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.