Should the Braves sit back and wait or make a move? Its Trading Season.
July 13, 2011
The all-star game has been played and your Atlanta Braves along with every other NL Team (that can still make the playoffs) now have home field advantage in the World Series. That’s fine and dandy but while that is important for the Atlanta Braves it would be pretty meaningless if by the end of September the Braves are not in the playoffs – the same can be said for all the other NL teams out there. So we are at that point of the season where trade rumors will run wild and some teams will pull off trades for better or for worse. The Milwaukee Brewers started as soon as the All-Star Game ended last night and, feel they have made themselves better when they traded for K-Rod (Francisco Rodriguez) from the Mets. It’s those kind of moves that can win it all or cost you. So if you’re the Atlanta Braves and if you’re a fan of the Braves the question I’m asking is do the team sit back and wait or do the liberally make a move to try and get better?
Learn from last year
A season ago this day the Braves traded away Yunel Escobar and Jo-jo Reyes for Alex Gonzalez. A trade that was hailed by many fans and players at the time because they were excited to be getting rid of the “head case” that is Yunel Escobar. Looking back on that trade a year later many fans are no longer so joyful about having Alex Gonzalez. Mostly because the guy has been terrible recently with most fans annoyed with his runners in scoring position numbers, his anemic on base percentage (.263) which is 30 points off of what he was last year by the way. I’ve even began to hear gripes about his attitude which is actually kind of ironic because the last short stop had a “bad” attitude which was one of the main reasons as to why he was traded. Some of those same Gonzo backers now mention that the Braves should go out and trade for another short stop which I wouldn’t disagree with at all but it’s just funny… a year later the trade for Gonzo doesn’t taste all that good anymore – its soured.
The other trade from a year ago was when the Braves sent Kansas City Bryan Pena, and Gregor Blanco to the Royals for Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth. I didn’t care much for the addition of Ankiel but at the time I thought Farnsworth was a good piece – the Braves needed another solid veteran arm – and they got one. Sucks that Kyle Farnsworth couldn’t deliver otherwise it would have been a decent trade. The Braves also made a deal for Derrek Lee – first base was a major need for the Braves but we can also say that D-Lee didn’t quite pan out as we and the Braves front office hoped.
Don’t make a trade just to make a trade
Of course we don’t know if trades will work or won’t work until months after but even then it was starting to feel like the Braves had began to make trades just to make trades last year. So a year later, here we sit with the Braves pretty much in the same exact position that they were in a year ago (except they aren’t 6 games up in first place). The Braves are 3.5 games back of the Phillies and for many fans that is the primary goal – beat the Phillies for first place and when the division. The important number for the Braves right now is 5 (no not Freddie Freeman). 5 is the number of games the Braves lead in the wild card race which actually puts a huge smile on my face. Why? It’s easier for a team to make up ground when they are in second place because there’s only 1 team to jump. The Braves are in really good position to be able to overtake the Phillies whereas the teams sitting behind them in the wild card race will have to fight amongst themselves to try and gain ground on the Braves. Brewers, Cardinals, and Diamondbacks are all 5 games back – Pittsburgh is 6 games back. Of those teams I feel the only team that could possibly catch the Braves are the Brewers but they are in a fight in the central division that can cost them games as well or makes it harder to catch the Braves. So if you’re the Braves and if you’re a fan take solace in the fact that if you can continue playing and winning at the current rate you should make the playoffs.
The Braves were as liberal as I have ever seen them last year when they were making trades and while that was a pretty good team last year this team, in my opinion, is head over heels better than that squad. When you look at each position individually on this team the Braves are fairly solid all around. The thing about this ball club is that most fans feel that this team has had quite a few guys underachieve so the potential that they entered the season with is still there. The Braves can actually afford to be pretty conservative with a trade that they would make this year and really think through the trade before making one because they are in a great position in both the wild card race and division. This team can already compete and even win series against teams that they would face in postseason or even the World Series should they make it – its just a matter of guys currently on the team putting it all together and getting fully healthy.
