Message heard: Welcome to the 2010 season

See this flag? It's not that the Braves don't want another one. It's just not Frank Wren's highest priority right now. (AJC photo)

Two years ago at this time, when the Braves were coming off a non-playoff season and so many of us believed it had to be some aberration, the team’s front office had a similar delusion.

“We thought, ‘This is our opportunity. We have the assets to get arguably the best offensive player in the game — let’s make it happen, let’s go for it,” Frank Wren recalled of the Mark Teixeira trade. “Obviously, things didn’t work out.”

The ripple effects of that deal — five prospects for a star first baseman who led them to third- and fourth-place finishes — were still being felt Friday.

This was Wren’s second trade deadline as general manager since taking over for John Schuerholz (who pushed the button on the Teixeira deal). At no time has he been tempted to repeat an all-or-nothing deal.

He showed it by his actions this week. He confirmed it with his words.

Wren hasn’t given up on 2009. But 2010 ranks as a higher priority.

Whether you agree with that position, just don’t expect the message to come through during ticket commercials.

“There are times when you say, ‘We’re going all in,” Wren said. “This isn’t one of those times. We’re not at that point right now.”

Casey Kotchman for Adam LaRoche. It’s the trade that didn’t move mountains. It may or may not move the Braves in the standings.

In short, the Braves reacquired LaRoche more for his past than his present. He has a little more power than Kotchman and a history of getting hot in the second half. That’s nice, but it doesn’t mean he’s a better player today. Fact is, right now he’s not. He has more home runs (13-6) than Kotchman, but he’s hitting a career-low .248, which is 34 points less than Kotchman (.282). (In the past 22 games, Kotchman also was hitting .333 with four homers, 13 RBI and a .528 slugging percentage). Defensively, they’re a push.

If you reacted to this trade with a shrug, Wren understands. It’s a little roll of the dice.

“We’re banking on what [LaRoche] has done before,” he said. “We’ve got to find power where we can get it because we don’t have that stereotypical home-run hitter.”

The 2009 playoff hopes are not dead. They’re just kind of caught in traffic, and October may start without them. It’s a seven-team wild-card, pileup, and these things are impossible to predict.

This is when it’s difficult to be a general manager. The competitive side of you says, “Do something. Win now.” The other side says, “Sit on your hands. Be patient.”

Two weeks ago, Chipper Jones said that while it was clear the front office had made improvements to the roster,  “we’ve got our eyes toward next year and the year after, and whatever comes this year is gravy.”

Wren has never hid from that perception.

“I think we’ve been pretty clear about that, even going back to spring training: We think our best days are ahead,” he said. “The level of talent we have in the minor-league system and [the talent] we have that’s getting close, is going to improve our club. Whether it’s in 2010 or 2011, we think we’re going to be better. To that end, those players that we’ve identified who are part of that improvement process, we’re not going to trade — even if it’s to improve this year and make us a few games better.”

They demoted the rookie center fielder, Jordan Schafer, because he showed he wasn’t ready. They traded the right fielder, Jeff Francoeur, because they didn’t think he ever would recover, and they weren’t about to give him a raise after the season. Martin Prado for Kelly Johnson — that was just manna from heaven.

But those changes were about trying to salvage the season, not elevating it to something special.

They tried that two years ago. Didn’t work.

191 comments Add your comment

Steve Carter

July 31st, 2009
8:44 pm

I remember when the Braves were like this year’s Washington Nationals…any hint of a playoff race is fun for me.

Steve Carter

July 31st, 2009
8:44 pm

can’t believe I am first :-)

Jeff Schultz

July 31st, 2009
8:51 pm

Steve — you’ll be getting your certificate in the mail in four-to-six weeks. :)

"Chef" Tim Dix

July 31st, 2009
8:57 pm

Made it thru the deadline with pitching stacked up like cord wood. Pay roll could actually go down next year and the team be 20 games better.

"Chef" Tim Dix

July 31st, 2009
8:59 pm

And if they save some money, for goodness sakes can they get Tommy Hanson a uni that fits?

"Chef" Tim Dix

July 31st, 2009
9:03 pm

I mean he looks like he is wearing a sack full of cats.

"Chef" Tim Dix

July 31st, 2009
9:04 pm

Four consecutive post!

"Chef" Tim Dix

July 31st, 2009
9:05 pm

With six do I get an egg roll?

