Bradley’s Buzz: SI’s Heyman calls Braves’ offseason ‘cheap’

I apologize. I've used this picture before, but it's a classic. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

I apologize. I've used this picture before, but it's too good. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

I don’t always agree with Jon Heyman of SI.com. He seems to believe Bobby Valentine invented the game of baseball, while I’m of the opinion Bobby V. only perfected the art of preening. But I can’t quibble with this assessment of the Braves’ offseason.

Heyman lists “eight teams that struck out this winter by not spending enough.” The Braves are No. 8 on that list. (The Mets are No. 1, intriguingly enough.)His rationale:

“[The Braves] were remarkably cheap this winter, and the result is a rotation diminished by the loss of Javier Vazquez and a lineup that still needs another big hitter. Melky Cabrera was the only immediate help received for Vazquez, who was brilliant last year. Troy Glaus could prove to be a $2 million bargain, and Eric Hinske seems to be a lucky charm [he played for the AL champion the past three seasons]. They also got former All-Star closer Takashi Saito. Meanwhile, the real goal had been to trade Derek Lowe so they could free up money for the much-needed impact bat. Unfortunately for them, there were no takers. Billy Wagner is a fair replacement for Rafael Soriano [though at this point, I'd take Soriano]. But overall, there was no discernible improvement.”

My two cents (hey, I’m cheap, too!): Even if the Vazquez trade helps the Braves down the road — I’m thinking of prospect Arodys Vizcaino — there was no way they should have surrendered the man who might well have been their Opening Day starting pitcher without getting a starting position player in return. (Cabrera is seen as a fourth outfielder.) And I don’t buy the argument that the Braves’ rotation will be just as strong without Vazquez.

With Vazquez, the fourth and fifth starters would have been Lowe, who even in a down year won 15 games, and Tim Hudson, who had Tommy John surgery in 2008. Without Vazquez, those two must move up a slot and Kenshin Kawakami, who won seven games last season, again becomes the No. 5 starter. I’m sorry, but that’s a downgrade.

And, since parsimony is today’s theme, I’m wondering about the money the Braves apparently saved in dumping Vazquez. He was scheduled to make $11.5 million. Cabrera will earn $3.1 million. Glaus will make $2 million, Hinske $1 million. That’s $6.1 million in new salaries. Where’d the other $5.4 million go?

I asked Chipper Jones that question last week. I said: “Will they just give that $5 million to you?” He, you should know, just laughed.

294 comments Add your comment

d

February 8th, 2010
11:44 am

Dave in Buford

February 8th, 2010
11:45 am

the other $5 Million went to the bottom line of Liberty Media’s profit sheet … the Braves will never be good again until they are no longer owned by a corporation that uses them for a cash machine.

Thomas

February 8th, 2010
11:46 am

buzz is wiser

February 8th, 2010
11:48 am

this is sad. It really hurts me to see my team fall so far. Paging Ted Turner, Arthur Blank, somebody…Hey am I first??

Mark Bradley

February 8th, 2010
11:50 am

buzz is wiser

February 8th, 2010
11:52 am

guess not…I don’t get any kudos Mark, I read your article

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February 8th, 2010
11:53 am

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Mark Bradley

February 8th, 2010
11:54 am

You’re paying the price, buzz is wiser, for reading what I write. I’d never encourage anyone to do that.

F-105 Thunderchief

February 8th, 2010
11:56 am

They could have had LaRoche for one-year and still had money left over. And, the Vazquez trade only becomes worth it if Viscaino becomes the next Jair Jurrjens.

Ray Pugh

February 8th, 2010
11:57 am

Bradley, for the eight-thousandth time, it was Liberty Media who got cheap, not the Braves front office. Don’t you think if we still had Turner money that we’d be signing players who aren’t “question marks” like Glaus, Wagner and Saito? Of course we wouldn’t. But we don’t have Turner money anymore and Frank Wren and Co. have to do the best w/ what they’ve got. Wren made some calculated risks this offseason, but in doing so, he kept the groundwork for the future intact. I know you’ve got to sell controversy, but please, do me one favor: when the Braves are in the playoffs this year, don’t be a bandwagon-hopper and start kissing Wren’s @$$..

