Wren on Braves: ‘I think we’re better’ after moves

Braves general manager Frank Wren looks at the team's roster and sees improvement. (AJC photo/Curtis Compton)

Frank Wren understands the criticism but like his team. (AJC photo/Curtis Compton)

Frank Wren inherited a team once accustomed to postseasons. He has gone 0-for-2. It follows that while there are a lot of nice things that go with being the general manager of the Braves, one of them is not the benefit of the doubt.

The Braves are one month from the start of spring training. Wren’s winter roster makeover is pretty much complete after last week’s signing of Eric Hinske. We hear crickets.

Outgoing: Javier Vazquez, Rafael Soriano, Mike Gonzalez, Adam Laroche, Kelly Johnson, Ryan Church.

Incoming: Billy Wagner, Takashi Saito, Melky Cabrera, Michael Dunn, prospect Arodys Vizcaino, Troy Glaus, Eric Hinske.

Elsewhere in the National League East: Philadelphia acquires pitcher Roy Halladay. New York signs outfielder Jason Bay.

New Braves first baseman Troy Glaus played only XX games last season.

New Braves first baseman Troy Glaus played in only 14 games with St. Louis last season because of a shoulder injury. (AJC photo/Phil Skinner).

Put it this way: Even if Wren had 14 division titles, five pennants and a World Series on his resume like his predecessor, John Schuerholz, people would still be slapping their foreheads in unison and going, “Huh?”

Wren understands this. But he’ll also tell you, “We think we’re way ahead of where we were a year ago at this time.”

And ahead of where the Braves were at the end of the 2009 season?

“Yes,” he said. “I think we’re better.”

Clip and save.

If the Braves turn out to be better in 2010 than in 2009, when they jumped from 72 to 86 wins but missed the playoffs for the fourth straight season, it will be because reclamation projects like Glaus and Wagner ran like refurbished classics and every one of Wren’s low-budget pickups like Cabrera, Saito and Hinske turned into players of significance.

But are those the questions you want to be asking yourself right now?

“I can’t control that,” Wren said when asked about the skeptics. “We’ve got good baseball people in this organization and we feel good about this group of players. I can’t get caught up in the media perception of what we’ve done to this point. The proof’s going to be when we take the field.”

The Braves tried to deal Derek Lowe. There was little interest because of his contract. The market for Vazquez also wasn’t tremendous, despite his great season. Still Wren defends the package of players he got from the Yankees (Cabrera, Dunn, Vizcaino).

He was forced to trade Lowe or Vazquez, of course, because he made the decision to re-sign Tim Hudson to a three-year extension, a decision he doesn’t regret.

“He’s clearly been a better pitcher than the other guys.”

Fans want to be wowed. That’s just not happening any more with the Braves. They don’t have the budget. They’re at about a $90 million payroll, and Wren said, “We feel fortunate where we are. That’s still pretty good, especially with declining attendance. We’re not a three million attendance club, which would allow us to do more.”

Glaus, once a solid 30-to-40 home run hitter, is coming off a major shoulder injury. (”It’s a calculated gamble,” Wren said.)

Wagner is not long removed from elbow surgery.

Cabrera is a career .269 hitter.

It’s like renovating with change from under the couch cushions. Still, that’s Wren’s responsibility. If these changes get the Braves back to the postseason, he should be lauded. But he says he’s not bothered by the early criticism.

“Roll it back a year ago – there wasn’t a whole lot of fanfare when we traded for Vazquez,” he said. “Two years ago, there’s wasn’t a lot of fanfare for Jair Jurrjens. People said, ‘Jair who?’ I’m looking forward to spring training. I think fans will warm up to this team.”

Maybe Jason Heyward makes the club out of spring training and covers up for the team’s deficiencies. Maybe Jordan Schafer rebounds. Maybe a rotation with Hudson, Jurrjens, Lowe and Tommy Hanson will win enough games on their own.

But if people aren’t just assuming success, Wren understands why.

312 comments Add your comment

Dalton

January 10th, 2010
5:41 pm

Reid Adair

January 10th, 2010
5:42 pm

Oh my goodness. I would say that I am surprised Frank Wren made such an absurd statement, but I’m not.

