As the trade deadline nears, we offer a defense of Frank Wren

Eventual NCLS MVP Mike Devereaux delivers the winning hit in Game 1. (AJC file photo)

Mike Devereaux, eventual MVP of the 1995 NLCS, delivers the winning hit in Game 1. (AJC file photo)

Even as Braves fans scream, “Do something!”, it’s worth noting that the test of a general manager isn’t to do just anything — it’s to do the right thing. And sometimes what seems the right thing turns out to be …

Mark Teixeira.

The approach of another trade deadline takes us back to July 2007. The Braves made a big move, sending five prospects to Texas for the first baseman Teixeira and the reliever Ron Mahay. On the night Teixeira joined the Braves, Tim Hudson said, “Seems like they’re trying to make us win the World Series around here.”

That night Teixeira hit two home runs. Soon, two giddy fans from Auburn, Ala., had written a ditty and slapped it on YouTube. Sample lyric: “The National League it just ain’t fair-a/The Atlanta Braves got Mark Teixeira.” Also this: “The side effect is mild hysteria/The medical reason in Mark Teixeira.”

The reality, alas, was less scintillating. The Braves were 3 1/2 games out of first place when Teixeira arrived; they finished five back. They’d gone 56-51 without Teixeira; they went 28-27 with him. He was gone the next July, shipped to California ahead of impending free agency. Two of those five prospects grew up to help the Rangers reach the 2010 World Series.

The big heat on is Frank Wren to respond to the Giants’ acquisition of Carlos Beltran and to the Phillies’ trade for Hunter Pence. But a response isn’t always an answer, and here we cite another precedent. In 1983 the Braves were running ahead of the Dodgers, but Los Angeles landed the pitcher Rick Honeycutt. Determined to match, the Braves plucked Len Barker from Cleveland, but at the sky-high cost of Brett Butler, Brook Jacoby and Rick Behenna.

The Dodgers flew past the Braves in September. Barker won one game as a Brave in 1983, nine more the next two seasons. In any ranking of the worst trades in Atlanta Braves history, those two deadline deals would make the bottom five.

We mention this not to excuse Frank Wren from doing nothing yet — the guess is that Wren will move momentarily — but it’s not as if the GM has been trying to do nothing. Wren is the Charlie Hustle of general managers: His default position is to slide headfirst. Sometimes he overdoes it, which is how a team that acquired Javier Vazquez and Derek Lowe in one offseason felt compelled to add Kenshin Kawakami. But anyone who thinks Wren is sitting back watching the river flow is delusional.

Wren knows his team needs a bat, a center fielder, a leadoff man. He watches the games, same as you. But knowing you lack something doesn’t mean it’s available, and even if it is it might not be available at your price. The Phillies traded their best pitching prospect and their best non-pitching prospect to Houston for Pence. It has been reported that Wren offered Mike Minor, the Braves’ third-best pitching prospect. Does that make him stupid? Uh, no.

The Phillies sell out every game. When they lack starting pitching a few years down the road, they’ll buy more. (In recent years they’ve bought Roy Halladay, Joe Blanton, Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee twice.) The Braves can’t do that. They’ve spent half as much for this roster as Philadelphia has for its.

The Braves might have had Beltran, but Wren refused to trade one of his four top pitching prospects for a three-month rental. We can quibble over his decision — me, I’d have parted with Minor if it meant getting Beltran for however long — but nobody should suggest it was made lightly.

Wren wants to win a World Series, same as you, but there’s no assurance a big-ticket hire makes you a champ. Fred McGriff panned out. Teixeira didn’t. B.J. Surhoff, acquired by the Braves at the 2000 deadline, didn’t. Denny Neagle, acquired in 1996, didn’t. (Though he would win 36 games in 1997 and ‘98.) But Mike Devereaux, who arrived in an afterthought trade for the minor-leaguer Andre King in August 1995, became the most valuable player of the NLCS en route to Atlanta’s’ only World Series title.

