Bradley’s Buzz: Are the Braves the team to beat in 2010?

Expect three of these jerseys to be filled next season. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Expect three of these jerseys to remain filled next season. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

They finished the season on a six-game losing streak and wound up third in the division, but ESPN.com’s Insiders sees the Braves as perhaps the NL East favorite in 2010. (Link requires registration.) Insiders quotes one unnamed “longtime NL scout” as saying, “That’s a team that has the pitching to run down the Phillies next year.”

More from Insiders Buster Olney and Shawn Hoffman:

“Atlanta needs a bopper. It’s maybe the one missing ingredient. The Braves appear poised for a breakthrough season, in what Cox says will be his last year as the team’s manager. Atlanta is flush with starting pitching, from Javier Vazquez to Tommy Hanson, and has some excellent young prospects expected to rise into the major leagues — outfielder Jason Heyward, most notably. A 20-year-old slugger with exceptional plate discipline, Heyward reminded his Double-A manager of Darryl Strawberry. Atlanta is expected by rival GMs to be very aggressive in its search for a right-handed hitter, whether it be a left or right fielder or a first or third baseman …

“Atlanta is abuzz with word that the Braves will take aim at a big right-handed bat. How about Dan Uggla or even Miguel Tejada? Outfield offers big targets like Matt Holliday and Jason Bay, but you’d think the Braves would stay cheaper. Hello, Gary Sheffield? We’ll see, but a bat is surely in the equation …

“All things considered, 2009 was a massive improvement on 2008, and they could easily be the favorites to win the NL East going into 2010 if they can improve in a couple of spots. The outfield, for one, wouldn’t be a bad place to start; Garret Anderson … leaves a lot to be desired, and the Braves would be hard-pressed to find someone who will give them less value in left field next year. As for right field, 2010 will likely be the start of the Jason Heyward era in Atlanta, which should give them a boost over this year’s Jeff Francoeur/Ryan Church/Matt Diaz triumvirate. If the rotation can hold some of its gains, and Chipper Jones can at least maintain his current level, the Braves could be very, very tough.”

OK, my two cents. Don’t really see where Tejada or Uggla would play here. Don’t really think the Braves could afford Holliday or Bay. Don’t really think Sheffield is an answer. (Tried that already, didn’t they?) Do think the Braves are positioned to win the division next year, but I think a key to the offseason now becomes what to do about the guy who finished 2009 at first base. And so …

Also today: What should the Braves do with Adam LaRoche?

And then: Why the Braves must keep Greg Norton at all costs!

131 comments Add your comment

Josh

October 6th, 2009
1:07 am

Keep LaRoche and bring up Heyward.
Rotation next year should be Vasquez, Jurrjens, Hanson, Lowe, Hudson.
Those changes alone set us apart.

atl fan

October 6th, 2009
1:25 am

We have to keep LaRoche. I Like what he brings to the table. Besides he was a baby brave.

Braves2010

October 6th, 2009
1:28 am

I agree with Josh. But I’ll have to add this: fortify the bench (let’s say good-bye to Norton), and keep both Gonzalez and Soriano.

atl fan

October 6th, 2009
1:28 am

Bring up heyward. and sign one superfast guy and we will go to the series. Maybe trade a starter for a juan pierre type player

Tejada....

October 6th, 2009
1:50 am

…is getting up there in age and we already have Yunel Escobar and Sheffield probably only has a few years left. And going on the speed topic how about making a run at Dexter Fowler in Colorado although i doubt they would be willing to trade him.

Phil

October 6th, 2009
1:53 am

Of the players mentioned in the article, only Uggla makes a little sense but I think it would still be hard to trade in division. I’m jut hoping they dont trade Vazquez for the big right handed bopper.

ccrider

October 6th, 2009
2:00 am

If the Braves can trade Derek Lowe, the Team should resign Laroche, but only for 2 years. Freddie Freeman will be ready by 2011 and doesn’t need to be blocked. In addition, they should look at Xavier Nady and Mike Cameron on 1 year contracts. Nady can play Rightfield until Heyward comes up in June(The Braves will leave him at AAA so he doesn’t become a Super2 player like they did Hanson this Year) Diaz in Leftfield, Cameron in a platoon in Centerfield with McLouth. Nady and Cameron would add 2 RH hitters with 20+ HR power.