Mark Bradley

February 8th, 2010
11:58 am

I don’t think LaRoche would have taken a one year-deal, F-105.

F-105 Thunderchief

February 8th, 2010
11:58 am

Does Liberty Media have to hold the Braves for two more seasons until they get the tax break that was the only reason they bought the team in the first place? I’m hoping to be wrong and that’s it’s sooner.

bravedawg

February 8th, 2010
11:58 am

Mark – the way I’ve heard it explained, that other 5.4 million is being attributed to easily achievable bonuses for various players (like Glaus). The Braves don’t want to risk giving that money to someone else because the bonuses are relatively achievable.

Dr. Phil

February 8th, 2010
11:58 am

The Braves will play some good basebal this yearl, but the playoff days are over.

jim

February 8th, 2010
11:59 am

sad that it seems bobby cox will leave not with a bang, but with a whimper (and a team that doesn’t make the playoffs)

F-105 Thunderchief

February 8th, 2010
11:59 am

Did he not in Arizona?

Dave

February 8th, 2010
11:59 am

Might they be holding on to the $5 million so they can make a major mid-season pickup once they see which of their oft- or recently-injured players (Chipper, Hudson, Glaus, Wagner) breaks down?

bravedawg

February 8th, 2010
12:00 pm

And I always laugh at people who think that no matter who it is, if we have one guy that owns the team, EVERYTHING WOULD BE PERFECT!! We’d be able to spend all the money we want!! It doesn’t work that way, folks. Lots of individual owners may have lost their shirts in the recent economic downturn, and we would have even less money to spend.

Tremaine

February 8th, 2010
12:01 pm

The Braves are a walking thrift store.

Cecil34

February 8th, 2010
12:01 pm

In the picture at the top, Cox looks less than pleased about standing up there with a man who has played little first base and has been injured.

If that was going to be the case, put Chipper at first since he hasn’t played first, and get a healthy third baseman.

Oh, I’m sorry, that just made sense – forgive me.

extremus

February 8th, 2010
12:01 pm

Agreed, Dave in Buford. The Braves are being run just like a typical corporate entity right now, expecting more of both employees (players, in the Braves’ case) and customers (fans) in return for less investment. It’s easy to see where the economy has gone; the rich and corporate America are all hoarding every last cent up to maintain their profits and lifestyles rather than investing that money back into the payrolls and the economy. Simple, really; what’s not so simple is how we’re either going to find a way to change that or lose our entire way of life in America.

But I’ll get off my soapbox since after all this is a Braves blog. The bottom line is, Heyman’s list could easily have included any of the teams not named the Yankees, Red Sox, or Phillies (all of whom have private ownerships, I believe; something to think about when you consider one human owner is willing to outspend the ownerships of entire corporations to keep a winning ballclub on the field). Until some means is put in place to gain some sort of balance, “Wait till next year” will fast become disinterest from fanbases who no longer see their franchises as able to compete ever again. See if the loss of ticket sales and TV revenues gets the owners’ and players’ attention then.

I hope Liberty Media sells the Braves very soon and never shows their face again in Atlanta (well, not as if they ever did anyway, right? The comfy seats at Coor’s Field are so much closer…). Hopefully another human owner like Arthur Blank will step up then and help bring an air of urgency to the team and one of truthfulness to its fans.

falcon 71

February 8th, 2010
12:02 pm

Im afraid Dave is right.if the owner’s not a baseball fan but a corp. accountable to stockholders there is NO WAY the braves will ever approach greatness again. they will be worth watching because they will always have a chance to win-unlike before Ted bought them- but greatness never again.
Bobby has realized this now.

Mark Bradley

February 8th, 2010
12:02 pm

He did, for $4.5 million. But I submit he wouldn’t have done it here. He’d gotten mad at the Braves.

Mark Bradley

February 8th, 2010
12:03 pm

I believe the Liberty Media tax writeoff kicks in this fall. Could be wrong, though.