More? Well, the acquisition who left the biggest imprint on October 2010 didn’t arrive in a deadline deal. The Giants bought Cody Ross off waivers from Florida on Aug. 22. He hit five postseason homers and drove in 10 runs.

Baseball, as you might have heard, is a funny old game. Those perceived as deadline winners don’t always, or even often, win in October. Consensus holds that the Giants made a winning move to get Beltran. Consensus also holds that the Phillies won by trading for Pence. At least one of those teams will not win the World Series. That’s a guarantee.

By Mark Bradley

354 comments Add your comment

stevie zero

July 30th, 2011
3:33 pm

dude. first?

stevie zero

July 30th, 2011
3:33 pm

Braves95WS

July 30th, 2011
3:34 pm

Mark, I agree that Wren made a good move not to move 2 top pitching prospects. I do however think that Michael Bourn is exactly what we have needed from the start. Bourn is a true leadoff hitter and that is something the Braves haven’t had since Furcal. Thoughts?

John H

July 30th, 2011
3:36 pm

shawn

July 30th, 2011
3:37 pm

A great article Mark……………I agree……First………..

Sensei John Kreese

July 30th, 2011
3:38 pm

Michael Bourne, I’ll take that. What’s his contract status?

bvillebaron

July 30th, 2011
3:38 pm

Absolutely correct Mark. The Braves will win the Wild Card even if they make no moves and the Phils win the division even without getting Pence or anyone else. Once you get in the playoffs, anything can happen.

We all want a right handed CF leadoff type and a veteran middle reliever, but no at the expense of mortgaging a young team with a bright future. By the way, Jayson Stark reported that Wade wanted 2 of the Braves top 4 pitching prospects and 2 from the second tier for Pence but took the middling package of only A level prospects from the Phils. After the Pence and Oswalt deals you have to wonder if Ed doesn’t still work for the Phils.

John H

July 30th, 2011
3:38 pm

Dang 2nd, I agree Braves95WS, Bourn would be a very solid addition and would be a great table-setter for the hitters we have, much like Jose Reyes is for the mets and J-Roll is for the Phils. But if the price is the same or more than what they wanted for Pence, I’d say that is a little much…

JDawg1785

July 30th, 2011
3:38 pm

I’d be happy with any move at this point. Quentin would be great, but Crisp or Upton could fit the Braves’ needs as well. Mark, any word on possible deals involving a reliever?

Sneed

July 30th, 2011
3:38 pm

Nice article… I think Pence is going to turn out as Nate McClouth 2.0 but I’ve been wrong before. Who knows. I just hope something is done. I’m tired of checking trade rumors!

jim

July 30th, 2011
3:39 pm

love to add bourn if it worked out

peacengrits75

July 30th, 2011
3:39 pm

JDawg1785

July 30th, 2011
3:39 pm

Bourn would also be a good pickup. He always scares me when the Braves play Houston.

Rupert

July 30th, 2011
3:40 pm

I really hope the Tex deal has no bearing on what Wren does now. A past deal that did not work out is no reason to be timid or rigid in your approach. Should you learn from past mistakes? Sure. However, you can’t get so afraid of dealing prospects that you lock yourself into acquiring low-end players. Can’t judge Wren until tomorrow, and of course there will be August, but it looks like he didn’t pony up for either guy. You don’t make a move now to respond, you make a move now because this team has holes, but still has a great chance to do something special.

jerry

July 30th, 2011
3:41 pm

Homer Simpson defended the Teixeira trade during the game last night and he is never wrong.

Keith

July 30th, 2011
3:42 pm

Thanks, Mark, for being reasonable and not the knee-jerk baseball fan. :)

I still like Quentin…that’s about it. If it’s not him, I say we keep our pitching…

GO BRAVES!

Pete

July 30th, 2011
3:42 pm

Did you really say Denny Neagle did not pan out? 36 wins in2 years is not panning out?

Pete

July 30th, 2011
3:43 pm

I would trade Mike Minor in a heart beat. I do not think he will ever be more than a 4th starter at best

ATLien

July 30th, 2011
3:43 pm

Good move by Frank. Houston tried to rob us blind, then turn around and trade pence to our division rival for less

Dennis Reynolds

July 30th, 2011
3:45 pm

Bourn is the key.

jerry

July 30th, 2011
3:45 pm

Did you not watch the game last night, Bradley? Homer Simpson defended the Texixiera trade. So it was o.k.