shayne Light

October 6th, 2009
2:02 am

I think the Braves are The team to beat if they keep LaRoche! Bring up Heyward to play right field, and Jordan S. to play left. Diaz can be the fourth outfielder. Prado can be the starter at second and play third when Chipper is not in the line up. Kelly johnson can be a fifth outfielder and back up second when prado plays third base ( which will be about 60 to 100 games).
If the Braves are serious about a run at a title, they need to trade Chipper. I hate to say it but he is old, very injury prone, and half the player be used to be. Maybe try and package Chipper, Lowe, and 2 prospects for A-Rod or a Roy Holliday.

brian pipes

October 6th, 2009
2:15 am

Enter your comments here Question for you Mark. Who was the player that was drafted by Atlanta and played QB for Oregon or Oregon State and where is he now? I thought that he was highly thought of.

Ostrich Racer

October 6th, 2009
2:19 am

I’ve always thought Cody Ross do well in Atlanta. Not the biggest bopper, but I think he had 25 or so this year, and he can field. He’s under contract, and the Marlins have a younger guy they like in center.

Coach (2010- Mr. Overrated retires)

October 6th, 2009
2:44 am

Well, one of the six starters is gone, that we know. Which one is anybody’s guess. Trade is the key word here when and if the Braves acquire a bat. The connection between trading one starter and getting that big right handed bat has to be made.

Chipper has already reiterated the obvious, LaRoche has to be resigned. Ditto For either Soriano and or Gonzo. Bringing both back would be nice but there are budget concerns.

The 800 pound Elephant in the blog is the outfield. It’s a mess and has been for two years running. McLouth and Diaz are a start. Will Schafer and Heyward contribute? Youth, defense and speed are key words to live by if it is to be improved upon.

I have two names for Frank Wren, one of which I screamed for last year: Nelson Cruz. Would the Rangers part with the young slugger for a pitcher? I don’t know but it won’t hurt to ask.

The other is a sleeper and a big one in a mighty might sort of way. Luis Durango. The dude is lightning in a bottle. No power, all legs and one of the fastest players to hit the big leagues in years. He’s Otis Nixon reborn. Pure blazing destruction on the base paths which can only help our Braves anemic running game. The Padres have a glut of young talented outfielders and no room for the lead off hitter. His key career stat: 232 walks against 193 K’s just screams big league. Not to mention his two minor league batting championships or career .422 OBP. Opportunity is knocking, will Frank Wren answer the door?

Adding a couple of reliable middle relief arms won’t hurt either. The Twins Jose Mijares is in his managers doghouse. His 2.34 ERA in 70 appearances equals opportunity……again.

jhbama10

October 6th, 2009
3:16 am

Are some of you off your rockers? Remember that we are talking about the Braves here. We don’t throw money at free agents (except pitchers). We will have to trade young talent for a proven, yet questionable, hitter. Laroche is a guy who would be a smart resign in the sense that he wants to stay and that he already gets our team concept and has bought in to it long ago. But when have we ever resign relief talent. It seems that we also manage to let our RPs go and replace them with capable talent.

We should add a power bat to left field. Resign Laroche to play first. Let Heyward have his shot (providing he has a good fall league) and have Infante sub in whenever Chipper is too acky to go.

bobby c

October 6th, 2009
3:44 am

lineup:

1. mclouth cf
2. prado 2b
3. chipper 3b
4. uggla Lf (it’s doable)
5. b mac C
6. escobar ss
7. laroche 1b
8. heyward rf
9. pitcher
this plus our rotation equals some diamond tomahawks for our braves

BravesAreDone

October 6th, 2009
4:22 am

If they trade Javier it could be another long season with no playoffs…can’t let your top pitcher go and be left with back three of Hudson, Lowe and KK…just don’t see that working out very well.
Gotta get a bat or two and keep the main pitchers…would love to see Lowe clear his locker out and never return.

