Tagged: Prospects

“If Prado” and “If Heyward”

I thought about putting some type of warning on this article for the die hard Jason Heyward supporters who attack me the second I say his shoe’s untied but I have to call it as I see it. I will be more then fair Heyward fans don’t worry. I’ve also noticed a large support group for Martin Pardo which I think is great. I’m ALL about supporting the players on this team but I have to take a very subjective view point on these 2 players. That view point being that neither of these players are guaranteed to be a part of the franchise’s future.

Jason Heyward has a huge impact on the Braves future. If he were to return to form then he can give us a “3 hole” hitter for the next 10+ seasons.  That spot would be signed, sealed and delivered. Right Field would be set for a very long time. A huge relief for the Braves front office. However in order for that to happen we need to get Heyward back on track. Clearly Wren is not completely sold on that being guaranteed to happen as he won’t even guarantee a starting spot for Heyward next season. Those are not my words, those are the words of Frank Wren. Sure if Heyward shows up to Spring Training in full force and starts hitting the baseball all over the field then he’s going to get the spot. And let’s be honest Heyward has to do “less” to get the spot then anyone else. The Braves want Heyward in Right Field but aren’t willing to just give it to him which I completely agree with. If Heyward has a decent to above average spring then the job should be his. If he were to cough up that starting spot next season and fizzle out then the Braves will have a major position to fill in their line up. Leaving a question mark for the team’s front office.

Now we say “if” Prado because there’s no guarantee that he’s going to be here past the end of this month never mind the next 5 or 6 years. Prado is a good player. He’s usually consistent and he brings a lot to the table. His versatility is amazing. When you have a guy who can play almost any position on the diamond then you have a real weapon on your team. However we need to consider this. Prado doesn’t play any of these positions exceptionally well. 2nd base is by far his best position but with Uggla on the roster there’s not going to be any need to play there.

Prado represents some importance to the Braves as Chipper heads towards a milestone in his life that isn’t baseball related. His 40th birthday will be coming in April and it’s time to start considering some real replacements for Chipper. We’ve put this off long enough and I think that we need to decide if Prado is going to be a full time 3rd basemen when Chipper hangs it up. If Wren decides that he is then I’m all for giving him a contract of reasonable proportion. If he’s not their ideal 3rd basement then I think it may be time to part ways with him while we can still extract value.

The Braves have done a very a nice job with developing young talent on the pitchers mound but let’s not forget their efforts in developing position players as well. Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward are great talents with loads of potential. We need to get Heyward back on track and hope that Freddie can avoid the sophomore slump. If both of those things happen then we have 2/8 of our position players set in a stone for a very long time. Brian McCann can be added to that list as well, I don’t see him leaving Atlanta. So now we’re up to 3/8 of our starting line up being considered “long term solutions”.

While we’re on the topic of young talent we can bring up names like Tyler Pastornicky and Joe Terdoslavich. Two quality infielders who could fill the long term voids at short stop and 3rd base. Neither of them are obviously ready right now but in 2013 or even 2014 we could be in store for a treat with these two guys.

Nothing in life or baseball is guaranteed but I like that the Braves have stock piled enough talent to potentially last us for many seasons to come. The outcome doesn’t always go as we plan but in just like in life all we can do is put ourselves in a position to succeed and do the best we can. The Braves really have done a great job in doing that.

They key to building any successful franchise is locking pieces in for the long term. It’s very tough to compete for World Championships every year when the players are constantly changing. I feel that the Braves have done a fair amount of musical chairs over the years which may have hurt their chances to compete.

If you were to look back at the 2007 Atlanta Braves Roster there are only 6 players from that team left on the current roster. And I use the word “six” loosely because Matt Diaz left and came back. So some could argue that only 5 have remained for the entire time. Those players being:

1) Chipper Jones

2) Brian McCann

3) Martin Prado

4) Peter Moylan

5) Tim Hudson

6) Matt Diaz

That’s less then 25% of the roster. A fair amount of turnover for a team that is normally competitive. Now if you look at it from this view point. Is Prado guaranteed to be back next year? Going into 2012 this number could shrink.

That’s why I’m excited about the future of this Braves franchise. I really believe we have some key pieces that we should be able to incorporate into our long term plans. And that’s how championships are won.

 

By: Bob McVinua

 

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Trades That Change The Future

Aug 1st 2007 was a big day in Atlanta Braves history. No it wasn’t a milestone hit. There wasn’t a significant injury or victory. What happened was one of the biggest trades in Braves history. On this day the Braves sent Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, Beau Jones, Elvis Andrus and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to the Texas Rangers for Mark Teixeira.

It’s commonly said that you will have no idea the exact value of the trade for both teams until 3 or 4 years down the road, especially when the deal involves a lot of young prospects. Now while Teixeira was with Atlanta he was extremely productive. He hit 37HR and drove in 134 runs in just 157 total games, not even a full season. While the short stint with Atlanta was impressive, the issue is just that. The time he spent in Atlanta was far too short to justify the prospects that we parted with.