The pitching staff hasn’t improved. Losing Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez for Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito has downgraded the pitching, in my opinion.

Troy Glaus and Eric Hinske are, at best, question marks. If they are healthy, they are certainly past their respective primes.

I won’t even get started on Melky Cabrera.

Mike

January 10th, 2010
5:43 pm

Is he is high?

Dalton

January 10th, 2010
5:44 pm

Jeff, what is your predicted lineup for opening day?

Leo

January 10th, 2010
5:46 pm

Let’s keep ouf fingers crossed on these new gambles.

Far Away From Home Dawg

January 10th, 2010
5:47 pm

This guy is SO praying that Jason Heyward is going to make a big splash in May/June or earlier (he just might) … I am afraid the Braves might need the splash more at first though … Alas, no A. Gonzalez in sight :(

matt-t

January 10th, 2010
5:51 pm

They are better this year than last, I agree. Last year, no huddy, kotchman was the 1b, frenchy was a black hole in RF, Tommy Hanson wasn’t up yet.

If Glaus is healthy, this team will finish 1 or 2 in the division, 1-5 the rotation is better than PHilly.

Dalton

January 10th, 2010
5:52 pm

Chipper has monster year at plate with Glaus smashing HRs behind him.

Billy Martin

January 10th, 2010
5:56 pm

Of course Wren thinks they are better. What do you expect him to say..”I screwed up making these moves. I never should have traded Vasquez. I am in over my head and just a fall guy for John S.”

Goldenglove002

January 10th, 2010
5:57 pm

I think FW got a very good package for in return for Javy. The max value of him atleast. However the question with that deal was the neccesitty of it and if moving Javy was smart. I also wonder if there was ever any chance at Swisher instead of Melkey. Guess we’ll never know the answer to that.

Also, is that the only picture on file at the AJC of Frank Wren?

raymond

January 10th, 2010
5:57 pm

Chipper is through, Glaus and Wagner will be on the DL by July and we will be no better than 3rd. Maybe chipper will have a bad enough season that he will leave with Cox and we can finally move on.

stew

January 10th, 2010
5:58 pm

Wagner and Saito for Gonzo and Soriano is a downgrade. Glaus for LaRoche is a downgrade. Lowe or Kawakami for Vasquez is a downgrade. There’s no righty bat in LF. How are we better? I say trade about 5 guys for Ryan Braun. Then we’ll be better.

Frank's wife

January 10th, 2010
5:58 pm

Frank, How in the name of keith Lockhart can you not get more than Melky Cabrera and a couple of minor leaguers for a 15 game winner. You got played by a real GM…Now go run me a bubble bath….idiot

Dalton

January 10th, 2010
6:02 pm

No, stew, Glaus and Hinske for LaRoche is an upgrade. Especially the first half of the season, when LaRoche is still asleep.

beau vighn

January 10th, 2010
6:03 pm

I just can’t see the Braves being much better than 3rd this year. Thats a big if. I am so pissed off at management right now. For whatever reason, someone has destroyed a great franchise. I can’t justify spending the amount of dollars it cost to go to a game to watch sub standard baseball. I’m sick of this crap….

"Chef" Tim Dix

January 10th, 2010
6:05 pm

FW looks like JJ Dillion introducing a new horseman in the picture above.

Just saying.

beau vighn

January 10th, 2010
6:08 pm

Why are we not a player for one of these Cubans…When Ted was writing the checks we never let money stand in the way of putting together a good competitive team. Now we are just a heading on a business ledger in Colorado.

