Tagged: Off Season

Pitching Rich or Digging For Gold?

The Atlanta Braves are an organization that prides themselves in their great pitching. How does the saying go? Pitching wins championships right? Well… Not always. The rotations that consisted of John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine only produced one World Series championship. Granted the the teams of that era were always very competitive as they would win 14 straight division titles, while making several trips to the fall classic itself.

Pitching to this day is still the staple of the Braves organization. Frank Wren prides himself on his young arms that consist of Minor, Beachy, Teheran and Delgado. All of those guys have great potential. The key word that I’m  going to stress here is “potential”. I’m in no way bashing any of the young arms we have in our system. There’s a chance that we could have a future ace in there. However there’s very slim chance that we are going to hit a home run on all 4 of these guys, it’s just not likely to happen.

So in a more realistic sense we’re looking at MAYBE 2 of the 4 being in the rotation for the long term. The issue that a lot of these guys have is that they are strikeout pitchers which I know fans and scouts both love. However it puts a huge burden on your pitch count and that’s why these guys have struggled to get past the 5th inning, thus straining our beloved bullpen.

The rotation that appears to be set for many years to come does have a few wrinkles in it. I’m not in any way trying to push a panic button but it’s just something that as a blogger I have to point out. Now in a few years I could be proven completely wrong but I’m not as sold on the Braves rotation as I once was. Here’s why.

To win a division title it’s going to take a 5 man rotation to get the job done. Granted there are various degrees of pitching levels, as a #1 starter should be a lot more talented then your #5 starter. However it will take a complete rotation to get it done as you will need consistency from 1-5. Lets dig a little bit deeper into the Braves rotation.

Tim Hudson: Right now he’s the ace. I won’t listen to anyone who tells me otherwise. If there’s a must win game tomorrow, I’m giving Hudson the ball and until someone else steps up he’s are guy. However he’s currently 36 years old and will turn 37 before the All-Star break of next season. How much longer can we really rely on him? Look at Derek Lowe. When you get past 35 your potential to just “lose it” happens, it’s a natural occurrence in the game of baseball. Age will catch up with you eventually. How many more years of Tim Hudson do we have left is the question. 1 or 2 more after this year?

Tommy Hanson: Hanson has a lot of talent yet he still struggles to dominate. He has a horrible time controlling base runners and every team in the National League is well aware of this. He’s coming off a serious shoulder issue, that’s not a guaranteed safe return for Mr. Hanson. Another thing is that his throwing motion is begging for further injuries down the road. If he can’t stay healthy then the Braves might have to let him go sometime in the next 2 or 3 years. It’s a proven fact that teams will not wait around forever and if Hanson can’t get it together then he will be gone.

Jair Jurrjens: After you complete this post you might think twice about trading JJ because I certainly have. Jurrjens has the ability to be dominant but again like Hanson he’s battling injuries. Health is what counts in sports, I don’t care how good you are if you can’t stay healthy. To be honest I think Jurrjens has shown more dominance in his time with the club then Hanson has. If I’m taking one or the other on the spot it’s Jurrjens without question. But Frank Wren has him on the trade block and he’s bound to get plenty of activity as he’s only 25 years old. There’s a very good chance that he could be gone in the next few weeks.

Derek Lowe: Lowe was absolutely terrible last year and I’m glad that he was traded. However he did occupy a full time rotation spot last year and his spot is now currently empty. It needs to be filled by someone immediately. Not to mention he was looked at as the non official #2 guy at the start of the season and some might have argued him to be the ace as he did pitch opening day. This takes away from our “depth” as someone will need to fill that void.

Right now as we look at the above mentioned 4 pitchers you have to be thinking the same thing that I am. NONE of them are a guaranteed part of the Braves future rotation. Not in the long term I should say. In a couple of seasons Hudson will be retired. Lowe is already gone. Jurrjens might be traded in the next couple of weeks if not days and Hanson has shoulder issues to contend with.

Minor, Beachy, Teheran and Delgado:

A ton of talent in these 4 guys. However they are not the first pitching prospects in the world to have talent and not all of them amounted to as much as teams hoped they would. Again all of these guys could end up being absolute studs, that possibility exits. However it’s not likely. Lets be realistic and say over the next 2 years, maybe 3 that we get 2 quality pitchers out of this group. They may be the only ones left out of this once deep crop of great pitching.

If Hanson doesn’t come back healthy and Jurrjens is traded you are looking at putting Beachy or Minor in the #2 spot in the rotation. That’s the same issue we had in Sept when things fell apart. I like Beachy and Minor to be worked in at 3-4 at the highest. Middle of the rotation guys right now, not ace material. It’s to no fault of their own because they lack experience but why throw them to the wolves?

