Deadline (part II): Braves aren’t going to bust budget

There's a little man inside Frank Wren's head who looks just like this.

The great thing about trade deadlines is it breeds some wonderfully entertaining scenarios, which of course make perfect sense at 1 a.m. after your fifth beer.

“Hey. I got it! We’ll trade our backup shortstop who’s hitting .227, and our pitcher who is coming off torn rotator cuff surgery and two prospects, but not our really good ones, for Albert Pujols! The Cardinals would do that! Frank Wren’s an idiot! Hey, did you eat the last chicken wing?”

Sometimes, logic and reality don’t quite sink in with fans. (Not you, of course. The other fans.) But here’s one reality you’re going to have to deal with: economics.

The Braves are in the same situation as most sports franchises right now. Sponsorships are down. Ticket sales are lagging. The only thing on the rise are discount nights. After years of being one of the top payroll teams in baseball, the Braves now are closer to the middle of the pack at $96.7 million (which ranks 11th). And that’s where they’re going to stay, folks.

I probably should have made a bigger issue of this in my early morning blog on the probability that the Braves will stand pat at the deadline. So I’ll try to make up for it now. The Braves are NOT going to take on salary. It’s not in the budget. While it’s true Wren might be happy with his current team, economics is a huge factor in his conservative approach.

Several readers have asked me why the Braves don’t deal for Washington outfielder/first baseman Adam Dunn. He’s a 40-home run guy who perfectly would fill their need for a power hitter. Well, really only two reasons:

1) He makes $8 million this season.

2) He makes $12 million next season.

There is no way Wren takes on that kind of salary, unless a trade allows him to move an equal amount of salary off the roster. But Washington isn’t going to accept that. They’ll want young cheap guys. When a player like Dunn is traded, it’s because the team trading him wants to cut costs. Payroll is going to hamstring any potential talks for a significant player.

Those days of the Braves spending whatever it took to win are long gone.

You may now resume your trade scenarios.

45 comments Add your comment

bali smith

July 28th, 2009
10:52 am

wow jeff great article.. I think that must have been you staying up late , eating wings and drinking afew brews. Looks like you shaved and must be wearing that snazzy neew hair peace

Evil Richt 2009 S.E.C. World Tour: "Banned in Columbus"

July 28th, 2009
10:52 am

And things will likely be this way for the Braves for a while. I hope they will at least keep up their scouting system because drafting and developing good players is going to be very important for their future success.

Or they could be like the Marlins and blow it all out on salary once every 7 or 8 years, win a championship, and then slash the payroll.

The Grinch

July 28th, 2009
10:53 am

“…at 1 a.m. after your fifth beer.”

Jeff, who the heck starts drinking at midnight? :-P

Greg Norton

July 28th, 2009
10:55 am

Any way we can get rid of Jeff Bennett for some mediocre single A player?

The Princess

July 28th, 2009
10:56 am

There are no trade scenarios. There’s no one out there the Braves can afford. There’s no one out there who really, really wants Greg Norton (including me…call up Brooks!!)
There are good young players waiting in the wings. Let’s just rebuild.

Jeff Schultz

July 28th, 2009
11:00 am

bali –you don’t like my ‘doo?

Evil Richt — we should all hope and pray for no Marlins’ scenario. I don’t see that happening.

Grinch -5 beers in an hour? You’re out of my league.

Greg — I’ll pass your admiring remarks on to Bennett.

Creighton

July 28th, 2009
11:03 am

The only way a deal for Dunn works is if a 3rd team is involved.

For instance, Vazquez – rumored to be a hot commodity and taking up somewhere around $11.5M in salary this year – would have to be traded to a team seeking pitching, say the Dodgers. The Dodgers would then have to kick a couple of prospects or three over the Nats. Then, the Braves would have to also probably kick a prospect over to the Nats. Then, after getting their prospects, the Nats send Dunn to Atlanta.

So, in the end, the Braves get Dunn, the Dodgers get Vazquez, and the Nats get four prospects. Meanwhile, the Braves lose Vazquez plus a prospect, the Dodgers lose 3 prospects, and the Nats lose Dunn.