Trey

January 10th, 2010
6:09 pm

Unfortunately this is all we got, hopefully we will be better.

bass stringerfish

January 10th, 2010
6:14 pm

Have we already forgotten that we were in the playoff hunt with just a few games to go last year? Tommy Hanson nor Tim Hudson were in the rotation until after the second half and later…one has to believe that these two guys alone get us 5-6 more wins over the course of the year at worse. Derek Lowe had an off season, (which is saying something for a guy who won 15 games). His past history tells us that we need to give him the benefit of the doubt at least for this kupcoming season. are we throwing away 2010’s season for Chipper too? Seems to me Hoss was off a bit in 2009 as well. Which, by the way, a rebound from him picks up some of that power, as does the imporvement for a whole season of McCann’s eye sight issues. I am not sure Melkey is with us on opening day, but look beyond that, those two pitcher we picked up are high ceiling guys. Look it up. Troy Glaus has something to prove. Working on a one year contract moving into un restricted free agency…come on…if you throw away his opportunity to hit 30 HR’s, then – again, you throw away any thought of Hudson, Chipper and Lowe having better seasons too. IF that all does come to pass, then yes we are in trouble. But to not be excited about what is ahead of us…come on…stop being so half empty for a change…I am looking forward to it myself and if I am by myself in thinking this way. So be it.

ct

January 10th, 2010
6:14 pm

We are so far behind the Phillies, but maybe we can contend for a WC. They have Halladay Hamels and Happ 1-3, and a murderers row lineup that is impossible to shut down…at least the Mutts still suck..

TampaGator

January 10th, 2010
6:16 pm

A lot depends on Heyward. If he makes the team as the starting RF and does well, then having Milky in LF will be good. If Heyward flops, then the Braves are in big trouble. The bullpen will be good to OK. The starting pitching is up there with anyone in the East. Scary to think the Braves season rides on the success of a rookie RF…but it does, I think.

TampaGator

January 10th, 2010
6:17 pm

….but Philly runs away with the East. The best to hope for is a wild card berth and a short life in the playoffs.

Mike McDonald

January 10th, 2010
6:18 pm

“If we drew 3 million … ” If the Braves were better managed from the top this would have been achieved over the past decade. Terry McGuirk has been a bozo from the get-go. Management, marketing, financial accountability and personnel selection are woefully inadequate and until this is corrected, the Braves will continue to be also-rans.

Snoop Clarky Clark

January 10th, 2010
6:20 pm

WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY did we get rid of Vazquez??

Joe B.

January 10th, 2010
6:21 pm

If he wants to be a 3 million attendance club, bringing in this bunch of scrubs is not the way to do it.

Attendance will fall off the map this season. How the hell can Wren sit there and try to sell this bullsh*t with a straight face?

He cannot really believe what he is saying, right? Right?

I mean, this team is garbage. Even if Chipper returns to form, this lineup has no power. We added Melky friggin Cabrera, a guy known to have NO POWER.

I am saddened by the demise of the franchise, but growing up in the 80’s, I guess we are really just returning to the norm. I wish Ted would quit worrying about bison and buy the team back. They are an absolute tire fire right now.

If someone had said to me 6 years ago that the Hawks and Falcons would be on their way to becoming first class organizations and that the Braves were a total trainwreck, I would have fallen on the floor laughing, but now it has come to pass.

Oh well. Maybe Hanson and Jurrgens will do well enough that we can trade them off for some 18 year prospects. The Braves are now a AAAA club, just like the Kansas City Royals.

Andy

January 10th, 2010
6:22 pm

The lineup can only be better since there is no KJ, Frenchy, Schafer, or Loaf in there killing rallies. The defense was downgraded. The rotation and bullpens were downgraded. With all that said, I do think we can finish with more wins than last season, IF the guys that we have now stay healthy. There are too many question marks on this team, health and agewise, to consider this team a contender. Bobby Cox as manager certainly doesn’t help.

Reptillicide

January 10th, 2010
6:25 pm

In less than 3 years, Wren has run this ship aground. I just hope that he’s not around long enough to trade away Tommy Hanson or Jason Heyward.

And I’m seriously insulted as a longtime fan that Wren expects me to believe that he really thinks that we are better off now than we were last season.

Reptillicide

January 10th, 2010
6:26 pm

Thinking about how far we are from making the playoffs, as compared to when Wren took over, is very depressing.

Unfortunately, there’s nobody in charge that gives a sh*t. We’re stuck with Wren.