Frank Wren needs to look into a guy like CJ Wilson. Trade Prado to the Tigers for Delmon Young as it has already been discussed. That gives us our power bat in left field. Use the remaining money to bring in Wilson. He’s 31 years old and wants a 5-6 year contract. That does several things for Atlanta.

Win Now: We are developing young talent in this organization which is great but we want to win now. We’re more then capable of being 90+ win team right now. The fan base doesn’t want to see us finish in 2nd place for the next 2 or 3 years. It just wont be acceptable. By saying we can develop players and not win now puts us on the same level of the Kansas City Royals. You groom players that may or may not pan out and then before you know it you can be “rebuilding” for 10 years. This is not a rebuilding team lets do the best we can to win now while developing the young guys, it’s a perfect balance.

Ease The Young Guys In: If you have Hudson and CJ Wilson in the rotation then you are looking at putting Beachy in the 3 spot or possibly the 4 spot. Minor would be 4 or 5. That’s perfect. They can get an entire season worth of work in without putting so much pressure on them to be “the guy”.

By: Bob McVinua

 

 

 

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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

 

 

Wren Is Playing Human Chess

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.

Short Stop:

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

 

Where Was The Passion When You Need It The Most?

I hate quoting depressing songs for the titles of my articles but they just seem to fit these days. Where was the passion in the month of Sept for the Atlanta Braves? I’ll never accuse any team of laying down or not playing hard because I’m not in a position to judge that. However I can say that they didn’t have the fire in their eyes that I would have liked to see from them. Even after the game when Uggla stood out on the field for a post game interview I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My jaw dropped when this guy who is supposed to be a leader on this team can stand there and say “It just wasn’t in the cards”. Are you kidding me? Where is the passion I ask again. Lackluster attitude from one of the most talented guys on our ball club. Why not say something to the affect of, “We didn’t hit with runners in scoring position”. “We had an over worked bullpen”. “Starters didn’t get deep into games”. “We made some errors in the field”. “We lacked the big hit”. Saying things like that aren’t calling any one person out which is what you want to avoid doing as a good teammate. I don’t expect him to go out there and blame Kimbrel for blowing the game or saying that Prado couldn’t get the big hit when we needed him to. No not at all. However if you spread collective blame throughout the clubhouse, that’s taking responsibility. It wasn’t bad luck that cost the Braves a trip to the postseason, it was simply poor execution. Nothing more and nothing less.

I’m sitting here as heart broken as you are and I know it’s horrible that we have to talk about next year so soon but it’s reality at this point. Yes it may be a little too soon to speak of next years team when they’ve only had 1 day since a tragic loss and late season collapse. However I think this article could get the minds of Braves fans thinking and we only have to look forward to the winter meetings in December that’s when a lot of big moves could be made. So were not that far off from having some possible team changes. Just a couple of months. So let’s take a look at some of the team issues ( in my opinion) and what we can possibly do to improve on them. I welcome all of you to send me you r thoughts as well. Feel free to disagree.

Derek Lowe: I don’t think there’s any better place to start then with the worst pitcher on the staff. This isn’t an attack on Derek Lowe because he had one or two bad starts late in the year. No that’s not the case. Derek Lowe finished the season with a 9-17 record to go a long with a 5.05era. That’s unacceptable. Another thing to consider is this isn’t a 24 year old kid who’s developing or a 29 year old pitcher coming off a major injury who’s trying to turn his career around. Lowe is now 38 years old and showing a lot of signs of declining. I don’t see a pitcher who will be 39 next June (early in the season) having this miraculous come back season. Do any of you? Lowe makes 15 million dollars, enough said. He looks like a pitcher who’s at the end of his career that Fredi Gonzalez continued to put out there despite his struggles. A starting pitcher needs to give his team a chance to win and Lowe failed to do that this year. Look at his last start of the season. The Phillies jumped all over him and the Braves were out of that game early on. Or the start against the Mets where he couldn’t get out of the 3rd inning. Another blow out loss when the Braves really needed a big win.

Martin Prado: Last year Prado was great for us and when he got injured Braves fans were heart broken. You can always tell a players true value by how fans react when they get hurt. If fans don’t really care or aren’t worried about it then the value of the player isn’t all that high. Last year when Prado got hurt it was a huge loss to this team and really hurt them in the postseason. I just didn’t see the same fire in his eyes this year as I did last year. Him going to LF without so much as a word exchanged with Fredi Gonzalez shoes how selfless the guy is. He’s a team player for sure and a great guy to have in the clubhouse. But does he deserve to be in the starting line up on a team that’s trying to win a World Series? Prado had 13HR and 57RBI’s this season which isn’t horrible for a 2 hole hitter that missed quite a bit of time do to injuries and a staff infection. That was obviously beyond his control but the stat that concerns me the most is his batting average. A two hole hitter has to be close to .300 to be affective and Prado hit .260 with an OBP of barely over .300. At times during the season his OBP actually dipped into the .290’s which you can’t have as a 2 hole hitter. This team needs table setters. A lot of HR’s were hit this year with the bases empty as we struggled to put the crooked number up on the board. Is Prado the answer in LF? We know Chipper is coming back so Prado won’t be playing 3B full time anyways. Can we do better in LF then Prado? I guess that’s my question? Maybe a Shane Victorino type player. Someone who has good speed and hits for a high average. Jose Reyes would be a perfect fit for the top of our order but with our payroll it’s clearly an unlikely fit.

