Braves, Wren would be taking risk without major move

Frank Wren would like to hold up a trophy other than Jair Jurrjens' pitcher of the month honors for June.

Frank Wren would like to hold up a trophy other than Jair Jurrjens' pitcher of the month honors for May. But to that, he may need to make a major move first. (Jason Getz/AJC)

(UPDATED: 11 p.m.)

Unless there is a sudden change in wind direction, don’t expect much. Major trades happen when a team is willing to give up a significant part of its present or its future, and as of now the Braves seem to be predisposed to doing neither.

They didn’t get Carlos Beltran from New York because they wouldn’t part with Mike Minor. To get Hunter Pence from Houston or Carlos Quentin from the Chicago White Sox, neither of whom are impending unrestricted free agents, would take more than one young arm. Also, to get somebody Philadelphia really wants might mean showing a willingness to spend more money than the Phillies.

This doesn’t mean general manager Frank Wren won’t make some move. (Maybe Josh Willingham will be this year’s version of Ryan Church. You can never have enough former Nationals). It doesn’t even mean that the Braves, as currently constructed, aren’t capable of making the playoffs, or winning the division, or going to the World Series, or winning it all.

But can you be comfortable right now?

The Braves lost to Pittsburgh on Thursday night 5-2. In the last six games, they have scored 2, 3, 1, 4, 2 and 2 runs — and the 4 came in 19 innings. Record in that span: 2-4.

This won’t cut it in a pennant chase.

Wren would be playing a dangerous game if he doesn’t make a major move. The Braves aren’t healthy. They may not get healthy. Even Chipper Jones used the word “erode” when describing the decline of his own aging body the other day, adding, “For some reason, I can’t keep my leg muscles together.”

Wren wants to win. He certainly has done a nice job reshaping this roster the last couple of years (we attribute Kenshin Kawakami to temporary insanity). But without a significant acquisition, he would be banking on hitting a parlay. It goes like this:

♦ First bet: Nearly every injured Brave of significance gets healthy or can play at a high level with his existing injuries. That includes Jones (quadriceps, for now), Brian McCann (oblique) and Jordan Schafer (finger). It also assumes that Dan Uggla (who appears to have turned things around ) and Jason Heyward will be solid contributors in the next two months. Those are five assumptions.

♦ Second bet: Because sheer logic suggests that not everything will go right, the Braves will need to somehow recapture the chemistry and magic that enabled them to manufacture runs, wins games and endure injuries and obstacles down the stretch last year. And that has not always been evident this season.

When asked if he believed his team needed some help, manager Fredi Gonzalez chose his words carefully: “I think we can improve the ballclub, yes. I think if you ask 30 managers that, they’re all gonna say, yes. … If there’s a player out there who we’re able to acquire and he makes us better, I think we’ll do it.”

Is he more inclined to bang on Wren’s door after injuries like those to McCann and Jones?

“I think Frank’s watching the game,” Gonzalez said, smiling.

The Braves were a resilient bunch last season. They went through a blur of lineups and batting orders, survived a long string of injuries, made the playoffs as a wild card and ultimately lost three of four one-run games to San Francisco, the team that went on to win the World Series. A series of unlikely occurrences led to wins, with their final win of 2010 topping them all: Rick Ankiel (.210) homering in the 11th inning for a 5-4 playoff win over the Giants, making a winner of maligned reliever Kyle Farnsworth.

Ankiel and Farnsworth — there’s an unlikely exacta of heroes.

Much of the 2010 team remains in place, but chemistry isn’t an easy thing to recreate. The Braves need something more tangible — another bat.

Back in spring training, Gonzalez said: “It makes it fun to come to the ballpark when you’ve got good chemistry. When they take care of their own problems, it makes it easy.”

But it won’t be easy for the Braves to overcome their problems without some help.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

409 comments Add your comment

Joe

July 28th, 2011
4:08 pm

Steve

July 28th, 2011
4:11 pm

Is there any confirmation that all the Mets wanted from the Braves was Mike Minor for Carlos Beltran? That’s pretty hard to believe, considering that Zack Wheeler is a MUCH better prospect than Minor.

I’ve seen the “Braves wouldn’t trade Minor for Beltran” statement a lot over the Internet today. I would love to know if that is really true.

Rob

July 28th, 2011
4:13 pm

ENOUGH ATLANTA MEDIA. stop thinking Wren cares about your opinion. he knows the players, the money, and the talent what we have. i hardly think the AJC’s CONSTANT use of pressure will make any difference to him. can’t wait for this to be over so that these blogs will end.

