Have Braves lost ground in ever-improving NL East?

The perception of many frustrated Braves fans is this: Their team went down in flames in September and hasn’t made any roster additions so far this winter, while the rest of the NL East has improved.

The first part is correct – the September collapse was epic, a 10-20 meltdown by the Braves that allowed St. Louis to erase a 10-1/2-game deficit and overtake Atlanta on the last day and win the wild card. And they’ve made no additions of note since.

But how many NL East teams have actually gotten better? Let’s examine.

Miami and Washington look significantly improved over last season. The Marlins went on a spending spree and the youthful Nationals get back ace Stephen Strasburg for a full season, recovered from  elbow surgery. They traded on Thursday for starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez from Oakland, upping the ante.

The Braves’ only moves so far were the salary-dump trade of pitcher Derek Lowe to Cleveland; picking up a reliever in the Rule 5 draft; and not offering arbitration to free agent shortstop Alex Gonzalez or tendering contracts to arbitration-eligible reliever Peter Moylan and utility infielder Brooks Conrad. They might later try to re-sign Moylan, recovering from shoulder surgery.

The budget-conscious Braves continue to search for a left fielder or fourth outfielder and a backup shortstop, searches that general manager Frank Wren said could carry over into the spring.

The Braves haven’t said how much room they have left in their payroll, but it’s believed less than $10 million. They couldn’t or wouldn’t spend the money to pursue the likes of free agent outfielders Michael Cuddyer, Josh Willingham and Carlos Beltran, and a trade inquiry into Baltimore’s Adam Jones didn’t go far.

The Orioles asked for – according to differing reports – either Jair Jurrjens, Martin Prado AND a prospect, or any two of the Braves’ top young pitchers or prospects (Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, Randall Delgado).

“We continue to have some conversations,” said Wren, declining to discuss specifics about any possible targets or anything concerning trade rumors. “We’d have liked to have gotten something done in November in some areas, but just weren’t the matches. …

“We’re continuing to work different options. This was not a good free-agent year, not a lot of players that impacted teams, especially in the areas we would like to get better in.”

Wren has noted more than once that the Braves had baseball’s fourth-best record on Aug. 26, and said that leads the team’s front office to be careful not to make a trade just to satisfy those anxious to see them make a move. They think that with bounce-back seasons from Jason Heyward and others slowed by injuries in 2011, the Braves will be better. Brian McCann slumped badly in the second half after returning from an oblique strain.

What they want to be careful about is not making a trade that ends up hurting the team. For instance, if the Braves trade Martin Prado, their left fielder and backup third baseman, and he ends up having a season like those he had prior to 2011, while the Braves struggle to replace what he does moving from the outfield to fill in frequently for aging third baseman Chipper Jones.

Multiple teams have expressed trade interest in Prado and starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens. The Braves have entertained offers for each, but so far their asking price has been too high in the view of interested teams.

Jurrjens was a 2011 All-Star who missed about one-third of the past two seasons due to injuries, and Prado was a 2010 All-Star second baseman who moved to left field last season after the Braves got Dan Uggla. Prado missed five weeks with a lower-leg staph infection.

Prado might make about $4.5 million in arbitration, and Jurrjens could see his salary climb to more than $5 million.

The Braves have had a lot of conversations with Colorado involving Prado and Rockies corner outfiielder Seth Smith, but so far Colorado has refused to include a young center fielder in the deal. The Braves want one in case they can’t re-sign center fielder Michael Bourn, who is eligible for free agency after the 2012 season and represented by hard-driving agent Scott Boras.

. “The fact is we like our team,” said Wren, who said the Braves might be better off going to spring training and seeing how some of their own players do before addressing their priority needs and seeing who might become available to fill them.

The best of the free-agent shortstop/utility infielders have been signed, and the Braves might wait to see if others become available during spring training when teams decide that some aren’t good fits for their rosters and deem them expendable. The Braves want a strong defensive shortstop who can fill in for Tyler Pastornicky if the rookie struggles or needs some days off.

As things stand now, the Braves would likely still be picked by many or most prognosticators to finish second behind Philadelphia. The Phillies have back their elite trio of starting pitchers and added veteran closer Jonathan Papelbon, infielder Ty Wigginton and veteran first baseman/pinch-hitter Jim Thome. Slugger Ryan Howard will miss at least the early part of the season after surgery for a torn Achilles tendon, which he hurt while making the final out of the division-series loss.

“That’s a blow to them not having Howard from Day 1,” Wren said. “But they dealt with that last year with [second baseman Chase] Utley out.”

The Nationals, after finishing nine games behind second-place Atlanta in 2011, could be a legitimate threat to compete for a playoff spot. They just added Gonzalez, 25, who was 16-12 with a 3.12 ERA for Oakland and had 197 strikeouts in 202 innings.

“I think our division was very competitive last year,” Wren said. “The Marlins have gotten better. The Nationals – they haven’t done a lot, but just by some of their young guys getting better and Strasburg getting healthy — that’s huge.”

Wren made that assessment Wednesday, before the Nationals got Gonzalez. Washington had the fourth- and sixth-place finishers in the NL Rookie of the Year ballot, while the Braves’ Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman were first and second.

The last-place Marlins finished 30 games behind Philadelphia and 17 behind Atlanta. They committed $191 million to free agents Jose Reyes and pitchers Mark Buerhle and closer Heath Bell, but the Marlins still have question marks.

They were 11th in the NL in runs scored, and it remains to be seen how mercurial star Hanley Ramirez will rebound from his injury-diminished season and after being switched – not happily — to third base to accommodate Reyes’ arrival.

There is a big dropoff after Buerhle and Josh Johnson in a rotation that ranked 12th in the league in ERA. Johnson is coming back from shoulder problems that limited him to just nine starts in 2011, and there are  concerns about his durability.

