The Hot Button: Should Braves be buyers or sellers?

Frank Wren was the most aggressive general manager in baseball over the winter. Barely a week passed that the Braves weren’t in the middle of some transaction, some of which were consummated (Vazquez, Lowe, Kawakami, Garret Anderson), some of which were not (Peavy, Burnett, Furcal, Griffey). With the Braves four games out of first place with 78 to go, there seems little chance he’ll relax now.

But maybe he should. Maybe this is one of those almost-but-not-quite seasons that would be better left to its own devices. Wren has already made a major move in landing Nate McLouth, and that was a reasoned acquisition — a team that needed a professional center fielder found one who’s under contract for four years more. But sometimes decisions made near the trade deadline are less reasoned. Sometimes you swing for the fences and wind up with …

Mark Teixeira for 365 days.

Wren, it must be said, didn’t make that trade. John Schuerholz did. And the new GM has positioned the Braves nicely for 2010 and beyond. All his starting pitchers save Tim Hudson, who’s rehabbing, are under contract for next season, and the Braves and Hudson have a mutual contractual option. They have a first-rate catcher, a burgeoning if occasionally bewildering shortstop, a center fielder and Chipper Jones. They have Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman and perhaps again Jordan Schafer on the way.

The worst Wren could do now would be to risk the future on a present that mightn’t be altered by one hurried deal. Teixeira was supposed to put the Braves over the top in 2007 — heck, people were writing songs about him (see below) — and he didn’t budge the needle, standings-wise. And then, 365 days later, he was gone. And the farm system was the poorer for it.

The belief here is that the Braves will again seek to be a buyer at this deadline. Wren had to concede last season and jettison Teixeira, and no GM wants to do that two years running. Besides, this GM has much political capital invested in 2009. He has taken hits for his handling — some say mishandling — of John Smoltz and Tom Glavine, and what better way would there be to prove his mettle than to steal a division title?

What should the Braves be this July?

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Sometimes, however, a division title isn’t worth the risk abject larceny would require. This team as constituted might — I said “might” — be able to finish first anyway, assuming the Phillies don’t find any pitching and the Mets don’t get healthy. Given a whole offseason to shop the free agent market and find another bat, Wren could well render the 2010 Braves division favorites.

This does, I must admit, represent a modification of my thinking, such as my thinking ever is. For two months I’ve thought, “You know, if the Braves trade Javier Vazquez for a big bopper, they might just win this thing.” But now I’m thinking, “Do you really move a starting pitcher of All-Star caliber for a corner outfielder who can’t field and who strikes out 170 times a year? Does the long-shot chance of propping up a rickety team offset the gamble of weakening yourself going forward?”

My answer two weeks ago was yes. My answer today would be no. I don’t believe that’s what Wren’s answer would be, but it’s now mine. There’s little chance the Braves will be sellers this July and every reason to believe they’ll try to buy one more player. But I’m saying they should be neither. I’m saying, just this once, they should be bystanders.

353 comments Add your comment

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

July 9th, 2009
10:35 am

first and sell

The_Superhoo

July 9th, 2009
10:41 am

Bystanders…leaning slightly towards selling.

I don’t know if 2010 is our year either. It’s unlikely the division race next year will be just as pathetic as it is this year. But 2011, with a restocked farm system this year and next, that might be our year.

matt_T

July 9th, 2009
10:42 am

I think they should stand pat. They are in a weak division, and still play the Mets and Phillies quite a few times. Like you said, the Phillies and Mets have bigger holes than Atlanta does. Over the next 78 games the pitching should rise to the top.

Vasquez has been the best pitcher for the past month, no need to trade him now, especially without knowing how Hudson is going to perform. If Hudson comes back, you can trade Vasquez in the winter

AlabamaBrave

July 9th, 2009
10:43 am

Mark,

Who could they buy if they don’t offer up Javy? BTW I think we should keep him and go with what we have unless someone just blows FW away. Perhaps they could get someone for Gonzo?

Homer

July 9th, 2009
10:46 am

FIRE BRADLEY!!!

Cletus

July 9th, 2009
10:51 am

Once again, the Braves don’t need much. Find a high-average RF and the Braves can win the East.

No need to trade the farm, just make a trade for someone that can play RF or CF (move McLouth to RF) reliably and not strike out as much as JF and the Braves are the team to beat.

AlabamaBrave

July 9th, 2009
10:57 am

Cletus….Is there a reasonably priced option out there?

ken

July 9th, 2009
11:00 am

The Braves should only make one deal if it comes available and that is Francouer, Shaffer, and Hernandez to Oakland for Matt Holliday. This way they keep there team intact and will be built for a great run in 2010. They may even make a run this year, but it makes sense for the future because Holliday would leave after next season which should be Heyward’s First in Atlanta.

