Wren on his Braves: “It’s obvious we need more offense”

Frank Wren knew he couldn’t fix all that ailed his 90-loss team in one offseason, so he prioritized. He started with the rotation and added three new arms. He stabilized the most egregious source of instability. He made the Braves competitive again.

But say this for Wren: He’s no Pollyanna. He sees the potential in his reconfigured team, and he also sees a ceiling. Just past the quarter pole, the Braves are very much in the NL East mix. To stay there, the general manager believes something has to change.

“I do think we’re going to have to perform better offensively,” Wren said Wednesday. “Our pitching is giving us a chance to win, but to be legitimate contenders we have to improve offensively.”

The hope when the Braves came north from Disney World was that many competent bats would override the lack of a true big bat. “We don’t have a big bopper who’s going to hit 40 home runs,” Wren said in April. “We might have seven guys who’ll hit 20.”

He meant 20 apiece. But if you take away Brian McCann, the other regulars — this counts the two-man platoon in left field — have managed a total of 22 homers. That’s not enough to win over the long haul, not for a team that isn’t built for speed, either. (Last in the majors in stolen bases, you know.) The Braves have scored 20 runs in their past seven games, and seven came in one inning against Toronto.

The best-case scenario was that Garret Anderson would contribute professional at-bats and Jordan Schafer would lend a spark and Jeff Francoeur would remember how to hit. “We thought we had a chance to get some of our offensive production back from guys returning to form,” Wren said, but a team – and a GM – can wait only so long.

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Obvious question: Is there a deal a-coming? Wren: “The time to address need is just beginning. Teams are just now starting to see where their needs are. I don’t see any trade happening really quickly.”

If you read ajc.com blogs, you’ll find a contingent of protesters who fault Wren for not finding a real hitter over the winter. (Boilerplate criticism: He should have landed Adam Dunn, or Bobby Abreu, or Raul Ibanez, who has been reborn in Philadelphia.) But the real world of baseball, it must be noted, isn’t so convenient.

“The offensive players who were available this winter would have been hard to put into a National League outfield on an everyday basis,” Wren said. “As we were trying to improve our pitching, we had our eye on defense as well. It was a balancing act.”

And that makes sense. Really, most everything Wren has done to date makes sense. He retooled the starting pitching, which is always the hardest part. “You can’t put together a rotation on the fly,” he said, and the 90 losses of 2008 stand as stark evidence. But the modern way of baseball is to fix over the winter and tweak in the summer, and now summer’s here.

“We’re interested in improving our offense,” Wren said. “It’s obvious we need more offense.”

So there’s hope yet, Braves fans. This GM isn’t in denial. He knows what his team lacks. He’s on the case. But he’d better hurry.

222 comments Add your comment

cmac1919

May 28th, 2009
2:00 pm

If defense was so important, then why in the blue h*ll did he sign Garret Anderson?

MiltonDawg

May 28th, 2009
2:04 pm

Dunn or Hawpe..Holliday’s contract is too big. These Braves will hover around 500 all year long if something is not changed asap.

G State Ben

May 28th, 2009
2:13 pm

Obvious? Yes, you have the worst offense in baseball and no threat of a homerun.

Lowe was a must sign but Kawakami has been average to below average. Garret Anderson has been a disaster and he acts like he doesn’t want to be here. Vasquez has been ok considering what you gave up. Signing David Ross was nothing because he’s a back up catcher giving Mac a day off (which is why he needs to be pick up that 1st baseman’s mitt).

A $7 million payroll in the OF doesn’t get it done. They better get someone of value in the next month and half or Turner Field will draw less than 2 million fans this year (they are already on their way).

No More Bobby

May 28th, 2009
2:14 pm

Dunn should have been signed as a Brave in the offseason. Anderson has been a waste of money and time. He looks like he doesnt even want to be playing anymore.

Dunn has 16 homers already. Imagine what Chippers numbers would be right now with Dunn behind him in the lineup. Wren please admit you messed up on this one.

bali

May 28th, 2009
2:15 pm

geez , i hope wren does not make a move he will later regret. Everything i read concerning the braves lately is that they need to trade francouer………. for what……….. 25 years old and everyone ready to throw in the towel does not make sense to me. At the start of your article you said Wren could not fix all the Braves problems in a year … give him time

Ripped again.

May 28th, 2009
2:17 pm

This team is a joke ,they arent going go get any help this year ..At least we have the Falcon’s to look forward too in the fall .