Bell was an All-Star who converted 43 of 48 save opportunities for San Diego. But Leo Nunez was a good closer last season for the Marlins, converting 36 of 42 saves and slightly higher strikeout rate than Bell, albeit with an ERA that was 1-1/2 runs higher.

The fourth-place Mets shed payroll when their best player, Reyes, went to the Marlins. The Mets swapped center fielders with San Francisco, getting Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Martinez from the Giants in a trade for leadoff man Angel Pagan. They improved their bullpen further by signing free agents Frank Francisco (two years, $12 million) and Jon Rauch (one year, $3.5 million).

By the way, the Mets committed less to those two free agents than Reyes’ average salary in his six-year, $106 million deal with Florida.

776 comments Add your comment

Joe Maddon

December 22nd, 2011
5:49 pm

The answer is YES.

Go RAYS! ;)

Bob in SF

December 22nd, 2011
5:52 pm

I know it’s not on the table and I know it won’t happen but Prado’s bat and D would play better at 2nd with Uggla and his crab claw for a glove moved out to left field. I know people will say Uggla wasn’t that bad at 2nd but he truly was by every D metric and it will only get worse as he gets older. Uggla would probably be brutal in left too but not as many chances to handle the ball out there as second.

Mike

December 22nd, 2011
5:58 pm

Hey DOB…

I am really perplexed by the payroll issue, and shed 5 Mill from Lowe, we shed KK and McLouth. I know that there are arb raises and such, but I also thought we were suppose to have a bump in payroll from everything we are told. I dont get how we can never seem to have money to spend.

Sometimes I wonder if its all BS that they say to try and not upset fans. But that in the end, Liberty is actually tightening the purse strings each and every year.

Am I missing something? I thought we could at least go after a guy like Cuddyer. Its not like we have some LF in the waiting. If we have gotten a solid player like him (21 mill over 3 years) and let Prado be our super utility guy, and then sign a cheap SS we could be set. Then if it were me, unless blown away by an offer, I would hold onto JJ until the trade deadline where hopefully a solid first half and a desperate team would equal a huge haul.

What say you? Merry Christmas by the way.

Mike

December 22nd, 2011
5:59 pm

Well, it sounds like Wren is sticking to his guns about being patience. Oh well, that is his job and he know the price for it. Besides looks like the rumor mill is turning.

Simpson's Homer

December 22nd, 2011
6:02 pm

As of today, it seems obvious that the Braves have lost ground. There is no guarantee that Lowe’s replacement in the rotation will be better (though he should). We can only HOPE that Heyward starts to resemble the Heyward of early 2010, before the thumb injury. Having Bourn for the entire season should help the top of the order, especially with him being in a “contract year”.

But, it’s hard to see anything EXCITING about 2012 with the current roster. A boring, inconsistent offense and perpetually overworked pitching staff is not a recipe for a World Series title….. If the competition improves noticeably, and the Braves barely improve at all, it’s not a sure bet even to make the playoffs as a wild card…………. Yet, hope springs eternal (hopefully)….! GO BRAVES!

diving duck

December 22nd, 2011
6:03 pm

No, free agency is not the way to build a competitive ball club over time. Everyone that’s getting pissed we haven’t made any moves are the same ones who spent all year trashing Lowe and the year before trashing Kawakami. I’ll put money we’ll be glad our competitors placed significant money on Howard, Werth, and Reyes before their contracts are out. I have faith Wren will be patient until the right deal presents itself. Go Braves.

Ralph

December 22nd, 2011
6:05 pm

I pick the Braves to finish 4th behind the Phillies, Marlins and Nationals. I think they can hold off the Mets, maybe.

Simpson's Homer

December 22nd, 2011
6:06 pm

PS: I wonder how long it will take in this blog for someone to suggest Prado becomes our SS for 2012 —- even though he’s only played 8 games there in the minors, and seems to lack the range and arm strength required….. On another note, it’s too bad that Santa can’t bring the Braves a REAL owner that cares about the team’s success………

dogman

December 22nd, 2011
6:16 pm

I agree with Ralph @ 6.05 PM. The braves have lost ground already and the season hasn’t started. All of a sudden the Marlins have unlimted resouces and the Nationals have added some good players. They sent a lot of talent to Oakland but maybe it will work out. At least he will be under control of the Nationals for more than 1 year like Tex was in Atlanta when they gave away the farm for a one year rental. I think the braves are destined for 4th place just ahead of the Mets. That is pitiful to say the least. I don’t understand why the braves didn’t go after Willingham or one of the 2 outfielders the Twins had that were free agents. They all signed pretty conserative contracts with other teams. Anyway as they stand now, 4th place at best unless some miracle occurs.

Brava

December 22nd, 2011
6:16 pm

Yikes!

Kevin Mason @kevintbull13 3m

Pray for the area of Rome,ga near Red Lobster it is trashed. I hope everyone is ok.

Michael G.

December 22nd, 2011
6:28 pm

the braves will finish 4th this year behind the phillies, marlins, and nationals. until we get relieved of the burdensome contracts of chipper, hudson, and mccann, this team will not go anywhere. its time to trade mccann while we can get a lot back for him. he has at most 3 quality years behind the plate before a position change is needed, and we already have a 1st baseman. so he can’t go there. we cant give him a big payday and risk his offense further dropping to the putrid level his defensive ability currently is.

skip

December 22nd, 2011
6:29 pm

If the Brave stand pat, they have a decent team. Obviously they need a shortstop and outfield help. I don’t like the idea of trading Prado. Jones will be lucky to play 80 to 90 games and we need a quality back-up. If we have to trade some pitching to get a reliable left fielder, so be it. We shall see…………

Marshall

December 22nd, 2011
6:29 pm

Prado should be SS

Rico

December 22nd, 2011
6:29 pm

Next Wren will say we may do something at the trading deadline.

