Deadline approaches but Braves not in all-or-nothing mindset

Chipper Jones hit a two-run homer in Monday's 11-3 rout of San Francisco. But is all this too late to catch Philadelphia in the East?	(Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

Chipper Jones hit a two-run homer in Monday's 11-3 win over San Francisco. But is all this too late to catch Philadelphia in the East? (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

The meat of the comment sounded like a concession speech, which really wasn’t Chipper Jones’ intent. But when you play for a .500 team going into game No. 93 and the team ahead of you in first place is starting to resemble the one from last October, a sense of realism sets in.

“We’re not going to be sellers, I don’t think,” Jones said early Monday when asked about how the Braves should approach the trade deadline. “We’ve been buyers to this point, adding pieces here and there. But I think we’ve got our eyes toward next year and the year after, and whatever comes this year is gravy. I don’t mean that we’re waving the white flag this year by any means. But we got off to a relatively slow start, and the Phillies are what they are. They’re the world champs, they’re playing well right now and it’s going to be hard to catch them.”

The trade deadline is in 10 days. Depending on your level of optimism, the Braves are either in contention for the National League East, in contention for the wild-card spot or in contention for special early October fares to the Bahamas.

Do they buy, maybe giving up pitcher Javier Vazquez for another bat?

Do they sell, maybe giving up pitcher Javier Vazquez for another bat — for next April?

Does general manager Frank Wren stare at an 8×10 glossy of Yunel Escobar for several hours and hope an answer comes to him like some revelation in a burning bush (preferably before his head explodes)?

Does he do nothing of significance, which probably is the betting favorite and the smartest course of action? (It neither mortgages the future nor sends the wrong message to players and fans, given it’s a seller’s market right now.)

Wren isn’t saying what he’s going to do. I think because he doesn’t know what he’s going to do. I think because he doesn’t know how to categorize the team’s post-season hopes.

Question to Wren: buying or selling?

“There’s so many us who are still in this thing, one way or another.”

Question: OK. But buying or selling?

“We’re playing better. We feel good about the way we’re performing.”

OK. Let’s simplify this: Are you sellers?

“I don’t think we’ll be selling. I sure hope not. I mean, something drastic would have to happen for us to be selling.”

Solid pitching, improved hitting, and we still don’t know what to think. Yes – as Jones said, things look pretty good for next season. But it’s still July. Are you ready to shift your mindset to next April? Or have the past few seasons made that easier to accept?

They won again Monday — this time 11-3 over San Francisco. Suddenly they’re scoring and they’re winning  (this makes eight out of 11). They’re now only 3 1/2 games behind San Francisco in the wild-card race. But that’s an eight-team scramble. Those things are iffy. In the division race, they’re still 6 1/2 games behind Philadelphia (which has won 13 of 14). Before the Braves got hot, they were only five back. Go figure.

It was early June when they shredded the blueprint. Since then, they’ve sent down Jordan Schafer, traded for Nate McLouth, called up Tommy Hanson, sent down Kelly Johnson, traded Jeff Francoeur for Ryan Church and watched Martin Prado turn into Rogers Hornsby The makeover is basically done.

Guarded optimism reigns.

“We’re not sellers – we’re not selling anything,” Bobby Cox said.

Jones said he’s encouraged.

“The lineup is better. We don’t have [easy] outs any more,” he said.

But the margin for error remains thin and the deficit in the division is growing, and Jones acknowledged, “When we play the really good teams, our margin for error is so small.”

The understanding being, they’re still not one of the really good teams and whatever comes this season is gravy. But they’re making it interesting.

180 comments Add your comment

Lieutenant Dan

July 20th, 2009
9:11 pm

We have little Frankie Wren running the ship. We are still trying to salvage the mess he left behind in Baltimore. Wait and see Braves fans Wren is one of these guys where there is always an excuse and nothing very good ever happens. Look up the word medicore and there stands Frank. Looking for middle of the pack he is your guy. Never proactive always reactive and is not I repeat a visionary for the future. But here he is little Frankie Wren in Atlanta.

