Kris Medlen was not expected to be the best player on the Braves. He is an average to above-average starter who provided Atlanta with almost 200 innings of high-quality work last season. Now, it is very possible that he will not be able to pitch at all in 2014 and that turn of events has pushed the Braves to sign Ervin Santana. The loss of Medlen may not destroy the Braves playoff chances with Santana on board, but it did have drastic consequences for them. They were fortunate to be able to find a capable replacement still available on the free agent market for the modest cost of a one-year deal.
The loss of a starting pitcher or three would be difficult for any team to handle. Some clubs might be better equipped to handle the loss than the Braves were, but starters are always hard to replace without a decline in production. Teams attempt to build rotation depth, but the drop-off from the injured player to these emergency options is usually quite significant.
While replacing a starter is difficult, replacing a star player is often impossible. There is no way the Angels could replace Mike Trout's production with a quick free agent signing or a low-cost trade. If that star plays a premium position, like catcher or shortstop, they can be even more difficult to live without. When Buster Posey got hurt in 2011 the defending World Champion Giants had to restore to playing Eli Whiteside most days. Posey gave San Francisco around three times more value in the 45 games before he got hurt than Whiteside did all season (by rWAR). The Giants dipped from 92 wins in 2010 to 86 in 2011 before getting Posey back and winning 94 games and another World Series in 2012.
The Braves can survive the loss of Kris Medlen because there was another comparable option available. This is not usually the case. At times, a top prospect might be ready to step in a help out to ease a loss. Sometimes a team can shift players around to fill the gap. Other times there is just no replacing the loss.
Which player could your team least afford to lose?
Breakfast Links 3/12:
You one stop shop for all the early reactions to the deal
Tyler Drenon breaks down any and all questions you might have about the signing
Chacin was the Rockies best starter last season, so this is a tough loss.
This article is not about catchers taking on shortstops Royal-Rumble style. Sadly that doesn't seem to be in the cards for this spring.
The Braves righty's season is now very much in question