Nut Job

July 30th, 2011
3:45 pm

One of the best articles I’ve read about the Braves and our situation.

extremus

July 30th, 2011
3:45 pm

I agree with the assessment, Mr. Bradley; Frank Wren could do a lot more long-term damage to the Braves’ organization that he might in the short term by acting out of haste or a sense of panic. Even if his final decision doesn’t bring a World Series title in 2011 (though of course we hope it does), should the Braves have held onto all of those highly touted pitching prospects come the end of the season they will still be there to either develop further or use to acquire position needs…and thay may bring much more then than they would have had Wren used them in a highly competitive trade market.

The jury’s still out, yes, but overall my attitude toward the situation is “Que sera, sera”. Whether Wren makes a big splash or not, the playoffs are a crapshoot.

jerry

July 30th, 2011
3:45 pm

Homer Simpson

PMC

July 30th, 2011
3:46 pm

Yeah the difference here is that the deadline winners last year won the world series already.

and the team that got Hunter Pence had better pitching and a better lineup before making the trade.

The Braves were always just behind mostly due to the lineup and the weakness of it. When healthy they can compete. It was pretty obvious before the season started that they were razor thin in the starting lineup. That they have won 60 games is a testament to the quality of the bench. They already lost in the playoffs with bench players starting.

The Braves are unwilling to pay the price required to put a lineup on the field that can win a championship. That’s fine, and they can’t admit publicly they aren’t trying to win but the salary cap they have imposed says it for them.

Sure the guys on the field are trying, but they aren’t good enough to win 3 championship series.

jerry

July 30th, 2011
3:47 pm

jerry

July 30th, 2011
3:47 pm

the Teixiera

jerry

July 30th, 2011
3:48 pm

jerry

July 30th, 2011
3:48 pm

PMC

July 30th, 2011
3:48 pm

How was the Tex deal a mistake? They got a decent bullpen arm in that deal too.

Elvis was ready to play and was blocked here by a guy who may struggle through injury again next year.

Clearly they have replaced the relief pitchers they lost. The Tex deal was the right move, the rest of the team that year simply wasn’t good enough and Tex simply didn’t play well enough when they needed him too.

ryan

July 30th, 2011
3:48 pm

Quentin or Bourn sounds like direction we are going don’t count M. Byrd from the Cubs ether that would ok by me .

Keith

July 30th, 2011
3:48 pm

Personally, we may have a bigger need of a good reliever than a bat….this is assuming mccann comes back healthy….and chipper plays more days that he doesn’t.

I know, that’s a big if…

tybeedave

July 30th, 2011
3:49 pm

too high of a price to get Pence…..Wren a smart man….lets get a couple of guys from the CWS……

Bill

July 30th, 2011
3:49 pm

This is simple.Phillies ownership wants to win.Braves ownership (Liberty Media) wants to turn a larger profit.

Kwesi

July 30th, 2011
3:49 pm

Excellent article Mark. I do disagree with Beltran. The way we have been snake bit with injuries, he would have pulled a quad or something first week in uniform (just to creaky for my taste.). I would like Atlanta to get a speedy guy like Bourn if it does not cost too much so that we can actually start manufactoring runs instead of waiting for the 3 run homer. I think that is missing most in teh Braves lineup. You can get all the sluggers you want, but if no one is on base all you have is a solo homerun. I think with Uggla hitting now and with Freddie Freeman playing so well, a speedy outfielder who can get on and steal bases would be best. In the playoffs, it is all about manufacturing runs not hitting the long ball.

babygoldberg

July 30th, 2011
3:50 pm

Great article I agree but am I the only one who saw the speed our call up had last night. If he could hit like he did in triple A with that speed he could be a game changer. Let’s not forget that our turnaround in 90 or 91 started with a fellow from the farm I believe justice was his name.