Chip

May 28th, 2009
2:18 pm

Man, do I get tired of hearing that “protesters on the web” don’t know what they’re talking about and should sit back and let the experts take care of it. The Braves had two huge, glaring weaknesses in the offseason– the starting rotation and left field. Dunn was sitting there, available for basically peanuts, and they passed on him. For the life of me I can’t figure out why. You think Chipper wouldn’t be hitting .360 with Dunn’s power behind him? Look how he performed in front of Tex the first half of last year. It’s not rocket science. The Braves signed Anderson for $2.5 mil– they could have had Dunn for $2 mil and one year more. Is he a great outfielder? No. Is he a great power hitter? Yes.

It’s not that hard. Wren goofed this offseason, and if he sits around and waits for 2 more months to find a hitter– who will now cost the Braves prospects AND money– there won’t be a point, because with that stinker of a AAA offense they’re running out there right now, they’ll be 10 games out by July.

Blah.

G State Ben

May 28th, 2009
2:19 pm

Give him time! How exactly? You swung and missed on 3 FA OFs and sign a guy that still wouldn’t be employed in MLB if the Braves hadn’t come calling.

What’s going to excite the Braves fans? Tommy Glavine’s return? After all he did just strike out 2 in the 1st inning at Gwinnett.

Rev. Otis Nixon

May 28th, 2009
2:24 pm

that’s great to hear

Chipper Murphy

May 28th, 2009
2:25 pm

Barves are 27th in MLB in HR’s and dead last in Stolen Bases. We are not bad in OBP and Doubles, so you could manufacture runs with someone who has speed. Heck, even Josh Anderson has as many stolen bases as the entire Braves team. If you can’t get power, go for speed. It would not take much to get M. Bourn or Chone Figgins. It would give you lead off speed with decent OBP. Both could play CF while JS gets his Trip A Experience. Figgins could play 3rd when Chipper cannot.

Green tea

May 28th, 2009
2:26 pm

“We might have seven guys who’ll hit 20.”

Bwaahahaha, now that there’s funny, I don’t care who ya are…

bali

May 28th, 2009
2:29 pm

I just hate to see a young player being considered as trade bait… who would the Braves get in return… a one year deal to finish in 3rd place in 2009 and 5th place in 2010. I want to see the Braves add to what they have ,not additon through subtraction.First baseman playing for the Yankees today really di not help the braves in the long run

AJC

May 28th, 2009
2:33 pm

“It’s obvious we need more offense” says Wren……Thanks Frank, I just couldn’t put my finger on the problem.

Mac

May 28th, 2009
2:34 pm

I think this recovery is a process. Outfield pop may not come until next season. I hope Wrenn will not mortgage 2010 and beyond for a rental bat and a wildcard shot. How far away is Heyward anyway?

Mac

May 28th, 2009
2:37 pm

And, can Freeman play the outfield? Kotchman is pretty darn good.

David Granger

May 28th, 2009
2:38 pm

It’s a shame the Braves didn’t have a chance to compete for a young proven slugger like Mark Teixeira, who’s also a Gold Glove caliber first baseman, a switch hitter, with local (Georgia Tech) ties to boot, isn’t it?
Oh wait….never mind.

Coach

May 28th, 2009
2:40 pm

I’ve been a High School coach for 30 years and know it’s a given that sports fans are often
otherwise intelligent people who become idiots at sporting events, but bloggers must be the dumbest people on the planet. Who needs opponents when your own fans are doing their
best to tear down everything they can about your club. Real heartwarming support.

wiki

May 28th, 2009
2:44 pm

Why not bring up Heyward now?…..that is, if a trade for an OF involving an untouchable prospect is not possible. Could he be less productive than Francoeur? He might hit .210 and strikeout plenty but might even provide more power (doubles/home runs) than the almost negligible numbers Frenchy producers. At least then he’d be getting experience without sacrificing anything from the status quo.

fed up with wren

May 28th, 2009
2:46 pm

“It’s obvious that we need more offense”. Uh, I think that was painfully obvious last year, yet Wren brought in Anderson and that’s it. As for pitching, Lowe is the only success story. He brought in a 33 y/o pitcher used to being in a six man rotation and a 32 y/o with a sub .500 career record. And, we have a rotation of fifth starters w/o a single win among them. Those guys can’t get it done w/o lots of run support, which they don’t have. So, where has this supposed investment in pitching gotten the Braves?