I don’t think this will happen for many reasons (ie, Braves love their pitching like it is, gap between losing Vazquez and getting Huddy back, uncertainty surrounding Huddy, Braves seem to be happy with hitting chemistry now, Nats have stated they WON’T trade Dunn, still need Dodgers or another 3rd team interested, do we really want to HELP a team we will have to beat or have lose to get to WS?, etc., etc.), but if it did happen, that’s the only way.

Stars would have to really align. And I simply don’t think the Braves want to rock the boat that much.

What about a Vazquez for Ethier deal?

midnite

July 28th, 2009
11:14 am

The Braves will not add Dunn at $12,000,000 for 2010, he can rake but is a defensive butcher. The Nats overpaid badly for him.

BT

July 28th, 2009
11:15 am

So you are saying the Cards would have to chip in a little more than just Pujols!

The Grinch

July 28th, 2009
11:26 am

Unfortunately, Jeff, it’s reflected in the size of my gut (and the quality of most of my posts).

Creighton: “…who is rumored to be a hot commodity…” Yeah, starting pitchers who are in or around the top 5 in every relevant stat category will get into those rumors sometimes. I agree with everything you posted until the last line, but why is it everyone’s trying so hard to find a way to trade Vasquez? Do y’all have any IDEA how bad our record would be right now if we didn’t have him? Not just his win total (which would be 12 now if he’d had any run support), because his impact goes way further than that. He’s the only guy on the staff you absolutely know beyond a shadow of a doubt is going to go 7+ and give up 4 or less (usually less) every time he starts. Most teams would KILL for that right now. Getting Dunn or Ethier or anyone much short of a top 4 or 5 hitter would be a downgrade, IMO.

The Grinch

July 28th, 2009
11:28 am

Just looked up Ethier’s stats; my apologies. He’d be just about right.

Ed-Covington

July 28th, 2009
11:29 am

Trade Vazquez for Ethier? or Adam Dunn? is your name Omar Manaya?(please excuse spelling if wrong!) Noticed that both Kotsay andf Josh Anderson were “designated for assignment” last week and are available; either would be an improvement over the season Greg Norton is having this year. Sure, he had a good year last year, but Brooks Conrad sure seemed to handle the pressures of pinch-hitting well enough to stay in Atlanta. Our two top pinch hitters now are Norton and Diory Hernandez?

Daniel

July 28th, 2009
11:39 am

I don’t understand why anyone wants to see us deal for a big time player. To do that, it would more than likely have to break up the rotation. Don’t weaken a strength to strengthen a weakness. You’re just back where you started (or worse) if you do that.

And why say we are “standing pat”? We’ve done deals this season, just earlier than everyone else. Getting McLouth and getting rid of Francouer and Glavine are our big moves this year, not to mention calling up Hanson. Now it’s time to see if that’s enough.

Creighton

July 28th, 2009
11:40 am

Grinch-

The “hot commodity” reference was meant to be an understatement. Sarcasm, so to speak.

I don’t necessarily disagree with you. I think the Braves bats are hot right now, and the pitching is solid. I believe that our pitching staff has a much better shot at remaining consistently good for the rest of the season, than do our bats. Not to mention, Hudson coming back may make us unbalanced with great pitching and mediocre hitting.

My point was not that we needed to trade Vazquez or I would like to see him go, but that reality is we are paying him $11.5M and may need another very good hitter in order to compete beyond the season. Vazquez is just the most likely trade chip in the event we are looking to bring in the “big bat” we’ve all said we needed all year long (until just recently), because he can free up more payroll and we (hopefully) have someone just as good waiting in the wings.

I’d be perfectly happy to keep Vazquez, but if we were to get an “impact” bat – I think he’d be the one we’d have to trade.

BTW – Ethier’s line is .271, 57 R, 20 HR, 62 RBI, 4 SB, with .861 OPS. And he’s been on fire the last week or so. He also makes $3.1M (I’m guessing his first year of arbitration was this past season??). Maybe he’s not worth Vazguez, but I’d love to see him in our lineup. And the reason I mentioned it was b/c the Dodgers covet a top starter and have excess OFs.

The Grinch

July 28th, 2009
11:47 am

That’s what I get for running my yap without thinking (happens all too often).

