(I really miss writing so here’s my effort to have fun with it. No promises, but I do want to get back to having fun with this silly blog of mine.)
This article serves as a twofer. It’s both the next chapter to The Rebuilders, which I meant to be an alphabetical rundown of the journeymen and never-was’s that made up the rebuild. It’s also another addition to the long-running Transaction of Today series. We’ll call it Chapter 2 of The Rebuilders, but it’s also a TOT because on this day in 2015, the Atlanta Braves signed Eric Stults to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.
Signing Eric Stults was the perfect John Hart/John Coppolella move at the time. Did Stults have an arm? Yes. Could he pitch with it? Theoretically. Will he surrender a ton of homers? Oh, definitely. Well, then, why haven’t we signed him already?
Okay, to be fair, Stults did have a pretty decent 2013 wrapped around a career of ugliness. That year, he led the Padres in most pitching categories including strikeouts with 131. Of course, that Padres team also started Edinson Volquez and his 6.01 ERA twenty-seven times so the bar was pretty low. And the bar would be pretty low for the 2015 Braves if Stults made the team. The Braves had Julio Teheran, the just-acquired Shelby Miller, and Alex Wood. Everything else was a question as the Braves moved into a rebuild. Wait, I’m sorry, John Hart called it a retooling. My mistake.
Guys like Stults were brought in just to fill innings while the Braves waited for Matt Wisler and Mike Foltynewicz to get established. Trevor Cahill would be added at the tail-end of spring training to help fill out the rotation. Folty would replace Cahill by the end of April. By the end of May, Stults would also be on his way out.
Stults wouldn’t completely suck to open his Braves era, though. Four starts in, he had a 4.03 ERA and worked into the seventh inning against the Nationals in an 8-4 victory. It would be his only win with the franchise. Once the calendar switched to May, it all fell apart for Stults as most of us predicted it would. Six runs to the Reds, three more runs against the Nats, another five against the Reds, and then the Brewers dropped a seven-spot on Stults, who couldn’t finish the fourth inning.
The Braves decided to replace Stults in the rotation with Williams Perez, which, really, says a lot. Stults would make one appearance out of the bullpen on May 26, 2015. In 3.2 scoreless innings after Teheran gave up eight against the Dodgers, Stults saved the rest of the pen from being used. The Braves couldn’t muster any offense – shocker – but Stults’s effort was a big boost for the Braves beleaguered bullpen.
A day later, the Dodgers liked him enough to acquire Stults in a six-player trade. Going to the Braves were Chris Withrow and Juan Uribe while Alberto Callaspo, Ian Thomas, and Juan Jaime headed west with Stults. Los Angeles DFA’d Stults after the deal and outrighted him to the minors. He spent the rest of the year in Double-A and Triple-A. His last professional game was on September 6, 2015, against the Memphis Redbirds. He outpitched Marco Gonzalez that day. Stults was also 12 when Gonzalez was born.
After not receiving any offers that really excited him, Stults retired from baseball and returned to Indiana where he had grown up. He’s now a financial advisor for Edward Jones. So, if you live in Middlebury, Indiana, and need some financial advice on what the next Gamestop will be, visit Stults. Tell him Walk-Off Walk sent you. He’ll give you a blank look.
Chapter 1: David Aardsma