Tagged: Kelly Johnson

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

Off season wrap up

Atlanta’s off season has been somewhat of a success, though it could have been better. With all the additions to the pitching staff the Braves still need to add a left-handed reliever. Will Ohman is still out on the market so there is no reason for Atlanta to not resign him. There is mutual interest between both parties, so a deal should get done. Anything less and it will just add to the long list of blunders made by Atlanta’s front office this off season.

Tommy  HansonAs we look forward to spring training Braves fans should be excited about the young talent showing up. Jason Heyward, Tommy Hanson, Freddie Freeman, Jordan Schafer, and Kris Medlen have all been invited. The only problem I see in this group again is that all three position players bat left-handed. Expecting all of them to someday be a starter that would give the Braves at least five left handed bats with Brian McCann and Kelly Johnson also on the roster. I’m not a big fan of having five left-handed bats in one lineup. When facing a right-handed pitcher it is ok but when a lefty comes in it could be a long day for Atlanta’s offense.

Despite that little issue I’m excited about getting to see some of these guys play. Heyward and Freeman can be a great duo that drives in runs in bunches in the middle of the lineup. Schafer has the potential to be a lead off hitter with a little pop. Tommy Hanson could have the biggest impact in the regular season as he has the best chance of making the roster but that would again pose a problem, an all right-handed pitching staff. The strategy of right-handed and left-handed players is extremely underrated and Atlanta could have problems with it this year.

Jordan SchaferI don’t think Heyward, Freeman, and Medlen will make the roster but Hanson and Schafer have good chances. I think Schafer could make the roster because Gregor Blanco and Josh Anderson don’t provide much offense. Schafer is just as good defensively and could be much better offensively. He just needs to play well and he can make the opening day roster, maybe even as the starting centerfielder. Schafer has had big league experience before attending spring training last year, so this year he knows what he is up against. Braves fans can only hope he is ready for the task ahead of him. 

Till next time,

~Ben

Did Atlanta Salvage This Off season?

Did the Braves salvage this off season? To be honest, I don’t think they did. When you look back at what could have been you can picture an Atlanta Braves team with a dominating pitching staff and a powerful offense. Instead Atlanta has an above average pitching staff and a somewhat weak offense. What could have been?

Jake PeavyI think this all goes back to the Jake Peavy rumors. Both sides managed that whole deal horribly. Sure, Kevin Towers may have been asking a little much, but Frank Wren pulled out because of an extremely minor detail. The Padres wanted Jeff Locke to be included and Frank Wren didn’t want to add him. If you do your research you will see that Jeff Locke is a pitcher in A ball that can been called “wild.” The kid can hardly find the strike zone and you aren’t going to add him into a deal to bring in one of the best pitchers in baseball? I think that is a joke.

By not making that trade Wren is showing he is not willing to give talent to get talent. The best players aren’t going to come free. You have to give up quality to get quality in return. The Braves would have given up potential All-Star Yunel Escobar, but they could have turned around and signed Rafael Furcal or Orlando Cabrera to replace him.

A.J. Burnett

If Atlanta brings in Jake Peavy they could make a serious run at A.J. Burnett. Already having a star on the team makes a difference when trying to lure a big time free agent. Another problem was the contract offer. Atlanta basically came up a few million short of New York’s offer. Atlanta can’t put up a few more million to bring in a second ace? That is ridiculous. If you want the big time players you have to put up big time money. It really is that simple. With Peavy and Burnett at the front of the rotation they would be tough to beat in any series.

Javier VazquezInstead of having two All-Star aces at the front of the rotation the Braves have Derek Lowe and Javier Vazquez. Atlanta ran themselves into a corner and ended up over paying for Derek Lowe. The Mets weren’t going any higher on their offer, the Braves flat out over payed. Vazquez is an innings eater but he is getting payed over $11MM. If a team is paying a pitcher over $10MM he better be an All-Star caliber pitcher. Vazquez is not that. Sorry, but it’s the truth.

Instead of trading for Javier Vazquez Atlanta could have traded for Jermaine Dye. He would have been the power bat they needed at a reasonable price. Dye is getting payed just under $10MM and he is going to give you 30-35 home runs and drive in over 100 runs. That is a bargain if you ask me. Frank Wren is not willing to spend money unless he has his back against the wall. After John Smoltz left he knew he needed to bring in Lowe, at any cost.

Smoltz deserved to be brought back just like Tom Glavine deserves to be brought back. I’m not saying that Wren is a bad GM because he is not. But any Braves fan that says Schuerholz would have done better is not looking into this deep enough. John Schuerholz has just as much influence on the Braves has Wren does, they are both to blame. Wren is not a bad GM, this whole off season was just mismanaged. You cannot be afraid to take risks. Peavy and Burnett are both risks, but their rewards are so great you have to take the chance. You have to in order to be successful.

Kelly JohnsonNow you have to take a look at the Rafael Furcal deal. Why were the Braves trying to bring him in anyway? The Padres deal for Peavy was dead and I doubt Furcal would have been happy playing second. Why trade Kelly Johnson anyway? He is a solid player that has made great strides after he used to play left field. I know, he played shortstop for a long time. But shortstop and second base are different positions. Get over it. Changing positions is not easy at all.

