For those wondering what the Braves reaction to Cliff Lee’s signing with the Phillies, it won’t be knee-jerk.
While the Phillies just added the gem of the free agent class to an already vaunted rotation, Braves general manager Frank Wren said Tuesday it won’t have any direct bearing on their next move.
“It really has no impact on the construction of our roster,” Wren said in an e-mail. “We will continue to work to get better, but we are in most regards ready for spring training. We feel our club matches up well with other clubs in our division.”
The Braves took care of their biggest need last month by trading for Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla, the power bat they’d been seeking for the middle of the order. Since then they’ve added some key pieces to their bullpen in veteran Scott Linebrink and left-hander George Sherrill and they resigned Eric Hinske for their bench.
Those moves have catcher Brian McCann excited about the season regardless of what the Phillies did.
“They got better, we got better,” McCann said. “…Obviously it makes the Phillies a better ball club, but I don’t really worry about what other teams do. I think we have a team that’s a championship caliber team, and I’m excited to get the season started.”
The Braves’ biggest questions at this point are whether Chipper Jones will return to health at third base and if Nate McLouth will return to form in center field. They could still make a move for an outfielder, most likely a backup centerfielder, but they are limited financially, with possibly only a few million to work with unless they can unload some of Kenshin Kawakami’s salary in a trade. So far they’ve found no takers.
Now the Braves, who finished six games behind the Phillies in the NL East last season and settled for the wild card, will have to contend with a rotation that just got significantly better, adding Lee to reigning NL Cy Young award winner Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.
But McCann and the Braves are confident they can contend with their rotation of Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, a healthy Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson.
“We can compete with anybody, I feel like,” McCann said. “Now that our lineup has gotten stronger and Jason Heyward is a year older and (Martin) Prado is going to come back healthy, I really feel that we have a championship-caliber team.”
He also points out that nothing is decided in December.
“Baseball, you play 162 games, people get hurt,” McCann said. “Injuries play a big part in teams that make the playoffs and don’t. Nothing is going to be won over offseason acquisitions.”
- By Carroll Rogers, Braves blog