I personally wouldn’t do the Vasquez/Ethier trade on the possibility of messing up good chemistry, but I wouldn’t be upset if it happened (especially in light of the salary cut). I would be upset at Vasquez for Dunn.

midnite

July 28th, 2009
11:58 am

You can not really depend on Hudson until 2010 if we take the option. He is only 11 months removed from TJ surgery. We do not want to rush him. Getting rid of Vasquez would be a mistake, who would take his place if Hudson can’t toe the rubber? I think he will only see light bullpen duty these next two months.

Art Vandelay

July 28th, 2009
11:58 am

I don’t see how trading our most consistently dominant pitcher for a big swinger who hits .250 (or .270 for Ethier) improves the team. Our offense has been rolling merrily along since the all-star break, and even a bit before that. Our pitching from top to bottom is as good as it’s been in 15 years. Why mess with a good thing when we’re winning series after series? Unless we’re able to fleece another team like we did to the Pirates in the McLouth deal, I see no reason to mess with what appears to be excellent team chemistry and balance. Wouldn’t mind picking up a solid middle reliever to lighten the load on Moylan (and send Medlen back to Gwinnett for additional seasoning), but that role could be filled very well by either Hudson or Kawakami, depending on which one is left out of the rotation. If the Braves make any deals, they should be minor tweaks, not a huge blockbuster.

Creighton

July 28th, 2009
12:04 pm

It’s all hypothetical anyway. It assumes the brass thinks we need a bigger bat. More of a “if we were going to do it, this is probably how it would happen.”

One problem in getting another big bat right now is how it affects the team after 2009. The positions we’d most likely want to improve now are 1B and/or corner OF. However, the problem there is that our two biggest prospects (both top 10 in MLB minor league player rankings) play 1B and corner OF (obviously, Freeman and Heyward). So, you have to be careful not to block their rise to the majors, which would presumably be (on a permanent basis) mid-2010, or 2011 at the latest. I would guess that the brass is thinking, “why waste prospects on a player who would only be in the way after this season?”

All the rumors appear to focus on the Braves seeking an “under-the-radar” reliever anyway. Sounds like we are looking for a RH set-up guy to take some innings from Moylan, which is much needed IMO.

Scott B

July 28th, 2009
12:11 pm

Jeff,
Ownership. The Atlanta Braves. Will you break it down for me? I know that Liberty Media owns the team, but who is the boss? How does the team operate within the framework of this organization? Just curious. I miss Ted, a lot, by the way. Those were the days.

Brendan

July 28th, 2009
12:22 pm

Spend!! Give Bobby Cox his swan song! One last Braves World Series appearance hangs in the balance!

Jeff Schultz

July 28th, 2009
12:39 pm

BT – Yes. Nats would have to throw in Nick Johnson too.

Scott – An educated guess: Braves (Wren/Schuerholz/McGuirk) probably present a general budget to Liberty Media, and Liberty approves it. Obviously they will not present a budget that they know will be rejected. If team wants to go over that budget (significantly), it then must be approved.

S.C. Smith

July 28th, 2009
12:55 pm

No way you trade any of the starting pitching except for K.K. but no one will take on his salary. No we don’t have a big bopper, but can’t think of any that are available. Stay with what we have, hope the bats stay hot. Even if we could make a deal like we did for Tex that doesn’t mean we will make the playoffs. We didn’t that year.
bring up Haywood & Freeman next year and let it roll.

bvillebaron

July 28th, 2009
12:59 pm

Creighton:

I think you are the guy who ate the last wing and drank the last beer!

midnite

July 28th, 2009
1:12 pm

At least we are better off with Liberty owning the team. Those penny pinching Time Warner bean counters were the worst, and looked at the team as a “non core asset”. I believe Liberty has allowed about 15-20 million increase in payroll since they purchased the Braves.

Creighton

July 28th, 2009
1:16 pm

What I think is so funny is that most of you people probably thought the Vazquez deal was horrible at the time the Braves made it in the offseason. Don’t lie; you people were screaming about his salary and the fact that Tyler Flowers was part of the deal. Not screaming so loud now, huh?

matt r

July 28th, 2009
1:25 pm

Scott B, as far as I know the left the same people “in charge” when they took over from AOL, McGuirk, Schuerholz, etc.