At the time of the trade the Braves found themselves 4.5 games behind the New York Mets. Yes just a few years ago the Mets were the front runners in the N.L East. But that’s besides the point. The Braves found themselves within striking distance and didn’t want to fall short of making the playoffs. On top of this they felt that they still had a decent shot of winning the wild card as well. What were they missing? Well they needed a big bat in the middle of the line up. Andruw Jones was not getting it done in the clean up spot and they believed that bringing in Tex would be the answer. He would provide a lot of power and would give them switch hitters in the 3 and 4 spots in their order. Sounds impressive right?

Well not only were Braves fans excited when the trade was made, the players in Atlanta were extremely excited as well.

” Yes we’ve got the team to win the World Series” – Brian McCann

“Seems like they’re trying to make us win a World Series around here” – Tim Hudson

Forget winning the World Series. The Braves failed to even make the playoffs that year as they would end the season 5.0 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies. This would be the beginning of the Phillies run a top the N.L East that is still going strong today.

John Schuerholz must have been devastated when the team failed to qualify for the playoffs. He knew that he was giving up some elite prospects, 2 of the best ones in our entire farm system. Whether or not the Braves could keep Tex for the long term was a question that was asked almost immediately after the trade was completed.

” I’ll think about next year, next year” – John Schuerholz

That was pretty much the only response from John Schuerholz. In fairness what could the guy really say? He couldn’t second guess his own move right after it was completed. He knew that he would have to role with the punches and take any criticism  that would come his way. If the Braves had won the World Series that year or even made a deep run in the playoffs then maybe we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.

You never know what kind of players prospects will actually turn into. If you look at all the prospects that the Mets sent to Minnesota in exchange for Johan Santana you’ll see that none of  them really amounted to anything. But this trade turned out pretty well for the Texas Rangers.

They would receive a franchise short stop in Elvis Andrus. A great young arm in Matt Harrison. And a franchise closer in Neftali Feliz who would go on to set the rookie saves record. These guys were a HUGE part of their World Series run last year. As a Braves fan I couldn’t help but feel a little upset watching our franchise’s prospects shine on the big stage. Granted I’m happy for any young athlete that does well I just wish that they were all wearing Braves uniforms rather then one’s that say Texas on them.

While Teixeira is long gone as most Braves fans have forgotten about him by now, there affects of the trade are still affecting the Braves today. Alex Gonzalez is now the Braves short stop and while he has done a decent job for the Braves I can’t say that I wouldn’t prefer to have Elvis Andrus out there right now. Can you imagine this Braves line up with Andrus in it? We would be set at almost every position for the next 5 years if not more, outside of 3B. The franchise does not really have a sure fire answer for a short stop in the minor leagues and Gonzalez will most likely be gone after this season. Does the team make a trade? Go to the minors? Or sign a free agent? Short stop is a critical position for a team that wants to contend. It’s said that the short stop is the QB of the infield.

I know that our bullpen is dominant and possibly the best in all of baseball. I love the guys we have in our pen and they do a terrific job. Where would Feliz fit into that bullpen? Would he just be ANOTHER great arm coming out of the pen or would we have traded him or one of the other guys for another big name bat or maybe even a starter? The options are endless.

Just 1 year later the Braves would trade Tex to the Angels for Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek. If that’s not heart breaking then I don’t know what is. At the end of the day we gave up elite prospects for a 1 year rental player that we had to give away for basically nothing. It would have been one thing if the Braves had been able to move Tex for another big name player or at least 2 or 3 decent players but we were forced to basically give him away for nothing. The whole trade was a huge bust there’s no way that anyone can justify it now.

The point of this article is not just to bash the Braves front office for a bad trade. The point I’d like to make as I wrap up this article is that Frank Wren showed incredible patience at this years trade deadline. He could have dealt one of our coveted pitching prospects for a 2 month rental but he didn’t. He knew that a move like that would not be in the best interest of the ball club going forward. He waited it out and still got a great player in Michael Bourn.

Every time the trade deadline rolls around and your team is in contention for a playoff spot you want them to make a big move. I can honestly say that at certain points I wanted Frank Wren to just pull the trigger and get Beltran. I would be lying if that thought never crossed my mind. If you check my Twitter account I’m sure I made reference to dealing Mike Minor for Beltran. Now I realize what a mistake that would have been.

When you make a trade like that your putting yourself in a very difficult position. It becomes almost a World Series or bust scenario and that is just putting too much pressure on your players to justify a move that the front office made. Sometimes these big trades pay off and other times they don’t. It’s a crap shoot but if you can hold onto your prospects and let them develop a lot of times this is the better way to go.

I applaud the discipline of Frank Wren and the Braves front office. They resisted temptation to pull the trigger and make the “easy move”. That’s not an easy thing to do and I think they deserve a lot of credit. Maybe we should all consider the Mark Teixeira trade when were pushing our teams to make wild and extreme moves at the deadline.

By: Bob McVinua