Marshall

December 22nd, 2011
6:30 pm

That’s for Simpson’s homer

rayk

December 22nd, 2011
6:33 pm

the Braves have now fallen behind the Marlins according to John Hart on mlb.(and I agree) he is a knowledgeable baseball man and also not biased. so, 3rd is likely the highest we can finish which rules out a wild card.
Cuddyer ended up getting $10.5 mill/yr which was too high, but Wllingham’s $7 mill/yr should have been manageable for the Barves. so should have SS Betancourt’s 1 yr deal.
I still don’t see why Latos and Gonzalez can attract 4 good prospects, but we can’t get 2 for a less healthy Jurgens. Wren said he made progress at the winter meetings, but there is no sign of it on any front. like with politics, rhetoric can buy you time, but eventually there has to be some substance.

Yunel asscobar

December 22nd, 2011
6:36 pm

We lost ground with the hiring of Fredi Gonzalez. If we traded FG and Prado to the Dbacks for Kirk Gibson, we would be light years ahead. Speed of the leader, speed of the team. This team is unsound fundamentally, just like their manager.

extremus

December 22nd, 2011
6:36 pm

Well, when the entire Braves payroll made less than Liberty Media’s CEO last year, one could be forgiven for thinking the Braves are stuck in a stagnating limbo until the ownership changes. The issue is not whether the Marlins and Nats improved themselves enough to challenge Atlanta as the perpetual NL East wilcard candidate; the issue is that, as the article states, the Braves suffered an historic meltdown and a lot of folks feel that called for much more offseason action than the Braves have so far taken.

As for Frank Wren’s going back to the Braves’ record on August 26th, tell him that would be awesome…if the season ended on August 26th. It didn’t, of course, but by the time it did the Braves had made certain they wouldn’t be playing into October. Nobody cares how you start off or how you attempt to spin the “ifs” and “buts”; fans look at the totality of the package, and this past year was one of the most bitter in memory.

Matt

December 22nd, 2011
6:36 pm

Tough to sell one playoff win in the last 6 years to a fan-base as apathetic as ours when you don’t do anything in an off-season after blowing one of the biggest leads in NL history.

Hosea Williams

December 22nd, 2011
6:42 pm

Braves have done nothing but get rid of a starting pitcher, every other team in the NL East have upgraded…except NYM. Unless they are sitting on a trade that we come out way ahead on, 3-4 place at the best.

Simpson's Homer

December 22nd, 2011
6:43 pm

Thanks, Marshall…… too much suspense is bad for the blood pressure……!

Orange Brave f/k/a Billy Jack's BBQ & Shrimp

December 22nd, 2011
6:43 pm

uh, yes. I love DOB’s articles, but this one is pretty darn obvious. Sigh, off to find cheap beer…….

Hosea Williams

December 22nd, 2011
6:44 pm

Hope everyone in Rome is ok, pretty bad storm line going through.

Heathcliff Slocum

December 22nd, 2011
6:46 pm

The Braves appear neutral as far as better or worse than the end of 2010. Obviously, the Nats and Marlins are improved – but enough? The Phils on the other hand have made a couple moves that are a bit suspect and could quite likely come back to the pack in ‘12.

Piedmont Blues

December 22nd, 2011
6:51 pm

Those saying Prado should be SS … look, Chipper might be a better SS than Prado, because he’s actually played the position. A lot. But Chipper shouldn’t, of course. Just because Martin plays the IF and throws right-handed doesn’t mean he has the range to play SS. If you think the Braves’ IF defense is suspect now, just think what would happen with another guy with miniscule range played SS. Flanked by Chipper and Uggla, the Braves need someone who can get to about twice as many batted balls as anyone else in the league.

machado

December 22nd, 2011
6:55 pm

what would it take to get a guy like manny machado from the orioles or jurickson profar from the rangers, obviously more than wren would cough up, but just wondering?

TheWad

December 22nd, 2011
6:56 pm

Bob in SF…where do you get the idea Uggla was a disaster at 2nd? I understand that was the idea of his play before getting to ATL but I watched practically every game and thought he did just fine defensively. The trades not made are often bigger stories than those that are made. Given a healthy team, which defines every teams opening narrative, the Braves can compete and win against the East right now. Last year there was always 1-2 players not in sinc or in form. Our pitching ranks with anybody, we probably have the deepset bullpen in the game. Defense is a problem in right, and 3rd. Heyward is a disaster waiting to happen on anything he has to retreat for and Jones…..well he can`t move. The biggest problem is this team can`t hit my grandmother. The lineup has people who have hit and proven they are major league but throughout last year they never jelled together.

Rafael

December 22nd, 2011
6:59 pm

John Scherholz’ legacy will be TARNISHED ala Joe Paterno. The “LETTER” John S. sent out to the fans after the Brave’s Playoff collaspe was a BALONEY, a BLATANT LIE!!!! You know, the “LETTER” vowing to “IMPROVE THE TEAM” at all cost and effort.

John Scherholz, you should be ASHAMED of yourself for LYING to the Brave’s fans.

Yes, the OTHER teams in the NL East (with LOCAL ownership that WANTS to WIN) have IMPROVED!!!l Liberty CHEAPIA wants YOU to come to Turner Field to “enjoy the MLB experience,” NOT winning.

The Braves are BOUND and DETERMINED to give “Double Play” Matt Diaz 330+ ABs by eventually acquiring a PLATOON OF that will face righthanders. You know, a journeyman, mediocre type that is “AFFORABLE.”{

Meanwhile, Matty Diaz, this is the bum (and I QUOTE the AJC) “who managed to keep his sense of humor after the Brave’s Playoff collaspe.” Great attitube Matt, maybe you sit around in the clubhouse with your “future” platoon partner and crack jokes in the clubhouse. A career year for Matt Diaz (”he rakes lefthanders you know”…. NOT!!!!!) is a .240 BA and 6 HRs. What a slugger… NOT!!!! Diaz is also a CLANK with the glove.

