Category: Free Agency

Is This The Calm Before The Storm?

The Braves front office has been very tight lipped about what they’ve been up to. Frank Wren is clearly not willing to make any promises that he’s not going to be able to follow through with. That just seems to be his nature as he has already stated that it’s unlike the Braves will make any “major” moves. I’m not sure what Wren would consider to be a major or block buster move but something has to give here.

The Braves were able to unload Derek Lowe much quicker then I anticipated. I had this fear going into the off season that we wouldn’t be able to move a 38 year old pitcher who couldn’t get anyone out just this past season. However as fate would have it, the Indians jumped into the mix and wanted Lowe to fill out the back end of their young rotation. As the saying goes “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. Not to add salt to the wound for Derek Lowe or mock him in anyway but he would serve no purpose for the Atlanta Braves. We’ve been there and done that, now it’s time to see what he can do in Cleveland. Perhaps a change of scenery is what he needs. None the less we saved 5 million dollars by completing the deal and unloaded the worst pitcher on the team, talk about killing two birds with one stone.

Wren has also discussed a modest increase in payroll for this season, nothing extreme but maybe somewhere in the neighborhood of several million dollars. Nothing fancy but hey when it comes to payroll I’d rather see it go up then down. On top of all of this Jurrjens and Prado are now on the trade block and I believe that Wren will pull the trigger on either one of those guys if the right offer comes across his desk.

What is going on in Frank Wren’s mind right now? What could he be plotting? Rumors of the Braves being interested in Jimmy Rollins have started to pick up a little bit of steam as of late. The Braves have a need at short stop and what better way to fill it then stick the Phillies short stop right in there? There are of course a few things that would need to be cleared up before this could even be a possibility. Rollins would have to agree to a contract that was 3 years or so. He will be 33 before the start of next season and we don’t need to be giving a short stop at that age a long contract. He will certainly want a fair share of money but he may possibly be willing to take a little bit less to go to a contender.

Yes, Rollins would be a great fit for Atlanta. He could hit in the 2 hole right behind Michael Bourn and give us a dynamic top of the order. Two guys who can get on base and steal bases. Rollins also has a fair amount of pop and some decent gap to gap power as well. His fielding is still top notch and he knows how to win. Could this be a move being set up by Frank Wren? Crazier things have happened.

If we were to obtain Rollins then we would still have a big whole in left field. The Braves outfielders were terrible offensively last year, no one can deny that. So naturally that’s where we want to go in free agency or the trade market. However lets consider this. Bourn played well for Atlanta and having his speed and energy at the top of the order for a full season should make a big difference. He will be comfortable with his surroundings and can go right to work. It’s never easy being dumped into a new environment half way through the season. I’m expecting big things from Michael Bourn in 2012. The other thing to keep in mind is that Jason Heyward SHOULD be a lot better then last season. They are making him a primary focus this off season and hopefully the new hitting coach will get him back into form. Personally I think Heyward’s struggles stemmed from laziness and the inability to make adjustments. He’s not a rookie anymore and pitchers at the major league level have figured him out. If he makes the proper adjustments and he can hit 20-25 home runs and drive in over 70 runs then he will be a very strong 6 or 7 hole hitter for us.

Scoring runs starts with the top of the order. If you have Bourn and Rollins up there as table setters then you will see guys like Uggla and McCann drive in a lot more runs.

Now left field is still an issue. However if Bourn, Heyward, Uggla, Freeman, Rollins, Chipper and McCann are all playing up to their potential then I think you can afford to put a mediocre player in left field. We’re not the New York Yankees thus putting an All-Star at every position is not an option. But if those other 7 guys are producing the way that they should produce then this is going to be a VERY dangerous team.

Trading Prado does mean losing a quality utility man as well as a potential starter. Prado has shown he can play 1B, 2B, 3B and LF without any problem. When your playing the National League you need guys who can cover all parts of the diamond. So losing him would hurt our depth, however if he’s going to want somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 million dollars then we can most likely find a utility guy for maybe 1-2 million thus saving us some cash.

I think Rollins might be the guy the Braves are looking for. Think about this. When was the Braves offense scoring the most runs? It was when we had Bourn and Constanza in the lineup together. 2 spark plugs in the order just caused havoc for opposing teams.

Add Rollins to the mix. Straighten out Heywards swing and rebuild his confidence. Get a full productive season from Uggla.

Every year the Braves need to “improve” the offense. I’m almost tired of hearing it. Frank Wren added Uggla and added Bourn. What more do you want this guy to do? I do think we are missing a piece and I think it might be Jimmy Rollins.

Call me crazy all you want but I think that the combination of getting a good player at a weak position with stealing a good player from a RIVAL team might be enough to push Frank Wren over the edge. This is a chance for the Braves to make a statement.

By: Bob McVinua

 

 

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Is The Prince Headed To A New Kingdom?