Jeff Schultz

July 31st, 2009
9:15 pm

“Chef” — Don’t know about eggroll but you get my unwavering gratitude. … And I’ll check with Hanson about his uni.

richbrave

July 31st, 2009
9:28 pm

JEFF:

You and I postulated about the possibilities of the BRAVES’ participation in October festivities before I went on vacation. Then the BRAVES got hot, while I was away in the sunny CARIBBEAN. Now they seem to be settling back into the June mode. I’m still of the mind that they miss this year. but will be more formidable in 2010. Are you still with me?

Sonny Clusters

July 31st, 2009
9:30 pm

We was glad Adam came back to the team because he is a hunter and will go huntin’ with Chipper and keep Chipper fit from walking around huntin’ little animals to kill. Jeff, have you ever been huntin’ with them?

Jeff Schultz

July 31st, 2009
9:39 pm

RichBrave — I am with you. Obviously we have to see what changes are made this winter. But I do feel good about 2010.

Sonny — I’m not a huntin’ type. But if Frenchy asked me to go huntin’ with him like I’m sure he did in old days with you, I would go. I will bring the Yoo-hoos.

Chris

July 31st, 2009
9:40 pm

Jeff,

I am very happy to see that my inadvertently “repeated” morning questions were the basis of an evening column!

:)

j brave

July 31st, 2009
9:46 pm

well, the white flag is out.

j brave

July 31st, 2009
9:47 pm

it took half a season to get rid of two .250 hitters and one day to and another.

j brave

July 31st, 2009
9:49 pm

what was it that cost wren his last gm job?

Bad Beat

July 31st, 2009
9:51 pm

LaRoche’s swing has more holes than swiss cheese at a firing range.

moboman

July 31st, 2009
10:04 pm

What was this about? what a horrible move. We gave up something and got back the nothing we got rid of once already. Didnt take Boston long to figure him out. Bad move Frank.

Ken Stallings

July 31st, 2009
10:07 pm

I like this trade. But for the reasons you listed the first reason is because we’re not loading the truck with the farm talent and shipping it elsewhere.

However, I think LaRouche can help this year. Kotchman was a good glove but too often his mental game was lacking. His boner failing to cover first on a clear grounder to second in last night’s game at Florida was the latest example of many.

The Braves are not but a few games out of the wildcard chase. So, even if the Phillies sprint to the finish, the Braves still have a shot. If they make the playoffs they can be a dangerous team.

However, I like the chemistry for 2010. Evidence is that for the last two seasons the Braves have made steady if small improvement. If next off season the Braves can land a power hitter at first base then it might put them over the top. Move Kawakami to the bullpen and give me a starting rotation of Vasquez, Hanson, Hudson, Lowe, and Jurjenns and I think the Braves can win the division.

I’m willing to be patient if necessary to see that happen.

Sonny Clusters

July 31st, 2009
10:10 pm

Like Mrs. Cleaver used to say, “Ward, don’t be so hard on the Beaver.” Why is everybody so hard on LaRoche? It ain’t his fault that Norton and KJ and them are Bobby’s favorites like him. Take all three and try to get a runner in from 3rd and that runner will still be standing there long after them boys have gone home to go huntin’. Jeff, YooHoos is a Yankee drink from up in New Jersey. When we was playing ball together and huntin’ we would go down to the Dairy Queen for a Mister Misty. My favorite was the blueberry but it turned my mouth a funny color. Jeff always liked fruity drinks and would sometimes wear his special hitting underpants when he drank ‘em.

Last Cracker in East Point

July 31st, 2009
10:11 pm

I wish the Braves would sign more Eskimos. They are an underappreciated segment of the baseball population.

Sonny Clusters

July 31st, 2009
10:12 pm

They was lucky underpants but Jeff called ‘em his hittin’ pants. Coach told us to just leave him alone.

pete nose

July 31st, 2009
10:15 pm

Call the extermator the roach is back.

Larry Orange

July 31st, 2009
10:17 pm

Well, somebody forgot to hide the phone from Frank again and he goes and makes a trade just to make one. Kotchman had just started to hit when ,boom, Wren strikes again. Has anybody noticed that Franceur is hitting over .300? Im still scratching my head on this deal ? 2010?

kcob95

July 31st, 2009
10:27 pm

If I’m correct, isn’t Laroche’s contract up this year? That would free up some cash along with the movement of Garret Anderson, Kelly Johnson, and Matt Diaz. I really think we do much better that diaz and Johnson. As for Garret Anderson, well he is a professional hitter, but I don’t think he will stick around as he’s shown that he has something left in the tank. I believe he will move back to the AL.

kcob95

July 31st, 2009
10:28 pm

If Kelly Johnson’s error against Florida was not enough of a reason to send him down or get rid of him, then bobby and wren should have their heads examined by PETA.