Realist

July 28th, 2011
4:14 pm

When you say, “He certainly has done a nice job reshaping this roster the last couple of years,” you need to provide some evidence. Aside from the great move acquiring Jurrjens, what has Wren actually done to reshape the roster himself?

The most valuable players on this team were all here or in the organization when Wren took over: McCann, Freeman, Hudson, Hanson, Venters, Kimbrel, O’Flaherty, Prado.

So what exactly did Wren build? If you are giving him credit for NOT getting rid of good players who were already here, that’s pretty faint praise.

CHIEF NOCAHOMA

July 28th, 2011
4:15 pm

LET’S GO BRAV-OS!

Headhunter

July 28th, 2011
4:17 pm

No way the Braves are able to survive a 7-game series against any playoff caliber pitching staff as currently constructed.

Steve

July 28th, 2011
4:18 pm

I’ll add a bit to Realist’s comments:

In my opinion, Frank Wren has significantly benefited from “bad luck” in his desired trades. If not for some last-minute issue, Wren would have signed:

1) AJ Burnett
2) Rafeal Furcal
3) Ken Griffey, Jr.

Wren also traded for Rick Ankiel last season apparently because he felt compelled to make a move. I am very concerned that he has that same “gut” feeling this year and we end up overpaying for a no. 7 or 8 hitter.

Mike

July 28th, 2011
4:18 pm

@Realist: But that’s what people are ripping Wren on…NOT getting rid of good players who are already here. What if he had gotten rid of Hanson or not signed Hudson to that extension? Where would the be pitching staff be?

JoshTown

July 28th, 2011
4:19 pm

Not that I don’t LOVE free baseball, but I wouldn’t mind us wrapping this thing up in 9 tonight…

Rob

July 28th, 2011
4:19 pm

@realist- exactly. this is why the AJC doesn’t have any impact on the braves or wren. total nonsense. wren is THE reason we are in this position. it takes a balance of short-term AND long-term goals to sustain success.

thank the lord he doesn’t pay attention to these blogs. trading minor for beltran would have been horrible.

jfreak13713

July 28th, 2011
4:22 pm

I think the Braves will try to pull the string on Carlos Quentin because he has been a good bat for a few years and you can expect him to be a contributure going forward. Don’t be surprised if they deal a young arm and an OLD arm (lowe) in a multiple team trade to get a big bat.

Blangadanger

July 28th, 2011
4:30 pm

@Realist Wren also deserves credit for acquiring Vazquez during what became the best year of his career and then trading Vazquez the following year for Vizcaino (among others), currently considered one of our Tier 1 prospects. Also, Wren has been a part of the franchise longer than when he took over his current position at the top. You can’t deny his influence over our great young talent.

I don’t think Wren has proven himself to be a great GM yet, but I also think that Braves fans are too quick to judge based on rash, big-headline moves, or lack thereof.

Realist

July 28th, 2011
4:30 pm

Re-signing Huddy was a good decision, and ultimately the Uggla deal will look good.

But I don’t give a GM credit for having the brains NOT to give away his best, cheapest players in bad deals. Any idiot can do nothing and do it well.

Where would the 2011 roster be if we weren’t spending nearly $15MM on Kawakami, McLouth and Linebrink? Maybe we’d have a left fielder or a plan B at 3B or SS. (Mark Reynolds, Johnny Damon and many others were available this offseason, but we couldn’t or didn’t pursue them, because of decisions Wren made).

Hillbilly D

July 28th, 2011
4:37 pm

I think this horse is long since deceased and has about been beaten into dust.

Don't Trade Young Pitching

July 28th, 2011
4:48 pm

Luck or not Wren rebuilt this pitching staff. Give him his due. If the Braves needed ONE bat I’d say yay! One bat isn’t going to do it and JJ, Hanson and Huddy are gone sooner rather than later. How do you guys think teams on the bottom get to the bottom? The Giants traded Zach Wheeler, freakin’ Zack Wheeler for Beltran. If you’d do that with our top P prospect then “Welcome to Crazy Town”

David, my daughter ended up a Jayhawk.

RRR

July 28th, 2011
4:53 pm

Rob: BINGO!
My goodness, almost three days left and Jeff S is crying like nothing will happen at all. I don’t want to give the Mutts ANYTHING for two/three months of Beltran. Get Pence in here, that would be worth the move. Carlos, too.

Jeff Schultz

July 28th, 2011
4:54 pm

Folks, just Tweeted this, but for those who aren’t following me on Twitter — and WHY aren’t you? Hmmm? — Frank Wren, Bruce Manno just came downstairs to talk to Fredi Gonzalez for 5 mins on the field, then went straight back to their office. That’s all I know. So start your speculatin’.