Bama Brave

July 30th, 2011
3:50 pm

So more less where going stan pat?

G

July 30th, 2011
3:50 pm

I will give you that Wren does not sit back; however he does seem a little gun shy to make moves. He is not going to deplete the farm system by giving up 2 highly rated pitchers. Some one else will step up and you can always trade and sing free agents to fill pitching gaps…. We have no idea what the future holds for the future in terms of ownership, so we shouldn’t think we cant become a bigger player down the road… Bottom line, the deals the guy has made have not been real good, Uggla may turn out to be an exception, but other than that not much has worked out very well.

I just don’t think he is a very good GM… He has not proved he can do much…

Pete

July 30th, 2011
3:52 pm

I like how Bradley and DOB never have updates. We have to go to mlbtraderumors.com to get news.

I really, really wish we would trade heyward

PMC

July 30th, 2011
3:52 pm

The roster they have now, isn’t cutting it.

I mean, unless you just like watching Outfielders struggle to hit.

"Chef" Tim Dix

July 30th, 2011
3:52 pm

NO UPTON!!!!

Quentin is the best value that WE know about ( Does Wren have other cards to play?).

cammic

July 30th, 2011
3:52 pm

Good read!

However:

In any ranking of the worst trades in Atlanta Braves history, those two deadline deals would make the bottom five.

I guess you mean the top five in a ranking of the worst trades…

crazy

July 30th, 2011
3:53 pm

Ashlee Simpson

P. Bull Terrier

July 30th, 2011
3:53 pm

Short of trading for the Dodgers outfield, I don’t think there is anything out there that makes the Braves the favorite over the Phillies to win the division or get to the World Series. As much as I hate to say it, the Phillies were the best team in baseball before adding Pence and they are even better now. Realistically, the Braves are playing for second best, no matter what they do at the trade deadline.

Since there really isn’t a trade out there that will make the Braves better than the Phillies, the Braves best hope is the fact that anything can happen in the playoffs. Just because the Phillies have the best team, doesn’t mean the Braves, or some other team, can’t get hot at the right time and end up winning the World Series. The Braves have a chance to do that with the line-up they have right now if they get their injured players back and a few guys who used to be able to hit can figure out how to hit once again.

Whether the Braves make a trade or don’t, it’s going to take luck to get past the Phillies this season. If they are going to have to rely on luck one way or the other, they are better off keeping their prospects and hoping luck will carry them with the players they have now.

dawgmatic

July 30th, 2011
3:54 pm

Frank Wren has a good excuse: Liberty Media. Sell this team and the stadium rights to Artie Blank, and watch the Bravos’ fortunes change. Even better when Chipper becomes hitting coach. Until then, the Braves have as much chance of winning a World Series as the NERDS have of selling out that hideous stadium on North Avenue.

Geno

July 30th, 2011
3:54 pm

My feeling all along, Mark. FW knows much more than we about systematically building a baseball team, and on a shoestring budget.I think that he has a trick or two up his sleeve, and I too have been watching the trading news closely. I’m liking the thought of Upton in CF and a rightie mid reliever, but thats just me. Its a fun time to be a Braves fan….

Peter

July 30th, 2011
3:54 pm

Ken Rosenthal
@Ken_Rosenthal Ken Rosenthal
Source: #Braves getting “more involved” on #Astros’ Bourn. #tradedeadline #MLB

Braves95WS

July 30th, 2011
3:55 pm

There is hope!
Ken_Rosenthal Ken Rosenthal
Source: #Braves getting “more involved” on #Astros’ Bourn. #tradedeadline #MLB

Ryan's Dad

July 30th, 2011
3:55 pm

Bourn would be so exciting to have…even if the Braves still ended behind the Phillies. Shades of Otis Nixon or Kenny Lofton. Was anyone besides me jeolous of Whitey Herzog’s super speedy Cardinals of the eighties?

jerry

July 30th, 2011
3:56 pm

Kwesi….@ In the playoffs, it is all about manufacturing runs not hitting the long ball.

Ever seen the Yankees?