The Braves have recently made a flurry of moves to make their team a contender. Now they are at a crossroad and need to make a decision. Atlanta has about $6MM-$7MM left to spend this off season. Atlanta has been rumored to be in a potential trade for Yankee outfielder Nick Swisher. Swisher will make $5.3MM this year which would leave almost nothing left in the bank for Atlanta. That would be fine if Atlanta wasn’t also trying to sign fan favorite Tom Glavine. If you crunch the numbers you will quickly realize it would appear Atlanta can only afford one. But which one?
Nick Swisher would almost certainly bring much needed power to what is a light hitting outfield. Jeff Francoeur was the only outfielder last year who had any glimpses of power but managed to only hit 11 home runs on the year. Swisher hit 24 last year in fewer games than Francoeur. Both had very low batting averages but many are attributing that to the occasional “down year” that the normal human being is known to have. Swisher is also a switch hitter and would be able to be placed in the cleanup spot in the lineup in between Chipper Jones and Brian McCann.
If Swisher produces the same power numbers and boosts his average his salary would be considered a major bargain. Unfortunately in this situation it may not be a big enough bargain. Swisher has a reasonable salary and is also under contract for 3 years. He can also play all outfield positions as well as first base. In any case I believe Swisher to be well worth the money. But what about Tom Glavine?
Glavine is coming back from surgery and appears to be doing well in his rehab. Glavine doesn’t expect to be blown out of the water but does expect to be offered something fair. He deserves nothing less. Glavine is no where near what he used to be but does not deserve to be tossed aside like John Smoltz was earlier this year.
Atlanta needs to bring Glavine back for themselves, for Glavine, and for the fans. I think if Glavine is not re-signed there could be an ugly backlash from Atlanta faithful. They already saw one fan favorite leave for another team and I don’t think they are in the mood to watch it again. Everyone knows that if the fans are against you then it is hard to win. Every game turns into a road game and that is going to lead to a very long season for a team trying to return to greatness.
Not only is Glavine a fan favorite but he is left-handed. Glavine would fit nicely in the 3rd spot in the rotation with four right-handed pitchers. An all right-handed rotation doesn’t exactly scream variety. Glavine has value just because of the fact he is left-handed. Either way, Atlanta needs to bring him back. Even if Glavine doesn’t produce the way he is expected to he would be a great mind to have in the clubhouse.
First, don’t the Braves already have a solid second baseman in Kelly Johnson? Yes they do, but Orlando Hudson could be an upgrade. Hudson is not that far removed from winning a Gold Glove and will also hit for a higher average. Johnson has the edge in power, but also racks up more strikeouts. Hudson missed time last year but his health issues should be finished if Atlanta is considering him.
Orlando Hudson would come at a significantly cheaper price tag than he first imagined at the beginning of free agency. Johnson would still be much cheaper but he has trade value that Atlanta could use in their attempt to acquire a power hitting left fielder such as Ryan Ludwick. The biggest advantage Hudson has is the batting average. As a second baseman he wouldn’t need to be relied upon for power numbers. Hudson had fewer strikeouts than Johnson, a higher OBP, and could have been better in home runs and walks had he played the entire season.
Moving Kelly Johnson to left field doesn’t seem like a great option. Johnson underwent Tommy John surgery and who knows how much is left in his arm. Second base isn’t exactly the best place to build up arm strength either.
The Cardinals have expressed interest in Kelly Johnson and packaging him with a minor league pitcher or two could land Ryan Ludwick. Ludwick would easily provide Atlanta’s outfield the much needed boost in offense that they have desperately been looking for. Pat Burrell could have been an option before he landed with Tampa Bay.
Ludwick strikes out more than what would be wanted but that comes with the territory of big power numbers. Ludwick would also come cheaply at less than $1MM next season. He is the big, right-handed bat Atlanta has been looking to sandwich in between Chipper Jones and Brian McCann. Jeff Francoeur can still be that player, but I don’t think the Braves want to take any chances and have him have another down season. Adding Ludwick could take pressure off of Francoeur and let him develop more out of the spotlight.
I am ecstatic that the Braves signed Derek Lowe. He was their last option to try and salvage a disastrous off season. Atlanta signed him to a 4-year deal worth $60MM. A little more than I would like but the Braves ran their way into a corner. Frank Wren couldn’t trade for Jake Peavy, couldn’t sign A.J. Burnett, and couldn’t sign Rafael Furcal.
When the off season looked like a complete failure Wren pulled some moves out of his bag and made the Braves contenders. He signed Kenshin Kawakami and Derek Lowe to bolster the staff. He signed Greg Norton and Omar Infante to come off the bench. And don’t forget about the trade for Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan.