Jeff Schultz

July 28th, 2011
4:57 pm

Steve: 1) I don’t have a transcript of trade talks, no. But generally acknowledged that Mets wanted Minor and a lower prospect for Beltran from Braves. If you choose not to believe that, its fine, but I can tell you it has never been denied, on or off the record. As for the “Frank Wren doesn’t care about your opinion” part, you are correct on that. But I’m a columnist and I get paid to write my opinion. Frank understands that. I’m not sure why you don’t.

Jeff Schultz

July 28th, 2011
4:59 pm

Realist: The first player that comes to mind is Billy Wagner last year. But I’m sure if you go over rosters from this year, last year, and one before, you’ll come across others with his finger prints on it. I don’t have time to do it now, sorry.

Jeff Schultz

July 28th, 2011
5:00 pm

Realist — Kawakami, McLouth and overpaying for Lowe were obvious mistakes, yes.

Jeff Schultz

July 28th, 2011
5:02 pm

FYI, tonight’s lineup: Nate McLouth (8), Martin Prado (5), Freddie Freeman (3), Dan Uggla (4), Eric Hinske (7), David Ross (2), Jason Heyward (9), Alex Gonzalez (6), Derek Lowe (1).

Herschel Talker

July 28th, 2011
5:05 pm

Schultzie:

5 posts in a row is a lot. You need companionship. I am here.

HT

PMC

July 28th, 2011
5:19 pm

Hey Jeff, Hope your night is a lot shorter one at the Ted than the last live blog. I’m still tired from that game. As far as the Manno; Wren; Gonzo speculation….

I’m thinking they were asking him his opinion on late night hispanic eateries.

Yunel Asscobar

July 28th, 2011
5:20 pm

Jeff – Quentin seems to be the latest likely trade prospect. Why is he a better fit than Pence? Is Wren talking to the Astros or is a Pence deal unlikely?

"Chef" Tim Dix

July 28th, 2011
5:21 pm

It is a tight rope Wren is on right now. You would not resign Beltran and no guarantee about his health.

Consider this: With no major moves made this season, this winter the Braves COULD be sitting the cat -bird seat with a retirement, a trade, and then if the overlords permitted, over 30 million to retool the offense.

Just saying.

anderson jones

July 28th, 2011
5:23 pm

What about plucking Julio Franco from the Mexican leagues?

Fredi Gonzalez

July 28th, 2011
5:23 pm

I’ll tip my hat for a right-handed bat.

Bob

July 28th, 2011
5:27 pm

If Wren worked for any other organization other than our lame duck owners or the Nats and Seattle, he’d be the head ticket agent

The Other Steve

July 28th, 2011
5:28 pm

Jeff, good evening. Do we know how many games this year the Braves have started their expected starting line-up out of spring training? It seems like it can’t be more then a dozen times! Taking 3 of 4 from Pittsburgh would be big considering all of the injuries. McCann doing any better?

Not Capable

July 28th, 2011
5:39 pm

The Braves as currently constructed are not poised to win much of anything – especially a championship. I will be so glad when we say goodbye to has beens Chipper, Lowe, and Never Were Schafer and maybe even Sissy Heyward.

Ghostrider

July 28th, 2011
5:41 pm

Oh, One more thing about this possible trade…why don’t we throw in Scott Proctor as a freebie…Just saying

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

July 28th, 2011
5:42 pm

i’m getting frustrated with both the braves & falcons not making any moves so far. braves have a plenty of solid pitchers…time to part with 1 or 2. i firmly believe medlen will come back and be a starter again.

JS- i know your doing a braves blog today, but what says you about where the falcons are headed during free agency??

Lowcountry Bulldawg

July 28th, 2011
5:45 pm

I am here boys lets go 20 tonight!

Reid Adair

July 28th, 2011
5:46 pm

Frank Wren doesn’t know how to win. He’s made many other roster errors than just Kenshin Kawakami. I am not surprised he has sat idly by and watched other contenders improve for the closing run.

JASon

July 28th, 2011
5:46 pm

“Even Chipper Jones used the word “erode” when describing the decline of his own aging body the other day, adding, “For some reason, I can’t keep my leg muscles together.”

What is your point? He’s old. He’s not the future of this team. No one cares about Chipper Jones.

Schultzie.....

July 28th, 2011
5:52 pm

How does getting a right fielder make more sense than getting a center fielder???? McClouth can’t hit, plays a subpar outfield and has less speed than Upton or Bourne. At least Heyward can play the field when he is not hurt. I am confused why the Braves seem to be bailing on fixing the problem they have had for two years, center field.