Cot's Baseball Contracts

May 28th, 2009
2:46 pm

FYI…Dunn signed a 2 year deal worth 20 million this past off-season. I’m not sure why everyone thinks that the Braves could have afforded him along with the pitching they got.

chc4

May 28th, 2009
2:46 pm

Chip… Adam Dunn signed for 2 yrs $20mm. Not sure where you’re getting comparison to GA’s contract.

Jay

May 28th, 2009
2:47 pm

This team is trying to get by on the cheap. The Braves now remind me of the
Falcons of yesteryear, when they were happy just collecting tv revenue and didn’t
care whether they had a competitive team.

Football Ken

May 28th, 2009
2:48 pm

Hey Mark,

It’s sad for us REAL Braves fans, to see our team’s leadership so helpless and pathetic. Cox is hopeless, he lost this team 2 years ago. Wren’s/Scherholtz trade for Tex, will haunt this organization for years. Yeah we need more offense, we need a at least 2 more bats with pop. The sad thing is the division can be won with 86-92 wins, and we as fans don’t see the urgency from management. Trade Franbooooer, send Schafer down, and find us 2nd basemen who won’t lose us 4 games a year because of errors. Mark, we used to be the pride of the National league, now we are becoming the secret joke everybody’s laughing at.

chc4

May 28th, 2009
2:49 pm

Lowe is the only pitching success story? Vazquez has been very good. Not his fault he’s only 4-4. Second in the league in K’s and a 3.80 era… what’s wrong w/ that??

AJC

May 28th, 2009
2:49 pm

I think signing Garrett Anderson, Frenchy being almost useless, not having an effective batting coach (Pendleton) and poor managing (Cox) have done a lot more to tear the team down than what a few bloggers have done.

Mort Merkel

May 28th, 2009
2:50 pm

Sorry fed up, but Vazquez is better than a fifth starter. I’m glad to see him on the team and like to watch him pitch. If we can upgrade the offense, he’s a solid part of a good rotation. Kawakami, not so much.

jimmy a

May 28th, 2009
2:52 pm

Herschel Talker

May 28th, 2009
2:52 pm

Kenshin Kawakami is a disgrace. Wren should be fired on that signing alone.

Jfreak

May 28th, 2009
2:55 pm

Oh how we’ve become instant gratification fans. Relax everyone there are real struggles going on in the world right now and baseball isn’t one of them. Wren has done a good job with a restricted payroll. We are better this year than last and the idea is to continue to improve year by year not give up tomorrow for instant gratification today. Maybe we can land a solid bat this summer but really that will not change this so dramatically that we would all of a sudden be a World Series contender. We have other issues like the bullpen and who is going to hit lead off. If we can rid ourselves of a Vet or two to land some needed help this year fine but to trade youth is panic mode for a team that isn’t going to win it all this year anyway.

gayle

May 28th, 2009
2:58 pm

Why is it that other teams have successfully retooled over time where the Braves haven’t? It’s because there is this nonsense here of pretending to be a contender every year. The nonsense of the 14 straight titles – with only one Championship to show for it. No post season since 2005, no post season series wins since 2001. This team does not need a tune up, it needs to be rebuilt from top to bottom. This ain’t the 90’s and you don’t have three HOF’ers in the rotation. No one this team who is going to hit 20+ homers or steal 20+ bases. And if you somehow did get a big bopper, opposing teams are just going to pitch around them since there is no one else in the lineup who scares them.

Newsflash – the “run” is over.

Maestro

May 28th, 2009
2:59 pm

Getting swept by the Giants was the ultimate wake up call that something must be done more sooner than later. First send Schafer down and bring up Gregor Blanco. We’ll have a leadoff guy with experience. No he is not tearing up AAA but with Schafer in there it’s like having two no.9 hitters in the lineup. As far as making a deal, I would go ahead and pull the trigger with a team that has some excess offense and deal Vasquez now.
We got Tommy Hanson and Charlie Morton and Medlin is ready to assume his spot back up in Gwinnett (That’s cold) Hey but it’s the truth anyhow. This team is lousy offensively and now Chipper is reverting back to his old ways of playing no more than twice a week because he’s “gimpy”. Escobar looks down the bench at Chipper and say’s “hey that’s a good way to earn a living, I think I’m feeling a little ‘gimpy’ myself. There is no heart and fire on this team. If they don’t get it corrected soon, it’s going to be a lonnnnng summer, especially at the gate. Tune in next week: ALOHA!

fed up with wren

May 28th, 2009
3:00 pm

Guys, my point with Vasquez is that he is not consistent (even within starts, see Monday night) and needs better than average run support to be successful, which the Braves can’t provide. I don’t think anyone said when Wren traded for him, “Gee, this is the missing piece we need”. What’s the point of acquiring average pitchers if you don’t address the offense at all?

