As everyone knows, starting pitching has been the Braves biggest (and arguably only) strength this year. And if Hudson's rehab goes well, that strength could get even better. The problem is that the Braves will have 6 good starters for a 5-man rotation. So the question for this post is, how do the Braves deal with this wonderful problem?
The first option that has been bantered around is to trade one of the starters. With Lowe and Kawakami's longer contracts and the youth of Jurrjens and Hanson, the only trade option is Vazquez. Vazquez, however, has been pitching lights out for Atlanta and apparently loves Bobby and the Braves. Additionally he would have to be moved before the trade deadline, and Hudson won't be available until mid to late August. So that would mean the Braves would have to insert a questionable fifth starter for about 4 starts. Plus I don't think we could get equal value for him. I'm not too thrilled about this option.
The second option is to move someone to the bullpen. Lowe has the worst ERA of the bunch, but I think everyone would agree it would be silly to move him to the pen. Jurrjens and Vazquez have been too good. So it comes down to either Kawakami, Hanson, or Hudson. I think if Hudson is ready to go the Braves will stick him in the rotation and not the bullpen. I would have agreed with Kawakami a month ago, but he seems to be gettting a feel for pitching in the majors and I wouldn't want to mess that up by shifting him to a new role. Hanson seems like the best prospect because he can come in and throw hard out of the pen, it will limit his innings this year, and he will still get some more major league seasoning. The only worry is that moving him back and forth from the pen will mess up his head. But come playoff time we're not going to have a 5-man rotation and Hanson would probably go to the pen then anyway, so why not give him some time to adjust before any possible playoff exposure. He could be our David Price. That is assuming that we make the playoffs though...
The third option, which I like the most, is to simply go to a 6-man rotation. It would save some innings from Hanson's and Jurrjen's arms, help ease Hudson into starting, and probably help Kawakami who is used to a 6-man rotation from Japan. It would only really affect Lowe and Vazquez, who are used to the 5-man rotation. I worried about this option further taxing the bullpen, since it would give them one less arm. But by the time Hudson comes back it will be time to extend the roster to 40 players, which would give Bobby several more arms in the pen so he doesn't abuse the few we would have left.
I'm in favor of the 6-man rotation. What do you think?