1. Why pay the same money to an older reliever who hasn’t had a save since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2008? Billy Wagner is 38 and will make $7 million next season. Rafael Soriano will turn 30 this week and, after agreeing to re-up for a a year after being dealt to Tampa Bay, will earn $7 million in 2009. Soriano had 27 saves last season; Wagner had none. I don’t get this one at all.
2. Why offer arbitration to Soriano, whom they had no intention of keeping, and not offer it to Adam LaRoche, whom they need? I know there are issues of draft-pick compensation and, as ever, money — the Braves don’t want to pay LaRoche what his market value stands to be — but I don’t get this, either. The Braves want LaRoche to stick around for less money and bridge the gap to Freddie Freeman, whom they hope will be ready in 2011. But what if Ol’ Rochy gets a better (read: longer) deal someplace else? Who’s the first baseman then — Martin Prado? And who plays second base if Prado scoots over? (Not Kelly Johnson. He just got non-tendered.)
3. Why the utter desperation to trade Derek Lowe? No, he didn’t have the greatest of seasons, but he did win 15 games. Does one lesser season invalidate everything the Braves believed about Lowe 11 months ago? I understand the Braves need a big bat in the worst way, but is Lowe the only trade lever the Braves have? And doesn’t the appearance of being keen to unload a big-salaried guy serve to diminish the big-salaried guy’s value even more?
4. Doesn’t dumping Ryan Church prove Frank Wren messed up the Jeff Francoeur trade? That transaction wasn’t so much a swap as a divestiture. The Braves needed to cut the cord with Francoeur, who’d become an outsize presence — he didn’t produce much but was the most-discussed man on the roster. Imagine if Matt Diaz had replaced Francoeur as the starter in right field: That would have been the hot-button topic for weeks. When Diaz supplanted Church in right field, nobody said two words. The Braves didn’t really need a player in return; they just needed Francoeur to go somewhere else.
5. Does Wren have the worst instincts in the history of humankind? You know how it’s said that, when in doubt on a multiple-choice test, your first guess is apt to be correct? The Braves’ general manager gives lie to that. Last offseason he tried like crazy to land Jake Peavy, who won only nine games and worked 101 2/3 innings in 2009; tried to sign Rafael Furcal, who hit .269, and tried to sign Ken Griffey Jr., who hit .214. Well, the Braves were better off with Javier Vazquez, Yunel Escobar and Garret Anderson than any of the above. A year from now, we might well be saying, “You know, they should’ve just kept the closer they had.”