Ron Roberts

May 28th, 2009
3:03 pm

I disagree with G STATE BEN in his assertion that Kawakami has been “average to below average.” I think he’s actually pitched pretty well, all-in-all, given that he moved to a new country, playing in a new league, having NO personal knowledge of the guys he’s facing and all. I think his signing, along with Vasquez and Lowe, were terific pickups. What I question is in putting (my opinion) unnecessary money aside for Tom Glavine WITH all those signings, as well. Lesson learned, last year, sure, but it would seem we only learned HALF the lesson with that move.

Ibanez stands out as a GLARING miss, but more easily a flub, to me, was the Josh Anderson trade. We picked up WHAT for him? Josh SHOULD have been the “insurance policy” in case Schafer wasn’t ready (which he obviously isn’t). Oh, and he was speedy on the bases, as well. At LEAST if we were able to fall back on Anderson, we’d have Yunel, Kotch, Chipper, McCann as reliable bats behind him, with the streaky KJ, the non-dependable Francoeur, Garrett Anderson/Matt Diaz to come with on a nightly basis.

As it is, we have a guy (Schafer) who appears to emulate Francoeur’s plate (lack of) discipline. Prime example, last night in the 9th, with a runner on, needing THREE just to tie the game, and his only being able to – at MOST – bring in two… first swing, hacking away, and he popped out.

The kid’s TOO inexperienced to go to the plate with a 100 mph closer throwing darts to think he’ll automatically have a “fix” on that speed. He was clueless with that approach, and the LAST thing a struggling offense needs is two ‘Francoeur-like’ hackers at the back-end.

The Voice

May 28th, 2009
3:04 pm

With the pitching we have now…trade Glavine for 3 young and hungry AAA players and build a future.

Coach (Moon Pie, anyone?)

May 28th, 2009
3:04 pm

Fans have every right to b1itch, just watch the Philly faithful at Citizens Bank Park.

Honestly, I think it’s too late simply because the upcoming June schedule is an absolute monster. 18 of the 29 games played in this month of May are against losing teams. Our record stands at 13-12 so far. The Braves can’t beat bad teams.

June’s schedule has 19 of 26 games pitting us against teams with winning records. Among them are the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Mets, Phillies, Brewers and Reds. These are all better teams than our Braves.

In my not so humble opinion, we are about to get run over by a runaway freight train, and there is nothing Frank Wren or anybody else for that matter who can stop it.

Dean Lorentz

May 28th, 2009
3:08 pm

the braves dont need matt holiday thats a waste of money. the braves need a legit leadoff man that plays cf, and let diaz play rf untill infanta comes back. they need to trade frency and a minor leaguer to pitt for mclouth or morgan.morgan is batting 286, 4 hrs, 17 rbis, 10 stolen bases. mclouth is batting 257, 8 hrs, 31 rbis and seven stolen bases. and they have a longer contract so the braves wont have to rent holliday for the summer.THEY NEED A LEAD OFF MAN!!!!! morgan or mclouth is who the braves need.

gayle

May 28th, 2009
3:10 pm

Voice – Trade Glavine for 3 (three) young and hungry AAA players? Where do people like you get ideas like this? Why would a team trade anything beyond a bucket of baseballs for a 43 year-old pitcher who has yet to pitch this year and is seriously considering retirement?? Why? What are you thinking?? Is your name Frank Wren or Bobby Cox?

Mark Bradley

May 28th, 2009
3:14 pm

In a perfect world, the Braves would end up with Matt Holliday for the next five years. But this is baseball. And he’s about to be a free agent. And guess who his agent is?