#1 braves fan

October 6th, 2009
5:41 am

DAN UGGLA WOULD BE A GOOD FIT. LEAVE VASQUEZ ALONE, HE DESERVES TO BE HERE! WE ARE CLIMBING THE LADDER ONE STEP AT A TIME.. ITS TIME TO GET TO THE TOP.AT LEAST WE DIDNT LOOSE 100 GAMES. CHIPPER NEEDS TO HIT AT LEAST 300 WITH 25 DINGERS..

NCBravesFan

October 6th, 2009
6:10 am

I think they should re-sign LaRoche and leave it at that for now. Heyward may be ready for RF already and Schafer was hitting the cover off the ball until he injured his wrist – if he’s fully recovered by March, give him a shot at CF and move Nate to LF.

The Braves were just fine after they dealt Francouer and inserted Martin at 2B. They just need a little more pop and a little more consistency at the top of the lineup to make this thing take off.

MitchC

October 6th, 2009
6:18 am

Mark, As for the Braves being the “team to beat”. That remains to be seen. We had a very good season in 2009, that ended on a sour note.

As we know, one of our six starters needs to go. I personally hope we trade Derek Lowe. He;s getting on in years, and did not have a good 2009. I again say that to trade Javy Vazquez would be a huge, huge blunder. He’s much younger than Lowe, and has more of an upside. After intially not that Tim Hudson would be re signed, I now think the Braves will come to some kind of deal with him. He may take a big discount to remain here.

Also imperative is to re sign Laroche. I say give him two years, with a team option for a third, with a cheap buyout, if Freddie Freeman is ready by 2012. We need Laroche’s power.

There is no reason this team can’t win 90 games, and snare at least a wild card in 2010. As for whether we can take the division from the Phillies, that remains to be seen.

TommyP

October 6th, 2009
6:45 am

How can you be the team to beat when you just lost 6 straight to blow the playoffs and haven’t corrected any of your holes?

Let’s wait ’til Wren makes some moves to determine if we’re the team to beat.

No way we go into the season with all of these starters, though. Hudson or Vazquez is out.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

October 6th, 2009
6:52 am

Brian,

Dennis Dickson is the young man from Oregon, but I am not for sure where he is at now. I thought he was a pitcher but I am unsure.

Laroche needs resigned I agree. The bat needs to come from somewhere but not any of what ESPN speculated. Sheffield really? He’s like 41-42? And you pay for that mess?

Larry

October 6th, 2009
7:15 am

Mark,

You have returned to being a goober after you finally had the courage to discuss Bobby Cox. Did you see how this Bobby Cox team finished off the season? 0-7!

So, the Braves management caves in to pity and sympathy and now we have to watch this lackadaisical effort and horribly managed team another year and you ask if this is the team to beat? Hilarious! This decision to waste another year on dwindling crowds and lost enthusiasm is why after 19 season as a season ticket holder (Hank Aaron section, right behind the plate) that I have elected to not renew for 2010. I’ll spend my $10,000 where I can enjoy it rather than, like this year, giving all but 2-3 games away so I am not angry with the dumb decisions, bored completely out of my mind with the hackers and slackers, and eager to leave by the 7th inning knowing that Bobby hasn’t a clue how to manage a close game.

As exemplified by the last 7 games of this regular season, his mismanagement of players from April – June, and his 1-14 record in the last game of the postseason, let me say it just one more time:

“In the end
it will not matter
with Bobby Cox
as the Manager”

Larry (Author of the 1-14 last game postseason record record that Mark fails to comprehend or recognize as a real stat–just like the stat of W/L record of the opening game of a season. Everything is a stat in baseball!)

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

October 6th, 2009
7:15 am

ppaddy123

October 6th, 2009
7:18 am

LaRoche will start the year hitting .230 with very little power and we’ll all say in unison…….What were the Braves thinking? The guy is a TERRIBLE 1st half ball player. HE’S ALWAYS BEEN SLOW OUT THE GATE! The problem is; there’s really no better options AVAILABLE for The Braves. We can throw Freeman’s name around but the guy hasn’t played 1 inning in the majors. Right now he’s just WISHFUL THINKING. The moves Frank Wren made last year made the 2009 Braves BETTER! I expect he’ll do the same for the 2010 Braves.

