There are tons of players buried in the depth charts of major league rosters who could provide significant value to the Blue Jays. It’s tough to trade for a young star like Michael Pineda or Mat Latos. The talent is there, no doubt, but the price tag just isn’t fun to look at. But there’s an alternative. What if we look at these players buried in the depth charts and see if we can turn them into regulars or even stars. Sure, they are much harder to find and tend to be more risky, but the investment would also be significantly less. Let’s look at one example.
On a team with 3 top 100 pitching prospects, a deep rotation and a deep bullpen, Kris Medlen’s talents are being wasted in his role. He’s not the sexy flame thrower with a devastating hook but he is more than capable of being an above average regular. That isn’t to say he isn’t without his flaws, as he is only 5’10” and averages 89-91 MPH on his fastball, which probably limits his upside. However, there is a lot to like with Kris Medlen.
He has performed extremely well at every stop in his professional career. He started out as a reliever in the low minors, racking up tons of strikeouts and not walking many. In 2008, he was given his first crack at starting. He had 17 starts and 19 relief appearances, leading to an 8.98 K/9 and 2.02 BB/9, with an FIP of 2.87. 2009 was much of the same, with a 1.66 FIP in 37 AAA innings before a 3.35 FIP in 67 major league innings. He began 2010 as a reliever before moving back to the starting rotation and posting a solid 3.78 FIP and 3.49 xFIP. He was well on his way to being an above average pitcher until he had Tommy John Surgery later in the season. He missed a calendar year before making a return to the bullpen late last season for Atlanta. His velocity remained consistent post surgery.
Currently, he is slated to be a long man in the Atlanta bullpen, as Hudson (although out for a month), Hanson, Beachy, Minor, Teheran, Vizcaino, and Delgado all figure to be ahead of him when it comes to starting. With Kimbrel, Venters, and O’Flaherty in the bullpen, a high leverage role seems out of the equation. Because of all this depth, it would seem as though he would be a moveable piece.
The biggest question would be his usefulness to a team like the Jays. It’s no secret the NL is an easier league to pitch in, but Medlen has been above average in his limited innings. He is not a groundball pitcher, but his control and K% are strong enough to envision some success within the division. His change up is his best pitch, which has been an organization focus of the Blue Jays over the past few years. His mechanics are clean, and while the Tommy John Surgery was not ideal, he hasn’t had any set backs since. The Braves still believe he could start, as they plan on stretching him out in spring training just in case. With his skill set, I could easily see seasons like Brett Cecil’s 2010. Providing an FIP around 3.75-4.00 in 180 innings or so. Not great, but not awful. He won’t be a free agent until 2016, so we could have him at a controllable salary for a few seasons.
The Braves would be a tricky team to make a trade with. There aren’t many holes in their team, aside from SS. Offering Adeiny Hechavarria would make sense for us, as we have SS depth but I can’t see Atlanta being too keen on him as he may not be an upgrade to Tyler Pastornicky or Andrelton Simmons. SS is the team’s only true weakness provided the starters remain healthy. Chipper Jones is old, often injured and not quite what he used to be, but a solid player none the less. A player like Encarnacion would make a solid back up and injury replacement to both Freddie Freeman and Jones should something happen, but trading four years of Medlen for one of Encarnacion isn’t something Wren would seem too happy about. The health of Heyward and Prado could be an interesting thing to follow. If one should get injured, would Eric Thames for Kris Medlen be something they would be interested in? This is of course, relying on a “what if” but it’s all we really have at this point.
What do you guys think? Could you see something like this happening? Would you be against acquiring Kris Medlen? Do you see any other players across baseball buried in depth charts that could be a good target?