The Atlanta Braves continue to search for ways to improve their club before the start of the season, and apparently believing that neither Randall Delgado nor Julio Teheran are ready to hold down a rotation spot, the team has signed starting pitcher Livan Hernandez. This was reported by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
Livan turned 37 in February, and spent the last two and half years pitching for the Nationals. He had been rumored to be on the Braves radar two seasons ago (Cox's last year), and many thought he might retire after last season, but he signed with the Astros in the off-season. He did not pitch good enough in the eyes of the 'Stros to warrant a roster spot and was released earlier today. The Braves wasted no time in scooping up the veteran starter.
Hernandez had a 5.63 ERA this spring, allowing 23 hits in 16 spring innings, but that was deemed better than Delgado, who had a 7.94 ERA or Teheran, who had a 9.00 ERA. Hernandez will also bring something else to the Braves fifth starter spot that the two young pitchers likely would not have brought -- the ability to eat innings and save the bullpen. Throughout his 16 year Major League career, Livan has averaged 224 innings per year.
This is a decent move for several reasons. As mentioned above it will help the bullpen as Livan is an innings eater (in addition to being an eater, see photo above). The Braves must feel strongly that Delgado and Teheran need more time in the minors -- their springs certainly reflected this -- and this move should buy them the time they need to refine their craft.
The worry here is that this move smacks of the Mark Redman signing in 2007. He was supposed to be a stop-gap innings eater veteran type pitcher, but five starts and an 11-plus ERA later there were many regretting that decision. Also, Livan got released by the Astros ... they're the worst team in baseball right now. Though that could be more about the 'Stros wanting to go with youth instead of some veteran playing out the year.
My personal opinion is that I like the move. It's a very Braves move for a long-admired player and adversary who has always been a fighter on the mound, even if his current repertoire of pitches is Slow And Slower. Call Neikro and sit him down with Livan, maybe he could begin a second career that stretches into his 40s. At least if we have to watch our fifth starter get blown up, I'd rather it be Livan than Delgado or Teheran before they're ready. The Braves are trying to win now, so they don't have the luxury of letting the kids take their lumps to begin the season ... they tried that last year at the end of the season, and it didn't work so well.
David O'Brien tweets that Livan will be a reliever and spot starter, and that his signing does not affect the fifth starter battle between Delgado and Teheran. That's a good role for Livan, but still exposes one of the young kids to a rotation role they may not be ready for. At least this way Livan can enter early in the game and go long should one of the starters not be effective, thus saving the rest of the bullpen.
Mark Bowman tweets that Livan will likely take Cory Gearrin's bullpen spot. That may mean Yohan Flande is still the guy they will go with for the last bullpen spot. He can also stretch out and pitch in long relief if necessary.
This is still a good move, IMO. Maybe better as the Braves won't be relying on Livan for wins, just mop-up duty.
Ken Rosenthal tweets that Livan's deal with the Braves is a one-year deal with $750,000, and has an additional $750,000 in performance bonuses. I'm guessing those bonuses are tied to innings pitched..