Five years ago, in a trade that some fans now believe can only be explained by temporary insanity, John Schuerholz dealt seemingly every embraceable prospect in the Braves’ organization to Texas for Mark Teixeira. Teixeira played well (even homering in his Atlanta debut), but it didn’t matter because the Braves missed the playoffs in 2007 and were in mid-flounder again in 2008 when they traded him to the Angels for, if memory serves, a cheeseburger.
What has followed near the trade deadline seemingly every year since is some sense of fan and media panic that the Braves are going to deal “the next great thing” yet again (even if the next great thing more often than not turns to be a pile of stock options that makes wonderful kindling).
Please. Stop already.
There was nothing wrong in 2007 when Schuerholz intended to elevate his team to a title contender again, any more than there was anything wrong with what Frank Wren is considering doing now: trading assets for tomorrow (presumably pitcher Randall Delgado being one) for a significant piece today (Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster).
Yes. Schuerholz needed a better Ouija board. Teixeira wasn’t able to prevent the Braves’ decline. But there is nothing wrong with a general manager having a go-for-it mentality once in a while, particularly when a team has a chance to acquire a difference-maker like Teixeira. (Brian McCann after the trade: “We’ve got the team to win the World Series.”)
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It’s easy to bemoan now that shortstop Elvis Andrus and pitchers Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz (then in the minors) turned into All-Stars for Texas. Nobody seems to remember that the player leaving in the deal who caused the most consternation among fans and media was catcher-first baseman Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who has a career average of .242, washed out in Texas and only now in his sixth season is starting to club homers for Boston).
Did Schuerholz get burned? Of course. But the Braves needed to make a major move at that point in 2007. They need one now.
This team has been hiccuping for months — and yet, the National League East is still there for the taking. Even with all of the starting pitching problems and the fact Dan Uggla again looks like a weather vane with ears, the Braves went into Tuesday just 4½ games behind Washington in the division and a half-game behind Pittsburgh and Los Angeles in the wild card race.
This isn’t the time to wonder, “Can Ben Sheets carry us?” Brandon Beachy is out for the year. Tim Hudson has been just No. 2-starter-good (when he’s healthy). Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens have been shelled in consecutive starts. Mike Minor: Sometimes he’s almost as good as the Braves thought he would be (but usually not). As for Sheets, it’s better to rely on him as a bonus for the rotation than a go-to guy.
The Braves have reached the postseason only once in the last six seasons. They haven’t won a round of playoffs in 11 years (2001 divisional series over Houston). Their last pennant came in 1999. Exactly how long would you like them to wait before they make a bold move?
Teams don’t get a lot of windows, and there is uncertainty about the Braves next season. One reason: A lot of payroll will be coming off the books. The other: Chipper Jones won’t be here.
The Braves shouldn’t make a move to give Jones one more shot; they should make a move because we don’t know when they’ll have their next shot.
If Dempster continues to balk at coming to the Braves — and is it just me, or does prolonging the agony of being a Cub seem nonsensical? — Wren should move on. There’s Zack Greinke. There’s Matt Garza.(albeit, a step down). Josh Johnson or Cole Hamels? Nice thought but both are likely pipe dreams.
(Update: Hamels is off the market. He has agreed to a six-year, $144 million contract extension with Philadelphia.)
Whatever Wren does, he shouldn’t let a fear of dealing young pitchers stop him. Minor, Delgado or Julio Teheran — none have been as good as advertised yet. Even if one does succeed elsewhere, they’re not going to help now.
The fact that the Braves were burned in the Teixeira trade shouldn’t be viewed as some forecast that they’re going to get burned again. And playing it safe gets them nowhere.
By Jeff Schultz