Sage of Blueland

July 20th, 2009
10:22 pm

I normally don’t like you, Jeff, but if you just made a reference to Raiders of the Lost Ark, I may have to reconsider. I wonder if any of the Atlanta sports sheep, I mean “fans,” caught that?

Suckers.

admiral j

July 20th, 2009
10:24 pm

frank was only gm in baltimore .that mess is /was not his.that mess belongs to no other than peter angelos , the owner

mikeingray

July 20th, 2009
10:24 pm

Wren is better than Lt speaks of…not perfect…no GM is when the purse strings are tied and options are limited by availability and monies…nothing major needed at this point anyway…a Juan Pierre from LA Dodgers give us a solid leadoff and LF and sparks our lineup for minimal $$$ and/or players..with Manny in place, Juan is no longer needed..Diaz would be great backup in LF/RF…maybe Garret goes to LA in return…who knows…definitely keep Vazquez..a true performer…keep Escobar…a true clutch hitter and strong SS…keep Kelly..he’ll come around and can certainly be one of the most productive hitters we have with power to boot…

Greek Dawg

July 20th, 2009
10:25 pm

Thanks for the optimism Chipper. Should we stop watching and look forward to next year? UFB!

We have a team that’s doing what we ask them to do. Leave them alone. If you want to look to next year, make sure you don’t trade Freeman or Heyward.

Charlie

July 20th, 2009
10:25 pm

All Fran Wren has done is get rid of the dead weight Smoltz, Glavine, and Frenchy, and assembled one of the best starting rotations in baseball. He also somehow made a trade for an Allstar outfielder with a good contract that dropped jaws of other GMs. But yea, he is terrible.

admiral j

July 20th, 2009
10:25 pm

left out for one year only oops.

Jman

July 20th, 2009
10:26 pm

Only thing we need at this point is a decent veteran arm in the ‘pen to give some extra rest to the rubber arms out there.

HAL

July 20th, 2009
10:27 pm

i hope some of you knocking wren have ml extra innings and are watching icon smoltz blow up yea wren should have broke the bank for a broken down 40 something with a bad arm lol atlanta fans amaze me with there non knwledge of the game

chance

July 20th, 2009
10:29 pm

i don’t understand this talk about trading javy. he’s our second best if not best pitcher and someone we traded tyler flowers for. why the urgency to trade him? i mean he has really flourished in atl.

The_Superhoo

July 20th, 2009
10:29 pm

Wasn’t really a Raiders reference…more like a straight biblical one

Whatever.

Anyway, I think the Braves SHOULD be buyers, but we don’t really have any currency I’m comfortable parting with. Just say NO to trading Heyward/Freeman!

Jman

July 20th, 2009
10:29 pm

HAL

July 20th, 2009
10:30 pm

charlie save your breath or your typing finger they are all of the opiion that only the genius js knew baseball and the tex trade was superb nuff said lol

Greek Dawg

July 20th, 2009
10:31 pm

Speaking of needing a veteran arm in the pen, what about Huddy? May be a great way to get him back into the game without putting pressure on the new arm. He’s also there for an unexpected need.

Coach (2010 or Bust)

July 20th, 2009
10:31 pm

Some once said that repeating the same thing over and over is by definition, insanity.

It would be close to the same description to believe our Braves have any chance at the playoffs right now. As Dennis Green would say “they are who we thought they were” as in the defending World Champions Philadelphia Phillies.

Yes, the offense has finally awakened to back up our playoff caliber pitching. But that sentence is the only place I can use the “P” word when ascribing it to our Braves. We had our opportunity to win this division back in April, May and June. The dog days of July and August have and will hit home.

Sellers ? No. Buyers? not that either and going nowhere fast. The same could and has been said about this team since 2006. The beat goes on and the drum is getting damned annoying!

bruce

July 20th, 2009
10:31 pm

I am hopeful. I also hope we are not selling.

jtb3

July 20th, 2009
10:32 pm

anyone know how long vazquez and mcclouth are under contract? i know all the talk about future cf is centered around schafer, but is he really a better player than mcclouth?

Charlie

July 20th, 2009
10:35 pm

Hal, Wren was not the GM when they did the Tex Trade. He did give up Hanson for Peavy either. Another good move. The fact is, I can’t see a bad move he has made. Kawakami is the only questionable one, but it looks like he is going to work out too. Even the Left Fielder (can’t think of his name) was a pretty good move.

