Loss of Hudson widens scope of Braves’ trade discussions

The loss of veteran pitcher Tim Hudson to a season-ending ankle injury Wednesday opened a gaping hole in the Braves’ starting rotation and the team said it will consider all options to fill it, both in-house and on a limited trade market.

“A lot of thoughts have gone through my mind since last night,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said Thursday morning, 12 hours after Hudson was injured on a freak play at first base. “It’s created a lot more (trade) discussions, there’s no question.”

The Braves were already seeking to add a left-handed reliever before the non-waiver trade deadline Wednesday. Now they’ll consider trading for a veteran starting pitcher, if they can improve a young rotation that includes only one member with postseason experience — Kris Medlen’s lone start in last year’s Wild Card game.

Right-handers Jake Peavy (White Sox) and Bud Norris (Astros) are being shopped and the Royals will reportedly listen to offers for Ervin Santana. But that’s the extent of the starters known to be available and with plenty of teams looking for rotation help, the price for each could be higher than their value.

The Braves are not involved in the bidding for Cuban free-agent starter Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.

Wren’s top assistants and major league scouts will convene this weekend at Turner Field, as they always do in the week before the trade deadline. But the Hudson injury added another level to the planned discussions. Wren said they’ll have to determine which, if any, available starting pitchers could help the Braves significantly, without costing too much young talent.

“I’m not sure there’s a player available who’ll make us dramatically improved,” he said.

While it’s important not to mortgage the future and give up young players for a quick fix, Wren also said, “Our goal is to win a World Series. That’s going to be first and foremost in our thought process.”

The Braves expect to bring Brandon Beachy off the disabled list to take Hudson’s scheduled spot Monday and Beachy will likely settle into a rotation spot if he remains healthy. He is 13 months removed from Tommy John elbow surgery and pitching with Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday, he had what the Braves said was perhaps the best of his nine rehab starts.

“He’s ready to go,” Wren said of Beachy, who pitched six innings and allowed two hits, two runs (one earned) and four walks with three strikeouts, with 51 strikes in 86 pitches. “There’s going to be some hills and valleys, like there always are with guys coming back from surgery.”

The Braves can’t be certain what they’ll get from Beachy for the rest of the season. Rookie left-hander Alex Wood didn’t make it out of the fifth inning Thursday (4 1/3 innings, eight hits, four runs) against the Mets while filling in for veteran Paul Maholm, who’ll miss three starts after spraining his left wrist.

While their 3.67 starters’ ERA was still fifth-best in the league before Thursday, there has been recent slippage, now compounded by injuries.

Maholm (9-9, 4.41 ERA) is 3-5 with a 5.53 ERA in his past 10 starts and 0-3 with a 10.13 ERA in three July starts. Medlen is 0-3 with an 8.59 ERA in his past three starts and appeared to be in danger of losing his spot before Hudson’s injury.

Mike Minor (9-5, 2.98 ERA) and rookie Julio Teheran (7-5, 3.25 ERA) have been their steadiest starters over the course of the season, but the grizzled and ultra-competitive Hudson (8-7, 3.97 ERA) was the unquestioned leader of the pitching staff, in the clubhouse and on the field.

“There’s no way to replace Timmy and what he means to us,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “But Beachy will be a perfect fit to fit in there on that Monday slot. We’ll have a young rotation, but they’ve got to grow up sooner or later. You’ve got six starters and you feel good about them. Two weeks from now, you don’t know. If you’re asking me do I feel comfortable with what we have now, absolutely.”

It’s uncertain if Wren feels quite as comfortable with the suddenly injury-depleted and veteran-deprived group, though he lauds the work the starters have done.

Hudson had been at the top of his game recently and the Braves felt good with him poised to lead the staff in the playoff race. He won his past four starts and had a 2.73 ERA in his past 10.

“Huddy’s the heart and soul of our pitching staff,” Wren said. “As you get into the second half, you want your veteran leaders to step up and lead the team. And that’s what Huddy was doing. He was pitching as well as anybody. Not just (Wednesday) night. That was vintage Tim Hudson, right at the time we needed that from him

“It’s disappointing for us and disappointing for him.”