(UPDATED: 9:10 p.m.)
The first pitcher they went after (Ryan Dempster) said no. He prefers Los Angeles.
The second pitcher they went after (Zack Greinke) was traded to Los Angeles (no, not that L.A. team, the other L.A. team).
The Braves are trying to get better before Tuesday’s trade deadline. We think. But this journey is turning into some weird nightmare, or at least a Randy Newman retrospective. (“I Love L.A.!”)
Remember when the Braves used to get what they want? Remember when 90-plus-win seasons and playoff games seemed as plentiful as potato chips?
General manager Frank Wren said Friday night that he didn’t believe the Braves were close to a trade for a starting pitcher of significance. No kidding. I’m not sure how many are left.
When Wren was asked if he was balking at parting with a coveted prospect like Julio Teheran for a rental player like Greinke, he responded: “I really don’t want to go there. We’ve had a sense for what [teams] are looking for with all these big guys. Some may be a little cost prohibitive.”
And there it is.
At some point, maybe it will be about this season, not next year or the one after that. But right now it’s not looking that way.
The Braves still have a few days until Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline to fix their starting rotation, which has been dropping engine parts for the past several miles. But if they don’t succeed, it will be because Frank “You’ll Get My Prospects When You Pry Them From My Cold Dead Hands” Wren is focused on tomorrow, not today. Again.
Try to explain that to the players in the clubhouse. They believe the team needs a boost to catch Washington in the East (or survive a six-team wild-card cage match with all limbs intact.)
Even Tim Hudson, the current No. 1 starter, said of the team’s attempts to get a starting pitcher: “Everybody’s encouraged by it. It’s an area that’s been inconsistent for us all year. We’re here to win. There’s no reason to take it personally – unless I’m being bumped out of a job.”
It’s obvious where Chipper Jones stands. This is his last season. He wants another shot at the World Series.
When word circulated the other day that Florida had exploded another dumb-bomb and traded Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers, signaling a housecleaning, Jones was sitting on the Braves’ team bus in Miami. On walked Wren. Jones began his mock throat-clearing and in a humorous hoarse tone said, “Josh Johnson!”
Wren smiled. But he didn’t make a move.
Wren satisfied the Cubs in a potential trade for Dempster, so we can’t put that one on him. (Dempster still hasn’t been traded to the Dodgers, so there’s at least some possibility he could change his stance.) But Wren generally has been resistant to parting with top young pitchers Teheran and Randall Delgado for a potential rental player.
The Brewers traded Greinke to the Angels (for shortstop Jean Segura and two prospects) because Wren wouldn’t give up enough for a pitcher who potentially could lead them to a World Series. The Marlins are asking for the moon and the sun for Johnson, as they should. He’s not only good, he’s signed through next season. He might be worth more than even Greinke. Great players don’t come for cheap.
Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci reaffirmed the upside for teams that acquire starting pitchers at the deadline. He noted that over the past five years, contenders have traded for 19 starting pitchers in July. Those pitchers accumulated a record of 94-45. Nine pitched in the postseason. That includes Edwin Jackson, who went 6-3 (including playoffs) with St. Louis last year following a trade and helped the Cardinals to the World Series. Verducci referenced other recent “sudden-impact” pitchers at the deadline: Cliff Lee (Texas, Philadelphia), Roy Oswalt (Philadelphia), Ted Lilly (L.A. Dodgers), C.C. Sabathia (Milwaukee) and Joe Blanton (Philadelphia).
Friday did not pass without the Braves making a move. They signed 41-year-old Miguel Batista, who was just released by the New York Mets, to a minor-league contract.
Wren doesn’t necessarily see Batista being called up and becoming a factor for the Braves down the stretch. But you never know. It was worth a shot. Batista comes cheap. And isn’t that what’s most important of all?
By Jeff Schultz