So I listened to Braves general manager Frank Wren on 790 The Zone Wednesday morning, hearing him touch on many of the same themes he said two weeks ago when I spoke to him about the team’s offseason moves, and he concluded, “I think we’re better.”
I don’t agree. Most don’t agree. When a team adds Billy Wagner, Troy Glaus and Melky Cabrera and subtracts Javier Vazquez, Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez, the math doesn’t work out.
If Wren really wants to convince people the Braves will be better this season, here’s an idea: sign Johnny Damon.
Barring any significant move, this team has three significant questions going into the season: Leadoff hitter (Nate McLouth), cleanup hitter (Glaus) and closer (Wagner). McLouth looked average for most of last season. Glaus and Wagner represent medical roulette.
I haven’t written much on Damon in
part because it was presumed he would simply re-sign with the New York Yankees and, with Scott Boras as his agent, he would ask for an obscene amount of money on the open market. But he’s still out there, with spring training a month away. The asking price — once believed to be in the two-year, $14 million range — almost certainly has come way down.
The Braves are at their self-imposed payroll limit ($90 million). But there’s a difference between being fiscally smart and just plain cheap. Adding Damon makes the Braves better. If they’re better, they win more games and sell more tickets. Maybe they even make the playoffs.
Now there’s a concept.
The Braves have not had a legitimate leadoff hitter since Rafael Furcal left town after the 2005 season. That’s also the last season they made the playoffs. Funny how that works out.
When I asked Wren about Damon a couple of weeks ago, he said only, “We like the way our club has come together.”
How can that be with so many questions? Damon is 36. He is not a long-term solution. This is about now. He hit .282 last season with an on-base percentage of .365. He also tied a career-high with 24 homers (granted, aided by the short right field in new Yankee Stadium) and had 82 RBI, third-most in his career. McLouth could still start in center field. Damon could play in left. Jason Heyward: right field. Melky Cabrera? We’ve got your resume, we’ll get back to you.
The Braves have questions, and right now Wren is just counting on too many things going right. Damon eliminates one of the doubts.