TN Jeff

July 9th, 2009
11:03 am

I’m losing it whatever IT is cause I’m in agreement with Bradley – yikes

Mac

July 9th, 2009
11:04 am

Unless there’s a player to be gotten who will have McGriff-type impact, look at this season as part of a Falcons-esque rebuilding process and do the best you can.

Mitun

July 9th, 2009
11:04 am

how about David DeJesus? I think he would fit for ATL

Peter

July 9th, 2009
11:06 am

They need to get an every day outfielder…….. or power at first base…….how about Juan Pierre in center, move McClouth to Right…….. platoon Diaz with Anderson, and create some speed at the top of the batting order……

We don’t have the pop to play Long ball…..we need to manufacture Runs !

Create some stress on the opposing pitchers, work the count, take walks, and play REAL BASEBALL……… all the announcers are talking getting back to basics……. The Steroid time is over, small ball is winning now !

jimmy

July 9th, 2009
11:08 am

we need a big bat

Ron Roberts

July 9th, 2009
11:08 am

I like what the columnist at FoxSports.com said a few days ago… there’s no bat AVAILABLE who matches what Javier Vasques SHOULD bring in a a trade for Atlanta. That’s how Frank Wren should view any deal for him, as well.

In other words, keep JV unless the Padres suddenly want him for Adrian Gonzalez – which ain’t happening.

The ONLY pitcher(s) I’d consider moving for a corner OF would be Mike Gonzalez and/or Raphael Soriano. We have the luxury of having two closer candidates, neither of whom get enough work because we’re not often ahead late because our offense just doesn’t cut it.

I’m with Mark on this; hold pat. There’s good reason to believe the offense will improve withOUT a deal. Consider we’ve played half a season with the albatross that is Kelly Johnson’s .200 average, and a good portion of that time with the beweildered Jordan Schafer, and we’ve shed those sure-outs. You HAVE to know that Chipper will come out of his slump, that McCann’s already coming out of his, that McLouth’s finally in a groove. I think, with the pitching we have, if Chipper gets going again (and he will) the team’s already constructed to compete, and because the Phillies, Mets and Marlins have all been mediocre, themselves, it’s a 78-game race, and lo and behold, we’re in it. I think we have enough (if nobody strengthens via trade) to stay in the race and finish above .500 as-is.

Fischerking04

July 9th, 2009
11:09 am

Who in the orginization could we get to replace Jeff French? I think we move Mike Gonzo for another outfielder. He could net us someone.

Mike S

July 9th, 2009
11:10 am

One thing the Braves do need to do is find a way to keep Brooks Conrad on the field. The man flat out plays the game the way it is meant to be played. I think with Infante coming back soon, Prado playing his behind off and now Conrad showing his ability, Kelly Johnson has become the odd man out.

Send hernandez back to AAA for more seasoning when Infante comes off the DL, and get whatever they can for KJ.

Other than that, unless a deal falls in thier lap where they can unload Frenchy for a bag of balls or something, they should just stand pat. A big bat would be nice, but not at the cost of mortgaging the future.

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

July 9th, 2009
11:10 am

Sell only if we are getting prospects. Lets be the Texas and let someone else be the Braves. Superhoo you are right on, 2011 is when we will be our best opportunity. If thats the case get what you can for Chipper now, Javy will be 34 by then so he is at his peak value now (4.5 lifetime ERA) and trade whatever else needs to be dealt. Ken, Holiday will be a FA after this year and Boris may be his agent.

matt r

July 9th, 2009
11:11 am

FIRE HOMER!!

ken

July 9th, 2009
11:14 am

I’m really sorry for having to say this, but I don’t feel sorry for the Braves at all. I’m still trying to figure out why the Braves refused to even give someone like Andrew Jones (who by the way had made tremendous contributions during their run of success) a chance of redeemption at minimal cost, while certain other players they hold on to waiting upon them to turn things around. The only conclusion I can come up with is that the Braves organization hinges upon a good old boys network too much. They will never experience prolong success until this system is totally removed. It’s hard to believe that this kind of thing would exist in a major city like Atlanta, but this seems to be the reality. Andrew Jones is making them regret their decision because he is doing better part time than any of the Braves full time outfielders. What a shame. It’s time for this city and the Braves organization to look at the man in the mirror.