Ray Pugh

February 8th, 2010
12:04 pm

Naysayers:

A) we had the second-best record in baseball in the second half of 2009, after we jettisoned Francouer, summoned TH and acquired LaRoche and McLouth. Our offense we be just as good (if not better) than that second-half team.

B) Guess what: we can make the playoffs even if one of Chipper, Hudson, Glaus or Wagner breaks down. We have good players (Hinske, Medlen, Moylan) who can replace them, or we can make a trade (we will likely have a $2-3 million cushion at the deadline to make such a deal, and with our uber-abundance of pitching prospects, they’ll be plenty of teams willing to deal).

extremus

February 8th, 2010
12:05 pm

Can’t wait for that to happen, Mr. Bradley. Maybe then we’ll get back to an atmosphere of World Series expectations again as I guess we sometimes took for granted several years back.

Vazquez? Vazquez!

February 8th, 2010
12:06 pm

Four of the last six seasons Vazquez finished with an ERA over 4.40. Projecting that he’ll follow up his career year in 2009 with another one is to ignore his track record. Odds are his new team will get the old Vazquez – four innings of solid pitching with six or seven Ks. Then he starts the fifth with a walk, an error and a homer. Then comes the walk to the dugout. Last year was a fluke. The Braves made the smart money bet by dumping the guy.

Your Breath Smells Like Feed

February 8th, 2010
12:06 pm

The Atlanta Spirit needs to buy the Braves.

Mark Bradley

February 8th, 2010
12:07 pm

The Spirit might be looking to sell a team before it buys another.

F-105 Thunderchief

February 8th, 2010
12:09 pm

Yeah, you’re probably right. Hope Glaus returns to pre-inury form. Hope you’re right about the tax breaks, too. Man, this team needs better ownership.

McCann

February 8th, 2010
12:10 pm

Rotation is great. Two hopes offensively: 1. Troy Glaus comes in healthy, stays healthy and produces at least what LaRoche would have. 2. Heyward starts Opening Day and has a rookie of the year season.

If both don’t happen we’re looking at another above .500 season but no playoffs.

bravedawg

February 8th, 2010
12:10 pm

Vazques? Vazquez!

I’m with you – I find it amazing how no one points out that last year was an anomaly for Vazquez. All signs point to him regressing to his previous seasons…and those weren’t #1 starter numbers.

Barnacle Bill Bavasi

February 8th, 2010
12:12 pm

“I find it amazing how no one points out that last year was an anomaly for Vazquez.”

You’ve obviously not read these blogs. Lots of people make that claim constantly. Doesn’t change the fact the Braves got hosed unless Viscaino pans out.

dap01

February 8th, 2010
12:13 pm

I understand being cheap. What I don’t understand is the Braves acting like there is no salary reduction when there is a salary reduction. There are free agents available at reasonable prices that would allow the Braves to properly develop talent but they lie and say……..

This whole offseason offered so much promise with all of the pieces that we had to deal with. Yet we came up on the short end of every transaction.

ITP Brave

February 8th, 2010
12:14 pm

It’s pretty clear that the extra $5Million will be used on the balance sheet instead of the 40-man roster. But, this is what happens when the owner sees the sports franchise as an investment and tax shelter instead of a sports team.

Until this team is sold to an owner interested in winning, expect the trend of past-their-prime players and trading away top-tier players for prospects to continue.

louisville slugger

February 8th, 2010
12:14 pm

I’m with McCann; if Glaus (and Chipper, and Wagner) stay healthy, and if Heyward becomes the 2nd coming of early Andruw, the Braves will be right there. I really like the pitching.

Still a couple of inches on the ground in Louisville, today, expecting 3-4 more tonight!

Reid Adair

February 8th, 2010
12:14 pm

Jon Heyman is exactly right with this one. Frank Wren’s off-season work was “cheap,” and that’s putting it nicely.

You’re exactly right, Mark. How you give away an Opening Day starting pitcher without getting at least one starting player in return is beyond me.

Mark Bradley

February 8th, 2010
12:15 pm

I don’t know that the Braves are done making moves. I do know that Bobby Cox thinks they’re done making moves.

