The Atlanta Braves lost their longest tenured starting pitcher to free agency on Monday, as injured ace Tim Hudson opted to leave Atlanta after spending the last nine seasons with the team and take a two-year, $23 million contract with the San Francisco Giants.
Hudson, now thirty-eight years old, is no stranger to the Bay Area, spending his first six seasons with the Oakland Athletics in which Huddy established himself as a top of the rotation starter, going 92-39 (a .702 winning percentage) with two All-Star appearances and four seasons with at least fifteen victories. Tim’s run with the Braves was equally impressive (113-72 record with a combined 3.56 ERA) but ultimately ended in an unfortunate manner when Hudson broke his ankle on a bang-bang play at first against the New York Mets on July 24th, effectively ending his 2013 season with an 8-7 record, a 3.97 ERA and a 1.188 WHIP.
Tim Hudson was a fan favorite among Braves Country, but ultimately the team had to make a tough business decision: do we bring back the veteran knowing good and well his best days are behind him, or do we instead allow Huddy to head elsewhere and explore other options? According to several Braves’ beat writers, the offer that Atlanta extended towards Hudson was well short of the one he ultimately accepted from the Giants, showing that although the team would have welcomed him back with open arms, they certainly were not willing to break the bank on a player that some could currently consider to be damaged goods.
Hudson’s experience will certainly be missed in the clubhouse come 2014, but I believe the Braves made the correct decision in letting him walk. Yes, Hudson has been a mainstay with the franchise, but at some point players pass the point in which they are worth the money they–and their agents–call for, which leads to changes.
Now that Hudson is out of the picture, Atlanta’s pitching rotation comes into question. At this point, the “definites” appear to be Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, and Julio Teheran, leaving the remaining two spots to be sorted out between the likes of Alex Wood, Brandon Beachy, David Hale, and any free agents that the team brings into the fold. If the season started tomorrow, it seems that the rotation would feature Wood and Beachy in the back end; however, rumors have persisted that the Braves are interested in acquiring a top-of-the-line starting pitcher to the team (David Price’s name has been mentioned several times). It is unclear how much of this talk is fiction rather than fact, but it will certainly be something to look out for during this offseason.
Hudson’s departure also puts the Braves in strange territory, as it is in a sense a changing of the guard to a new era. Considering the fact that catcher Brian McCann will soon be on his way out of Atlanta as well, the Braves are now far from the team that was highlighted by consistency for the better part of the ‘90s and the 2000s, a time when fans could count on seeing Bobby Cox, Chipper Jones, and John Smoltz once game time rolled around. Instead, this young Braves squad’s most common denominator with its past teams appears to be right fielder Jason Heyward, who, mind you, is only twenty-four years old.