Drez

July 9th, 2009
11:14 am

Stand pat!! Keep the rotation intact and lock up Soriano, who is a free agent after this season. If they’re going to trade a pitcher, they should look to dangle Gonzalez for a bat. You can move O’Flaherty into the 8th inning set-up role. Besides, one more bat is not going to solve this teams offensive woes.

PoliticalMan

July 9th, 2009
11:15 am

Two guys on the Braves they wouldn’t miss. One is no surprise, the other maybe is. Francouer and, Yes, Chipper. Need a guy in OF who has a clue at plate and a bullpen guy. They need Infante. Contrary to Cox, the BP has not been “lights out.” Starting pitching good enough to win, esp if Hudson can come around.

NC Braves Fan

July 9th, 2009
11:15 am

Mark: I think it’s still a bit too early to be sure yet, but I would lean toward being a buyer – but only if the trade is McLouthian in nature and not Teixerian.

The past week or so has convinced me that this division is winnable by the Braves, warts and all. But they need a little extra pop to get ‘em over the top.

One opinion

July 9th, 2009
11:15 am

Do we have to sell Javy? We have two good closers, which is a fairly hot commodity. Why not part with one instead of a proven starter who has become our ace?
I say sell…to Arthur Blank so we can buy players.

Mrs. Chanandler Bong

July 9th, 2009
11:15 am

Stay put. I’d rather see us make a big trade during the winter than see a repeat of Texiera-gate.

Kenneth Simpson

July 9th, 2009
11:15 am

I hope the braves don’t empty what is left of the farm for a rental like Tex was. Keep what we got and hope for the best. If the Phillies continue to play good they braves are not going to win this year anyway. The Mets will get better because they have unlimited funds like the Yankees and they will buy whoever they need so that makes it harder for the braves to compete. I think this is the year for the Phillies to win again. The Braves need so much to even have a chance. They need power, speed, and I feel it will be hard to get all that without giving up a lot of good young players which I don’t think they have now since they gave all of them to Texas for the Tex rental which still makes me sick.

Atticus

July 9th, 2009
11:17 am

I am different than most. Instead of a RF, I would go after a first baseman. We have outfielders coming in the future. We also have pitching to spare.

Trade Medlen and Kotch for a big time 1B that hits HRs.

Space Monkey

July 9th, 2009
11:17 am

Absolutely agree. Please don’t trade Vazquez. I have always been impressed with him since his Expo days. I think he’s finally found a home in Atlanta, and he could be our ace for years to come, if we play this right. Our rotation could be our best since 1996 next year. Vazquez, Lowe, Hudson, Hanson, Jurgens. We could trade KK.

jimmya

July 9th, 2009
11:17 am

FIRE WREN he overpaid 20 mil on lowe OVERPAID FOR Kawakami OVERPAID TO GET GADERSON AT LAST MINUTE AND PASED ON OTHER BETTER PLAYERS TRADED TO MANY PROSPECTS TO GET MCLOUT FIRE WREN TODAY

Shawon

July 9th, 2009
11:17 am

Sometimes you swing for the fences and get Mark Teixera, true enough…but sometimes you get Fred McGriff in exchange for a couple joe schmoes, and a resulting WS title. I have been this team’s biggest doubter but so long as they’re within striking distance, I see no reason to not go for it.

ttom

July 9th, 2009
11:17 am

Mark I agree with you. Don’t trade Vasquez. The only moves the braves need to make is to ship Francouer and Kelly Johnson out of here. Let Diaz and Prado play every day. Bring up the Jones kid to get him some ab’s and then stand pat. In the off season find a big bat for the outfield. G Anderson won’t be back so there is another hole to fill. Hopefully Schafer will get his wrist straightened out, if so he can play right or left and learn from McClouth. They might want to look at adding some power to first base unless they think Kotchman will do till Freeman is ready. Above all else, don’t trade away ANY pitching.

chris

July 9th, 2009
11:18 am

Hi Mark,

I agree. I was of the same persuasion a few weeks ago. But the more Vasquez pitches, the more he impresses. Starting pitching depth can thin out very quickly. Look at the rotation that we now have at Gwinnett!

I will say, as I said in O’Brien’s blog, that I’d be in favor of a Javy trade only if they got a number 4 hitter. But I don’t see one who is available. And I’d wait until July 31st so that the bridge between Vasquez’s departure and Hudson’s return is as short as possible. (that would amount to Medlen making about 5 starts, which wouldn’t kill us).

I also said I’d consider trading Gonzo if they could get a number 5 hitter (1b or outfielder). Again, don’t know if they could swing that. I’d even trade Prado for some power since we’ll be getting Infante back soon and have depth with KJ, Diory, and Conrad. What do you think? In sum, you can’t have enough starting pitching and they should only trade Javy if they get a true slugger, imo.

