Frank Wren is a man in a hurry. That’s his nature. He walks fast. He’s forever fiddling with his BlackBerry. His predecessor gave the impression of having all the time in the world, but this general manager is always in motion. (Perhaps that’s due to their backgrounds: John Schuerholz started as a school teacher, while Wren was a minor-league center fielder.)
Wren’s default mode is to try something. No GM was more aggressive over the winter, and now we arrive at the fortnight when GMs feel duty-bound not just to try something but to do anything. And surely the temptation of Wren will be massive as July winds down.
His team is six games out of first place in a division where nothing is settled. The Phillies are so desperate for pitching they signed Pedro Martinez, whose fastball is no longer fast. The Mets are hurting. The Marlins are nothing special. The imp perched on Wren’s shoulder keeps whispering, “One more move and you can win this thing.”
And Wren is, by his very nature, disposed to feel that way already. But a GM gets paid not just to listen to his gut (or an impertinent imp). He has to heed his head. The best course for the 2009 Braves is to sit tight.
Yes, it’s tantalizing to imagine Matt Holliday in the Braves’ outfield in August and September. Temptation always comes in a pretty package. But the Braves weakened themselves over the long haul in that moment of Schuerholz weakness in 2007, and one of the key issues now — should Yunel Escobar be traded? — would have a different set of dynamics had not Elvis Andrus been sent to Texas in the Mark Teixeira deal.
The A’s, who employ Holliday for the moment, want prospects. Would you trade Jordan Schafer and Kris Medlen, say, for two months of a diminished Boras-represented slugger? Would you give up Escobar, too? Would you do it if, as Dave O’Brien reports, the A’s might throw in the 34-year-old shortstop Orlando Cabrera as a sweetener? The answer to all of the above should be no.
Escobar is younger and, at the moment, better than Holliday, and he’s under contract beyond October 2009. And the Braves have made so many kid-laden trades — Teixeira being the glaring example, but Tyler Flowers was dispatched for Javier Vazquez and Gorkys Hernandez for Nate McLouth — that their farm system needs time to reset itself.
And there’s no assurance Holliday would swing the 2009 division race any more than Teixeira did in 2007. (Albert Pujols would, but he’s not apt to be available.) There’s no great difference-maker to be had. This is baseball, where the difference-makers are starting pitchers, and the Braves have enough of those.
In a way, losing four games in the standings over the 10 days before the All-Star break did Wren a favor. Were the Braves still two games back, the pressure on their GM to make one last trade would have been unbearable. Six games out is different. You’re close enough to win but not so close you feel you’ve let down your club if you don’t do something, anything.
And that’s good. Because this isn’t the July to do something, anything. This is the July to assess options but to hoard resources for what seems a bright future. That voice on his shoulder? Wren needs to whip out a can of Imp-B-Gone. I believe they sell it at Wal-Mart.