Then the Braves come out and say they won’t work with Furcal’s agency anymore. Peter Moylan happens to be represented by that agency and he is a very good player. Atlanta needs Moylan to come back and be solid in the bullpen for them to be successful. That deal also goes back to the Braves being cheap and not willing to outbid anyone. The times of home town discounts and taking less money to play for your favorite team are just about over. It comes down to money.

I don’t think the Braves salvaged this off season as they should be a lot better. They made strides in the right direction but only when they had their backs against the wall. They were reluctant to spend money and then over payed when they didn’t need to. It just goes to show you that taking risks and managing a team are underrated aspects of the game.

Sincerely,

~Ben 

Now What?…Again

Well, the Braves lost the bidding for Rafael Furcal on questionable acts by his agent. I’m not going to turn that whole debacle into a huge thing. It is what it is.

Rafael FurcalThat move could have opened things up for the Braves. Furcal could have played second base and Kelly Johnson could have been used as a trade piece. The Cardinals are apparently interested in Johnson, but I don’t really see the Braves moving him. I heard rumors about Johnson and a pitcher going to St. Louis for Ryan Ludwick, but that deal is dead. Rick Ankiel is a possibility, but he is left handed so I doubt the Braves would pull the trigger.

I was really looking forward to having Furcal back. He provided the speed at the top of the lineup that the Braves have lacked since he left. He was a great guy in the clubhouse but obviously things weren’t going to work out. I blame a lot of that whole signing on Furcal himself, if he wanted to come back to the Braves he would have. I think he is just greedy at this point. He passed up going somewhere he could have been really happy for a bigger contract.

A minor signing I would like to point out is that of Greg Norton. He may not be a super star but he is a switch-hitting pinch hitter that can knock in runs when they are needed. He can play the corner outfield positions and first base. He was a clutch hitter for the Braves after they signed him. I was hoping they would bring him back and they did. Next I want Atlanta to bring back Will Ohman. It may take more than they wanted but we all know the Braves have been saving up as they have done almost nothing this off season. Ohman is a top notch lefty that will come a lot cheaper than Brian Fuentes.

Jason Heyward

I still think the Braves should take a shot at Pat Burrell. I was not high on him at the beginning of the off season but the Braves have cornered themselves into this position. Burrell could be a short term solution before Jason Heyward is ready for Atlanta. Burrell is a right handed, power bat that Atlanta has been looking for. I like Jermaine Dye better, but I would think the Braves would have traded for him at the same time as Javier Vazquez. It just makes sense.

Jordan SchaferIf Atlanta went into the season today, I would be hoping for 3rd place in the division, at best. They don’t have a power-hitting outfielder. They don’t have an ace. They don’t have an established lead off hitter. The outfielder may not be needed if Jeff Francoeur can bounce back, while Jair Jurrjens is no ace. He has the potential to be one, but he isn’t one now. Josh Anderson has the potential to be a legitimate lead off hitter, but I want to see him do it over the course of an entire season. I would almost rather take my chances with Jordan Schafer, who can be a 5-tool player. Gorkys Hernandez also has the potential to be a 5-tool player, but I think Schafer has a little more power.

I actually like Atlanta’s bullpen. Mike Gonzalez is great at the end while Peter Moylan is an excellent set up man. I would like Rafael Soriano to be the set up man, but he has yet to prove he can stay healthy. I had thoughts that he may be faking his injuries since the trainers couldn’t find anything wrong. Every time he said he was healthy, bam, he is hurt again. I was actually beyond frustrated with him. Blaine Boyer is not as bad as people think, he just was overworked.

If things stay the way they are I think the Braves can compete, but not win anything big. I’m not going to sit here and tell myself the Braves are a lot better than they are. I’m not going to sit here and tell all of you the Braves are better than they are. Right now they are mediocre at best. If they stay pat, 85 wins is a good season.

Over and out,

~Ben    

Bravos Stayin’ Idle

Not much movement around Atlanta these days. It’s a little disappointing to be honest. Atlanta has so much money but they have yet to make a move.

Jake PeavyIn all honesty I think they are still waiting on Peavy. It really does make sense. If Atlanta wasn’t waiting around to pull the trigger on Peavy why wouldn’t they deal Yunel Escobar or Kelly Johnson somewhere else? I have heard Ryan Ludwick could have been acquired some time ago. Why didn’t they do it yet?

Kelly Johnson has supposedly been asked about by several teams, why hasn’t he been moved? If Martin Prado is supposed to be a strong replacement there is no reason why Johnson shouldn’t have been traded by now.

The Braves have Rafael Furcal waiting in the wings for them. Therefore Escobar is expendable. Tons of teams would give up solid players in exchange for Escobar. Atlanta knows it will take Escobar to get Peavy, so they haven’t made any moves yet. I think it is extremely obvious that the Braves want Peavy bad, but don’t want to come out and say it. They will give up less by playing hard to get and having the Padres come crawling back.