But Matt Diaz is “Affordable,” music to Frank Wren (firefrankwren.com) and Liberty CHEAPIA”S ears.

WHY is Matt Diaz on a MLB Roster??!!!! Diaz certainly could not make any OTHER MLB roster. Diaz must be Fredi Gonzalez’ nephew. The SAME Fredi Gonzalez who was the childhood actor “Ricky Ricardo Jr.” on the I LOVE LUCY show.

I’m going to enjoy Michael Bourn for the FEW more months (or weeks) we have him. Scott Boras clients and Liberty CHEAPIA do not play well together. The FIRST TRUE leadoff hitter we’ve had in a decade and I have to say “hate to see you go.”

Frank Wren, the GOOD soldier for Liberty CHEAPIA, is the PERFECT guy at the helm to par the Brave’s payroll down to the bottom third of the league.

Brave’s rubes will still flock to Turner Field for the “MLB experience” (the Turner Dogs, the Family Picnic section, Bark in the Park, the Chop House, etc…..). Meanwhile, our ‘AFFORDABLE” by Liberty CHEAPIA’S standards will FINISH 4th or 5th in the NL East. Great.

THANK YOU for a wonderful hot stove offfseason Liberty CHEAPIA and Frank Wren.

Orange Brave f/k/a Billy Jack's BBQ & Shrimp

December 22nd, 2011
7:00 pm

No clutch hitting. RISP ?? yikes. I don’t see defense an issue in RF or 3rd, but yikes, these cats left runners on base more times than I’ve been drunk the past year……

Sambo 4 Rambo

December 22nd, 2011
7:03 pm

Be patient guys. With a healthy team starting out next year we should be just fine. Love to see a veteran SS backup paster-nicky and see what the kid could do. Keep Prado and JJ! Need em both.

jharber

December 22nd, 2011
7:03 pm

debate all you like, back WREN all you like BRAVES are done in the east for a long time.

jharber

December 22nd, 2011
7:03 pm

Nats are taking over

Ralph

December 22nd, 2011
7:15 pm

In every blog there is some idiot that thinks Prado should play SS.

Dusty could still play left

December 22nd, 2011
7:24 pm

Wren has built the bulk of this team, the team that made the playoffs in ‘09 and had the third best record in the bigs for most of ‘10, until we lost two starters and a third starter went, finally, over the hill, along with an injury to our left fielder and catcher…none of which any GM could have prevented, and he’s done it with a less than competitive budget. Give the man an owner who will give him a budget similar to the Marlins and the Phillies and see what he can do. Schuerholz was a good GM, build a great team and he did it with, at least for the first half of his tenure which is coincidentally when the Braves were at their best, with the highest payroll in the NL.
Hello, Mr Cuban, Mr. Zuckerman, Mr Marcus, anybody want the Braves?

Ralph

December 22nd, 2011
7:24 pm

If Wren is smart he will hold his hand until the 2013 season because they are going nowhere this season. Next season they will have lots of cash and a full crop of experienced young talent. I totally agree with Michael G that they should trade McCann now while he has great trade value and start Bethencourt this year and then they should be a serious contender in 2013 and for years thereafter.

Ken Stallings

December 22nd, 2011
7:34 pm

The most illuminating portion of your article, Dave, was that the Braves harve only around $10 million left on their payroll.

The odds of the Braves signing the kind of left fielder they need with this amount of funds is practically zero. The Braves had shed significantly more payroll with the release of free agents and the trade of Lowe. Essentially, this shows the Braves are going to cut their payroll significantly over last season.

Gimpah & McError

December 22nd, 2011
7:41 pm

until we get relieved of the burdensome contracts of chipper, hudson, and mccann, this team will not go anywhere. its time to trade mccann while we can get a lot back for him. he has at most 3 quality years behind the plate before a position change is needed, and we already have a 1st baseman. so he can’t go there. we cant give him a big payday and risk his offense further dropping to the putrid level his defensive ability

I’d be surprised if the Braves could get a truckload of mayonnaise for McCann.

Brave Fan

December 22nd, 2011
7:47 pm

Big, Big YES. Braves are looking up at 3 teams above them right now in the East alone.

Trade JJ and a couple of prospects for Jones but not Prado. Chipper will miss at least a third of the season and will be older and less effective when he isn’t hurt. Just too old! Prado will have to play 3B.

Trade Bourn for a Good LF assuming we get Jones from O’s b/c Bourn is gone after next year. No top notch leadoff hitters in the pros right now so he and Boras will get way overpaid following next year and the Braves wont even make an offer.

dawg4u

December 22nd, 2011
7:49 pm

I remember when the Braves thought that they had Rafael Furcal with the Dodgers signed a few years back and the deal fell through. There was then a story whereas Braves GM John Schuerholtz at the time made a statement to the effect that they would not discuss or attempt to acquire any player represented by Scott Boras. Was that just an “in the heat of the moment” statement or do the Braves negotiate with him anyway? The fact that the Braves are owned by Liberty Media and having to deal with Boras seems like a very bad combination!

Bravesfan54

December 22nd, 2011
7:52 pm

Hey Dave – just got back from Santo Domingo where I saw Jose Constanza play for the Tigres de Licey, and Diory Hernandez play for the Toros of (bfe, can I say that?). Both started the game in the .280 range. Also saw some other familiar names. Loved Santo Domingo and would encourage you to go. I need to post some photos on the blog’s FB page, but I am not really well-versed on these things. Flew back on a plane to Orlando seated behind two agents who talked some serious baseball to each other for three hours – trouble was, they lowered their voices when they got to the “good parts” – I could only hear the war stories – and trust me, they had them!

David from Athens, AL

December 22nd, 2011
7:52 pm

Beltran signs with St Louis for 2 years

phil

December 22nd, 2011
7:54 pm

We’re toast….

