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.