I’ve always been a fan of Frank Wren and the last week has really shown me why. The Braves had a miserable ending to the 2011 season. One that Braves fans would like to put behind them as they look forward to next year. After the final game of one of the biggest collapses in major league baseball history the first thing that I said was that Frank Wren could not bring this same team back again and expect a completely different result. Something was missing in the chemistry that made this team go into a free fall. I’m not saying the 2011 Atlanta Braves were a World Series contender after all of the injuries but there was still no excuse to not make the playoffs.
As we head into the off season I’m not beginning to reconfirm my another initial thought. Everyone who reads my articles knows that I’m always looking for ways to stay up beat and positive. I said that the silver lining in the “great collapse” was that Frank Wren would be FORCED to make moves if he had any hopes of reviving the fan base after what we had to suffer through in the month of Sept. It was absolutely heart breaking and he owes it to the fans to rebuild this team a little bit. Shake things up and make improvements. I think Frank Wren was furious about not making the playoffs last year and is more determined then EVER to make a run at the World Series in 2012. That alone could be more valuable to us fans then the Braves making the playoffs and getting knocked out in the 1st round or the NLCS. Then Wren would have probably kept a lot of the same guys and we would have been spinning tires. The collapse could work in our favor Braves fans, it’s over now and we can move forward.
Speaking of moving forward Frank Wren is already playing “human chess” which is basically what GM’s in major league baseball do for a living. By getting rid of Derek Lowe he did 3 things that were critical. First he saved us 5 million in payroll even after giving the Indians 10 million towards his salary for 2012. Second he got him off of our hands and out of our rotation. Third he satisfied a fan base who was developing a hatred towards Lowe. There was no way he could send him back out there again. This also happened very quickly which surprised me. Lowe is in his late 30’s and coming off of a horrible season. I didn’t think any teams would jump at the chance to obtain him but clearly I was wrong.
Nate McLouth was sadly a disappointment when he came to Atlanta after putting up solid numbers in Pittsburgh. To this day I still believe the pressure got to him a little bit. It’s easier to put up numbers in an environment when no one expects you to win. Look at the Pirates this year. They were above .500 for a few months and everyone was going crazy, that’s not the mark of a winning club. But now is also gone, saving us a lot of payroll. Not only was he not productive but he wasn’t healthy that often either. We needed to bury the hatchet with Nate Mclouth and just part ways with him. Another great move by Wren.
Now several sources have confirmed that the Braves are willing to move Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado. This is where we start to gamble just a little bit. Jurrjens has shown flashes of brilliance and he’s also been booed off the mound from horrible starts. He’s been injured on and off as well. Prado has shown a lot of up side despite his struggles last year. He can also play anywhere on the diamond if needed. That in itself makes him a valuable asset to the Braves organization. Being willing to trade these guys does pose a gamble as they both could continue to develop and we would miss Prado’s versatility for sure. However on the other side of things if these guys struggle next year then their value will drop considerably. Do we trade them now and get max value and save payroll? Or do we hold onto them and hope that they come back strong next season?
Wren seems content to dump payroll. If he’s willing to send Jurrjens who could make up to 5 million dollars after arbitration to Kansas City for a mid level prospect then he seems to be planning for a move of some kind. I realize the Braves said they weren’t looking to make a “major” splash this off season but why else would they be dumping payroll like they are? By saying they “aren’t planning” on it they are covering themselves in case it doesn’t happen. That’s my opinion.
Where should the Braves be looking to spend this new found money?
CJ Wilson: This would be a brilliant move for Frank Wren to pull off. I realize that offense is what lost us the playoff birth but pitching was what put us in front by 8.5 games to begin with. We had an All-Star in Jurrjens the first half of the season and Hanson was a solid starter as well. With both of those guys in question we need to replenish the rotation with a big arm.
CJ Wilson would be a great fit in Atlanta for several reasons.
1) He’s a strong left handed pitcher with great stuff. Hudson right now is the team ace but CJ could certainly rival him for that spot. This gives us a great left/right combo in the rotation. This is a great way to attack teams throughout the regular season and especially the postseason.
2) Wilson is used to pitching in “hitter friendly” Texas and still experiences a lot of success. Imagine how he would do in “pitcher friendly” Atlanta. A stadium that is known to be a tough place to hit. You would think his numbers could only improve.
3) It’s always easier to navigate through a National League line up compared to an American League one. There’s just more pop in the A.L line ups and in the N.L there’s no DH to go through, you have the benefit of pitching to the pitcher’s spot every 3 innings or less. That can be a real help when trying to stop a rally or put up zero’s on the score board.
If I’m Frank Wren I don’t want to go out and spend money on a short stop unless his name is Jose Reyes. None of the other one’s are really worth it in my opinion. That money would be much better spent on a corner outfielder to replace Prado. I say they put Pastornicky at SS and bat him in the 2 hole. Why not? Continue to add to the youth movement in Atlanta and let him have a chance to prove himself.
He will have a chance to adapt and won’t be relied on fully for a long time. He’ll be in a line up with Chipper Jones, Dan Uggla, Freddie Freeman, Brian McCann and Jason Heyward. He will have plenty of good hitters coming up behind him. Michael Bourn the possible long term solution in the lead off spot. This offense would be solidified for a very long time.
By: Bob McVinua