Fire FG!!

Wayward isn’t going to bounce back. Neither is Prado. McCann will falter down the stretch as usual too….10 games over .500 next yr maybe.

Ralph

December 22nd, 2011
7:56 pm

Glad it was St Louis and not

Glad it was St Louis and not Atlanta.

James

December 22nd, 2011
7:56 pm

Cardinals sign Beltran to 2-yr deal…mlbtraderumors.

phil

December 22nd, 2011
7:57 pm

It’s simple.

Don’t go to another game until FG is fired….

And then don’t go anyway until the stupid Braves County crap is stopped…

And then don’t go until some money is spent on this increasingly more poor lineup.

Save your money.

phil

December 22nd, 2011
7:57 pm

Braves country…..so moronic.

phil

December 22nd, 2011
7:58 pm

Release Wayward….

JoeFan

December 22nd, 2011
8:02 pm

The only way 2012 works out for the Braves is for most of the group to have career years. Otherwise, this team is bound for a 3rd or 4th place finish. Wren is likely hoping that young, inexpensive home grown talent replaces the aging overpaid group currently in place. Similar to how Tampa Bay was constructed. Somewhere between 2013 and 2015 the Braves might agian be competitive.

Brave Fan

December 22nd, 2011
8:04 pm

On second thought, trade JJ and a couple of players for Jones then play Jones, Bourn and Heyward in the OF.

If we in it and doing well next year ride it out. If we are out of it at the trade deadline then dangle any of the 3 out there for the idiots that’ll over pay badly and lets restock!

Braves have no money anymore to go out and make deals, unfortunately!

Number 5#

December 22nd, 2011
8:06 pm

We can analyze this all we want. Bottom line players have to perform. Prado needs to hit no matter what position he plays. Heyward needs to hit! Freeman needs to stay solid. Braves need to get back to fundamentals! Moving runners over was terrible last year. Use of pitchers was awful let’s face it. I don’t think any major moves are needed, players need to perform…………Bottom Line!

the truth...

December 22nd, 2011
8:13 pm

Ok….bottom line fielding stats for Uggla….and Gonzalez for 2011

Uggs….. .980 with 15 errors
Gonzalez…. 981 with 12 errors

So enough with the fielding bs…

josh

December 22nd, 2011
8:13 pm

Im tired of people saying “be patient”, its almost the end of December and trade talks started in early November! Wren has had more then enough time to make a trade or sign a SS. Which is why I doubt we do anything, JS should be ashamed of the letter he sent the fans as all of it was BS lies! We will finsih fourth next year because we are the only team in the NL East that hasnt tried to improve yet.

extremus

December 22nd, 2011
8:15 pm

I think David O’Brien can officially file this article under “Too Easy” based on the pretty much unanimous tone of the responses thus far. It’s pretty bad when the most significant move fans are hoping for is tha sale of their team by its owners. Pretty much says it all. Liberty Media has only the Atlanta Spirit Group to thank for not being the most reviled ownership in Atlanta pro sports history.

But let’s not forget the role that baseball at large has played in creating this monster. I remember an old early 1980s issue of SI that showed the “spiralling” salaries of baseball’s biggest stars (such as Mike Schmidt and Eddie Murray). Both of those guys at that time were under contract for around $2 million per season, which would make the $10 million the Braves have to spend seem Yankees-like. Until free agent contracts are brought under control, we’ve not only seen the end of even the most beloved stars playing out their careers in one uniform (see: Cardinals /Albert Pujols, Mariners/ Alex Rodriguez, and many, many more); we’ve seen the end of teams even in a market the size of Atlanta being able to compete for top-tier free agents. Rather than a luxury tax let baseball enforce an upper limit to player salaries instead; it would still allow for free agency while giving smaller markets a decent chance to hold onto their young stars; as Sparky Anderson once remarked, “What are they gonna do after the first million or two, eat the rest?”.

Kwajbraves

December 22nd, 2011
8:16 pm

Gio to the Nats. Great more pitching on this division. We may score 1 run at game now.

Linebrinks Security

December 22nd, 2011
8:16 pm

“budget-conscious Braves”
for a team that offered, out of nowhere, contracts like KK’s and Uggla’s ….. it’s a bit hard to believe they’re truly budget-conscious.

“Have Braves lost ground in ever-improving NL East?”
To this I say, no not really. If at some point during the season the Braves trade for the players they thought they had last year, such as Heyward, Prado, a healthy Mac, Hanson, and JJ …. then they should be in good shape

The Truth

December 22nd, 2011
8:18 pm

The Braves seriously need ownership that gives a damn.

I_R_Human

December 22nd, 2011
8:19 pm

Wren is really one of the most frusrtating GM’s around baseball. Playing wait and see is turning into wait and do nothing…..yeah we got Uggla last year but is that suppose to keep the fans happy with finishing 13 games out and seeing all the other teams (for the most part) in the east keep adding on and are still adding more….big whoop we got a rule5 reliever….A big time fail of an off season it will be if that’s the only player added. Step up FRANK!!

Number 5#

December 22nd, 2011
8:20 pm

@the truth… I agree fielding was not an issue last year. Errors are a part of the game. Braves have a very good core to improve on. Coaching needs to step up and squeeze all the potential out of what the Braves have. Braves I think ranked last in scoring with runners in scoring position last year, or at least with 2 outs. How many times can we remember bases loaded no outs and no one scored?

DP

December 22nd, 2011
8:21 pm

“Wren has noted more than once that the Braves had baseball’s fourth-best record on Aug. 26, and said that leads the team’s front office to be careful not to make a trade just to satisfy those anxious to see them make a move.”

