Tagged: Hot Stove

Decision time in Atlanta

Nick SwisherThe 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?

Tom GlavineGlavine 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.

Tom GlavineAtlanta 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.

Personally if I had to make one move I would take Glavine. I think Swisher could be a great help on the field but Glavine will produce on the field, in the clubhouse, and is loved by the fans. Having both is great but if I had to pick one it would be Tom Glavine.

~Ben
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Filling the void

Nick SwisherWith all the acquisitions made this off season the Braves still have two voids to fill in the outfield. Jeff Francoeur seems to be entrenched in right field for at least the 2009 season which leaves two spots open. Atlanta has shown interest in both Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady, though Swisher appears to be the favorite.

Nady is the superior player both offensive and defensively but Swisher would come at a bigger discount. Nady also happens to be a Scott Boras client and will hit free agency after the 2009 season. Jason Heyward could be Nady’s replacement in the likely hood that he departs, but there is no guarantee that he will be ready in time.

Heyward is already a tremendous talent but Atlanta does not in anyway want to rush him. He has been invited to this year’s spring training but is not expected to make the roster.

Atlanta’s beat writer Mark Bowman has said that the Orlando Hudson idea died about a month ago. Atlanta let the idea go over defensive worries. I don’t really buy that idea as before last year he won consecutive Gold Glove awards. Hudson was also injured for part of last year so that may have effected his range factor, which has provided concerns for Atlanta. The signing of Hudson could have made Kelly Johnson expendable and led to a possible trade for Ryan Ludwick.

Gregor BlancoI would like a trade for Swisher if Atlanta didn’t need to include too much value. It would take less to land Swisher than Nady, but Swisher is also under contract for $22.5MM over the next 3 seasons. Swisher had a down year last year but did hit 24 home runs. Swisher is also a switch hitter which gives him a lot of value to the Braves.

If Atlanta can’t land Swisher it looks like Matt Diaz, Brandon Jones and Gregor Blanco could be battling for the spot in left field. Center field is also up for grabs with Blanco, Josh Anderson and Jordan Schafer all fighting for the spot.

When this is all said and done I think Atlanta can land Swisher and that Jordan Schafer will win the starting spot in center field. Schafer is just as good defensively as Anderson and Blanco but can provide more offense. Atlanta was in desperate need of offensive production from the outfield last year and Schafer is the most likely to provide it out of the three.

Till next time,

~Ben

Orlando to Atlanta?

Some recent headlines have mentioned that Orlando Hudson has drawn interest from the Atlanta Braves. Let’s break this idea down.

Orlando HudsonFirst, 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.

Ryan LudwickMoving 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.

~Ben

What To Do Now?

Derek LoweEveryone probably knows by now that the Atlanta Braves went out and got the guy they wanted, Derek Lowe. They have gone out and solidified their starting rotation, but now what? Atlanta is still not a playoff team.

If you look at their rotation you will notice one thing they all have in common. They are all right-handed. Every single one of them. Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, Jair Jurrjens, and Kenshin Kawakami are all right-handed pitchers. There needs to be a little variety in the starting rotation. That’s why I think they need to bring back Tom Glavine. He may not be what he used to be but the fact that he is left-handed gives him an advantage over other pitchers vying for the 5th spot in the rotation.

Tom GlavineI would think if Glavine returns he would be given the 3rd spot in the rotation just because of the fact he is left-handed. Being able to throw different styles of pitching at an opponent is an underrated part of the game. If the other team knows you only have right-handed pitchers it will make it a lot easier for them to game plan against you. Hence the idea of bringing back Glavine.

Will OhmanI also think that if Glavine is physically able to pitch and the Braves don’t resign him there is going to be an outcry from Atlanta faithful. Already this season the Braves let long time favorite John Smoltz go and now if they were to let Glavine go things could get ugly around Atlanta.

Another addition I think the Braves need to make is resigning Will Ohman. He isn’t Brian Fuentes but he is a very good left-handed reliever that played really well for the Braves last year. Atlanta’s bullpen also lacks a wide array of pitchers, seeing that they are overloaded with right-handed pitchers. The only lefty in the bullpen is closer Mike Gonzalez. Atlanta needs to have a lefty specialist that can come in to face the murder’s row of left-handed batters that the NL East is home to. They include Carlos Delgado, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard. Atlanta has to have someone that can come in and get key outs when those guys are batting.

I would really like Atlanta to add a bat like Xavier Nady or Nick Swisher but the Yankees appear to be asking too much. Nick Swisher isn’t what he used to be a few years ago and Nady is only under contract for 2009. His agent is Scott Boras so it is safe to assume he won’t be sticking around for anything less than $700MM over 8 years. If things continue the way they are it doesn’t look like the Braves will be able to add another bat. If Jeff Francoeur can produce I don’t think adding a bat would even be needed.