Chris from MD

taylor s

July 9th, 2009
11:18 am

Ken your an idiot. Thats one of the most moronic comments I have ever read any where on the internet. They will never have prolonged success ? You do realize the same people are in place that won 13 consecutive divisions and a world series ?

Sidslid

July 9th, 2009
11:18 am

Dump two salaries on the Yankees as they are panicking for pitching (and love ex-Red Sox):

Lowe and Francoeur for Melky Cabrera and a set up man

LOOGY

July 9th, 2009
11:19 am

I say you package Francoeur, along w/ a Ryne Reynoso/Edgar Osuna, and maybe a Craig Kimbrel/Jeff Lyman for Mark Teahen or John Willingham. You stick the player in RF. You get good power, good avg. and good OBP.

You’d have to be stupid not to see that one bat to replace the black hole in RF won’t push this team over the top. And you’d have both these players for at least another year and you don’t give up a bevvy nor elite prospects.

LOOGY

July 9th, 2009
11:20 am

leggomyego

July 9th, 2009
11:20 am

I think this team has the potential to be substantially better in the second half without changing anything. Nate McLouth’s impact is just now being felt, and with the additional of him we replaced a .200 hitter with a .270 hitter with pop and speed (seems like the guy is always in the ‘runs scored’ column, just what we needed in a leadoff that we didn’t have at the beginning of the season). Putting Prado at second replaced a .200 hitter with a bonified doubles machine; all the guy does is hit +.300 and ricochets frozen ropes off the left field wall, and again, always seems to do so in a timely fashion. This is a good team that’s gotten better from the inside, and the removal of Javy Vasquez to acquire a bat would take your biggest strike out pitcher (i.e., the thing every team needs MOST come playoff time) out of the mix. BAD IDEA. You don’t subtract great pitching for great hitting, you just don’t. Pitching > Hitting, otherwise the average batting ave. would be at least .500, dig? It ain’t rocket surgery people. The Francouer thing is still so far up in the air (or perhaps, smoldering in pieces on the ground?) that you wonder if he’ll ever get himself straight, but again you’ve got Infante coming back, Diaz is finally getting himself straight after being out of the batter’s box for so long (he is coming off a bad knee, remember? yes, it took almost a half season to get his timing and pitch recognition right, but he looks like he’s coming around) and signs point to us maybe being able to manufacture another run or two a game with the lineup we’ve got now. Garrett had an awful start at the plate after missing so much time (missed bout all of Spring training) and he’s now dialed in. You take the bad Diaz/Garrett combo, plus the Schafer/KJ numbers out, and plug in the new Diaz/Garrett/McLouth/Prado factors in, and you’ve got a much improved ballclub. Let it ride folks. I ain’t saying absolutely don’t make a move, but I’d suggest staying Mucho Frugal at the trade deadline. I give Wren the keys to pull the trigger, but i’m saying it would have to be a no-brainer to do so, and from the looks of it there aren’t any deals like that out there at present. Now go tell that guy in the cube next to you who’s begging us to sell the farm for Matt Holiday what i said, then by his a bag of pretzels out of the vending machine and encourage him to settle down.

jeffrey d

July 9th, 2009
11:20 am

Does Homer think he’s accomplishing anything by waiting for MB to post a new every day blog and caps lock us to death?

AGTFan

July 9th, 2009
11:21 am

I’ve been saying to sell for weeks, but I can see a good arguement for standing pat. I’d trade Terry Pendleton for Rudy Jarmillo. I’d throw in almost any other member of the coaching staff too. Don’t get me wrong, I love TP and I don’t think all the hitting woes are his fault. It’s just hard to argue against RJ. What his coaching has done for Andruw is amazing.

former scout

July 9th, 2009
11:21 am

Some bizarre trade suggestions, as usual (see Ken). Matt Holliday is hitting 240, and you want to give up 3 players for him? Why? Shafer is still a highly rated center field prospect…most teams wouldn’t trade him straight up for Holliday, much less throw in two other players. There are simply not many available, impact type players out there for trade. There has been a lot of conversation about trading Vasquez. Why would the Braves want to trade their best starting pitcher for the possibility of a hitter to give you 10 or 12 more home runs in the second half? Makes no sense to me. My guess is the Braves will do little or nothing by trade deadline…and will still be contending in the second half. Teams with bad pitching usually get worse pitching in Aug/Sept, and most teams hit better in these months. Braves pitching and likely second half improved hitting keeps them in the race…just my opinion…backed up with a little experience.

harvey

July 9th, 2009
11:22 am

mark is right i think wait and see .and call up haywood and freeman in sept..