Bill

October 6th, 2009
7:25 am

Enter your comments here— I think the Braves should bring in Heyward and maybe platoon him early with Diaz, the right handed hitter I would go after is Mark DaRosa (he can play multiple positions and has good right handed power plus he loves Atlanta). I would keep Judson maybe try to sign he and Vasques for 2 or 3 years to keep the rotation really solid.
The braves will need to address the closer role (maybe Moylan), but other than O’…..flarety and Medlin they are really thin. Could they trade Lowe to the Red Sox for two young pitchers that maybe could start in the pen ??

rhynster

October 6th, 2009
7:30 am

You’re fooling yourselves if you think Vazquez will be anything like he was this year in 2010.

Also, LaRoche had his typical second half explosion. But let’s see how much you all like him when he’s hitting .240 through June. If he doesn’t come cheap, he needs to go.

Trade Vazquez while his value is at his career peak. Use him to get a LF or 1B.

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

October 6th, 2009
7:38 am

Agree rhynster, Vazquez has never pitched like he did this year. And can’t be counted on to do it again. LaRoche will not hit .240 in the first half and to add, there is not a night in and night out closer on this team. Gonzo and Soriano can’t go back to back nights and be effective.

79

October 6th, 2009
7:47 am

Mark,
Please stop writing these “sports-only” columns. Don’t you know that readers come here to read political snark. I am not interested in your opinion about the Braves. I read the AJC sports page because I want to know what I should think about government run healthcare….and make it “edgy”, too……like Shultz does….

dozer

October 6th, 2009
7:47 am

Random thoughts here:
1. Before we get carried away, remember that this team finished THIRD in the division – never sniffed the Phillies
2. They only took off after the Reds home sweep & the pressure was off – once they got close again they showed who they really were
3. Chipper is breaking down – if you think he’s good for more than 120 games you’re kidding yourself
4. Lost 7 in a row to finish – nice heart
5. LaRouche was in a contract drive – beware
All things considered – not a bad improvement – they still need another quantum leap to contend.

Tom

October 6th, 2009
7:50 am

The team to beat? LOL. That’s pretty comical when you consider the Phillies will be even better next year when they get their bullpen back end straightened out, plus have some stud prospect pitchers ready to go. And then there’s the Mets, who were only where they were this year due to the amazingly bad string of luck they had with injuries. And you KNOW they have the cash to at least TRY to fix what’s broken, not that that guarantees anything. Another third place finish again next year.

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

October 6th, 2009
7:52 am

Dan Uggla? No thanks. There are other 30 h.r. hitters that can hit over .250 and can play outfield.

collegeballfan

October 6th, 2009
7:57 am

Braves tried bringing up a youngster for center this year and it did not work. Probably won’t work next year either. Players are ready for the majors when they are ready, not when the major league club is ready.

The Braves have 6 starting pitchers. Trade one for the right hand bat.

Ward

October 6th, 2009
8:02 am

Enter your comments here
1.Lowe out, even if we pay portions of his salary-keep KK, Vas.,JJ,Huddie and, of course, Hanson. 2.Heyward right field 3.Diaz and leftie bopper in leftfield 3.keep infield as it is right now 4.Norton, Kelly out 5. Keep Infante, Ross 6. Teach Nate how to drag bunt this winter 7. request Bobby work the stolen base agenda and 8. Whoever is in bullpen don’t make them work 85-90 games!!!

Bubba

October 6th, 2009
8:12 am

Why does everyone continually diss Diaz–he’s proven he can hit, run, and play a decent outfield. Put him in left and let him play! Use others (Schaffer) to platoon with him not the reverse. I agree with the DeRosa comment–always been one of my favorites and hoped we would get him this year for the supposed run.

Rodney

October 6th, 2009
8:27 am

Phillies are thr team to beat in the N.L East.

A full year of Cliff Lee….a rejuvinated Cole Hamels….not to mention the young stud Kyle Drabek.

The Phillies won 93 games with 11 blown saves and still tanked at the end of the season. With a healthy bullpen and full year of Lee, theres no reason to believe Philly wont push 100 wins next year.