Arthur Blank, buy the Braves!!!

matt r

July 28th, 2009
1:27 pm

Good point midnite, they took us down to 80 mill a few years ago… I want to say 2005.

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

July 28th, 2009
1:32 pm

Creighton, totally agree that’s why it is ok to trade Vasquez now. If we get someone like Ethier, we are basically getting him for a catching prospect. As for blocking Heyward; he can’t play both right and left. By the way Hudson looked good last night. The four hits he gave up were ground ball hits.

MatthewH

July 28th, 2009
1:34 pm

I want to reiterate what midnite said at 11:14 about Adam Dunn. The Nats routinely pull Dunn in the late innings for a defensive replacement. As a matter of fact, the announcers make it a point to mention when he is NOT pulled. Do the Braves really need more outfield drama?!?

Hillbilly Deluxe

July 28th, 2009
1:49 pm

I’m not a Braves fan but I wouldn’t mortgage the future if I were them. Even though they haven’t admitted it, this is a rebuilding year. If they happen to squeak into the playoffs, good for them but it’s not the be all, end all. They’ve got a pretty good nucleus for the next couple years. A block-buster type deal would probably blow up in their face, so I’d just stand pat unless somebody offered me a ridiculously good offer. If they could pull off a Nate McLouth type trade or two this winter, they might be in a good position next year.

And face it, Albert Pujols ain’t going anywhere for anybody.

Greg Norton

July 28th, 2009
2:47 pm

Who would the Braves give up for RP Michael Wuertz?

Smooth

July 28th, 2009
2:49 pm

We must get rid of Norton, Bennett, Kelly Johnson, Jo Jo, Bring up Conrad, trade to Bucs for Freddy Sanchez.

Greg Norton

July 28th, 2009
2:52 pm

Smooth, we don’t really need another middle infielder like Sanchez, although he is a quality player.

Creighton

July 28th, 2009
3:01 pm

Between Johnson, Prado, Infante and Conrad, I don’t think we need Sanchez. Even if we trade 1 or 2 of those guys, I still don’t think we need him. I’d rather upgrade RP or OF/1B. Though I wouldn’t do anymore at OF/1B unless it is something big.

Atticus

July 28th, 2009
3:02 pm

I agree with you however you obviously haven’t listened to Wren the last few weeks. Maybe you are just reading between the lines or offering opinions but he has never said “we don’t have any budget”. I have heard him interviewed many times and he has said, he woul dtake on more budget if it make sense”

Maybe taking on Adam Dunn doesn’t make sense.

But here is the deal, to me the only moves that make sense are getting more power out of LF, RF or 1B and getting a middle reliever. They won’t trade Garret Anderson and I think they stand pat with Diaz and Church in RF because Heyward could play there next year. THey have KJ and Infante as fill ins. To me 1B is the position that would make sense. We have too many players that are similar but we could use some jack out of 1B. How much does Kotch make?

You think getting to a WS isn’t worth $8-12 mil????

If it’s not or they don’t think a power hitting 1B could make the difference, you sit tight, which is what I think they will do.

Josh M

July 28th, 2009
3:26 pm

Vasquez/Medlen/Johnson/prospect(s) for Adrian Gonzalez? Tell San Diego fans Vasquez is Mexican to keep them from rioting.

Sonny Clusters

July 28th, 2009
3:28 pm

“The Braves are in the same situation as most sports franchises right now. Sponsorships are down. Ticket sales are lagging. The only thing on the rise are discount nights. After years of being one of the top payroll teams in baseball, the Braves now are closer to the middle of the pack at $96.7 million (which ranks 11th). And that’s where they’re going to stay, folks.” – Jeff Schultz

We was thinking . . . can’t just make the paper narrower and the print smaller if you’re gonna take out some expense at the ballpark. That’s the way the AJC does it but it will never work in baseball. The basepaths have to be the same and I guess the only way to take out some expense would be to fire all the journalists, er, offer some buyouts to the players and let some of the deadwood go. Say, for instance . . . let Chipper go and Escobar can play the left side of the infield. He reaches a lot of stuff a good third baseman would get normally. Offer Chipper a buy-out. Option two: Replace him with Sonny Clusters. I will play for less than Chipper and we was state champion so I know what I am doing out there.