Mark Bradley

July 9th, 2009
11:23 am

Lowe and Francoeur for Melky Cabrera and a set-up man? And that would make the Braves better?

And I’ll admit I’ve come around on Javier Vazquez. He’s better than I thought he’d be, and my earlier flight of fancy — Vazquez for Dunn — contradicted everything I believe about baseball. Which is: Starting pitching is the most important commodity in the game. (But sometimes even I get frustrated by a team’s lack of hitting and decide to do something out of character. Hey, it can happen.)

Marty

July 9th, 2009
11:23 am

Stand pat unless a bargain comes along. A decent hitting right fielder would probably put us where we need to be. I don’t mean Dunn or Holliday, maybe another Garret Anderson type. Don’t rent Holliday for a season and give up more talent. That would be a mistake of “Tex” size proportions.
But that being said, do we really miss Salty, Matt Harrison or Elvis? None of those guys would be playing for us anyway. Salty would be a backup at best, Matt Harrison and Elvis at AAA. Yunel vs. Elvis is a wash though Elvis probably has a better attitude.

bvillebaron

July 9th, 2009
11:24 am

For once I agree with Mark: stand pat or, better yet, sell. This is a rebuilding team which has some very promising hitting prospects (Heyward, Freeman and perhaps still Schaefer) to go along with the best pitching staff in the division, almost all of which are young (Jurrjens and Hanson) or signed for one or more years going forward. The inevitable rebuilding process after the 14 year run has been delayed by the “panic” attitude which has reigned at the trading deadline the past several years. (which, in my opinion is made worse by Cox’s age and the “win now” philosophy which is natural for an older manager) This has only resulted in the team trading high ceiling prospects for a 1 year rental mercenary (i.e. Texeira) which wasn’t going to get the team over the top any way and the failure to trade Andruw when he still had value weeks before he became a 10/5 player and hung around 1 more year while his value declined and they were stuck with him. The Braves got little in the Texeira fiasco for a king’s ransom and nothing for Andruw (didn’t offer arbitration which would have resulted in a compensatory pick for fear he would accept). Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Let’s stand pat (Mark’s right, the Braves have an outside chance to steal this division as constituted) or SELL for a change!

leggomyego

July 9th, 2009
11:25 am

Ken – The Braves offered Andruw a minor league contract, similar to the contract offered by the Rangers. Andruw chose the Rangers.

Bama Aaron

July 9th, 2009
11:26 am

I’m in somewhat of agreement with Mike S. I like what I’m seeing so far from Brooks Conrad. Once Infante gets off the DL send Hernandez down and keep him around. Don’t even think about moving Vasquez. If…and it’s a big if..a reasonable offer comes along for a good-hitting RF then package Gonzales with Frenchy and make the deal. Both Soriano and Gonzales are free at the end of the year anyway and I doubt we resign both. Otherwise stand pat and hope we can start getting some timely hitting.

McLouth of the South

July 9th, 2009
11:26 am

Ken they would have gladly given Andruw a minor league deal with a shot to earn his way up. He didn’t want that. He wanted a guaranteed major league job after two seasons of Hoover-caliber sucking.

LOOGY

July 9th, 2009
11:26 am

The 2007 team had many more problems. What Tex gave in offense was defeated by a then struggling Andruw Jones. Also, remember who the #3 starter was? Chuck James. Not exactly Javier Vasquez is it? Then Buddy Carlyle and Jo Jo Reyes. Not exactly a potential Hudson and Hanson.

McLouth of the South

July 9th, 2009
11:26 am

Kinda like the one Francoeur has. Contradictory, huh?

PMC

July 9th, 2009
11:27 am

It always depends on what is being offered.

It would make sense to sell if they can find a great 1st Short or 3rd base prospect.

The braves do have 2 “closers” so to speak and they could move someone in the Pen if they are desired.

MightyQuinn

July 9th, 2009
11:27 am

Be willing to be either depending on the deal. We are sitting on the fence in the standings, lets sit on the fence at the trade deadline. If we get/make an offer on a big bat with years remaining on his contract (non-rental player) lets do that (extremely doubtful, I know). If we get/make an offer that would significantly bolster us for the future (Vasquez for lots of prospects, for example) lets punt this year and go for ‘10 or ‘11. Let whatever offer helps the team significantly be the one we make. But if no deals help significantly, then make no deals. We got a shot this year, and the next two years look better.