Are the Braves a 100 win team?…..time will tell but I have my doubts. Javier Vazques had a career year las year…will he repeat that?….will Hanson suffer the all-too common sophomore slump when his innings increase?

Phillies are clearly team to beat until they are beaten

Jan Spiro

October 6th, 2009
8:34 am

Enter your comments here The Phillies have better players at every starting postion exept catcher. That includes 3rd base where Feliz had a better year than Chipper Jones. The pitching is very close. Beat them first, then talk.

All I'm Saying Is...

October 6th, 2009
8:44 am

2009 is over and its time to spend some money in order to make a run in 2010.

1. Keep Vasquez
2. Pick-up Hudson’s option.
3. Keep LaRoche
4. Sign Jason Bay

You can never have too much pitching and trading Vasquez for a bat would be a stupid move plus who knows how Hudson’s arm will play out over a full season.

Re-sign Hudson as he wants to stay here.

Bay is a good character and clubhouse guy, has played in the AL and NL (with Pirates and LaRoche), and would solidify one outfield spot. Let Diaz have the other and bring Heyward up middle of next year after a half season at AAA.

See what McLouth can do from the start hitting in the Braves line-up and bring Schafer up if he’s healthy to get some spot duty.

As much as I love him, let GA walk (he did what we asked him to do) and I don’t really see Church in our future beyond 2010.

Frank needs to tell Cox that Prado is his second baseman and if anyone is moving to the outfield, its Kelly Johnson.

Keep Infante and please for the love of all that is holy, let Norton walk.

With Nate, Prado, Escobar, Chipper, McCann, Bay, Diaz, and LaRoche, we would have a formidable lineup with a bunch of contact hitters and enough power to put a hurtin’ on the NL.

Contrary to most, I like our bullpen with Gonzo and Soriano and Moylan. BC simply needs to make his starters give us seven innings.

LET’S GO BRAVES!

Charlie

October 6th, 2009
8:45 am

Mark,

One theory I’ve heard is that the Braves might swap Lowe with a team that has an expendable big contract hitter. Who fits that description?

JB Wright

October 6th, 2009
8:46 am

To answer your headline:

With Bobby Cox in the dugout, if the Braves make the post-season in 2010, then YES, they will be BEAT. I’d bet the farm on Cox screwing it up.

Bill

October 6th, 2009
8:48 am

With our pitching we are only a couple of good bats away from a run at the playoffs but I doubt this will happen with Cox in the dugout. I think we also need a strong reliever but not too many to choose from at this time. Cox has already said that KJ needs another chance but hopefully Wren will make the decision and not resign KJ. We will probably have another Norton/Corky Miller guy on the team next year that Cox will keep on going to, no matter what. No matter who we sign the make up and attitude of the team will not change until we get a new mgr. I am not a Cox hater but its time for a change. There will be more dumb decisions next year and we will end up short by a few games once again. No doubt in my mind that Cox will cost us 8-12 games a year. Cox is more concerned about keeping the ship happy and being professional than winning ball games.

abtoal

October 6th, 2009
8:51 am

Mark,
Team to beat? Are you serious? The won’t win another division with Bobby Cox as manager. The last game of the season summed up his entire managing career:
No sense of urgency, mismanagement of the bullpen, mismanagement of substitutions, playing for the home run (their only run) and never playing for just the one run that they need. All of that summed up to not beating the teams we were supposed to beat. He should have retired that day. I couldn’t think of a more fitting way for him to go out and retire.

randyarnold

October 6th, 2009
8:56 am

Resign LaRoche. Resign Soriano. There is a need for right-handed power, but an outfield of Schafer, McLouth and Heyward isn’t bad, if you could only teach Bobby Cox this isn’t an American League team in the ’60s. Playing small ball is the way to go.
If anything, the Braves need to work a package for a left-handed starter.

Herschel Talker

October 6th, 2009
9:03 am

MB: Until it is determined what happens to LaRoche, who ends up being the big bopper in the lineup, and what pitcher is traded away to make room for the big bopper, this column is absurdly premature. It’s also absurd considering the Phillies are division champs 3 years running. This column smacks of being a blind homer, something you are usually not.