Now Atlanta needs to try and add a power bat to put in between Chipper Jones and Brian McCann. I think that guy could be Xavier Nady. The Braves had interest at the break last year but the Pirates opted to trade him to the Yankees. The only problem is that Nady happens to be a Scott Boras client so come next off season when he is a free agent he is going to want him money.
I’m actually not even worried about trading some prospects and potentially losing Nady in the off season. The Braves have Jason Heyward who is making great strides in the minors and could be major league ready for the 2010 season. The kid can flat out mash the ball and he has good speed to boot. He is also turning out to be an above average defender so I am definitely looking forward to seeing him in 2010.
I know the Braves want to land Nady, but maybe the solution to the power drought is already on the team. Remember that Jeff Francoeur guy? He had one down year and is still only 24 years old. Last time I checked he still had a good 2 or 3 years before he is even supposed to hit his prime. Give the kid some time.
Every Atlanta fan and most other fans know he has the potential to provide a ton of power, hit for average, play Gold Glove defense, and maybe steal 10-15 bases. If he can just stop the free swinging and be more disciplined I think things will turn around for him. You can’t swing at 9 out of 10 pitches and expect to see anything worth hitting.
If the Braves can add a bat or Francoeur can turn things around I would not write them off of winning the division. The Phillies may have won the World Series but that just means everyone is going to be gunning for them. And everyone already guns for the Mets just because, well, they play in New York.
Philadelphia 24 Arizona 27
Baltimore 10 Pittsburgh 21
That is fine and dandy for the Yankees, but what do the Braves do now?
At this point I think they need to go after Jon Garland and Ian Snell. The only problem in acquiring Snell is what the Pirates would ask in return. I have heard a lot of teams have walked away from them because of their steep asking prices.
If the Padres come crawling back with the Jake Peavy deal I think the Braves need to make it clear that Yunel Escobar is off the table. They did not earn him in the last negotiations. In the previous deal San Diego had asked for 2 major league ready pitchers and 1 major league ready center fielder. The Braves offered Yunel Escobar, Gorkys Hernandez, Blaine Boyer, Charlie Morton, and Jeff Locke. That is a potentially great shortstop, a major league ready center fielder, 2 major league ready pitchers and a future starter. More than they asked for and they said no. They don’t deserve Escobar this time around.
If the Padres do come back and accept the fact they won’t get Escobar I believe the Braves have no other choice but to get the deal done. They don’t have many other options at this point in time. Next is the left field situation. I have the solution…Pat Burrell. Before you snap, key point, 1 or 2 year deal. No long term situation. Continue to read and hear me out.
The Braves have a player named Jason Heyward. He is extremely good and is only 18. He is expected to hit the majors by 2010. If this is the case why find a long term fix now? You don’t. Atlanta can sign Pat Burrell to a 1 year deal with a team option for a second. This is in case Heyward slows in his development which is likely. Burrell is a right handed power bat which the Braves are searching for. He would slip into the 4 spot in the lineup between Chipper Jones and Brian McCann when a right handed pitcher is starting. When a lefty comes in he would slip back to the 5 spot and McCann would bat 4th.
Having a right handed bat play left field allows the Braves to stagger their lineup, as in right, left, right, left. This makes the other team think more about bringing in a specialist from the bullpen in a late game situation. This would be a great strength for the Braves. Burrell could also come at maybe $8MM or $10MM per year. This is a bargain for the statistics he is capable of putting up. Thank you bad economy.
The reason I chose signing Pat Burrell over trading for Ryan Ludwick is the simple fact that Ludwick is unproven. He had one really good year. Burrell has had several. Burrell has shown he can produce year after year.
I still don’t love Burrell because he strikes out more than I would like, but hey, you have to make sacrifices. It would also be a short term contract so if he is horrible for one year the team can decline his option, making him a free agent. No more Burrell. This gives the Braves the bat they want and serves as a short term guy to hold left field before Jason Heyward can take over. Let me know what you guys think.
Over and out,
Well, it looks like the Braves finally made a move. This would send Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan to the Braves in exchange for Tyler Flowers, Brent Lillibridge, Jon Gilmore, and Santos Rodriguez. The White Sox are getting a little more than they should in my opinion. Am I liking this trade? Yea. Am I loving it? No.
The Braves also get Boone Logan who was less than spectacular last year. This was the first time I have even heard his name since I don’t play close attention to the White Sox, but I have a strong grasp of the game’s above average players. I don’t feel he should be included in that group of players. What he does provide is a fresh arm to a bullpen that was worn out last year. He is just a fresh face that may be a diamond in the rough, who knows?
On the White Sox side of the deal they got some nice pieces. Not great, but nice. Tyler Flowers is the centerpiece of the deal for Chicago. Before all the Flowers faithful go haywire, let’s calm down and face reality. Flowers did great in the AFL, which was a hitters league. He should be crushing the ball to be honest.
