John Coppolella says the Braves aren’t trading Julio Teheran at the deadline. It seems like the Braves could get a lot for Teheran. The Braves are loaded with young pitching. Teheran’s ERA is as low as it’s ever been and it’s possible they would be selling high. But he’s also a young, cost-controlled starting pitcher with a very team-friendly contract.
There’s been quite a bit of talk about Teheran’s underlying performance not matching his results, as evidenced by his Fielding-Independent Pitching (FIP) numbers not looking nearly as impressive as his ERA. Teheran has consistently posted FIP’s higher than his ERA’s but not to the degree he has this season.
But I think this is a non-issue when it comes to trading Teheran. Teams in this day and age know it’s better to look at a pitcher’s underlying performance (FIP and those sorts of indicators) rather than his ERA, and that the underlying performance is likely to tell us more about what a pitcher is going to do going forward. The Braves can’t fool teams by convincing them to buy in on the ERA.
No, the tricky think about trading Teheran is the uncertainty of whether he can improve and by how much. He’s plenty young enough and cheap enough, and locked up for enough years to make him an attractive piece for any team. But it’s not clear what he can be as a pitcher going forward. He looks like a pitcher who can throw 200 innings a year. He doesn’t have a concerning injury history. He’s performed quite well, whether you are looking at his ERA or his FIP. And he’s 25.
He could very well develop into a #2 or perhaps even an ace. Or he could settle in as an innings-eating #3, which is fine, but you wouldn’t want to give up stud, low-risk prospects for him in that case. I can see why the Braves are hesitant to move him. There’s a fairly wide range of realistic outcomes for him going forward. Even if things don’t turn out quite as well as one would hope for him, he’s still likely to be a reliable mid-rotation starter over the course of his contract.
Right now, from what he’s shown so far in his career, he’s definitely at least a #3. You could argue that he’s a #2, considering the innings. But teams are probably hesitant to pay ace or high-end-#2-starter prices for him. If your the Braves, you probably don’t want to risk trading a young, under-contract starter and risk him becoming an ace or a bona fide high-end #2 starter, when the floor is an inning-eating #3 starter; when other teams might not be willing to give up an ace or high-end-#2-starter return.
Still, if the price is remotely close to the return you’d get from trading an ace, perhaps the Braves should consider it. Perhaps the uncertainty is just as good an argument for trading him. How often do pitchers who’ve established themselves as at least #3 starters at age 25 become aces or clear-cut #2 starters? There are probably just as many if not more who fail to take the next step or take steps back than there are pitchers who take it to another level. Examining the Teheran trade possibilities, you quickly see the uncertainties inherent in valuating pitchers. The Braves are taking a risk either way, whether they choose to trade Teheran or choose to hold onto him.