The word on the net is that the Braves are in the final five teams for A.J. Burnett. Cool, I guess. Don’t get me wrong, Burnett is a solid player but five years is a long time for someone who has been injury prone. Should they do it? My answer is they kinda have to. Atlanta doesn’t really have any other choice. Without him or Peavy they won’t win next year. I say this because I don’t think Derek Lowe is an option. He wants to go back to Boston, its that simple.

A.J. BurnettBesides the usual Peavy and Burnett discussions there has been some Jermaine Dye talk recently. I think he is a decent fit. He hits for power but doesn’t sacrifice much in batting average. Last year Dye hit .292 with 34 home runs. The only thing I don’t like is his age. That is the downfall with the Magglio Ordonez idea that was thrown around earlier this off season. I think Dye has a little more power but isn’t the contact hitter that Ordonez is. If I had to chose right now I would pick Dye as I believe he is cheaper and has been a little more durable.

Jermaine DyeIf I had my way the Padres would cave in and trade Peavy to the Braves. Atlanta could turn around and sign Furcal and Burnett. Getting Dye should be on the back burner at this point because pitching wins championships. I also think Francoeur will bounce back. He wasn’t any happier about last season as we were and wants to get back on track. I have faith that he can step up.

A power hitting outfielder is nice but wouldn’t be as necessary if Francoeur can put the power numbers we all know he is capable of. I have also read about Ryan Ludwick. I’m not to fond of that idea since he kinda jumped out of nowhere. Remember Morgan Ensberg? He exploded a few years ago and imploded soon after. That could be the case with Ludwick. Or dare I say he was on the juice? I don’t really think so but his numbers are a little suspicious. His home run count jumped from 14 to 37 in one year. Oh well, we will have to keep waiting and wishing, hoping the Braves do something productive so we can all talk about it.

Till next time,

~Ben  

Peavy coming to Atlanta?

It looks like the Braves are getting closer and closer to trading for
Jake Peavy. They have made a strong offer that includes Yunel Escobar,
Charlie Morton and Jordan Schafer. San Diego still wants Tommy Hanson,
but that ain’t happening.

Yunel EscobarPeavy
still seems a little iffy about coming to Atlanta. He seems reluctant
because Atlanta would most likely have to give up Yunel Escobar in the
deal. Could Atlanta still compete with the Mets and Phillies without
Escobar? Well, I think so. Escobar has the potential to be a great
player, but so far it is just potential. If the Braves send Escobar to
San Diego, I think they are more than capable of trading for a
shortstop. J.J. Hardy I believe would be a great addition. He hit .283
with 24 home runs and 74 RBIs last year. He doesn’t steal bases but
neither did Escobar. I think it could in a way be an upgrade. So don’t
fret Braves fans. 

The next piece is Charlie Morton. I
actually think this is a big blow for Atlanta. Morton pitched hurt for
all but 2 starts last year. In his first start he went 6 innings and
gave up 3 runs. In his second he went 5 innings and gave up 3 runs.
Those aren’t bad for someone who had only been at AAA for a few games
and was prematurely throw in the fire that is the MLB. The rest of the
year he struggled in almost every game. Ok people, Charlie Morton is a
power pitcher. He was only throwing 92-93 because he had some form of
side or rib injury. Morton is supposed to be able to throw in the mid
90’s. He wasn’t able to work off of his power fastball which is not his
game. He struggled because he couldn’t pitch the way he was used to. If
he stays I predict him to one day be the number 3 pitcher in the
rotation, behind Jair Jurrjens and Tommy  Hanson.

Jordan SchaferThe
final piece of the deal could be Jordan Schafer. I have heard a lot of
talk along the lines of “get that cheater outta here, we don’t want
cheaters and neither does Bobby Cox.” Wrong, get your facts straight
before condemning someone for something they “may” have done. Schafer
was suspended for “suspicion.” There was no positive test. He was
suspected of use and then bam, 50 game suspension. And yes, players
have been suspended for suspicion. By the way, everyone seems to love
Tyler Flowers. He TESTED positive for HGH. Why doens’t anyone talk
about that. Learn the story before saying hateful things about players.
You will look like an idiot.

Schafer may not even be included
in the trade as the Padres interest in him is “lukewarm.” He could be
replaced with another center fielder Gorkys Hernandez. Hernandez has
more speed than Schafer but doesn’t have the possibility of being a five
tool player like Schafer does. Overall, I would take Schafer over
Hernandez. We will have to see what happens.

The rumor about
Kelly Johnson being traded for Ryan Ludwick isn’t looking so hot
anymore. Ludwick has been linked to the Rockies in a trade for Matt
Holliday. Sorry guys, if I could trade Ludwick for Holliday or Johnson,
I would take Holliday. That is just an easy decision. All of these
rumors I assume is taking a toll on Atlanta fans. The Braves have not
made a big free agent move since signing Maddux and this has become
very frustrating. Maybe getting Peavy would help motivate free agents
so sign.