Joey

October 6th, 2009
9:03 am

Did anyone read Carroll Rogers report this morning? Bobby says they may move Prado to right field, so Kelly Johnson can get another shot at second. He says, “we can’t just give up on Kelly ….” Next he will want to give Norton a try in left. Unbelievable – almost makes you to forget about 2010 altogether and wait for Bobby and his boys to get gone!

Bob Horner

October 6th, 2009
9:08 am

Yeah, great idea on Sheffield – a 40 year old has-been. Or Uggla, a guy who uppercuts at everything trying to hit it out, and finishes the year at .240. Tejada is a former roider who is also past his prime.

Why can’t we go after big Adam Dunn and run him out in left field?

We need a true bopper, not some past-his-prime goofball, or some munchkin 2nd baseman.

jadarm

October 6th, 2009
9:11 am

Dunn…probably about it!

Chazs

October 6th, 2009
9:12 am

Everyone is forgetting about Schaefer. He will be in the mix.
If the Braves can sign LaRoche, they can make a run in the second half.
But I worry about the bullpen, and how Bobby pulls the trigger.
Best guess Braves 2nd, and not the wild card.

VaBravesfan

October 6th, 2009
9:17 am

Joey, I did read that column. I had hoped that Kelly Johnson would be the first to leave. It IS unbelievable.

ppaddy123

October 6th, 2009
9:20 am

I REALLY WISH some of you guys would take your “Reality Pills” Ask yourselves this: how much did Soriano and Gonzolez make combined? Were either of them better than Moylan down the stretch? I think Moylan moves into the closer’s role next year. He saves the Braves a ton of money AND BALL GAMES!I think the Braves will try to re-structure the contracts of Hudson and Vasquez. I think if Lowe gets moved it won’t be a “mega trade” It will probably be a deal for each guy to get a “new start”

Jason Bay will not sign with the Braves. Matt Holliday will not sign with the Braves. We have a starting center fielder that can’t hit a Turner Field. Matt Diaz has shown EVERYONE he’s an everyday player. Bobby Cox is out of his freaking mind to think of moving Prado to RF in an effort to get Kelly Johnson into the game a 2nd. Newsflash Bobby, KJ SUCKS AT 2nd! He can, however, play LF. Bobby, Hide him out there if you’re so intent on getting KJ some regular at-bats. I wonder how much Marlon Byrd will be pursued this off-season? He can play CF and it gives the Braves an additional very affordable “trade piece”

Mark Bradley

October 6th, 2009
9:20 am

I’m not sure that Bobby Cox’s view of Kelly Johnson reflects upper management’s.

Alan

October 6th, 2009
9:25 am

I would try to sign LaRoche, but I’m afraid there’ll be a bidding war and the Braves will drop out. In that case, I’d move Chipper to 1B (he hurt the team at 3B this year) and move Prado to 3B and Infante to 2B. KJ, Church and Norton are history — the first two because they’re too expensive for bench players and the last because he had a horrible season. The biggest need is a RH power hitter. Bay or Holliday would be terrific, but that won’t happen. They’re each going to get big, long-term contracts. Nady or Cameron wouldn’t be bad, but I’d rather go after a guy like Carlos Lee or Lance Berkman. It’s great to have a glut of starting pitchers, but they can’t all return, that’s for sure. I would not trade Vazquez, although I have a feeling that ’s going to happen. I would bring Hudson back. The bullpen will need work, too, because both Soriano and Gonzalez are free agents. One, or both, likely will depart. There are an awful lot of questions on this team. No one can say it’ll be the team to beat in ‘10 until we get answers. Regardless, as others have pointed out, until they’re beaten, the reigning world champions obviously are the team to beat.

Matt the Brave

October 6th, 2009
9:27 am

Only 10m for Dunn for next season. I think that the ‘Natinals’ would unload him for 3 prospects. Their system is BARE. I’m sure they would ask for 5 (a la the Texas trade), but they would end up holding the bag. Of course, they might take Kelly Johnson and Jordan Schaffer for Dunn and a reliever.