Check out my preview of the Braves for the upcoming season. The Phillies and Mets are the favorites but look out. Atlanta won’t go down easy.
Everyone 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.
I 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.
I 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.
In 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.
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
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.
Now 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.
The 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.
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,
I 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.
Garland 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.
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,
I just wanted to say happy holidays to everyone and I hope you all have an amazing weekend. I hope everything you wished for is under your tree and you have a great time with your family. We all know some people got everything they wanted and more, cough, cough Yankees, cough. Just remember that the holidays are about spending time with your family and loving life, not presents. Presents are great and all, but family is better.
What do I want for the holidays you ask? The Braves to not suck next season. They may not land any big names like Derek Lowe or Pat Burrell and Adam Dunn, but I think they can get some mid level guys that will contribute to the team.
I think signing Will Ohman would be a great piece to have come back. He isn’t Brian Fuentes but he is going to come a lot cheaper if they sign him before Fuentes lands somewhere else. Ohman was great last year as a lefty out of the bullpen and I think the Braves need to bring him back.
Ohman will be a solid piece to help anchor down the bullpen which I believe is the strength of the team. Mike Gonzalez is an excellent closer and Rafael Soriano is another closer caliber pitcher that will set up Gonzalez.
Peter Moylan is a great right handed pitcher that I think will come back from elbow surgery and dominate again. The Braves will have 3 players that could close on a lot of teams and that is their strength. Blaine Boyer is also a solid reliever but was just overworked to the point where his game suffered greatly. I think this boils back down to the weak starting pitching last year.
The starting pitching issue I think can be somewhat solved with Jon Garland. I know, I know, he isn’t a great pitcher with a sub 3 ERA. What he does do is eat innings and keep the team in the game. That is what the Braves need. Garland and Javier Vazquez will night in and night out go and throw 6 or 7 solid innings so when the bullpen does need to be used they are fresh and on top of their game.
The Braves have some young talent like Charlie Morton and Tommy Hanson. They are going to stumble in games and need the bullpen to bail them out. That bullpen will be fresh after they get a few days off after Vazquez and Garland pitch. Morton pitched hurt most of the season which caused a lot of his bad numbers. Hanson has been dominant but we cannot count on him to do the same at the major league level. If we do we are setting ourselves up for disaster, again.
I honestly don’t think the Braves will win the World Series next year. I don’t think they will make the playoffs. I hope they do, more than anything. But unless Atlanta lands a few more players and plays out of their minds it doesn’t look good. The Cubs, Mets, Phillies, and Dodgers are all going to be really good. So that means the Braves have to be better. Hopefully they can at least make it competitive.
Be safe and happy holidays,
Mark Teixeira ~ Boston is out of the running, Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Washington are still in the hunt. I see the Angels coming out on top for Teixeira. Baltimore and Washington aren’t anywhere near winning anytime soon. I think he would take a little less money and play for a good team.
Cincinnati ~ are interested in Jerry Hairston Jr., Rocco Baldelli, and Willy Tavares. I like Baldelli best out of the group. He has the most upside of the three. Especially since his health issues are treatable.
Mets ~ looking to acquire 2 of Derek Lowe, Oliver Perez, or Randy Wolf. Order is by preference.
Lowe is obviously the best pitcher of the 3. Perez has the most left in the tank, Wolf has the least value.
Randy Johnson ~ has received several offers. The Dodgers are expected to place an offer while the Cubs were rumored to be interested if they didn’t land Jake Peavy. I think he lands with the Dodgers or stays with Arizona.