Techfan

July 31st, 2009
10:31 pm

This trade was made cause Adam is in the last year of his contract and Casey had 2 more years left! The Braves are betting on Freeman being ready next year , so that is why this move was made!

moboman

July 31st, 2009
10:34 pm

“Kotchman was a good glove but too often his mental game was lacking. His boner failing to cover first on a clear grounder to second in last night’s game at Florida was the latest example of many.”
Laroche has no mental game, and that error was not Kotchmans, it was the pitchers for not being at first.

LAC

July 31st, 2009
10:34 pm

Why does this town have the WORST GM’s in pro sports ?

wren is a complete joke, don waddell should have been gone in 2002 and the hawks guy is another clown… Why do we put up with guys like this ?

Larry Orange

July 31st, 2009
10:37 pm

LaRoche’s contract is up this year, but was Kotchman’s? Im still not understanding this? I see they got shut out on a three-hitter.

Yunel Asscobar

July 31st, 2009
10:39 pm

I like this trade because LaRoche likes me. He knows what a great player I am. I like Jeff’s lucky underpants; they fit me real nice. Before he was traded, he would let me wear them. We would switch during the 7th inning stretch. I have more rbi in his lucky underpants than in my own. I always play great, but even play better wearing Jeff’s underpants. I wouldn’t have missed the hit and run sign a couple of weeks ago, if I had been wearing his underpants. I like hunters too. I llke Yoo-hoos. Martin Prado and I play Yoo-Hoo every night night after the game.

what goes around

July 31st, 2009
10:40 pm

Braves will be back in the thick of it next year. Sign one big power hitter in the off season(the money should be there). Give Heyward and Freeman a shot and look out.
Starting rotation will be as good as any in majors. That rotation is what will keep us in the wild card race this year.

Jeff Schultz

July 31st, 2009
10:53 pm

Chris — You have assignment editor potential.

Kcob95, Larry –I think Kotchman has two years left but reconfirm with DOB. There’s no guarantee LaRoche will be back either since his contract’s up and he makes pretty big money right now (7 mill)

Reid Adair

July 31st, 2009
10:54 pm

Banking on what LaRoche has done in the past? Good grief, Jeff. You did more research comparing LaRoche now to LaRoche then.

This is not a noticeable improvement at all. But, with Frank Wren, I really am not surprised.

MOOKSTER

July 31st, 2009
10:55 pm

JIM POWELL IS A MORON… FOR AN INNING YESTERDAY POWELL TOLD U WHAT A GENIUS WREN IS… ALL THE MOVES HE DIDN’T MAKE AND ALL THE MOVES HE MADE… GREAT… THE GENIUS CREATED A .500 CLUB… WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF BUILDING A .500 TEAM? GUT THE ENTIRE TEAM WITH THE EXCEPTION OF TOMMY HANSON AND BRIAN McCANN AND START OVER…HOPEFULLY IF HE IS THE GENIUS THAT POWELL TOLD US THAT WREN IS… IN 3 OR 4 YEARS THEY WILL BE RELOADED…

Yunel Asscobar

July 31st, 2009
11:02 pm

I am conflicted. I generally don’t like bloggers who type in CAPS, but I agree with Mookster – Powell is a moron. Through in Chip Carey and you have two morons; or is it moroni? Moroney? They don’t talk about my great plays enough. Like Eskimos, I too, feel underappreciated.

Jeff Schultz

July 31st, 2009
11:20 pm

Mookster — I didn’t hear the commentary so I won’t make a judgment one way or the other. But I’m sure you know that team broadcasters generally are going to side with the team. They’re either paid directly by the team or they’re paid by the station who is a business partner of the team, which is almost the same thing.

todd

July 31st, 2009
11:32 pm

LaRoche has to be an improvement over the choker Kotchman. Now if they would get rid of auto-out Johnson and bring up Conrad we might have a chance at respectability. Norton needs to find another line of work also.

jim

July 31st, 2009
11:39 pm

Jeff Schulz, Wren traded Renteria for Jurrjens.