I know I haven’t written in awhile as the pain of the Braves collapse is still a tough pill for me to swallow. As I logged on to my blog I couldn’t help but get painful reminders of the Braves failed postseason quest. I scanned the articles that I had written just days before the collapse was complete and got the worst feeling in the pit of my stomach. 162 games, all coming down to the last day and then failing to make the playoffs. Watching the lead slip away ever so slowly as September dragged on for what seemed to be eternity. In an attempt to move forward I was going to discuss the free agent market a little bit as it seems a bit more appropriate now that there are only 2 teams remaining. While the Cardinals and Rangers battle for the World Series title (congrats to both) the other 28 teams are left wondering either what went wrong? Or what can we do to get better? Or possibly a combination of the two.

As I watched the Brewers get eliminated last night all I could think about was Prince Fielder and if he would be back in a Brewers uniform next season. I watched a lot of baseball coverage last night both on ESPN and MLB Network and the majority of analysts believe that Prince will not return next season. So that immediately forced me to think about where he might go, if he indeed decides to leave.

Things to consider in this situation:

Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder are extremely close: These guys are not just a statistical super team but they are also very close to one another off the field as well. How much say will Ryan Braun have in this matter? Can he help convince Fielder to stay? I think he has as good a chance as anyone does. Another factor will be Ricky Weeks who is also close to Fielder as they have played on the same team since they were teenagers. How much do these friendships matter to Prince compared to the money?

Money: Sports is a business right? The object is to not only play well on the field but also get rewarded financially for your skills and ability. Are the Brewers ready or capable of writing Fielder and enormous check? It’s tough to say what kind of offer they will draw up for him but what you also have to remember is that someone is only worth what someone is willing to pay them. How many teams out there will be able to give Prince the kind of money has may be looking for? Timing is everything and right now the big market clubs are pretty much set at 1st base. The Phillies have Ryan Howard at 1st base and despite his injury they are not going to bring Fielder into the equation there’s just no way. The Yankees have Tex who’s under contract for several more seasons and has been very affective for them. The Red Sox have Adrian Gonzalez so they clearly won’t have any interest. The Angels have their young 1st basemen of the future so they will likely pass as well. That takes care of a lot of the top tier teams in regards to payroll.

The Brewers: Lets not forget that this isn’t all about Prince. This situation will have a great impact on the Brewers as well. They have just locked Braun up to a long term contract and they would love nothing more to then to do the same with Prince. These two guys have created an outstanding tandem with Braun hitting right handed and Prince being the big left hander. These are both 100rbi guys in that middle of that order. It has truly been special to watch. If Prince does leave the Brewers will not only lose his productivity but they will also lose some productivity from Braun as well. Taking Ryan Braun’s protection out of the order will certain land him a lot more walks and a lot less RBI’s. Ricky Weeks will be left to pick up the slack and I’m not sure he’s ready or able to protect Ryan Braun in the line up on a nightly basis.

Who Are Possible Suitors? : There was a long pause before I started to type here and the first team that comes to mind is the Chicago Cubs. They have an opening at 1st base and the money to sign a major free agent. I’m sure Theo would love to bring in a major bat like Prince Fielder. However you also have to consider the fact that Pujols is also gong to be on the market and could demand as much if not more attention then Fielder. What are the chances of you not being the top free agent if you’re Prince Fielder? Again just bad timing and bad luck, nothing more and nothing less.

Last year no one saw the Washington Nationals as a possible suitor for Jason Werth, that came out of no where. Doe a team like the Colorado Rockies make a move for Prince Fielder? They have a possible opening at 1st base with Helton getting older and Giambi on his way out. Prince Fielder hitting at Coors Field for 81 games? Can you imagine the numbers he would put up? Most likely 50HR and 130RBI’s. This guy could do some serious damage with Car-Go and Tulo hitting in the same line up. The Rockies pitching is decent and a move like that makes them the clear cut favorite to win the N.L West.

Do the Yankees or Red Sox get greedy and try to rope Prince Fielder in as a possible DH? Not likely but I had to throw it out there just for the sack of argument, crazier things have happened but again I say very unlikely. What about a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates? They showed this season that they can hang around for awhile but just didn’t have the fire power to do so for the long run. They have Lyle Overbay as their first basemen and could certainly use a big bat in the middle of that order. Just throwing it out there again you never know what could happen.

Is There A Better Fit For Prince?: If winning is a priority for Prince which I hope it is then he needs to put the money aside and look at who’s a contender and who isn’t. The Texas Rangers threw a ton of money at A-Rod in 2001 (season he became a Ranger) and they finished in last place and the Mariners won 116 games without him. The bottom line is the Brewers were 2 wins a way from the World Series. Only the Cardinals and the Rangers made it further then they did. 27 other teams were knocked out before them. The Brewers clearly have a shot to compete again next year, does he risk going somewhere and finishing in last place or at best the middle of the pack? Jason Werth had a very long season but was well compensated for it. He wasn’t in the race basically from June on. That’s a lot of meaningless games to play if you are used to playing on a wining team.

Let me know your thoughts on where Prince will play in 2012.

By: Bob McVinua