Could Kris Medlen be Coming Home to Anaheim?


After spending the first five seasons of his professional career with the Atlanta Braves, Kris Medlen, is now a free agent for the first time. The Braves decided not to tender Medlen a contract prior to the December 2nd deadline, thus making him a free agent. The Angels are still searching for affordable starting pitching depth, and the Santa Ana College alum may be just the guy they are looking for.

Medlen has not officially been connected to any teams since hitting the open market, but you can bet a player of his caliber will be scooped up quickly. The Braves had been discussing a two-year pact with Medlen prior to the deadline, but talks between the two sides stalled. Medlen missed the entire 2014 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he is expected to be pitching before the 2015 All-Star break.

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The Good

The Atlanta Braves owe much of their recent success to their talented group of young hurlers, particularly Kris Medlen. The Braves made the postseason in 2012 and 2013, with Medlen making big impacts in both campaigns. While his regular season success may not have translated to the playoffs quite yet, Medlen has ample ability to become one of the top pitchers in the sport.

Kris Medlen had a phenomenal 2012 season in Atlanta, going 10-1 with a 1.57 ERA. Medlen appeared in 50 games, making 12 starts, and finishing 20th in the 2012 Most Valuable Player voting. Medlen followed that remarkable campaign by going 15-12, with a 3.11 ERA across 31 starts in 2013. Medlen has made 61 starts over the course of his five-year career, winning 34 games, and posting a career ERA of 2.95. Medlen has averaged 7.8 strikeouts per 9 innings, and allowed 2.1 walks per 9 innings in his first five years. The 29-year-old right-hander has never posted a negative WAR, and between 2012 and ’13 he posted a combined 7.8 wins above replacement.

Medlen underwent his second Tommy John surgery this past spring, which is the main reason he was non-tendered by the Braves. However, Medlen has a track record of bouncing back nicely from serious injuries. After undergoing his first Tommy John procedure in 2010, Medlen came back and dominated the big leagues in 2012. Medlen relies heavily on changing speeds and pitch location to retire hitters, so his chances of success following his most recent surgery are good. The biggest positive regarding Medlen’s health is that he has extensive experience working out of the bullpen. Even if Medlen can never stay healthy as a starter, he has proven to be an effective reliever.

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The Bad

The lengthy injury history is certainly a red flag for teams interested in signing Medlen. The critics will say he is too small to handle the workload of a starting pitcher in the Major Leagues. Medlen is a bit undersized to be a right-handed starting pitcher at 5’10 and 190 lbs., but he does have a 197-inning season under his belt. Arm injuries are difficult to predict, but some people believe that certain players are pre-disposed to these types of afflictions. Those same people would likely suggest that Medlen’s arm is flawed in some way. Bottom line, any pitcher can wreck his arm on any pitch. I do not believe Medlen is any more susceptible to arm injuries than any other pitcher.

Experience is the only other trait Medlen is lacking. Medlen has made more than 14 starts, and pitched more than 138 innings just once in his career. Of course, the lone season Medlen eclipsed these numbers was the same season he hurt his elbow. Medlen has not looked like the same pitcher in October, going 0-2, with a 6.10 ERA in two career postseason outings. However, two games is a very small sample size, and Medlen did look much better in the 2012 Wildcard game.

One has to wonder how Medlen will perform following his second major arm surgery in less than five seasons. Medlen has demonstrated an ability to return strong in the past, and his quality stuff appears likely to remain, it is fair to question his psychological state following two significant injuries in such a short amount of time. Will Kris be worried about hurting his arm every time he throws? Will he pitch with the same confidence he had prior to the injury? I cannot answer those questions, but Medlen is a gamer, and I would bet he will push any doubts aside.

Projected Contract

Kris Medlen was projected to earn roughly $6 million dollars through arbitration this offseason had the Braves tendered him. Reports indicated that the Braves were unwilling to pay that amount, but were interested in re-signing Medlen to a two-year deal. Medlen is a Southern California native, having been born in Atesia, attending high school in Cerritos, and going to college in Santa Ana. I doubt Medlen would give a hometown discount to the Halos, but I am sure he would be interested in playing in Anaheim. A two-year deal worth $6 to $8 million would be a reasonable offer for Medlen.


Angels’ general manager, Jerry Dipoto, should be on the horn with Medlen’s agent right now. The Halos freed up some salary after non-tendering, Gordon Beckham, and this would be a great use of the additional funds. Medlen presents a perfect buy-low opportunity for the Angels, as he has the ability to be a top of the rotation arm when healthy.

I personally would be thrilled to see Kris Medlen come home to SoCal to wear an Angels uniform in 2015. The price tag is right, and the Angels still need to add at least one quality arm to their rotation. The Angels need to respond to the flurry of activity this past week in the American League West, and Medlen could conceivably be a huge boost to Halos next season.