Supes

July 28th, 2009
3:31 pm

Jeff,

The Nats came out a few weeks ago and said that they ARE NOT trading Adam Dunn (which actually makes no sense, he’ll bolt after next season for the AL anyways. I gurantee he’ll be traded by next year’s deadline)

So that’s not really an option for the Braves.

Truth is, Braves have already added Nate McLouth (just did it early thank God), and addition by subtraction, getting rid of OUT MACHINE FRANCINE for a guy who gives you quality AB in Ryan Church. On top of that, inserting Prado in KJ’s position gives the braves far more stability as Martin gives you consistant hitting. Combine that with Garret Anderson’s professinal hitting and Escobar coming into his own, Braves will be fine.

Don’t forget we get an ACE pitcher back in 2-3 weeks, (it’s like adding a FA) and Omar Infante will be back as well, providing more depth.

Braves do not need any dramatic move. Just ride it out, get healthy (Hudson, Infante, Carlyle).

Moves will be made in the off-season.

me

July 28th, 2009
3:41 pm

Anyone think Conrad could play first? He seemed to have good hands at 2nd.

Herschel Talker

July 28th, 2009
3:56 pm

Adam Dunn strikes out too much.

Kelly Johnson and Greg Norton for Albert Pujols. I’d do it in a heartbeat. You can even throw in Jo Jo Reyes if that will get the deal done.

beachbrave

July 28th, 2009
4:08 pm

Really depressing! Understand the realities of the situation but still depressing. Finally in contention, at least in the standings, entering August and everyone is happy to stand pat. We have played the best ball of the season in the last few weeks, avoided serious injuries and still barely within striking distance. We know we have weaknesses and decide to hope for the best and wait for next year. Next year we may never be this close with all the better teams in the division having off years- at least thus far. We should seize the day and do everything within our power to at least get into the playoffs within whatever middle of the road budget we must work within. Understand that even if we should defy all logic and squeak into the playoffs, we can’t go anywhere with the team as currently structured. However, it appears we have truly accepted mediocrity when we agree that the Braves should do nothing. No, I don’t have any idea what specifically we should do, or could do, but guarantee that with the knowledge that our leadership possess about the league possibilities, an individual should be able to manage a little risk and try to do something to improve the team’s chances. Just so depressing. And I haven’t even had a single beer! Oh well, I’ll be cheering them on and hoping for the best just like the rest of you.

TSmiley7

July 28th, 2009
4:19 pm

Josh M- While that is hilarious, that is a terrible deal. Adrian Gonzalez is not worth tossing out a key starter considering the chances we make the post-season.

Kotchman haters- Casey has yet to make an error in the year he’s been a Brave. Plus if we dealt him, KJ would move back into the everyday 2B role because Prado would take over 1B.

Jeff- Why don’t we try to make a move for George Sherrill or Josh Willingham? Gonzo is way too inconsistent and blows 8th inning leads as if he’s trying to. Willingham would provide an everyday bat in RF/LF instead of switching back in forth between Diaz and Church or Diaz and Anderson based on the handedness of the pitcher. Willingham hits for power and average and hits well off both LHPs and RHPs. Why not make a small move for either of those guys including KJ and a minor leaguer?

Coach (2010 or Bust)

July 28th, 2009
5:29 pm

I think somebody should twitter Mark Bradley and tell the dork to read this…….

Jeff Schultz

July 28th, 2009
7:25 pm

Sonny Clusters – I keep waitin’ for the day when you don’t amaze me.

Supes – I know. But teams lie. Now, do I think Dunn is going to be traded? No. But it’s because nobody wants to take on that salary. Bottom line is you can never trust what a GM says before a draft or a trade deadline.

Herschel – A lot of Ks but 40 home runs a year.

Brooks Conrad | All Days Long

July 28th, 2009
10:09 pm

[...] Deadline (part II): Braves aren't going to bust budget | Jeff Schultz By Jeff Schultz Sure, he had a good year last year, but Brooks Conrad sure seemed to handle the pressures of pinch-hitting well enough to stay in Atlanta. Our two top pinch hitters now are Norton and Diory Hernandez? Link; Report this comment … Jeff Schultz – http://blogs.ajc.com/jeff-schultz-blog/ [...]