The performance up to August 26 included lights out performance from Jurjjens, who is now apparently being shopped, up to the All Star break. It also included strong pitching from Hanson, who broke down late in the season and whose longevity has always been questioned because of his mechanics. And the success up to August 26 also depended on burning up the back end of the bullpen, which not surprisingly faltered down the stretch. The way the Braves were winning for the first 120 games was not sustainable but Wren wants to pretend that he thinks the late collapse was just some kind of fluke. Typical corporate executive, you can’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth.

Brave Fan

December 22nd, 2011
8:21 pm

Number 5 is correct in that we did suck fundamentally last year. Two huge areas of concern was the failure to move runners and the abuse of the bull pen.

However, lets look at our lineup. We’ll be lucky if Freeman has a year like he had last year. Good player, good defender at 1B…but 2nd year is always scary.

Uggla, can’t see him doing worse but not much better either. He never has?

SS- Who knows what we’ll get but it’ll be worse defensively and not much better offensively.

3B – Old and less productive Chipper if healthy enough to play and if not Prado.

Lf – Can’t be worse but that was terrible.

CF – Better with Bourn but only for a year.

RF – Better b/c Heyward is too good to be that bad again.

So, I think we need to take a page from other teams in the east and do something to get better.

Bill

December 22nd, 2011
8:22 pm

4th best team don’t cut it Mr Wren.( don’t mean crap) In fact they didn’t make play-offs. Do your job and make this team better!

1995 was 16 years ago

December 22nd, 2011
8:24 pm

While it’s possible that Heyward and Prado could bounce back with better years, assuming that they will would be very foolish on the Braves’ part. Last year, they banked on McLouth returning to his Pittsburgh form and Heyward getting back in his early-2010 groove. Neither one of those things happened, and the offense was dysfunctional, in large part, because Wren did not adequately prepare for those guys continuing to struggle.

All things considered, I like Wren as a GM, but our outfield production has been horrendous in his tenure. True, he can’t be faulted for Heyward failing to meet expectations so far, but Jason would not even have been in the major leagues at such a young age if Wren had assembled a competent major league outfield.

steve

December 22nd, 2011
8:29 pm

Shameful. Frank Wren and this ownership needs to GO. This team will be lucky to go 81-81 and finish in 4th place.

skiingdawg

December 22nd, 2011
8:30 pm

A lot of GMs and their staffs look at major league players that are in Arbitration and try to determine if the player still has higher upside or are near their zenith or plateau. This is what John Schierholtz taught Wren. They are building for the long-term and annually replace one or two players with minor leaguers that they have financial control for five to six years. The Braves have strong pitching, shortstops, a catcher and a third baseman that will be ready in the next two years to join the major league team. Combined with our current starting and relief pitchers, catcher, first baseman, second baseman and right fielder, Wren believes that the Braves will be playoff contenders over the long-term and that other teams have reached their peak and will decline.

Number 5#

December 22nd, 2011
8:30 pm

@1995 was 16 years ago Frank Wren has nothing to do with the execution on the field, that’s Freddie’s ball of wax.

NickB

December 22nd, 2011
8:34 pm

Is it sharing time at the retard farm? I have never seen a greater gathering of clueless baseball fans in my entire life. There are indian tribes yet undiscovered in the amazon basin that know more about the game than you idiots do

Da Mick

December 22nd, 2011
8:34 pm

I’d like for anyone to show me anyone who is available out there, by trade, who drives the ball into the gaps with more authority, who hits situationally with more control, who is a better clutch hitter, than Martin Prado. All of you who are so anxious to have him traded just to do SOMETHING have to have a screw loose. Martin is the type of player that the world champion St Louis Cardinals were made of. His type of baseball is how the series was won, and we’re fortunate to have even one player of his caliber on this team. The problem with Braves teams in the post seasons, is that the Braves have never had enough Martin Prado type players to carry us through the grind of those difficult series. Power hitters such as even the likes of Albert can be shut down in a big series with good pitching. In the end, the games are won by the Freeses and Prados of the game. Get a clue, you desperate Braves fans. This isn’t fantasy baseball we’re talking about.

miguel

December 22nd, 2011
8:35 pm

This franchise started going downhill and has never recovered since the Texas trade. We would have our shortstop in Andrus, a starter or reliever in Feliz and another starter in Harrison. All 3 were very important to the Rangers success last season. The last 2 no. 1 draft picks for us have both been starters. They say you can’t have enough pitching and it is somewhat true. But scoring runs is important also. The Braves are not very successful at drafting high quality hitters for some reason. Maybe they need to look at how Texas does it.
Chipper needs to go, soon. He’s a drag on the finances and maybe reliable for 100 games if they are lucky. Trade Jair and Heyward and a second tier reliever for Adam Jones. But wait! The powers that be only care about the bottom line. Liberty is a ball and chain hung on the Braves…period!! As I wrote before, the Texas trade hurt the Braves for years to come. Now Wren is expected to pull a rabbit out of the hat and it’s not going to happen as long as Liberty is in charge. Everyone would be better off if the would sell the team and get back to their crap. We have the trade chips but not the money to get what we need. It’s all very sickening and disappointing.

David O'Brien

December 22nd, 2011
8:35 pm

I am really perplexed by the payroll issue, and shed 5 Mill from Lowe, we shed KK and McLouth. I know that there are arb raises and such, but I also thought we were suppose to have a bump in payroll from everything we are told. I dont get how we can never seem to have money to spend.Mike

I can understand why it’s perplexing that the Braves have so little to spend again.

But you noted how Braves shed Lowe, Kawakami and McLouth. Well, think of it this way: McLouth had a $6.5 mill salary last season, and Bourn is going to make more than that in ‘12, probably go from $4.4 mill last year to around $7 mill in arb for ‘12. So that’s a wash.

Then there’s the approx. $12 mill the Braves shed with KK and Lowe ($5 mill of Lowe’s $15 mill contract is all they saved, paying the rest).

