to introduce him to Braves players those first couple years he was starting to get into baseball in 2016-2017 because I didn’t know which of them would be around. Now he’s a Ronald Acuna Jr. fan, and I can feel comfortable with that because I know Ronnie will be around awhile. And that matters.

  15. @11 on the previous thread, depending on how you define the worst teams with the best players, the 1966 Cubs might be worth looking at. 59-103, last in the league with 5 Hall of Famers – Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, and Robin Roberts. Santo was great, Williams was in his prime but had a down year, Banks was several years past his prime and not valuable as a 1B, Jenkins was in his first full year, and Roberts was hanging on in his last season. They had some other names I remember as quality players (Ken Holtzman, Curt Simmons, Harvey Kuenn, Frank Thomas the Elder), but I don’t think any were HOFers.

    Since there were a lot of HOFers selected from the 1930s and not many teams, there was probably some bad team from that decade with a combination of HOFers just starting out and ones just hanging on. Maybe a Giants team, since they seemed to do well with the HOF Veterans Committee several decades later.

  16. @29 previous

    Jonathan…

    Why are so many misreading the tail end of your pieces, you ask? Are you serious? Exhaustion. Am I supposed to remember all this? Is he serious? etc etc

    And yet, we empathize. Latest theory is you had to sit through long church sermons as a young child. A begat B, B C etc etc. That way, you were quick to realize, people could be kept on tenterhooks, waiting months for the outcome. Then having to total and account for the congregate collection, to the nearest penny, so setting you inexorably on the path to economics, heaven help you.

    Don’t go anywhere my friend, you are so far into this there is no turning back. We wouldn’t let you.

  17. I like stability among a team’s key players too. Gives the team much more of an identity. Even in the latter years of the rebuild, having Freeman, Teheran, Markakis, and Flowers helped me feel like it was more or less the same team despite the rotating poo-poo platter of other players. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy being a Kentucky basketball fan despite all their success (until the last year or so, I guess) with one-and-dones.

    I’d even extend that feeling to preferring to bring back former key players at the end of their careers – if there’s a choice between bringing back a former Brave or getting another player of similar quality, I’d prefer the former. Management may feel the same way, as there have been several examples of this – Pendleton, Kelly Johnson, Francouer, Bielecki, Flowers sort of.

  18. @ 5

    Ryan…

    I would have paid a pretty penny to sit in and listen to your discussion with your 5th and 6th graders on baseball blogs in general and the differences between the large and the small. How long did the whole thing last and did you have any trouble involving them to ask their questions? Anyway, good for you.

  19. Regardless of whether you like Freddie Freeman wearing our shade of red or the Angels’ shade, Chief, the fact remains that Freddie Freeman is objectively worth $26M based on how we tend to value players, so losing him when that’s what he’s willing to take to stay in Atlanta would be malpractice by the Braves. If it costs $130M to re-sign him, the Braves should absolutely do it.

  20. @blazon

    They just liked the idea of camaraderie and to establish an audience and get to know the “regulars” . I give Chief crap here, but I’m really grateful for everyone that comes back to this place. They valued that more than being a powerhouse. Our school hyper-focuses on social/emotional learning so it didn’t really surprise me that they sided with Braves Journal, but it made me feel proud of what we do and why we do it.

    When it comes to IQ, I can’t even step foot in this bar. However, when it comes to hosting a party and letting everyone know the water is comfortable for all, that’s where I excel and that’s what my students have grown to value. I’m right where I need to be.

  21. Well, it’s great that a full house can watch Morton fall flat on his face again

  22. I hope they hang 12 runs on this clown. Walk the pitcher after 0-2… he needs to go. 15 million for a 6.55 era

  23. Just looked in on Gamecast, oof. The passed ball on third strike to Hoskins was particularly costly, probably escape with at most 1 run without that. Was that a particularly egregious play by Contreras?

  24. Maybe Morton gets the DL stint. Seriously, is Wilson worse? At least he is “developing” instead of finished

  25. @37 How would you say that is trending?

    He’s 38 years old and couldn’t command Troop Beverly Hills.

  26. @25

    Ryan… There’s nowhere better to be in this world than where you need to be. And from the sound of it they feel the same way about you. Which is precious. Guard it.

  27. @38
    Honestly, it’s trending downward like every one of your early predictions in a 162 GAME SEASON!

  28. Sorry but Gregorious wearing a mask at short and when he bats makes absolutely no sense. It’s almost as effective as basketball coaches who wear masks while they’re on the bench but pull it down when they’re in a huddle with the team and at the end of the game to congratulate the opposing team.

  29. Who bets when we next sell out the Park? Not freebies, hard sales. Money already spent/committed to does not count, money that subsequently chooses to be does.

    Long time.

  30. So this is where Snit wastes Minter and Matzek in a game you trail by 8 runs

  31. I very much hope not but the biggest loser out of tonight may be Contreras. He was sitting pretty coming in, we were all speaking well about his bat AND his defense. Great test of character for him then in the weeks/months ahead.

  32. Well, it appears Edwards may not be the answer. Not a good debut. I guess we should be prepared for another 3 or 4 game losing streak followed by a short winning streak. This is the steadiest team I’ve ever seen. Hopefully we’ll grow out of it one day.

  33. I know Morton is the new guy, but did nobody tell him that Braves pitchers usually wait until October to throw out a 1st inning like that?

  34. I think I have hit rock bottom in the confidence meter. It has the Murphy Era feel to it, Acuna and a bunch of other guys.

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