Braves K

January 10th, 2010
6:27 pm

Is this how true fans react to a perfectly logical offseason strategy? Wren cannot control what the boys above him allow to spend. Honestly, looking at our lineup/rotation, how can you say this is a ‘ruined’ franchise? As for the other teams in the NL East, the entire Mets team is a gamble, and you can’t say our rotation doesn’t own Philadelphia’s.Now get off your keyboard-bashing, buy your tickets, get in your seats, and cheer the boys on. Damn.

beau vighn

January 10th, 2010
6:27 pm

So, we are to put the success of this season on a kid who has played only half a year in AAA. Heyward is not Joe Freakin’ DiMaggio..All I hear is what if’s with this organization. What if we try to bring in some bona fide major league talent to help Chipper and Mac then we might put some more butts in the seats.

Braves fan since '66

January 10th, 2010
6:29 pm

I like playing with the Braves 2010 lineup…barring injury. McClouth, Escobar, Jones, Glaus, McCann, Cabrera, Diaz and then Prado…or some other combination. Pretty good vs. last year. Starting 5 with Lowe as #5 is pretty darn good. The bench is much improved and the relievers are about the same as last year. Heyward, Freeman and Schafer are wild cards. I think Wren is doing a pretty good job with a $90 million payroll. With all that said, I wish Mr. Blank would buy the Braves. The current owners are losers in my book.

Chipper

January 10th, 2010
6:30 pm

If you want changes, stop crying and go to the park, What’s this crap were you all are saying you dont want to pay ticket prices for substandard baseball. No on showed when we were winning 100 games and going to the playoffs. FW is doing the best he can for what he has got to work with. If all the crybabies on here would shut up and go to the park and help make us part of the 3 miilion fan club, we might be able to get a gonz or uggla.

Frank

January 10th, 2010
6:31 pm

That John S. really got my arse didn’t he. I should have know better. I take the heat and he sits up in that corner office adjusting those suspenders. That guy is slicker that goose crap. Hey guys my hands are tied. Johnny boy is the real culprit. Blame him. I’m just the fall guy.

Bry22

January 10th, 2010
6:31 pm

Wren is an F’in liar!!!

ccrider

January 10th, 2010
6:31 pm

Jeff; It’s a shame that all of these morons calling out Frank Wren for doing a his job, will be the same ones saying: “I knew Glaus would hit 30 bombs, Lowe would rebound and outpitch Vazquez, Cabrera would hit in the clutch, Wagner and Saito Would be money Etc.
Wren has done the best he could do with the payroll he had. It is a more risky group of players, but their track records are better: Wagner than Soriano, Saito than Gonzalez, Glaus than Kotchman or Laroche. It may take a lot of things to go right: Heyward breaking out, Lowe and Chipper rebounding, Wagner, Saito , Glaus staying healthy. But other than the Phillies, Who have a some problems: Lidge and the bullpen, Lack of depth in the rotation, will Hamels and Rollins rebound, every team in the division and National League has their problems as well.
The Mets, for one example, can Beltran, Delgado, Reyes rebound to what they were, Is Santana injured or just had a mediocre year, they rotation is a shambles, Can David Wright hit at Citi Field or will he become the Mets version of Jeff Franceour, Can they get a setup guy for Franky Rodriguez, can they fill out the bullpen with competent relievers?
Get a Grip Fans, even the Red Sox only have an outfield of Ellsbury, Cameron and JD Drew: not exactly murdersrow
Every team has questions; Even the Yankees, Posada, Rivera, Jeter, Pettitte are getting old, they lost Matsui and Damon, will Chamberlain or be a top startert even a good 5th starter, can Granderson perform under the pressure of playing with the Yankees?
The only difference between the Braves and others are the risks are slightly longer.

Bruce

January 10th, 2010
6:33 pm

Like I said before, no power hitting outfielder this yr. If we do go with the rookie outfielder I think it will be more of the same that we got with that can’t miss player in center field last yr.

Declining Interest

January 10th, 2010
6:33 pm

Wren is fighting a losing battle. Braves have been out of title hunt since 1996. Remember, they lost the last 8 world series games they played. Any competition they showed in 2000’s was fading. All the while, atl rewarded these division titles combined with 1st round exits like braves discovered gold. This team has been a mess for awhile and will not have a chance of improving until “mr passive” bobby cox is gone at year end. No chance they have strong finish this year.