Is Hudson Our Ace?: Sure Tim Hudson pitched great for us down the stretch as an ace pitcher should. He really showed a lot of guts last night pitching deep into the game and keeping Philly from putting big numbers on the board. I’m very proud of Tim Hudson, he had a great Sept for us. He came up big against the Mets when we won that 1-0 game against RA Dickey. He came up big against Strausberg as well. Does this look familiar to anyone? Derek Lowe pitched tremendously in the month of Sept last year and just didn’t have it in 2011. Hudson is a gamer but so is Lowe. Hudson is a “bulldog” as Chipper would say but then again so is Lowe. Derek Lowe lost his stuff this year because he’s 38 years old. Hudson is 36 right now, will he hold up for another 162 game season pitching the same way he did this Sept? A baseball team can’t win a championship without a clear cut ace. He doesn’t have to be a CY YOUNG winner, I’m not saying that at all but he has to be someone you can give the ball to with confidence. Do the Braves have that right now? Tommy Hanson? Jair Jurrjens? Brandon Beachy? Mike Minor? Derek Lowe? None of those guys really jump out at me at all. Can Tim Hudson give us another year of 16-10 or better pitching? Can he rise to the occasion next year down the stretch, he’ll be 37 years old? The young guys can’t fill the void of an ace pitcher and with Lowe struggling so badly I don’t know if we have a guaranteed ace for next year.

Do We Bring In An Ace?: The season has been over for 24 hours and Fredi Gonzalez has already told Frank Wren that he wants the focus to be on pitching this off season. Why? Does Fredi have concerns about Hanson’s shoulder injury which appears to be more serious then they originally let on? Is he unsure about Jurrjens and how he will return? Is he hesitant to rely on such a young rotation as he did for the month of Sept? Trading for an ace is difficult and it’s normally much easier to bring one in through free agency. I know the Braves are not a big market club but sometimes you have to spend some money to get better and make a serious run at things. We need guys who can go pound for pound with the Phillies aces. If you cancel yourself out of the division before opening day you only leave yourself one way to get in, the wild card. I want to go into next year feeling good about our chances when we face Philly. How do we do that? They have 4 great pitchers on that staff. We need AT LEAST 2 in order to compete with them for a 162 game season. Guys like Mark Buehrle and CJ Wilson will be free agents this winter. Can the Braves make a play at one of them? The Rangers will certainly be the favorites to retain Wilson but maybe the Braves can convince him otherwise especially if the Rangers have a quick exit from the playoffs. I think the Braves should look into both options. Obtaining a starter would be big for this team and if we can unload Derek Lowe’s 15 million dollar salary then we’ll have extra payroll.

Options We Could Replace Prado With: If Prado does indeed end up on the bench then we will need to replace him and we can go about this in 2 ways. We can get a lead off style hitter to compliment Bourn at the top of the order. This player to me is Coco Crisp, a guy who stole 40 bases last year and gets on base an awful lot. Bourn and Crisp would be a dynamic duo at the top of this order and Crisp who has been playing in Oakland would love nothing more then to play for a contender. Now if we go for a guy who has a little bit of pop in his bat, someone who could hit 6th in the order and give McCann or Freeman some protection we could go with a Michael Cuddyer type player. He would be a cheap fill in and he hit 18HR last year for a terrible Twins team. He could be a nice fit in Atlanta.

How Do We Get This Offense to “Click”?: The question that no one could find an answer to. When opening day came around we scored only 2 runs against the Nationals. I remember that day as clear as if it was yesterday. Derek Lowe pitched a very solid game and didn’t give up any runs. The offense would struggle for months on end before having short outbursts showing that they were capable of scoring 7 or 8 runs in a game. The offense not only lost us games on the score board but they were also partially responsible for draining the life out of our extremely talented bullpen. That was a double killer for this Braves team. If we hadn’t played so many 1 run games this year then we wouldn’t have had to burn out Kimbrel and Venters. Those guys pitched in WAY too many games but in Fredi’s defense what else was he supposed to do? He had to send them out there, he couldn’t just give away games. We need to protect those guys by scoring more runs. We need to see a lot more 7-1 and 6-0 wins this year. Is it going to take a line up change? Is it going to take a free agent or bat we obtain from a trade?