Da Braves

July 20th, 2009
10:37 pm

Javy needs to be traded when his value is at its peak. Prospects or a slugger who cares… We have the hottest commodity in baseball; a starting pitcher who fits in at the top of any rotation. If we can flip Vazquez for 3 top prospects we will be better off in the long run and have a great ROI for Tyler Flowers. Lets capitalize now and be better off in the long run.

Charlie

July 20th, 2009
10:38 pm

Coach, July and the dog days of August are when divisions are won, it is when the starting pitching always starts to take over, when teams without it fall apart.

Did you not watch the braves between 1991 and 2005?

The Colonel

July 20th, 2009
10:41 pm

Stand down Lt. Dan! Say what you will about Frank Wren but the guy is getting things done. He may not be popular for some of the moves made but he is doing what he can. You can’t rebuild the rotation AND build a murderers row lineup in one season…not without spending Yankee money, which Liberty Media aint got. The problemwith the Braves has been Cox. Cox has let mediocrity and failure become commonplace in the clubhouse before literally HAVING to put Prado in the lineup before Frank shipped Jeffrey No-Hit to Choke York. This lineup is good enough to get to the playoffs as is, if Cox doesn’t burn up the bullpen and remembers he’s in charge and starts holding players accountable for executing the fundamentals, like a good manager should. No, Frank has done a good job putting a good team together, built on strong starting pitching. It up to Cox to get the right combination out on the field. The question is does Cox remember what it takes to win?

mike

July 20th, 2009
10:41 pm

On Wren, I agree with Charlie. Give the man some freakin’ cred. I like what we have, what we’re doing, and where we’re going. Even Bobby is coming around; he’s trying to do a few more little things instead of just waiting for 3 run homers. I say keep what we have for the year; but when an upgrade comes around (like a big bat), take it.

And for God’s sake, don’t trade Vasquez or Escobar.

Richard Gray

July 20th, 2009
10:41 pm

Everyone needs to chill out. It’s just July and we’re playing our best baseball. Sure the Phillies are hot but it’s OK as long as we continue to win. I also do not like all the hate pointed towards Frank Wren. He’s done a phenomenal job at re-establishing our starting rotation with no down time. Sometimes I don’t think Braves fans realize how good they have it.

Steven L.

July 20th, 2009
10:42 pm

Braves look great right now. Chipper is right, this line-up has no easy outs. No, it won’t be like this the rest of the season… but neither will it go back to how it was the first few months. This is a team that should be better next year while fighting for the Wild Card this year.

My only concern is that we have 6 starting pitchers and 5 slots when Hudson comes back. If we can move one and get a BIG bat with power, then yes, do it. Why not? Otherwise, stand pat because this is one of the better teams in baseball.

scottbravesfan

July 20th, 2009
10:43 pm

we finally got our lineup straight so why would they sell now? I would hold to be honest with you. I think the Braves are good enough to battle for both the division and the wild card. Do you really think the Giants or the Rockies are that much better than the Braves? The Phils are playing above their heads right now and will come back down to earth. They will have streaks like this because their offense is so good but their pitching will let them down sooner or later.

Bob in SF

July 20th, 2009
10:45 pm

I love it when Oriole fans try to blame all the losing of the last 15 years on anyone but Peter Angelos.

Greek Dawg

July 20th, 2009
10:45 pm

I agree with R Gray. My gripe is with the BS statement from Chipper. If he’s our leader, where is leading us????

Charlie

July 20th, 2009
10:46 pm

Trade Huddy if you can dump him, keep Javy, the guys is a stud. Yea, we go too much pitching, Wren is horrible.

Steven L.

