Braves starter Aaron Harang boasts a 110-116 career record and a 4.28 ERA in 12 MLB seasons.
Freddy Garcia is out, Aaron Harang is in and the Atlanta Braves’ rotation remains a question mark entering Opening Day.
In a variety of ways, Harang, the 35-year-old journeyman veteran, projects to be an improvement over Garcia. He’s a younger option with (judging by scout’s reports) more in the tank stuff-wise and he’s coming off a decent spring training with the Cleveland Indians, where he missed out on a spot in the rotation. Harang’s boost is not expected to be anything much more than marginal, but the Braves — a team that lost starters Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to Tommy John surgery, a team that is waiting on free agent acquisition Gavin Floyd to return from Tommy John, a team that is waiting on Mike Minor and Ervin Santana to get on schedule — can not afford to be picky right now.
At this point, the best (and most affordable) available option will have to do until Minor, Santana and Floyd are added to the mix.
Harang has not been a consistently above-average major league pitcher since a three-year stretch from 2005 to 2007 with the Cincinnati Reds (he finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting in ’07), but he’s been serviceable at times. In 2012, he started 31 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers, logging 179 2/3 innings, a positive ERA+ (105) and a 1.6 WAR. He hit a bit of a wall last season in stints with the Mets and Dodgers: 143 1/3 innings and a 68 ERA+, though his strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.83-to-1) jumped up to a four-year high. If he’s going to earn a spot on the staff past Gavin Floyd’s mid-May expected return date, he’ll need to be better.
Braves general manager Frank Wren said that Harang’s signing is meant to avoid entering the season with so little experience, and when looking at the announced Opening Day rotation, he has a point.
On Tuesday, Atlanta released its rotation order for the opening series against the Milwaukee Brewers and, needless to say, it looks dramatically different than it did before spring training began: Julio Teheran, Alex Wood and Harang will take the hill against the NL Central opponent, in that order. Rookies David Hale and Gus Schlosser are competing for the fourth spot. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
If anything, the immediate signing of Harang in an effort to improve the rotation with Opening Day just seven days away is as direct a reflection of the organization’s unfortunate, injury-riddled spring training as anything else. Wren and the organization have had to work overtime over the past month in order to try and fill in the gaps in the roster left by Medlen, Beachy and the rotation’s health-repeated delays. Harang should be one of the final roster moves the team makes before taking the field against the Brewers, then this club’s early-season resiliency will be put to the test.