Aw, you guessed.

dawg1992

May 28th, 2009
3:15 pm

How about letting Greg Norton go to free up another spot on the roster. Norton is batting an anemic .107!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cameron

May 28th, 2009
3:16 pm

I don’t think the solution is to trade Frenchy. I think the solution is to trade for a power LF or a speed LF and find a hitting coach who can get Frenchy on track. There is too much potential there. Honestly, would anybody get as pissed at Franceour for the way he has performed if they didn’t know he was capable of so much more? We are much better served production wise and financial wise to find a competent hitting coach (Wellman from AA?) to get him hitting (along with the rest of our roster for that matter).

Herschel Talker

May 28th, 2009
3:18 pm

Mark – why can’t the Braves just completely tank one year and be patient with their prospects? Look where we’d be if we had taken our medicine two years ago and not traded for Tex. I understood the gamble, but true success will come from a replenished farm system, the same as the foundation for the 90s. Consistently trading young talent for today’s success will fail in the long run.

Cameron

May 28th, 2009
3:18 pm

Also, I wouldn’t mind us looking into seeing what it would take to lure Mike Jacobs away from the Royals. Maybe a Morton/Kotchman for Jacobs. Or younger arm/Kotchman for Jacobs. He has power and RBI potential, but is not nearly as good defensively.

timthebrave

May 28th, 2009
3:19 pm

Lowe is hardly the only good pitcher on the club. Jair, lowe, vasquez have all been really good. Kawakami has pitched ok for a 4th starter except for one outing. Lincecum and Johnson make a lot of teams look bad. There is a need to worry about the hitting but not the panic. Dunn we couldn’t afford. If we got Dunn we wouldn’t have gotten Lowe or Vasquez and everybody would be crying about pitching. If Yunel and Chipper are healthy then this team will be fine. Don’t give up a big bat that won’t make that big of a difference. Beat the snakes. Go Braves

Coach (Moon Pie, anyone?)

May 28th, 2009
3:20 pm

Lets go trade for Luis Durango.

PMC

May 28th, 2009
3:23 pm

I thought he did a pretty good job given the limited income… but they are eventually going to have to address the corner outfield spots cleanup and leadoff. I don’t think it has to absolutely get done this summer because I still don’t believe they are more than an 85-88 win team and that’s 10-12 victories better than last year. That’s tough to do as it is.

RHR

May 28th, 2009
3:24 pm

Well I’m certainly voting for all of the above.

The Devil Wears Prado

May 28th, 2009
3:27 pm

Signing Kawakami and Glavine were Wren’s two biggest mistakes. Hanson could have been plugged into the 5th spot from day one and we would have had the money to sign Dunn to play left. But, oh well, what’s done is done, I guess.

For the time being, I’d put KJ in left, release GAnderson, play Prado at second everyday, send Francoeur to AAA and start Diaz in right. Obviously it’s not an ideal situation and would downgrade us defensively somewhat, but we need offensive help more than anything right now. KJ probably has the most power on the team after Chipper and McCann, and Diaz has an .839 OPS. As a stopgap measure, both of those guys would give the outfield a little more punch until a bigger bat can be brought in.

At this point, as utterly anemic as our offense is, you’ve got to find someway to get your eight best hitters on the field.

Michael

May 28th, 2009
3:28 pm

“The Voice”, you are a moron. Do you really think anyone is giving up their top AAA talent for Tom Glavine? Please hand in your fan card, now please.

J Vasquez. He is what we expected when we signed him: a little bit streaky, but an experienced (sometimes overpowering) arm that could pitch twice in a 7 game playoff series and is a better #3 SP than most of our rivals’ equivalents.

Frenchy. Every young bat struggles sometimes. But its not often you’re given more than 1 season to turn it around. Last year was a disaster, this year is heading in the same direction. I say Wren has given him enough chances already and if he’s hitting under .250 at the break, I look to trade him. He is a player than a better team could take a chance on and stash on the bench and hope for a turnaound. With French’s bat, he doesn’t deserve to be playing every day. I think he’s a headcase who’s lost his confidence and needs to spend a year with his high school batting coach.

Herschel Talker

May 28th, 2009
3:28 pm

Kenshin Kawakami is a tomato can! He must be gotten rid of. What a horrific contract. Frank Wreck really blew it on that one.

Smoltz Fan

May 28th, 2009
3:31 pm

If I could be in Frank “Wrong Again” Wren’s shoes for only one day to fix the BRAVES, I would take a handgun up to my office, load it with ammunition, place the barrel of the weapon to my temple and quickly discharge the firearm as many times as possible.

Problem?

SOLVED.