He is a catcher that can crush the ball. Wait, the Braves have that Brian McCann guy already. I’d say he is pretty good. Can Flowers move to first base? No. Casey Kotchman is better than he played and if that doesn’t work out Freddie Freeman is a better overall prospect and already plays first base. Flowers is just in a bad situation. It happens to a lot of good players. He will get over it and you guys should too.
Brent Lillibridge is a great trade since he is not major league ready. If the Braves trade Yunel Escobar there is no doubt in my mind that Lillibridge would not be able to step in and perform at the highest level. The kid has a great glove but he just can’t hit. If he can fix that then he will turn into a nice piece for the White Sox. Until then, good luck guys.
Jon Gilmore is one of those third basemen that is supposedly capable of replacing Chipper Jones. I have been hearing his name for a few years now and haven’t seen anything spectacular. Santos Rodriguez is a nice pick up for Chicago. He pitched well in both of the past two years but is still a long ways away from hitting Chicago.
In all this was a good trade for both Atlanta and Chicago. Don’t worry about not having the prospects to get Peavy now because I doubt any of those would have been included anyway. This could in fact get Towers to come crawling back because he feels the Braves have moved on without him. It is just a matter of time before Towers comes back. Just a matter of time.
The only thing that disappoints me is that Jermaine Dye was not included in the trade. This could of possibly killed two birds with one stone in getting a starter and a power hitting outfielder. But oh well, Rome wasn’t built in a day and the Braves won’t be fixed in a day.
The Braves need to make a move on Peavy. The Cubs have apparently found a third team to help snag him. Lou Piniella said they don’t need him but that doesn’t mean they won’t get him anyway. Wren, stop playing hard to get and just give in to it. Playing hard to get seems cool but it will get the Braves smashed by the rest of the National League next year.
Next, sign Rafael Furcal. He wants to come back to the Braves and Atlanta would need to replace the recently traded Escobar. This would also give the Braves speed at the top of the lineup while keeping the defense at shortstop. Anyone else remember how Furcal is a switch hitter? Yea, he is good stuff.
Next up, trade for Jermaine Dye. Atlanta has more than a surplus of pitching prospects. The White Sox apparently are looking for pitching, well the Braves have it. As long as the Braves have Tommy Hanson in the end, Atlanta will be fine.
Finally, sign A.J. Burnett. Give him either his 5 years or if he will accept, 4 with a player option. Atlanta would have added Jake Peavy, Rafael Furcal and Jermaine Dye. That creates an ace at the top so Burnett could be the 2nd guy. It also creates a stronger lineup to give him run support. Chipper Jones is a big fan so it would all fit. Don’t worry about him getting hurt, it won’t be worse than Mike Hampton so you will get over it.
Atlanta would have a great lineup while still having their top three prospects. I haven’t done the math but I’m pretty sure Atlanta has more than enough money. If they have some cash left over, use it to give Jurrjens a long term contract. Keep that kid locked up as long as possible.
Just imagine a Jake Peavy, A.J. Burnett, Jair Jurrjens rotation. Oh yea, the Braves get Tim Hudson back later in the season for an added boost. Furcal was always a great guy in the clubhouse and Jermaine Dye would provide that power outfielder the Braves have been looking for. If Wren does this and it falls through I will take all the blame. I really just want this to be done.
Stop messing around Wren, this is ridiculous.
It is time for me to make some bold predictions about Atlanta’s roster next year.
1. CF Josh Anderson/Jordan Schafer
2. SS Yunel Escobar*
3. 3B Chipper Jones
4. C Brian McCann
5. LF Rocco Baldelli/Delmon Young
6. 1B Casey Kotchman
7. RF Jeff Francoeur
8. 2B Kelly Johnson
9. SP see available starters below
*I could easily see Baldelli/Young moving up to the 2 spot and Escobar dropping down to 7 and having Kotchman and Francoeur move up to 5 and 6.
1. Martin Prado
2. Omar Infante
3. Greg Norton
4. Ruben Gotay
1. Jake Peavy
2. Jon Garland
3. Jair Jurrjens
4. Jorge Campillo/Tim Hudson when healthy will switch to the 2nd starter
5. Tommy Hanson
Setup man 1. Soriano
Setup man 2. Moylan
Setup man 3. MAYBE Smoltz
Closer: Mike Gonzalez
This is what I think Atlanta will look like next year. Not eye popping or anything, but a strong lineup nonetheless. Atlanta will be carried by a strong rotation and bullpen. They will produce runs with speed at the top and good but not great power in the middle. Sorry if you are upset that Francoeur is batting 7th, get over it. He actually deserves to bat 8th but I really like him.
Well, that’s my team for next year. Share your thoughts and comment away.