Jason VaritekIn other baseball news it looks like Jason Varitek could be returning to the Red Sox. He wants to come back and I think Boston knows the fans want him back. They call him “Captain” for a reason. He is the heart and soul of that team, they need to bring Tek back. This should be an easy decision.

In more MLB news where is Manny Ramirez going to end up? The Angels don’t want him and the Dodgers don’t want to give him more than three years. Will the Giants take another risk on a super star becoming a huge bust (Barry Zito)?

Everyone knows the guy can hit but if he doesn’t get his money he will not be a happy Manny. And we all know an unhappy Manny can be a cancer to his baseball team. Boston found out the hard way.

Till next time,

~Ben

Whats Next?

What is next for the Atlanta Braves? That is the question of the day. They let a fan favorite in John Smoltz pack up and head to Boston. They lost out on Jake Peavy, A.J. Burnett and finally Rafael Furcal.

Kenshin KawakumiNow they are after Japanese pitcher Kenshin Kawakami. Here is the scouting report for everyone. His fastball tops out in the low 90’s and he mixes in a slow curve with a cutter. I haven’t heard of any crazy sounding pitches like the gyro ball that Daisuke Matsuzaka has. He sounds like a normal pitcher to me. He doesn’t have the typical deceptive delivery that is normally seen from Japanese pitchers, this guy just relies on his natural stuff. That could be good, then again, it could be bad.

Heard of that Kei Igawa guy? That turned out great didn’t it? (Laughs to self)

Japanese players can be really good like Matsuzaka, or they can be a complete bust like Igawa. I’m hoping he isn’t the later if he signs with the Braves. Baltimore however is also interested so don’t get your hopes up Braves fans. The Orioles have already signed Koji Uehara who is also a Japanese pitcher. Playing with another Japanese player may sway Kawakami’s decision to the Orioles. The Braves are apparently really close, but it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.

Derek LoweThe other pitcher Atlanta is going hard after is that Derek Lowe guy. I hear he isn’t bad either. That’s just what I heard though. Atlanta is apparently getting ready to propose an offer, but how do we know Lowe won’t turn around and use that as leverage for the Mets? (cough, cough Rafael Furcal, cough.)

Signing Lowe would be HUGE for the Braves. They would fill a need while stealing him away from those darn Metropolitans. They have made major changes, especially in the bullpen. They are already making me sweat with J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez in the 8th and 9th innings.

The Braves can also have that luxury in the bullpen with Mike Gonzalez, Peter Moylan, and Rafael Soriano. If that darn Soriano would just stop having mysterious injuries that won’t allow him to pitch but are invisible to MRI’s. He has been leaving the team doctors puzzled and the Braves’ fans pissed. Oh so convenient that right after you sign an extension you “get hurt.” Prove it bud and you can sit all you want. Ask Mike Hampton, he did it.
Confused doctor

This off season the Braves have been all talk and no action. They talk of great things, but get nothing. As a fan, I am hurt by this. It really hurts when your team does nothing to make the team better. Sure, they signed Javier Vazquez. That is nice and all but it isn’t what they really need. Now I know what the Nationals, Marlins, Blue Jays, Padres, and Twins feel like. Every year they sign a whole bunch of nothing and their fans have to watch that bunch of nothing try and compete in a league stocked with talent. That talent is just stacked in a handful of places, not everywhere like it should be.

Maybe Atlanta can pull some strings and pry Xavier Nady away from the Yankees for less than they want. Fill a team need and make the Yankees worse, sounds like a deal to me. I doubt the Braves will get him as I have heard New York wants some top of the line prospects for him. Every Braves fan already knows Frank Wren won’t dare trade a prospect that may or may not suck. We learned the hard way in the Jake Peavy deal.

By the way, congratulations to Florida on winning the BCS National championship game and being voted the #1 team this year. Utah deserved both of those and got neither but whatever. That’s sports politics for ya.

Have a nice day,

~Ben

Ridiculous

Ridiculous, that is what the Atlanta Braves are. This was an organization that prided itself on fielding a winning team year in and year out. It was an organization that treated it’s players with the utmost respect. That organization is long gone and I want it back.

John SmoltzThis off season has been a compete disaster from the word go. Jake Peavy slipped through Atlanta’s fingers, just as A.J. Burnett and Rafael Furcal would later do. Now John Smoltz, a guy who wanted to be a Brave for life has slipped through Atlanta’s fingers.