July 20th, 2009
10:49 pm

The pitcher we need to trade is Lowe. At $15 million a season, for three more seasons, trading him makes WAY more sense then keeping him since Hudson is coming back. However, I don’t want another bat because anyone we can get for Lowe probably is not much better than what we have now. I just want to fee up the money to keep what we got or make a move in the off season for a free agent OF or 1B.

count_schemula

July 20th, 2009
10:50 pm

I don’t even get this talk about trading Javier. After his complete game loss he became the man on this team. He was ticked off. I think it rubbed off. I like the O now that Frenchy is gone and Prado is starting. A lot of people think that Church just needs to play and he’s a .280 20HR 80+ RBI guy whi will turn in better ABs than Frenchy night in and night out. We don’t have the big bat, but we don’t have the dead bats anymore either.

misterwax

July 20th, 2009
10:50 pm

Hitting seems to be coming on stronger and more balanced from 1-8 in the line-up and this is really valuable….I am not a manager, but if I would do one thing it would be for Bobby Cox to modify his 100 pitch count rule a bit …..the bullpen has given up too many leads in the 7th and 8th…they just fold some nights…so let starters go 118–125 pitches deep as long as they hold the lead……then they will get hot and mow them down, Phillies included. just 1 man’s opinion.

Raker

July 20th, 2009
10:51 pm

So divisions are won in April-June? Ask the Mets about that. I agree with Charlie, it is all about starting pitching in the Dog days. I like the position, the Phillies are tuff, but if the Braves keep getting good starting pitching, they will be there.

Steven L.

July 20th, 2009
10:51 pm

I agree Count. I really like Church long term. What we need now is a first basemen or left fielder with some pop. But I can wait for next season for that.

WK

July 20th, 2009
10:52 pm

I don’t think there will be any big moves. And any move should be made with an eye to the future. Kotchman looks like the weakest link. Perhaps the Braves could pick up a right hand bat like Ryan Garko for KJ or maybe Jo Jo. That would give them some power and a right hand option at 1st, He could help hold 1st. until Freeman is ready, hopefully sometime next year.

PTC DAWG

July 20th, 2009
10:52 pm

What’s wrong with gravy?

Frank Wren

July 20th, 2009
10:54 pm

The Truth !!! You cant handle the truth !!! You want me on that phone … You need me on that phone !!!!!!

Charlie

July 20th, 2009
10:55 pm

Not sold on Church, but he shows up get good ABs and does not Sulk, addition by subtraction. Not only that, they saddle a team in our own division with a cancer. Wren is Genius.

Coach (2010 or Bust)

July 20th, 2009
10:56 pm

Hey Charlie, did you not take math in school? Or did playing hooky appeal to your wilder side? :)

The defending Word Champion Philadelphia Phillies are on pace to win 93 or more games right now. In order for our Braves to even match 93 wins, we would have to finish the remaining 69 game schedule by winning 46 and losing just 23. Or I could have just said we have to play .666 caliber baseball the rest of the way. Which in and of itself is simply absurd.

Dude, it’s over and you need to pull the cobwebs from out between your ears.

Steven L.

July 20th, 2009
10:56 pm

If the Braves HAD to make a move, like someone put a gun to our heads, then I agree that Kotchman is the weakest link. Someone like Adam Dunn with 40 homers would be nice at first. His power and high on base percentage make him an ideal clean-up hitter. We’d have high OBP for our first FIVE hitters. All of a sudden the Braves would have one of the scariest offenses in the National League to go with the best starting rotation in baseball.

Brownie

July 20th, 2009
10:56 pm

Lt. Dan: you’re not even close in your comments about Wren. The Braves are exactly where they should be because of the horrible short-term moves made by John Schuerholz. HE’s the one who in the last few years of his tenure kept trading away our farm system to bring in a bunch of rental players (e.g. Drew, Castilla, Renteria, Wickman, Sheffield, and finally the worst trade of all…Tex).

None of those teams were built to win a world series, but they did manage to squeak out a couple more division titles…now if that’s your goal then great job JS. But I think FW has his sights on long-term success, and his moves so far have been spot-on.

After ‘08, the Braves could NOT justify spending any money on question marks at pitching and letting Smoltz go was the right move. This year they had Moylan, Gonzo, and Soriano all coming off surgery – throwing partial year hurlers Smoltz and Glavine in would have been poor use of a tight budget.

I think the only real mistakes Wren has made were talking to Glav in the first place, and letting Josh Anderson go.

So, buyers this year…NO, unless it’s for high AA or AAA prospects that will help us next year. We don’t need anymore rental players with expiring contracts.

