The Braves' starting rotation has ranked in the top-10 in ERA every season since 2010 despite not having a prototypical ace on the roster. The club's starting pitcher ERA over that five-year stretch was 3.64, good for the fifth-best mark in baseball. Braves starters put up a 3.42 ERA last season despite losing two key members of the staff during spring training.
As we reach the 2015 offseason, one of the biggest questions facing Atlanta is what happens to the starting rotation.
Julio Teheran and Alex Wood (read our exclusive interview with him!) are just about guaranteed to fill two of the top slots. They're young, they throw hard with solid command, and they have the stuff to be front-end starters for quite some time.
Mike Minor also projects to be in the starting rotation. This past year was rough on Minor – penis surgery and shoulder fatigue will do that to a guy who throws a baseball for a living – but we've all seen just how good the former first round pick can be when he's on top of his game. Him returning to his 2013 form next year would be huge.
It's anyone's guess who fills in the two spots alongside Teheran, Wood and Minor.
The Braves just gave a qualifying offer to Ervin Santana. It was a no-brainer for the club considering the draft pick compensation. Santana pitched well in 2014, especially considering he couldn't find work as of early March. While it would be nice to bring Santana back, him accepting the $15.3 million would really limit what the Braves could do financially. They'd basically be in a standstill until they could unload another contract (or two or three).
Aaron Harang was a revelation last season. You could argue signing Harang for pennies all of two weeks before the season started was one of Frank Wren's best moves in Atlanta. Bringing Harang back on a cheap one-year deal would be smart, but all signs point to the 36-year-old veteran looking for a multi-year deal. There's no way Atlanta could be interested in that.
David Hale is the only real in-house option to fill a rotation spot. He could be a decent No. 5 starter, but he's probably better suited as a long-man in the bullpen. Still, Hale is a cheap option should other endeavors not pan out.
No one really knows what will happen with Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen. Both pitchers have undergone multiple arm surgeries over the past 24 months and there's really no way to know what they have left. Beachy is still cheap, but Medlen is a possible non-tender candidate given his arbitration status. Medlen could be brought back on an incentive-laden one-year deal with little base salary, which would make a lot of sense for both parties.
There are a handful of interesting free agent options for the Braves to pursue, including veterans like Justin Masterson, Jake Peavy and Edinson Volquez. A look at the top-50 free agents is here.
The Braves could have a top-10 starting rotation in 2015 once again given the talent between Teheran, Wood and Minor, but John Hart and the front office will certainly have their work cut out for them.