Smoltz basically begged the Braves to bring him back. Atlanta couldn’t even beat Boston‘s offer of $5MM guaranteed with incentives that could bring his contract up to $10MM. That is a load of bull if you ask me. The guy loved the Braves and the city of Atlanta. John Smoltz is one of a very select few that can be called a true Atlanta Brave.

Smoltz is one of the greatest to ever put on an Atlanta Braves’ uniform and I always imagined him going out with a complete game shutout in the World Series. I mean, he is arguably the greatest playoff pitcher ever. Instead he goes out as a free agent that was thrown aside by the team that he served so well over the years.

John Smoltz

He had a menacing stare and a mischievous smile that was hard to like. He was a jokster in the clubhouse, a saint in the community, and a warrior on the ball field. But he was tossed aside as if he was a 20 year old rookie who couldn’t quite cut it. I’m sick to my stomach from watching a first ballot Hall of Famer be handled this badly. Not just a first ballot Hall of Famer, but a great human being that deserved to be resigned as much as any player.

John SmoltzI had assumed through this whole thing that if there was anyway possible that Smoltz could take the field and be productive the Braves would resign him. Well I was dead wrong. I know that he is a big question mark. He is over 40 and is coming off of major shoulder surgery. But the key fact you are missing is that he is John freaking Smoltz. The man is a physical freak that can defy age and health like he is was a direct descendant of Hercules himself.

The Red Sox are obviously a storied franchise that doesn’t exactly take crazy risks and sign players just for the heck of it. Boston is trying to build a winning team and they felt that Smoltz could be part of that. Some how the Braves missed that and decided to offer him basically nothing or let him go. Shame, shame Atlanta, you guys are pathetic. Step your game up before the rest of the NL East completely tramples your crappy team.

Atlanta’s front office talked of great things this off season, I have seen nothing even close to great. They won’t trade prospects, they won’t pay the superstars, and now they won’t bring back a Hall of Famer that was loved by ever damn person in the city of Atlanta. It sounds to me like the Braves don’t want to win. Please Ted Turner, buy the team back becasue they are headed in a horrible direction. Personally, I don’t know if I want to be a part of it. This is coming from a guy who if you cut him open, he would bleed Atlanta’s colors year round. Year freakin’ round.

Over and out,

~Ben

What Are They Doing?

What the heck is the Braves‘ front office doing? Derek Lowe is out there for the taking and Atlanta has tons of money to throw at him. Make something happen!

Derek LoweI know, I know. He is 36 years old. Big freaking deal. That Randy Johnson guy has been like 40 for like 15 years now and he has been doing ok. Derek Lowe will be fine. Not only is he the veteran arm the Braves have been looking for he would be taken away from that “other evil empire.” You know, the one that rhymes with Bets.

Signing a player that would contribute to the Braves and hurt the Mets at the same time would make my week. The Braves need to make this move. For the fans, the players, and the most of all the team. Frank Wren, sign Derek Lowe, you won’t be disappointed.

The only reason the Braves aren’t pursuing Lowe more is his age. He is 36 but he is durable. The guy can flat out take the mound every 5th day and throw 7 strong innings. Last year he was only 14-11 but he had a 3.24 ERA and threw over 200 innings. Sounds like a winner to me. He is exactly what the Braves need. The money should not be an issue in this deal as the Braves have been saving money this whole off season. Indulge a little, please, the Bravo Nation is begging you. Frank Wren, if you make this move and it backfires you can blame it on me. I’ll take one for the team. Just do it.

If Atlanta doesn’t get Lowe then the pitching market gets a whole lot smaller, again. Jon Garland who I have said would be a good fit is still on the market. But I like Lowe a lot better. Lowe has the playoff experience and would be able to give advice to young hurlers like Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson.

Jon GarlandGarland may be a little more multi-year contract friendly but Lowe is the better pitcher. Age is also on Garland’s side but like before, Lowe is the better pitcher. Lowe had just as many wins, a better ERA, more strikeouts, and more innings pitched in 2008. A 4-year contract would put Derek Lowe at age 40 and most likely the end of his career. I see nothing wrong with that. A 5-year deal would be too much but I see nothing wrong with a 4-year deal.

Tim HudsonSigning Lowe is the best thing that the Braves can do to get better at this point. Not only would he solve probelms this season, he would be a mid to long term solution. We don’t know if Tim Hudson is going to be able to pitch again. What happens if he comes back and just isn’t the same?

The Braves may not hold onto him and that is just one more gapping hole in Atlanta’s rotation, unless they sign Derek Lowe. If he can come back and produce then the rotation is looking pretty darn good to me. Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens, Javier Vazquez and maybe Tommy Hanson. Come on Wren, get it done!

Till next time,

~Ben