Johnny DangerDawg

August 1st, 2009
12:00 am

Jeff,
How is this move going to help the Braves in 2010? They traded a decent 1st basemen for a guy who will probably play elsewhere in 2010. Do you think the Braves are planning to go after a more talented (and more expensive) free agent 1st basemen this winter? Were they worried about Kotchman’s 2010 durability?

andrewknight

August 1st, 2009
12:24 am

Hey–let’s do something, anything that shows the fans that we are doing more than boiling peanuts during office hours…to keep the 4-5k walk up crowd interested, Wren does a trade to appease a few buddies in Beantown and little else…this move is simply uninspiring.

Money

August 1st, 2009
12:35 am

This is all about money. If the Braves weren’t so cheap, we would have Tex, or another big name player similar. The highest paid Brave gets 15 mil a year. Even Todd Helton makes more than that. If the Braves want power, they need to loosin up the wallet.

scottbravesfan

August 1st, 2009
12:42 am

Braves are still going to win the wild card. The Giants and Rockies aren’t that good. The Braves just need to get everyone healthy. Now Yunel and Prado are out. The Kotchman trade was just to clear a spot for Freedie Freeman to start the year at 1st.

scottbravesfan

August 1st, 2009
12:43 am

Johnny Dangerdog,

I assume you have internet access, go to Google, type in Freddie Freeman. He’ll be our first baseman next year.

PMC

August 1st, 2009
1:11 am

Frank Wren has done a hell of a job. He can’t win games. He can only within the parameters of the budget set out to put the best team the budget can afford out on the field. The budget is set by the owner. He moved mountains to rebuild a broken down aging pitching staff last off season. Mission accomplished. Fairly average bullpen and lineup but it’s more cost effective to scout the right players then you can build a team that looks much more like the Phillies and much less like the Yankees who spend more time gettting it wrong than getting it right.

The Phillies built thier roster up over several years and were rewarded last year with a title. Frank Wren needs and deserves patience. Of course there are holes. Chipper can’t play at a high level forever, Johnson is a trainwreck in the field at 2nd base. 1st is a project. The outfield is a mess right now. At least one closer will leave in FA and the rest of the bullpen is wretched at times. All this can be fixed just not at one time or in one year. He’s made decent moves so far but there are precious few superstars on this team and you can’t win without them. The only way to realistically get them on your team and make title runs is to draft them and that takes time to get them ready for the majors. We have to be patient with this team like all the other teams in town. He’s done quite a good job as GM thus far and they do have a better than average scouting department, I just wish we could steal a few of the brilliant minds that scout for the Marlins.

Fred Claus

August 1st, 2009
1:34 am

FF will not be ready in 2010 not even in September. He is a year behind Heyward in terms of polish.

He is a raw player who will spend the whole season in AAA next year.

So what will they Braves do in 2010 at 1B. LaRoche would be a horrific mistake b/c he will MIA until late July with his bat.

Wren has an eye towards 2011 but he isn’t going to say that now. Prepare for .500 baseball next year with one of Hudson or Vaz gone by this December.

Johnny DangerDawg

August 1st, 2009
1:51 am

scottbravesfan,
Thanks for the info. The web seems to support Fred Claus’s claims the FF won’t be ready until 2011. Even if FF does turn out to be ready for the Braves in 2010, why not keep Kotchman for now and trade him after this season for some prospects (which might eventually help the Braves) instead of trading for LaRoche (whose contract is about to expire)?

AKT163

August 1st, 2009
1:56 am

Jeff, It’s unlikely that the Braves will keep LaRoche around next year. Do you think they plan on bringing up Freddie Freeman next year or do you think they’ll have Barbaro Canizares be the first baseman till Freeman is ready?

Coach (2010 or Bust)

August 1st, 2009
2:13 am

When I heard about this trade I was watching the ML baseball channel and those guys were making fun of it. I can’t say I blame them as LaRoche was the guy we started with in the first place before the Teixeira debacle went down.

Personally, I’m just shaking my head in disbelief. If anybody thinks this swap of first basemen is gonna make the Braves any better, you are sadly in need of professional medical help. Kotchman for LaRoche is a wash, nothing more.

Michael

August 1st, 2009
2:29 am

I swear, the Braves have become like watching Richie Rich work his money on all the attractive girls while you’re trying to save up for some nice gift for just one on your $10/hour salary. When will an actual person buy this team again so we don’t have to see salary dump after salary dump?

This is especially insulting after trading Francoeur away. Since the trade, he’s hitting .288 with a few dingers and a bunch of RBIs. Ryan Church is hitting .222. Oh, and the Braves gave the Mets money to balance salaries. After that stupid move, you bring in a guy with a worse average than Francoeur and hope he gets hot?

Maybe it’s just me, but management needs a little cleaning up.