Getting Martin Prado back in the line up Friday night will feel like a trade has been made to add to this team considering what he brings to the table offensively. With Jordan batting at the top of the line up Prado can go back to his natural 2-hole which makes this line up five times better. Getting Moylan back is also a boost for this bullpen that had to do a lot of work in the first half of the season. I believe he’ll come back strong and when you add to that Kris Medlen’s return it almost neutralizes any talk of making a trade for bullpen depth. So trading might not be all that necessary this year and there’s really no need to trade just to do it…
Can always get better with a trade though
I do believe the Braves will make a trade but I don’t think we’ll see a big name trade with this team. Financially the Braves have other guys coming up in the future that they also have to consider signing long term if possible – Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson (both guys they might not be able to sign) will cost them some money. You’d have to imagine that Prado is looking at a nice contract, and then the young guns in Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward will soon be looking for a deal so the Braves won’t truly be able to go out and get that big name without it being a rental player or a guy they can get cheap but also produce. The last time the Braves “went for it all” they traded their farm system for Mark Teixeira who barely stayed here a year – that won’t happen again – lesson learned.
Ideally, the Braves need another outfielder without question. Michael Bourn is a name I keep hearing other fans mention a lot lately and I would love to see him or a player like him added to the outfield – I haven’t read much from Braves beat writers or seen anything validating the “rumor” so it seems to be more of a fan stirring but lets run with it if we can. If the Braves were to get Bourn he would knock out two of the Braves needs – a center fielder and a lead off guy. Schafer (is in the Bourn mold of player) has done an extremely good job defensively and offensively he’s been adequate enough but he’s not Bourn who would be a definite upgradte. Bourn is arguably faster than Schafer, plays solid defense, and is a better offensive player than Schafer. He has a solid batting average – .287. He gets on base – .351 OBP. Oh, and he steals bases by the way – 35 of those.
The Braves, since Furcal’s departure, have always needed that kind of spark plug at the top of the line up to get the rest of the offense going. Financially he’s in the last year of his contract making $4.4 million so it doesn’t sound like he would cost the Braves much to resign long term considering that the Braves would drop the bad contracts of Kenshin Kawakami and Nate. They would be in the final year of Derek Lowe’s ridiculous contract and may be able to trade him. So financially he should be able to fit in easily I think. To trade for him you may see the Braves include Jordan Schafer and a prospect so they may be able to make a trade for Bourn without giving up any of their top pitching prospects. If its possible…if the trade was actually on the table I think the Braves should make the trade.
The other rumor that got cranked up a couple of weeks ago was Beachy for Carlos Quentin – a trade I would not make. Carlos is a slugger but that’s not what this line up need. The Braves have sluggers the problem is those sluggers just aren’t hitting. I like Carlos but the main concern for the Braves is that they needs guys that can do more than just hit the ball out the park – need guys to get on base, steal some bases – those players add another dimension to the line up – that’s something Quentin would not do. Hunter Pence is another name and while I like Pence again… I don’t think the Braves would make a deal for him because it doesn’t fit this team at the moment. Maybe they make that move in the off-season when they might need a corner outfielder to replace Prado (should Chipper retire at season end). If the Braves are going to trade for corner outfielders they most certainly have to tell Chipper his days of starting at 3rd is over. I just don’t know if the Braves are ready to do that yet although I do believe his playing time will be diminished.
So logically I think the Braves, if they were to make a trade, will trade only for a center fielder that can lead off and hit for average and get on base. Adding a center fielder will also help in diminishing Chipper’s time at 3rd late in ball games and set the team up to have a better defense. Prado could be moved down to play third at least 2 to 3 innings late in games while Nate (who I doubt we’ll see traded) can be brought in to play left field.
That’s about all I see happening trade wise for the Braves this season. I would be stunned, absolutely stunned, if the Braves do otherwise.