Phillies Hot Stove: Could Julio Teheran Be a Fit?

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MLB insider Ken Rosenthal put out a collection of notes that included a piece of information that could be of potential interest to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Having completed the Craig Kimbrel and Andrelton Simmons trades, Rosenthal speculates that the Braves may be shopping around more players that still remain on the roster, including young righthander Julio Teheran. Rosenthal is quoted as saying:

"“The Braves, another official says, are ‘shopping everyone owed money’ – a group that would include right-hander Julio Teheran“"

Later in the evening, it was tweeted out that the Braves aren’t sending the right hander anywhere:

At this time of year, many players are “put out there” by their current clubs, if just as an effort to gauge their current trade value. It shouldn’t be surprising that there is some chatter surrounding Teheran, especially in the wake of the Kimbrel and Simmons deals. The Braves are currently in a rebuild, and should be at least testing the waters on anything that is not nailed down.

Would it be wise of Matt Klentak to try to jump into the discussion? After all, he clearly stated that they want to add two starting pitchers this offseason. With yesterday’s acquisition of Jeremy Hellickson filling one of those spots, adding Teheran would complete the mission.

What would the Phillies be getting in Teheran? First, they would be getting a premier pitcher who is just entering his prime. 2016 will see him play the entire season as a 25-year old.

He has also proven to be durable. Over the past two seasons, Teheran has thrown more than 400 innings. His 107 ERA+ in that time is barely above average, but his strikeout rates are solid, his walk rates are acceptable, and he even has increased his ground ball rate.

The Phillies would also be getting a pitcher who has a very team-friendly contract over the next few years. Prior to the 2014 season, Teheran agreed with Atlanta on a six-year extension, covering his arbitration years and one free agent season. For that control, the team guaranteed him $32.4 million.

There is also a team option on the deal for the 2020 season for $12 million, with a $1 million buyout. This means that Teheran could be under control until that 2020 year for just over $41 million. That kind of contract doesn’t come along very often for a player of Teheran’s abilities.

On the negative side, the Phillies would also be taking some risk with a pitcher coming off a disappointing season. Look at the comparison of his 2014 and 2015 seasons:

More from That Balls Outta Here

2014: 220 IP, 2.89 ERA (3.37 DRA), 7.6 K/9%, 2.1 BB/9%, 0.9 HR/9%
2015: 200.2 IP, 4.04 ERA (4.21 DRA), 7.7 K/9%, 3.3 BB/9%, 1.2 HR/9%

All of the statistical numbers that a team would not want to see rise on one of its pitchers did rise for Teheran this past season. His strikeout rate plateaued, but everything else went north.

Was he just unlucky? After all, his BABIP went up 19 points from the previous season as well. Was there a change in stuff? There doesn’t seem to be. By the looks of it, there was very little, if any, change in his velocity the past two years.

What does appear to have changed is that opposition batters were not whiffing as much in 2015 at one of his “put away” pitches, the changeup, as much as they did 2014. In fact, there was almost a 200-point increase in slugging percentage on that particular pitch from 2014 to 2015. Somewhat speculative, but it creates a reasonable argument as to what happened to the Braves’ young ace this past season.

The million dollar question is: what does it cost to get him? First, one must take into account the contract. That kind of cheap, guaranteed control would not be easy to pry loose. Even if the Braves do want to get rid of all of their guaranteed contracts, this one is attractive enough from a team perspective that they might just want to hold on to him, unless someone paid handsomely.

Secondly, there is the “in-division” element to the trade. If Atlanta were to deal Teheran, the price would certainly be more prohibitive for the Phillies because the Braves would then have to face him three to four times per season over each of the next five years.

Finally, the prospect price that Klentak would need to send south might be a little more than what the Phillies, a similarly rebuilding club, would be willing to pay. Having just acquired a great deal of minor league talent over the last few months, it would be silly to part with a lot of it right away.

The Braves do have a hole behind the plate, and the Phillies do have at least two highly rated prospects that handle the “tools of ignorance” well, and have accumulated organizational depth at the catching position. However, having seen what happened with Tommy Joseph, that supposed depth could vanish quickly.

It would certainly be nice to add a pitcher of Teheran’s quality to lead the pitching staff over the next few seasons. However, the price in minor league talent is probably going to be too much for the Phillies to absorb at this point in their rebuild. It’s a tempting thought, to be sure. But if the thought does enter Klentak’s mind, it might be one that he’s better off brushing aside right away.

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