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?
I 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.
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.
Instead 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.
Now 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.
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 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,
That 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.
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.
If 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,
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.