Braves activate Walden, send Wood to Triple-A Gwinnett
JUN 10, 2014 5:19p ET
Jordan Walden is officially back in the bullpen mix for the Atlanta Braves. After missing five weeks with a strained hamstring, the right-hander joins the team in Denver looking to help provide some stability for a unit that has struggled in recent weeks.
Walden, 26, has been one of the Braves' most effective relievers this season, owning a 2.92 ERA and a 2.51 fielding-independent pitching (FIP), bolstered by the second-best strikeout rate on the team (13.86 per nine innings). His presence should give manager Fredi Gonzalez an additional option in the seventh or eighth innings.
Perhaps even bigger news than Walden's return is what his activation triggered.
Atlanta's corresponding move to create room on the 25-man roster was to send talented young left-hander Alex Wood down to Triple-A Gwinnett to get stretched back out as a starter. Wood, who is widely considered to be on an innings limit in his second professional season, built off an excellent rookie campaign in his first seven starts of 2014, posting a 3.00 ERA and an 8-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 45 innings pitched. He was moved to the bullpen -- where his numbers has suffered -- around the time fellow starter Gavin Floyd came off the disabled list.
Wood's age, potential and production has positioned him as one of the organization's top-of-the-rotation arms for the foreseeable future, so he'll be expected to re-join the club's rotation soon -- meaning there could be a personnel move still pending. The oft-discussed candidates for such a move are offseason free agent acquisitions Floyd and Aaron Harang, both of whom have exceeded expectations through the first part of the season. The jobs of Julio Teheran, Mike Minor or Ervin Santana appear to be guaranteed on the Braves' staff at this point.
Both Floyd and Harang are working on incentive-laden deals -- Floyd is the more expensive option, potentially costing the Braves up to $7 million -- and both have more than filled the team's needs in the absence of Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy (season-ending injury), but it appears a trade is imminent if Wood is tp re-join the rotation. Given their '14 numbers to date, Floyd and Harang have certainly not hurt their value on the market. Now the only question is, if a trade is in order, who gets moved? That will likely depend on another team's preferences and needs, but judging purely by production, Harang has given the Braves better numbers in a larger sample size, though Floyd is coming off his best start of the year in Colorado.
Either way, it's difficult to project either Floyd's or Harang's value rising any higher from here on out. It's certainly something to keep an eye on in the coming days and/or weeks. Wood is the best option of the group ... now it's just a matter of creating some space as he builds his stamina back up. How the Braves choose to do that remains to be seen.