COMMENTARY | There are still several weeks remaining for the Atlanta Braves to close out the 2013 campaign, and, hopefully, it all ends late in October with champagne involved.
But regardless of how this year ends, there will be several roster issues to address once the season wraps up. One player the Braves need to focus on re-signing is veteran starting pitcher Tim Hudson.
Now, to be clear, I think that All-Star catcher Brian McCann is a more valuable player than Hudson, and I suspect that the Braves will make every effort to bring him back. However, the fact that McCann is hitting free agency as the caliber player he is and at a talent-depleted position means that there's going to be a bidding war for him.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, and most disturbingly the division rival Philadelphia Phillies could all be in the market for a catcher, and all have shown a recent willingness to back up a truck full of money to sign their guys. McCann is unlikely to offer a hometown discount after finishing up his current team-friendly deal. All of this leads me to believe that it will be too difficult to keep McCann, especially as a team that relies on front office spending discipline.
Meanwhile, Hudson showed this year that he's still got plenty of good innings in his tank and can still be an effective major league starter. Signing Hudson should be a more realistic and still impactful course of action for the Braves.
Before suffering a gruesome ankle injury, Hudson was demonstrating yet again his reliability and durability. He made 21 starts on the year though July 24, avoiding any missed time due to injury. Through those starts, he was averaging more than six innings pitched per start, had a fantastic walk rate, and was hardly giving up any home runs. His dependable, repeatable performance served as a model for the other young starters this year, and would continue to do so as they returned next year.
I try to not put too much stock into things like character and makeup when they are commonly used to explain away lackluster performance. But Hudson continues to perform well, even at 38 years old, and deserves the praise and reputation of a clubhouse leader.
Most recently, Hudson was named the Braves' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, given annually to one major league player for community involvement and supporting the legacy of the late Clemente. It is easy to forget because of his early headline-grabbing days in Oakland, but Hudson has now spent nine years as a member of the Braves' organization after going to school at relatively nearby Auburn University. Hudson has been vocal about his connection to Atlanta, and the actions of the Hudson Family Foundation speak for themselves.
I think the remainder of the Braves' rotation offers more to be excited about in young guns Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, and Kris Medlen. But these guys are still settling into their roles as rotation regulars. Further, the Braves will likely see another young pitcher emerge during the spring and early next year. Guys like J.R. Graham, Lucas Sims, Sean Gilmartin and Alex Wood figure to be competing for starting spots, and the importance of a foundational guy like Hudson would be easy to overlook and impossible to quantify.
I've been delaying for a few weeks writing a piece about how difficult it will be for the Braves to move on from Tim Hudson after his injury. But the more I think about it, it would be foolish to do so. Hudson should be back for 2014, and he is the one guy I'm hoping Atlanta re-signs for next year.
Patrick Richardson is a longtime follower of the Atlanta Braves who started playing t-ball right as Atlanta's record-setting run of division titles began. He is an amateur but enthusiastic sabermetrician.
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