Chipper Jones: Chipper has been the leader of this ball club for as long as I can remember. He delivered big hit after big hit and won the National League MVP award. He helped the Braves win a World Series in 95 and was part of that magical run of 14 straight division championships. However this is not the same Chipper that we’ve known over the years. He will be 40 years old at the start of next season and we are expecting him to play third base which is not called the hot corner for  nothing. Can Chipper make it through a 162 game season again? This year went better then last year but realistically how long can this last? Chipper’s bat was consistent and he is a switch hitters which is a big plus to our line up. Is Chipper staying longer then he really should? Clearly he’s under contract so the Braves were fully aware of the risk when they inked his deal so it’s not a “selfish” act on Chipper but is it time to walk away? Is Chipper’s veteran presence worth all the time he will miss next season? Even this past week he said he would have sat out most of the Phillies series if this was an April series. An April Series? He sat out the first game of the Phillies series in SEPT when the division was still somewhat within reach. Is Chipper willing to play everyday? Or is he in this just to try and scratch out another World Series title before he hangs it up? Clearly he believes this Braves team is capable of making a run this coming year as he clearly can’t wait around to rebuild a contender. So that vote of confidence should count for something.

Big Off Season Moves Create Confidence: How did the Mets respond to their 2007 epic collapse? They went out and got Johan Santana, an ace that they were in desperate need of. I realize that’s a New York team with a huge payroll that we don’t have. However the concept of restoring fan’s confidence was priceless. I’m from the North East and there wasn’t a Mets fan in site that was confident going into 2008. They were all excited during spring training. No the move did not pan out as they still missed the playoffs once again but the point is they weren’t worried about the collapse on Opening Day. That’s what Frank Wren needs to do. Bring in players who were NOT A PART of this epic collapse. This team needs some fresh faces to say “hey this is a new team, this isn’t last years club”. If they put those same 8 guys out on the field and keep the rotation exactly the same how are the fans supposed to react to this? They need to bolster the pitching rotation with either a guy who can be a potential ace or a guy who can eat up a lot of innings and save wear and tear on the bullpen. This club is also in need of another bat in the line up.

Jose Reyes: Short stop is big weakness for the Braves going into next season. Do we really want to bring back Alex Gonzalez who just doesn’t seem to have the will to win? He hits for a low average and is only good for his glove and hitting a few bottom of the order HR’s. I’m not knocking what he did to contribute this season but I don’t think it’s what we need. Is Pastornicky going to be ready to give the big leagues a shot? He would join other young stars like Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward and all of the young pitchers, all of which would make him feel right at home I’m sure. He could play next to Chipper Jones for a season and learn a lot from him I’m sure. OR do the Braves make a splash. Do they finally open up the payroll and say I’m sick of losing to Philly, I need to do something NOW. Frank Wren is conservative but if you want to play with the big boys you need to spend some money. Could Jose Reyes be wearing a Braves uniform next year? Yes it is a stretch so don’t send me tons of comments saying that I’m out of my mind or asking me if I’m on drugs but just hear me out.

– We could down sell Reyes by giving him a chance to play for a winner. He would have great production in the line up with guys like Chipper, Mac, Freeman and Uggla hitting behind him. He would have a great shot at winning the division or at least making the post season as the Braves are MUCH closer to being a World Series contender then the Mets are.

– He could stay in not only the same league but the same division. He wouldn’t have to adjust to knew pitchers like he would in the American League and he could even stay in the very familiar N.L East.

– He could be the missing piece to our championship contender instead of being one of the core members on a team that’s waiting for tons of players to develop or for management to bring in more talent to help him and David Wright.

-We could hit Reyes in the 2 hole. He’s a guy who will easily hit 50pts higher then Prado did this season not to mention the fact that he would score a lot more runs and cause havoc on the base paths. Imagine Jose Reyes hitting behind Michael Bourn. Those two guys could end up with 90 or more steals between them. They would be PERFECT table setters for guys like Mac and Uggla who hit a ton of solo HR’s this year. It could really get the offense going.

This team is very close. That’s the bottom line. Chipper wouldn’t stick around if he thought this team had no chance of going all the way next year. Great teams don’t build 8.5 game leads despite a struggling offense. If this offense can “click” as Fredi would say then this team could win 95 games next year if not more. Think about how many 1 run games we played this year… Let that sink in and think about all the wins we missed out on. The wear and tear on the bullpen would never have been an issue if the offense had been able to score more runs.

Frank Wren can’t sit back and coast through the off season, he’s going to have to remain aggressive and bring in another piece or two to make things “click” around here. We are in a division with the arguably the best team in baseball. We can’t go into next season with 1 hand tied behind our back. We need to go in there and have a shot at home field advantage which can only be obtained with winning the division.

By: Bob McVinua