Dodgers Sign Brandon Beachy, A Risk Very Much Worth Taking

Don’t think any of us saw this coming, but man do I like it:

Have I mentioned I love this front office? Love it. Love. It. It’s signings like these, that won’t get much attention, that come with low risk and a high reward, that every team should be doing. (Chris Withrow lands on the 60-day to make room.)

Why high reward, you say? Beachy’s a fascinating story. Undrafted out of Indiana Wesleyan University, Beachy signed as a free agent with the Braves in 2008 and found himself with a cup of coffee in the bigs in 2010. The next year, he put up one of baseball’s shockingly great performances, striking out 169 in 141.2 innings. Beachy’s K%-BB% that year was 20.8. Clayton Kershaw, who won his first Cy Young in 2011, had a 21.3%. At 24, he looked like a guy the Braves could count on for years.

…and then his elbow snapped. 13 starts into a follow-up 2012 that looked great (2.00!) but wasn’t really quite so (3.49 FIP, up from 3.19), Beachy had to undergo Tommy John surgery in June. He successfully rehabbed and returned to the Braves for five late-season starts in 2013, showing enough to get himself penciled in as a likely starter in 2014.

…and then his elbow snapped. Again, during spring training last year. (That, along with a similar injury to Kris Medlen, is what made the Braves go out and get Ervin Santana.) Non-tendered by Atlanta after the season, there’s been regular rumors about teams taking a flyer on him, but nothing’s come of it until now.

So obviously, a two-time elbow blowout isn’t a good sign, though it’s not necessarily a career-ender on its own. (Chris Capuano, among others,  has had two TJ’s, and is still pitching in the big leagues years later.) Beachy’s only had that one very good season, but that’s still more than a lot of guys have had, and he’s still only 28. Just a few weeks ago, this is how Eno Sarris described him in FG+

Once upon a time, Brandon Beachy had four legit pitches — a fastball with rise, a change with good velocity gap if not drop, a yellow hammer of a curve, and an above-average slider — good command, and a spot in a National League rotation. Those were fun times. That was also two elbow surgeries ago.

… so you can see the appeal. And if you can’t, well, here’s a highlight video from before his first injury:

Immediately, you can see the Dodger strategy here. Brandon McCarthy is an injury risk. Brett Anderson is an injury risk. Kershaw and Hyun-jin Ryu both spent time on the DL last year. We talked about Zack Greinke‘s elbow like an hour ago. Joe Wieland, Zach Lee, Carlos Frias and friends are decent but unexciting depth. I don’t want to bite an article I’d already planned on writing this week, but you don’t sign back-end starters needing to get 200 innings out of them. You sign them hoping to get as many good innings as you can while having the next guy ready to go.

If that means Anderson gives you 10 good starts and then falls apart in June, just when Beachy is ready to go, so be it. I don’t even know what the dollar amount is here, and it doesn’t really matter. (Update: Per JP Hoornstra, it’s $2.75M guaranteed, and the option can be between $3M-$6M depending on playing time. Seems fair.) That’s partially because it really can’t be that much, and partially because whatever it is isn’t going to affect the Dodgers’ payroll. That it’s bundled with a team option — team! Not player, like Brian Wilson‘s — for 2016 makes it all the better. If Beachy never makes it back, well, nothing lost. If he shows something like he was in 2011, suddenly you have another good option for 2016. That’s what the Rangers did with Joakim Soria off TJ surgery, adding a team option, and for their troubles they got a few months of solid reliving and two of Detroit’s better pitching prospects when they dealt him off.

The risk here is low. The potential return is high. You want every deal to be like that. Few are. It’s hard to find something to dislike here.

About Mike Petriello

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