Sweet Home Alabama

January 10th, 2010
6:36 pm

wren will this nightmare end?

uberVU - social comments

January 10th, 2010
6:36 pm

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by JeffSchultzAJC: We interrupt this def. coord. hysteria for this. Frank Wren says #Braves “will be better” because of moves. Really? http://bit.ly/5jXWAs…

willie martinez

January 10th, 2010
6:37 pm

from my point of view, i’m most worried about the braves’ defense.

Atlanta Dawg

January 10th, 2010
6:37 pm

wow. I’m really amazed at the comments here. Everyone hating on Frank Wren must realize he is doing what he can with the payroll he is given. Everyone forgets the purse strings are held by a corporation that could give 2 s***s about the team. This team is better than last years team. Everyone forgets that we have removed 2 black holes in the line up with Jeff and Kelly have 5 solid starters to start the season. Last year they had 4. this team, baring injuries will be 10 games better than last year. may not win the division, but they will be in the hunt for the playoffs. As a true Braves fan, I will be one of those 3 million that will pay to see this team play because I am a true fan and want to see this team succeed. how can you all write this team off before the first pitch of spring training?

jaker

January 10th, 2010
6:40 pm

“Thinking about how far we are from making the playoffs, as compared to when Wren took over, is very depressing.”

I am sorry, but please remind about how “close” we were to the playoffs before Wren took over.

Rick

January 10th, 2010
6:41 pm

I will wait a while before drinking this KOOLAID….

jaker

January 10th, 2010
6:43 pm

Look, I will stick up for Wren and have, but this whole deal about a limted payroll, I am sorry, but our payroll aint that bad and to his credit I think Wren feels that he is not hamstrung and can ultimately put together quality teams year after year.

Jfreak

January 10th, 2010
6:46 pm

I feel good about this team because they will have great starting pitching which will keep them in MOST games. With that said I don’t think Cox makes good decisions late in games with pinch hitting or the bullpen. The Braves offense will be middle of the road if everyone plays well and their defense will be a problem with Glaus and Chipper at the corners. Did I say I feel good about this team? Yes!

I think they will contend for the wildcard because of starting pitching. If some we get solid play from Glaus and Chipper and Heyward gets a shot I think we can do just enough to be there at the end of the season. Once you get in the playoffs pitching can win series!

country boy

January 10th, 2010
6:47 pm

Frank’s wife said it best with the 5:58 post. But no matter, with Bobby in charge he will no doubt burden with us with playing one of his favorites for too long. Last year it was Shaeffer, Kelly J., and unproductive Francour. This year will not be different.

jaker

January 10th, 2010
6:48 pm

ccrider, great post, but maybe a bit too realistic for some.

braves70

January 10th, 2010
6:48 pm

The Braves new motto under Wrong-Way Wren?

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.”

Seems like this is the Braves current philosophy of taking in players too broken down to play for other teams. Oh well, after 2010, Frankie should have the same pink slip waiting for him that he got in Baltimore.

Asheville Dawg

January 10th, 2010
6:49 pm

I think the batting order will be C+ at best. At least Kelly Johnson and Craig Norton are gone! Jeff, Norton is gone right, right. I can not watch another Norton at bat. Looks to me like Jurgens, Hudson, Hanson and pray for rain. No pop in this years lineup either. In summation, all these first round NFL playoff games have been one sided blowouts, hope next weekends will be closer. These have been snooze city.

Stuart

January 10th, 2010
6:52 pm

The entire problem started with Wren signing Lowe last year. That boat anchor cost us the opportunity to keep Vazquez or spend that $15 on a right handed power bat. What GM in their right mind gives a junk ball pitcher in his mid 30s a 4-year $60 million deal?? Lowe lost a couple miles per hour last year and with it his effectiveness. 2/3 of his starts last year were giveaways, particularly the 2nd half of the season. The deal Wren made with Lowe was so bad that noone even returned his call when he tried to dump him. Look at the bright side tho, Braves fans. Wren isn’t the biggest idiot in town long as Don “I’ve got a 5-year plan to get into the playoffs” Waddell still has a Georgia address. Going on 10 years of disaster and that idiot still has a job. Can someone explain THAT one to me?