Vivlamore reporting from Turner Field.
The Braves started the second half of the season Friday with a 46-39 record, second in the National League East behind the Nationals. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Chris Vivlamore sat down with Braves general manager Frank Wren for an exclusive interview to discuss the first half of the season and what he expects in the second half, especially with the July 31 trade deadline weeks away.
Q. Let’s start by looking back. What are your thoughts about the first half of the season and where the team is now?
A. I think we’ve shown that we have a good team. It remains to be seen how good based on how consistent we play in the second half. Chipper [Jones] probably said it best a couple of weeks ago, we’ve got to be more consistent. I think we saw signs of that right before the [All-Star] break. The last week before the break we played very good baseball. The sweep in Philadelphia points to good things. Now, we have to continue to play like that.
Q. How much payroll flexibility do the Braves have going into the trade deadline?
A. We have flexibility to make a deal. I think we have the kind of talent that other teams want in our system. We have flexibility in the payroll to add a significant piece if we think it’s justified.
Q. Looking for short-term help at shortstop aside, would acquiring a starting pitcher be your top priority?
A. I think it’s early. We are evaluating everything. I think as we watch over the next 10 days, two weeks, we’ll have a better sense. We think having a guy like Ben Sheets is going to add consistency to the back end of our rotation. We think that will help. I think we need to continue to watch our team and see how it performs.
Q. Do you look to add a bat too?
A. Again, it’s hard to be real specific right now because everything is on the table. How do you make your team better? Arguably, we have one of the best outfields in baseball when you look at the way Jason Heyward, Michael Bourn and Martin Prado have performed. It’s hard for me to quite figure out where we’d plug a bat in. Those guys have performed so well. We’ve got a young guy at first base in Freddie Freeman. Chipper has been tremendous. Dan Uggla started off well and had a little bit slow end of the first half. We saw last year that that can change very quickly. We are going to patch our way through shortstop until Andrelton Simmons comes back. We have a perennial All-Star at catcher in Brian McCann. I’m not sure where we would add a bat but we are open to evaluate the team all the time.
Q. A lot of fans ask about Michael Bourn. Is there any update on the possibility of re-signing him?
A. We like Michael Bourn as much as they do. We hope he is here for a long time.
Q. How about Brian McCann?
A. Brian is a Brave. He, obviously, has an option for next year. He has an option for next year and at the appropriate time we’ll talk about the future.
Q. Has the team moved past last season’s September collapse? Or is there a hangover effect?
A. I don’t think so. I think we saw the team bounce out of the gate well in April. If you look at our schedule, from late May until the end of June, I think we played all teams that were above .500. We had a tough grind. We came through that pretty well unscathed, record-wise. It came at some cost. We lost Brandon Beachy for the season and then, on Sunday, losing Simmons for at least probably six weeks. So those were tough losses for us. This team is pretty resilient. They’ll continue to go out and battle and show what they are made of.
Q. From a GM standpoint, how do you evaluate the roster in the offseason when it concerns judging how players, say like Dan Uggla, will respond after down seasons?
A. There are no guarantees. That is the thing you learn very quickly is that there are no guarantees about how a guy is going to perform year to year. The one thing you see over the course of time, is that guys develop a track record and they usually will perform to that level year in and year out. There are going to be years where they don’t quite meet it and there are going to be years when they exceed it. Dan has been around long enough, seven years in the big leagues, that he has a pretty consistent track record of being able to hit 30 home runs and he’s going to hit in the mid-to-upper .200s. He has the ability to have an impact on a team.
- Chris Vivlamore