Hmmmmm

February 8th, 2010
12:15 pm

Didn’t that extra $5M go towards signing Hudson to his extension?

Mark Bradley

February 8th, 2010
12:16 pm

I don’t think so, Hmmmm. That was done way before the other moves. That money was on the payroll while Vazquez was still a Brave.

Bad Karma

February 8th, 2010
12:16 pm

The Braves are a tax shelter or some kind of investment, they don’t come anywhere near the organization they once were. Free agents avoid Atlanta like the plague and will do so until they become a baseball team again and not necessarily known for P&L. Oh for those “boring” 14 years of championships . . .

John Arbogast

February 8th, 2010
12:21 pm

I long for the days of Syd Bream legging it around third against the Pirates. The Braves were hungry back then for a pennant. We had a GM and an owner who were determined to give Atlanta something to be proud of. We all had red eyes from staying up late watching the games from the West Coast…Now it feels like the Braves organization is just going through the motions of placing a team on the field with no “hunger”. The Braves teams we used to live and die for are long gone, today we have a team that is as exciting as watching paint dry. I now live on the West Coast and I see that same “hunger” in the Angels and they have become the team I live and die for.

Nobody Cares

February 8th, 2010
12:21 pm

Will you tools knock it off with this first, second, third nonsense? It’s getting out of hand.

Bryan

February 8th, 2010
12:23 pm

The main factor about JV is that he had ONE YEAR left on his contract and was coming off of his BEST year ever – he will not repeat 2009 and he will sign for more than we can afford (we would not have been able to offer arbitration because of the risk he would accept – so he would walk without draft picks). That deal has the chance to go as a Doyle Alexander – Smoltz trade. Good for NY right away – better for ATL for a long long long time.

Matt

February 8th, 2010
12:24 pm

Kinda sad, I think they gave up too quick in trying to trade Lowe. I hated to see Vasquez go. So this is the team we got for Bobby’s last season, give me a break! For goodness sakes, sign Johnny Damon or something!! Wren needs to go be GM for the Nationals cause that’s about as good as he is.

Smack

February 8th, 2010
12:24 pm

Raises for players such as McCann, Diaz, McLouth, and Chipper took your $5 mil Mark.

Larry

February 8th, 2010
12:24 pm

As much as I hated the Vazquez move, they can make up for it if they make a move late. They have a little cash left. Spend it. And just in case anyone forgot, Vazquez didnt lead the team in wins last year. Lowe did. And his year was mediocre. If he plays up to his full potential, he can win 20 games this season.

ernisTbass

February 8th, 2010
12:24 pm

Haven’t the Marlins proven that you don’t need to be at the top of the payroll ranks to bring home a trophy? Its not always about the money. Some folks can do a dandy job furnishing their house at yard sales and others can be tacky as hell regardless of where they shop. Maybe the Braves just need a new decorator.

Give them a chance

February 8th, 2010
12:24 pm

Kinda tired of all the writters coming down on the Braves. Heck they did that when we have Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux. You would think by now that you people would be used to the Braves getting the bad calls.

Why not give this team a chance. KK will be better this year in his second year of throwing american baseballs. Hes under control. Lowe will not have another year like last. He wasnt as bad as all make out. Hanson will be fine in his 1st complete year and Hudson is strong and ready. JJ, nothing needs said about our number 2 ACE.

Yall wanta go with the press when they say hitting hitting hitting. Fact is our hitting was not the problem last year. We were at the top with hitting. Our pen was not good though. I sat and watched this pen blow leads but the closers didnt get blamed for the save or no save because it was blown before they got to the closer. The pen is better and we do have better hitters in the lineup then we did last year.

These writters need to get over themselves because if you not the Yankees or the Red Sox or the Mets you get no respect anyway. The braves never have and never will. So there.

Opinion

February 8th, 2010
12:30 pm

It seems the braves are starting to follow the Pittsburgh Pirate model (spend less money, make more money, trade away all of our good players and get nothing in return, and sign old veterans that have about a 10% chance to be the shell of the player they once were).