On Thursday, the Atlanta Braves signed left-handed pitcher Eric Stults to join their ever-growing fifth starter competition. The one-year deal is a minor league contract that comes with an invitation to big-league Spring Training.
Stults is an eight year MLB veteran who started his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, before stops with the Colorado Rockies, Chicago White Sox and most recently the San Diego Padres. In 126 career appearances (104 of which are starts) Stults has a 4.12 ERA (4.25 FIP), 5.7 strikeouts per nine innings and 2.3 walks per nine. He is a solid back of the rotation starter who would be a safe choice to be the Braves' fifth starter, but one who would not represent much upside.
Incumbent starters Julio Teheran, Mike Minor and Alex Wood, along with Shelby Miller who they acquired via trade with the St. Louis Cardinals, are all but guaranteed a spot in the opening day starting rotation. Entering the off-season David Hale and James Russell were considered to be the top candidates to land the fifth starter job, but the Braves have done a nice job bringing in other candidates as well.
Atlanta traded for talented pitching prospects Mike Foltynewicz (from the Houston Astros) and Manny Banuelos (from the New York Yankees) to join the competition. In addition to Stults, the Braves also brought in veterans Wandy Rodriguez and Chien-Ming Wang on minor league deals with Spring Training invites.
The five off-season additions, along with Hale and Russell, will fight to earn a spot in the opening day rotation. The Braves feel confident, as they should, that they will find at least one solid option out of the group.