Braves open to adding another starter

Even after adding Cole Hamels, the Braves are open to adding another pitcher to their rotation.

The Braves have four players currently set in their starting five: Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Mike Foltynewicz and Hamels. Left-hander Sean Newcomb will compete for a rotation spot in spring. Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson and Touki Toussaint are trying to establish themselves as major leaguers. Top prospect Ian Anderson is on the cusp.

“We won’t be surprised if any one, two or three have good seasons,” general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. “I don’t think anyone in this room or in our suite (at the winter meetings) knows who those might be. It’s a good position to be in.”

As Anthopoulos referenced, the Braves do have plentiful depth. It just doesn’t come with any certainty. The team lost two reliable innings eaters in Julio Teheran and Dallas Keuchel, and while Hamels plugs one spot, they’re still one veteran short.

While the chief concern is adding a power bat this winter, the Braves are also exploring their bench options and further pitching help. They’d consider adding another veteran starter, even after giving Hamels a one-year, $18 million deal, to provide a more known quantity.

The possible addition would likely fall on the lower end of the financial spectrum. Madison Bumgarner, a popular name in Braves conversation, seems primed to receive a deal exceeding the Braves’ comfort zone. The team could make an addition in the same realm as the Anibal Sanchez acquisition two seasons ago – a low-priced veteran who might still have something left in the tank. Like Sanchez, the add may come during spring training.

But the Braves could also just roll with what they have, hoping the combination of youngsters and/or Newcomb’s emergence covers the innings. It’s noteworthy that while Newcomb will be stretched out in spring, he played an important role in the bullpen and the club could decide to keep him in that capacity.

Newcomb, 26, was demoted to Triple-A after walking eight over his first three starts (12-1/3 innings). He returned as a reliever, finding his niche with a 3.04 ERA and 57:19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 51 appearances. His relief success might’ve unlocked his potential as a starter, but the Braves could ultimately decide to keep him in their revised bullpen.

When asked if the team needed to add another starter, general manager Alex Anthopoulos said “need” isn’t the right word, but “you can never have enough.”

“We have a lot of young arms with promise and upside, but that aren’t established,” he said. “There is still uncertainty with what kind of performance we’re going to get. It’s always front of mind, having that rock-solid rotation and depth. … I would love to have six that we felt really good about. That’d be a great problem to have.”

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