If FW is inclined to trade anyone, then you have to analyze what asset brings the greatest return. The Braves have no position players anyone would want, except for Mac and Esco – and both of those should be untouchable.

That leaves pitching. The Braves have the luxury of 2 closers, and a playoff contending team would likely love to add a big arm at the back end of their rotation, especially a lefty. So, IF it could bring a prospect or two I would strongly consider moving Gonzo (I like Soriano a lot more and he’s more dependable).

As far as starters go, Hanson and JJ are here to stay, and Huddy has no real trade value coming off Tommy John, and KK (who is better than people are giving him credit for) won’t bring much in return because he’s not considered a #1, 2 or 3 for a playoff contending team.

That leaves Lowe and JV. I would rather trade Lowe, but Vasquez will bring more in return…at least 2 really good prospects (Salty or Andrus level). He probably is our best pitcher right now, BUT he has never pitched this well and probably won’t sustain it (but if he does we won’t be able to afford him after next year anyway), so his trade value is at a peak RIGHT NOW (not after the season).

Freeman and Hayward are coming, but are about 2 yrs away from real contribution. Chipper is in decline, so we’ll need a replacement ready in a year or so.

FW: bring in prospects.

Greek Dawg

July 20th, 2009
10:57 pm

How in the world can you numbnuts think that we have too much pitching? Nobody has too much pitching. Where are you going to put another bat? We moved Escobar to 5-6. Who are you going to sit? There is never too much pitching. Wren has shown an ability to get the bats we need. He cannot hit for them. We have outstanding starting pitching. We cannot pitch Moylens, Gonzo and Soriano more than three nights in a row. ANother rm would help there. I say its Gonzo.

The Colonel

July 20th, 2009
11:00 pm

The guy we need to dump is Lowe, not Vasquez. Although Lowes salary makes him harder to turn, but maybe the Yankees, Angels or Rangers will get desperate.
If you don’t think we are sitting in the catbird seat with our pitching, you don’t know baseball. EVERYBODY NEEDS PITCHING!!!

Charlie

July 20th, 2009
11:00 pm

Coach, so because they are on pace means that they are going to do it? Injuries, slumps, etc are always possible. Braves don’t need to worry about them, if they keep getting good pitching, they will be in the hunt, that is all I am looking for.

Coach (2010 or Bust)

July 20th, 2009
11:03 pm

Right, we can never have enough pitching but then again, Lowe + Jurrjens + Vazquez + Kwakami + Hanson + Hudson = SIX starting pitchers. Somebody has to and WILL BE TRADED. PERIOD.

Charlie

July 20th, 2009
11:06 pm

Better not Trade Javy, Hanson (not gonna happen) or JJ. Kawakami and Lowe next to impossible to move, that makes Huddy the odd man out. Regardless, too many arms is a good problem to have.

Coach (2010 or Bust)

July 20th, 2009
11:07 pm

OK Charlie, I’ll put it this way. Even if you are counting on the Phillies suddenly falling apart and playing .500 baseball the rest of the way, they would still win 88 games. We would have to play .594 baseball to finish with 88 wins. which again, is absurd.

Charlie

July 20th, 2009
11:08 pm

So, it is next to impossible to come back from 6 1/2 back with 2 months to go, when we have a dozen head to head games? You have not watched much baseball, have you?

Charlie

July 20th, 2009
11:12 pm

And I remind you, the Braves are playing over 700 thier last 14 games, so, yes, it is very possible to play 600 over the next 45 games. The Phillies have played close to 1000, they are due to cool off. We could be a game out in a week.

Coach (2010 or Bust)

July 20th, 2009
11:13 pm

Tim Hudson is the best pitcher the Braves have injured or healthy. Twelve game huh? and the other 57 don’t count. I ain’t gonna argue with this absurdity anymore. As Gump would say “stupid is as stupid does”.

The Colonel

July 20th, 2009
11:16 pm

Coach, if the Braves get the pitching they have been getting,they can easily win 88 games. The problem is it took Cox 90 games to figure out what lineup to put on the field. We CAN get into the playoffs, but its going to be hard to catch Philly.