Delbert D.

July 28th, 2011
5:54 pm

They probably told him not to put Heyward in the lineup, pending a trade.

Not Capable

July 28th, 2011
5:56 pm

Fans = filled seats in stadium watching a championship calibre team……….Empty seats = No Fans watching a team going no where because the management doesn’t have the intelligence to make trades and build up a team……..Braves attendance will continue to decline until they go the way of the THRASHERS and leave town……and based on the way it is now…..not to many will miss them.

Not Capable

July 28th, 2011
5:59 pm

Chipper is OLD and getting more feeble by the day….time to find a new third baseman and sit the old man down and relieve the payroll of his check…..we will retire his Jersey and put a statue of him up but it is time for him to go the way of the old retired player – out of the game!

Duh!

July 28th, 2011
6:00 pm

Jeffrey, I am thinking that to do nothing is to do something in this situation. I am of the ilk that says those are some mighty fine young arms we have accumulated. We still have some pieces on the farm that can be brought up along the way later this year and Spring training next. Bobby Cox did not go to the playoffs in his first year either, you know, I mean like, Duh!

Memories

July 28th, 2011
6:02 pm

It seems like only yesterday that Chipper was calling out Heyward for not being in the lineup when he was hurt…..

P Rose

July 28th, 2011
6:03 pm

The Braves need all the pitching they can get, because the only way they will win will be to outpitch everybody else. Every time they try to bring in a “big bat,” the guy suddenly tanks the minute he stretches a tomahawk across his chest (Uggla, Lee, Ankiel, Church, Gonzalez, Glaus, McClouth). Beltran would be no different. Turner Field is a pitcher’s park for a team with a pitching mindset. Mike Minor will help down the stretch in September. In these endless 10-inning, 2-1 ball games, it comes down to who has more good pitching.

bvillebaron

July 28th, 2011
6:07 pm

Can’t quite understand why you feel this year’s team isn’t a resilient bunch as well. To answer a poster’s earlier question, I heard the other night that the Braves were only able to put their expected starting lineup on the field for only 8 games this year (last night was game 105). Despite that, they are currently on pace to win 94 games and have a 3 1/2 game lead for the wild card.

There is risk involved in making a move for the sake of making a move an appeasing sports writers and the masses as well (see Texeira fiasco). For all you Wren bashers out there, they don’t currently have the 4th best record in MLB (behind the 3 biggest spenders in MLB), because he “doesn’t get it” or “panics” at trade deadlines. As constituted, this team is built to be very good for a number of years to come. In case some of you haven’t noticed, the core of that nucleus (McCann, Freeman, Heyward, Prado, Hanson, Venters, Kimbrel and possibly Schafer yet) are all home grown propsects that weren’t traded in panic moves at prior trade deadlines.

I am not averse to making deadline deals and everyone knows this team needs a right handed bat who preferably plays CF and another middle reliever). There are options out there that improve your team this year and give it a better chance to win now (IMO they make the playoffs even without a deadline deal and once you get into the tournament anything can happen) without mortgaging your future (Teheran, Viscaino, Minor, Delgado).

Duh!

July 28th, 2011
6:07 pm

P Rose is exactly, and I mean exactly right, here Jeffrey! Duh! about the ball park. It was designed for smoltzie, maddawg, and tommy. Pitching it the deal dude, I say, hold em man, hold em!

Duh!

July 28th, 2011
6:10 pm

bvillebaron has it exactly right as well! Gee Jeffrey, a really good educated bunch is following you along here tonight. I mean, what should anyone expect, right, like, Duh!!!!

SAL

July 28th, 2011
6:11 pm

Wren is taking a risk if he makes a deal or not so what is point?

P Rose

July 28th, 2011
6:12 pm

@5:52: “McClouth can’t hit, plays a subpar outfield… At least Heyward can play the field when he is not hurt…”

McClouth is a far better defensive outfielder than Heyward (Jason does have a stronger arm, but he is wildly inaccurate), and – this just in – Heyward (.222) isn’t hitting the ball any better than McClouth (.231).

Jeff Schultz

July 28th, 2011
6:18 pm

Herschel — Thanks for the love. Most folks are on the freeway at 5.

Jon

July 28th, 2011
6:20 pm

I am not sure about others here, but Heyward hasn’t shown me anything since preseason play of 2009-2010. Was he a power hitter at one time? I have never seena bigger man hit weaker ground balls in my life!

Jeff Schultz

July 28th, 2011
6:22 pm

Yunel — Not a lot of difference in Hunter vs. Pence, other than Hunter makes a little more money this year ($6.9 mill vs. $5.05 mill).