…Huh.

The Braves sent down Mike Minor today, which means that Brandon Beachy is going to open the season as the team’s fifth starter.

I’m kind of stunned, really. I was under the impression that the job was Minor’s to lose, and while he didn’t have a dominant spring he didn’t have a bad one either. He’s got more upside, and he’s a lefty, which would have seemed to give him the edge in breaking into a rotation that’s otherwise all-righty. I don’t think there are any contract shenanigans at play here — sometimes teams send down players who are ready for two months in order to delay their arbitration clocks, as the Braves did with Cyborg Tommy Hanson two years ago.

Beachy’s a great story, as everyone knows, but you’re looking at his ceiling right now. He’s a number-four starter at best, while Minor has the potential to be a number two. Of course, all Beachy needs to be in this rotation is a number four, but I still think I would have gone with Minor. I guess the idea is that you let Beachy pitch in the majors for a few months to build his value, swap him for something the team needs mid-season, then call up Minor? Eh. Not sure what Beachy’s bringing in even if he impresses.

The Braves have been making noises about trading Rodrigo Lopez, the rotation dark horse, as well, and I don’t see the logic there at all. Lopez isn’t an ideal solution for a contending team by any means, but there are worse guys to stash at Triple-A for depth purposes. I guess the Braves feel they have enough depth, but no one has enough depth. What happens if they trade Lopez, Beachy is so terrible he has to be demoted, and someone gets hurt? Who’s the fifth starter then? That’s not even the nightmare scenario here. Whenever teams start acting like they’ve got sufficient depth I always go back to Bill James’s story about the team with the four stud second base prospects. They make one the starter, trade one for pitching, move one to right field, and one doesn’t pan out… and then the starter gets hurt, and suddenly the team doesn’t have a second baseman anymore despite its once-vaunted depth. Being such a deep team is the Braves’ primary edge on the Phillies, and I’d hate to see it squandered needlessly. Lopez was freely available in the offseason and no one wanted him, so you’re not getting anything for him. Don’t trade him just to trade him.

Frank Wren and Fredi Gonzalez have also been telling anyone who’ll listen that they want a right-handed bench bat to complement Eric Hinske. I’m not sure if they have anyone in particular in mind or if they’re just speaking hypothetically. The fact that they lost two middling pitchers through waivers yesterday would seem to indicate that they’re clearing roster space, but it’s not like the Braves have never been careless with mediocre roster-filler before.

Barring such a move, it looks like the Opening Day roster is going to be this:

C Brian McCann
1B Freddie Freeman
2B Dan Uggla
3B Chipper Jones
SS Sea Bass Gonzalez
LF Martin Prado
CF Nate McLouth
RF Jason Heyward

C David Ross
4C Eric Hinske
IF/OF Joe Mather
IF Ed Lucas
IF Brooks Conrad

RHP Derek Lowe
RHP Cyborg Tommy Hanson
RHP Tim Hudson
RHP Jair Jurrjens
RHP Brandon Beachy

RHP Craig Kimbrel
LHP Jonny Venters
RHP Peter Moylan
LHP Eric O’Flaherty
RHP Scott Linebrink
LHP George Sherrill
RHP Scott Proctor

…I can’t wait until Proctor pitches his way off the roster.

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