Last September I remember holding my head in my hands and starring in disbelief as Freeman grounded out to end the Braves season. It was a season full of ups and downs but no one thought this team would miss the playoffs once we possessed a 10.5 game wild card lead at the end of August. Yes injuries really hurt this team as lost 2/5 of our rotation for the good majority of the 2nd half of the season. Brian McCann suffered an injury that landed him on the disabled list and when he came back he just wasn’t the same player he was in the first half of the season. Jason Heyward struggled badly for almost the entire season and Derek Lowe faded into the night as it appears now that his career is in its final moments.
There were bright spots in the season as well. Dan Uggla’s hitting streak was very exciting to watch. Jose Constanza the journeyman OF was quite a spark plug for the team for several weeks and helped give the offense a boost. We got to watch a lot of our young pitchers grow and get some much needed experience under their belts. The addition of Michael Bourn gave the team its first real lead off man since Rafael Furcal. The bullpen was outstanding almost the entire season and Kimbrel broke the rookie save mark.
My question to you guys is this. Can this Braves team win a World Series or is there still work to be done? This is a very proud franchise that has had a lot of success since the early 1990’s. However in that span of over 20 years we’ve only brought in one World Championship. What’s missing? Or what continues to go wrong? If my memory serves me correctly this franchise hasn’t one a playoff series since 2001 when we went on to play the Diamondbacks in the NLCS. So it’s been awhile, 10 seasons since experiencing any real success in October.
What the Braves are lacking now appears to be a middle of the order threat. Yes Dan Uggla can hit the ball over the fence but has only surpassed the 100 RBI mark on 1 occasion. Between him and McCann they have played 12 full seasons and only have one 100 RBI season between them. 1 for 12 is not a great mark.
Chipper is a great player and a future member of the hall of fame. However he’s pushing 40 and that’s a tough time in your career to have to carry the bulk of the offense. Chipper needs to be accepted into more of a role player at this stage in his career. He had a good season last year but what can we expect from him this year? It’s not fair to expect anything astronomical if you ask me. If he hits 14 HR and drives in 60 runs we’ll have to be satisfied with that, his leadership alone adds a lot of value to this team.
I think Bourn and Pastornicky will make a great table setting combo at the top of the order. I like that Pastornicky has more speed then Prado does, so hitting him in the 2 hole is a move that I’m in favor of. Those guys can get on base and even steal a lot of bases but someone needs to be able to drive them in. How many times did Bourn get on last year only to get stranded at 2nd base? Countless times.
This team has some decisions to make here. This offense has been a hindrance for a while now. Even the years we would make the post season, we’d always have trouble scoring runs. Putting far too much pressure on our starting rotation and bullpen. Last year was no different. The lack of runs caused us to over use Venters, Kimbrel and O’Flaherty which then caused them to be worn out and unable to finish critical games down the stretch. If the offense had scored more runs throughout the season we would have been in much better shape. The starters would have thrown a lot less “stress pitches” and the bullpen wouldn’t have been over worked. So when it comes full circle the offense needs to take some of the blame here.
Dan Uggla has a contract that’s good for several more seasons. Chipper Jones is most likely done after this year as he’ll be turning 40 this up coming season. Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman are both young promising players that deserve a little more time to develop. I’m hoping that Heyward can bounce back and make the necessary adjustments to be successful and that Freeman can avoid the sophomore slump that plagued Heyward.
So if we’re talking about a block buster deal to shake up the Braves offense there’s only one guy we can discuss. If you want to bring in big talent then you need to give away talent of similar value. Is Brian McCann the long term answer for the Braves as a middle of the order run producing player? And before everyone jumps out of their chairs and says “is this guy crazy?” hear me out.
This is the last year of McCann’s contract. Now is the time to make a franchise changing decision. He’s not gong to get a 2 year 20 million dollar deal. McCann is a 6 time all-star and one of the best catchers in the game. He’s going to want a 5 or 6 year deal if not more. Something that will take him into his mid 30’s. He wants and deserves security but are the Braves the team that will want to give that to him?
If he’s one of the best catchers in the game why on earth would you trade him? Well here’s the thing. It’s not always optimal to have one of your best hitters at the catcher position. Catching as everyone knows takes a huge toll on one’s body, whether it’s their legs or their hand from catching 95mph fastballs for 9 innings a night. By their 3rd at bat in the game it’s a known fact that catchers become less effective. Their hands are sore and their legs are tired. Catchers lose 1-2 at bats per game due to the stresses of catching, at bats where they are not at their best.
McCann is also a lefty. We have Heyward and Freeman, who are both left handed hitters. Trading McCann for a right handed bat could lead us to a left, right, left, right middle of the order in the 3-6 spot. What’s better then that?
With the catcher position my first concern is defense and how they work with the pitchers. There’s a TON of good defensive catchers out there if you are willing to sacrifice the offense. There’s nothing wrong with hitting your catcher 7th or 8th the majority of N.L teams do it anyways. Get a guy who can block balls in the dirty and who has strong enough arm to gun down runners.
Will McCann be affective long enough to serve a long term contract? Look at Joe Mauer. He was rolling a long great until he started to get injured and it really took a toll on him. Now the Twins are itching to get him out of that catcher’s roll and into the field. Mauer is a MUCH better athlete then Brain McCann. Can you see McCann playing the OF? Or 1st base? There’s just no way. He’s a catcher through and through. However in 5 years is he still going to be healthy and affective? It’s a big risk having your franchise player as a catcher.
Now if we found a respectable defensive replacement for McCann at the catcher spot and traded McCann for a corner OF then we would have a player that would not be at risk of so many injuries and who would give us a safer bet for a middle of the order hit as he ages.
Now if we’re talking about trading Brian McCann and possibly a prospect or two we could expect a great player in return. We’re not talking about trading him for Carlos Beltran or a guy who’s way past his prime. I’m talking about a mid-late 20’s corner OF who can provide some serious pop for this order. A right handed bat that would off set Heyward and Freeman.
Call me crazy guys but ask yourself this. Is what we have right now working? Is what we have right now going to be enough to win a World Series which is the ultimate goal.
By: Bob McVinua