McCann gets a $5 mill raise, from $6.5 mill in ‘11 to $11.5 mill in ‘12 including the maxed-out $3 mill in escalator clauses triggered by his All-Star appearances and Silver Slugger awards. Uggla has a $4 million raise in 2012, because his contract included a salary of $9 mill in ‘11 and then four straight years at $13 mill, plus the $1 mill signing bonus that’s spread over five years ($200,000 each year for accounting purposes).

McCann and Uggla will make $9 million more, which you could think of as wiping out all but $2 mill of the money shed with Lowe and Kawakami being gone.

Then you start getting into the amounts shed by not brinking back Linebrink (only $2 mill, because White Sox paid rest of his salary), Moylan (though they might end up bringing back Moylan at or below the $2 mill he made last year) and Sherrill ($1.2 mill), you’re looking at saving about $5 mill, or only about $3 mill if Moylan is brought back.

Take into account the arb raises also going to O’Flaherty and whomever is kept among Prado and Jurrjens, and you’re really actually back at about even again, in terms of the money saved by getting rid of the players they aren’t bringing back.

So you can see where they’d need to move someone to free up money if they’re going to add a player making $5 mill or so, unless the payroll is being raised more than just a little bump of a couple million bucks (and we don’t even know if that’ll happen).

We didn’t even get into the small raises that go to the under-3 guys, raises that will be a little bigger than usual for Kimbrel (All-Star, ROY) and probably Freeman (ROY runner-up).

1995 was 16 years ago

December 22nd, 2011
8:40 pm

Number 5#, Wren may not be responsible for the execution on the field, but he is responsible for bringing in players who will produce. I don’t blame him for McLouth falling off a cliff once he came to Atlanta. No one could have seen that coming. But I do fault him for handing starting roles to geriatrics like Garret Anderson and not finding a replacement for McLouth when he was coming off a season in which he hit .190.

I’m not a Wren hater. The way he has helped restore our proud pitching tradition is commendable. But he has failed miserably at constructing a competent outfield. That’s just a fact.

BB FAN

December 22nd, 2011
8:41 pm

The Braves need a right handed lefty killing outfielder for 2-4 million. Many on here have said it more than once including me…sign Andruw Jones. He’s everything they need in the outfield. He’s the perfect 4th outfielder. He hits with power, he plays solid D at the corner OF spots, he’s a good clubhouse guy, he would be relatively cheap (2-4 mill) and he kills lefty pitching.

Then they could keep Prado to play in LF against righty pitchers and 3B, 1B, 2B when Chipper, Freeman and Uggla need days off. That would give him 550 at bats. Andruw could play LF against lefty pitchers and even RF against tough lefties to give Heyward a day off and let Prado play LF. Jones would even be able to play CF if needed. He’s obviously no where close to how good he was but he’s average now. The Braves can still trade Jurrjens for prospects and not need to get an outfielder at the major league ready in 2012 in return..

I find it absolutely ridiculous that the Braves are not interested in a player (Andruw Jones) that is exactly what they have been missing for 3 years. Wren needs to wake up as I’ve read Jones doesn’t necessarily want to stay in NY. I would bet he would be open to a return to Atlanta.

Bill

December 22nd, 2011
8:42 pm

Linebrink cut down Fredi for over using pitchers..he leaves and then vents..said he warmed up 17 days in a row. Pen was shot last month.
Heard all this on MLB talk radio today.

tmoneylove

December 22nd, 2011
8:43 pm

John Hart unbiased? remember when we defeated his vaunted 1995 Indians? That team was ridiculous and was filled with roided-up players, but they won 100 games in a shortened season. That being said, I kinda agree with him…

Brave Fan

December 22nd, 2011
8:43 pm

Yeah, we need to just face the fact that if we, the guys on this blog, want our team to win a championship we better start following another team.

Sad!

Ray

December 22nd, 2011
8:46 pm

Cards signed Beltran to 2 yrs for 25m and a no trade clause. No thanks. Gio is a young talented pitcher but he has walked more batters the last two seasons than any pitcher in all of baseball. He has a lot of potential but that is a glaring problem. I stated in another blog, I do believe the braves have a strong foundation. and yes There are tweaks that are needed for sure. IF opening day was tomorrow I would be concerned.

Old Hippie

December 22nd, 2011
8:46 pm

“The Braves haven’t said how much room they have left in their payroll” – they’d have a helluva lot more room if Chipper would do the right thing and retire.

Dawgdad (The Original)

December 22nd, 2011
8:48 pm

Yes is the answer, 4th place is the destination. It is so frustrating to watch the other teams in the division add good parts and get better, while the Braves sit and talk about how they are happy with their team. Saw where Derosa is going to sign with the Nats, for peanuts, and try to play his way back. Meanwhile Jeff Keppinger, a much better player sits out there unsigned, but receives no interest from the Braves. Sign him as back up for Chipper and part time Shortstop that we need, while Pasto grows into the position. sign Keppinger and Prado becomes a piece you can use to trade for a left fielder with some pop.

If they do nothing and the team gets off to a bad start, going to be some low attendance by the end of the season.

Blobie

December 22nd, 2011
8:49 pm

Our defense does not hurt much because we get so many strikeouts from our staff. Our offense was horrible, near the worst in the league in runs, on base percentage, RBI, slugging, OPS, and sacrifice flies. Until we can learn how to score runs other than bases empty homeruns, we will continue to suck. Why did Francoeur, Melky, and Yunel succeed away from Atlanta? It is not the park because we are much worse away from home. Coaching? I don’t know. Why do starting pitchers lower their ERA in games against Atlanta over 70% of the time? I hope that stat does not continue.

Ray

December 22nd, 2011
8:50 pm

old hippie, why would you want chipper retire with the numbers that he put up this past season. he ranked 3rd among third basemen in offensive numbers.

Coach (2011 Fredi G. FAILED)

December 22nd, 2011
8:52 pm

What O’Brien said……..

Basically the Braves have to move either Jurrjens or Prado but not both, just to keep their payroll in line.

But again, they are not an improved team from the end of the season. Gonzo was arguably the best defensive player on the team which made up for his inconsistent offense. However, he was let go due to a perceives salary increase and the current youth movement underway.

Derek Lowe’s innings and starts have to be replaced, ditto for JJ should he be traded. Again, more youth movement among the starting rotation.

Linebrink, Proctor and Sherrill gone, replaced by Medlen, fish and Ascaino. More youth movement.

Which means when and if JJ is traded it will be for more young, talented, affordable players.

So take it from somebody who understand what is really happening. The payroll basically stays the same with a slight bump, while the team is going to get much younger.

Mister Frisky

December 22nd, 2011
8:53 pm

Nothing a few years in 4th place can’t cure.

blairjoyfulsound

December 22nd, 2011
8:53 pm

What about Alex Gonzalez? Do we get anything extra since he’s not on payroll anymore?

1995 was 16 years ago

December 22nd, 2011
8:54 pm

I’ve been banging the Keppinger drum for weeks. Wren told DOB he wanted guys who wouldn’t give up at-bats. Well, Keppinger is statistically one of the toughest guys to strike out in the major leagues, and the Braves are going to sit idly by while some other team scoops him up. Frustrating.

Number 5#

December 22nd, 2011
8:56 pm

I am a Braves fan to the core! But I am a sports fan at heart and look at things objectivity as well. Very few player acquisitions, meaning one player have ever made the difference in the overall face of a team in baseball. Coaching is just as much of the equation as the player’s. The coach must know where and when to insert player’s at the right situations.

Lee in S GA

December 22nd, 2011
8:57 pm

Lets just hope this team don’t start like they finished last season or it will be a long season. Attendance will start to suffer quickly also. No, I’m not going to get too damn excited about this current bunch At least beer tastes the same whether you’re winning or losing.

Coach (2011 Fredi G. FAILED)

December 22nd, 2011
8:58 pm

Yep, Jeff Keppinger is a useful utility player to have on the bench. Unfortunately he made 2.3 million in 2011 which is too rich for our Braves to pay.

Brave Fan

December 22nd, 2011
8:58 pm

Melky and Francoer lost weight.

Yunel pouted around because he and Chipper has a pissing contest going. If you remember, Chipper tried to have a fuss fess with Smoltz once about playing hurt. Then over the last couple of years Chipper bitched at Heyward about playing hurt and this and that.

Anyone else question the leadership qualities of Chipper on our young talent? I say tell Chipper to shut the hell up and limp around hurt himself and leave the leadership qualities to McCann who competes every single day.

Bill

December 22nd, 2011
9:00 pm

Yes go ahead and sign the Georgia Boy..Jeff Keppinger.

Number 5#

December 22nd, 2011
9:01 pm

@Brave Fan agree Chipper has never been vocal. Why start now?

Ray

December 22nd, 2011
9:02 pm

Coach, what the braves lost in players and lets say JJ does get traded, those will be easily replaced by what the braves currently have. Then with a couple of signings/trades the team will be improved. The unknown factor and this is for every team out there, we don’t know what adjustments will have to be made as the season goes along due to injuries or non-injuries. IMO the young staff, the kids are ready to take hold and be productive. This will give the braves another strong pitching staff for many years to come. We do need another rh bat, no doubt. We get that along with a quality back up at ss as insurance, i think the braves will be in better shape going into this season than last year. @misterfrisky.. really? do you REALLY believe the braves are going to finish 4th or just wanting to shake things up on here a bit?

Andy K.

December 22nd, 2011
9:03 pm

Chipper is the on-field leader of the team and the face of the Braves. But In the clubhouse, at least it seems to me its guys like McCann, Hinske, Ross, etc leading the charge

Bill

December 22nd, 2011
9:03 pm

Coach if hey can’t pay Jeff 2.5 millio they need to close down and go home.

Coach (2011 Fredi G. FAILED)

December 22nd, 2011
9:03 pm

Melky and Francoer lost weight.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

They also played in Kansas City where there is almost no pressure to perform. I also believe that Melky found the N.L. to be an unpleasant experience.

Bill

December 22nd, 2011
9:04 pm

sorry, they.. million

Mark (another one)

December 22nd, 2011
9:04 pm

Same usually complaining about ?? Going into the off season, the Braves needed to find an answer for SS and who plays LF if Prado has to play 3rd? There is no way they aren’t going to look for McCann, Heyward and Uggla to have better years, and plan for Freeman to continue to develop. They are counting on Bourn, their three top relief pitchers and a wealth of starting talent.

Moving Lowe and picking up a journeyman lefty for the pen have been the only two moves but you don’t make moves simply to make moves. You only make them to improve. I for one believe Pastornicky can play major league defense and only has to be as good as Gonzo to be an upgrade. We need a backup SS but Brandon Hicks might be the solution. We can also pick up a defensive SS between now and April.

What I would really like is another outfield bat to pinch hit and fill in when Prado plays 3rd. It would be better if they could play well enough to force Prado into a utility role until Chipper retires. However, the real long term need for the Braves is to find someone to play 3rd and hit with power once Chipper retires.

JC Brave

December 22nd, 2011
9:05 pm

Fourth place here we come!

boots

December 22nd, 2011
9:05 pm

Who exactly is Liberty Media, and why do they own the Braves?

Number 5#

December 22nd, 2011
9:06 pm

@Mark (another one) I feel the same way!

Coach (2011 Fredi G. FAILED)

December 22nd, 2011
9:07 pm

Ray, our Braves will win simply due to their depth of starting pitching. However, they are not improved as of yet. Which again means…..they are an unknown factor at the moment. A Second, third place finish isn’t out of the question, but neither is a wild card berth.

Bill

December 22nd, 2011
9:08 pm

What? did u say Hicks?

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