However there is something to be said about the anticipation of the trade deadline as it’s almost the summer version of the winter meetings in which it allows teams to make that one final push towards their ultimate goal of winning a World Series. And while some fan bases will have renewed hope or further reassurance that their team is in it to win it, other fan bases will suffer the harsh reality that their team is no longer a contender and that they will be more or less packing it in for the rest of the season.
Over the winter meetings the Braves put themselves in kind of tricky spot, possibly without even realizing it. When Frank Wren signed BJ Upton and traded for Justin Upton to create a young and dynamic outfield as they would be combined with a young budding super star Jason Heyward, Wren was not just going for the gold in 2013 but he was building an outfield that could be together for the next 5+ seasons.
Now in doing so I loved the moves and was very optimistic about what the Braves would be able to accomplish this season. Now with that being said they’re in 1st place as of today by 5 full games and stand a solid 12 games over .500 despite their most recent 3 game losing streak.
Frank Wren’s move to build this epic young outfield put him in a situation that would prove to be difficult if things didn’t go his way. I say this because Wren will have to sit on his hands and hope for his young outfield to continue to progress and show signs of improvement or he will be forced to tear it down and admit that he made a mistake. The moves to obtain not 1 but both Upton brothers essentially locked Wren and the Braves into a strategy that would lead them down a road of difficult decision and produce a team that would give them some lack of flexibility at a point in time such as say, the trade deadline.
The Braves outfield isn’t going anywhere which means that 1/3 of the starting line up is locked in stone. Freddie Freeman is locked in at 1st base, Uggla is locked in at 2nd base and Simmons is untouchable at short stop.
The ONLY two pieces of this team that could change at the deadline would be third base and catcher. Now trading Brian McCann to receive some sort of value type player out of fear of not being able to resign him this off season makes some sense for next year and beyond but you have to remember, Frank Wren wants to win now, the team is built to win now as much as it is in the future.
You won’t be able to get enough in return (most likely) to replace the offensive output that McCann will give you down the stretch. Mind you his numbers aren’t staggering by any means but he also missed 6 weeks of the season due to his recovery from shoulder surgery and has been playing pretty well since he came back. Altering our catcher situation doesn’t seem like the way to go so I’d say lock McCann in as well.
That leaves Chris Johnson who came over with Justin Upton in the trade with Arizona and to be honest CJ has been a pleasant surprise for the Braves this year. He’s hitting .332 which is good for one of the highest batting averages on the team for a regular every day player, only Freeman is even comparable.
But despite Chris Johnson’s success he’s still not filling the void that really makes the Braves vulnerable. What the Braves really need is a lead off hitter and a way to get Simmons as far away from that lead off spot as possible. If we could bat Simmons 8th on a regular basis where he feels a lot more comfortable and is a lot more likely to produce, combining that with a solid lead off man that can play every day, I think this Braves offense would start to take off.
Yes, the Braves have Jordan Schafer who has played extremely well in limited action and of course he could fill the void at lead off. However the issue is there’s no way he’s going to play everyday. Fredi Gonzalez can’t sit Justin, BJ or Heyward on a regular everyday basis. Unless he came up with some sort of Outfield Rotation where one of the 3 outfielders sat every 3rd or 4th game and let Schafer into the line up. But I doubt that would go over very well and I’m not sure how productive that would be in trying to get steady offensive production from our other outfielders.
With all of that being said what the Braves are looking for is a rare find and rare breed of player. What the Braves need is a 3rd baseman who is capable of playing solid defense and batting in the lead off spot, someone who is capable of hitting over .280 consistently and possesses decent enough speed that they can be a threat on the base paths.
The difficult thing is we could all name multiple outfielders who could fill this void if we didn’t have such a jammed packed roster full of talented outfielders already. You may find a lot more short stops or 2nd basemen with these types of skill sets but with Uggla and Simmons on the roster those spots aren’t really available either.
It will be very interesting to see how Wren deals with and addresses the short comings of the ball club which knock on wood so far have been fairly minimal judging by their record and status within the division. However come October these types of weaknesses will be magnified and as the Braves search for more consistent offense I don’t think there’s any where else better to start the search then the top spot in the line up.
By: Bob McVinua
Just 11 days away from the July 31st trade deadline and the Braves are without a doubt trying to make some sort of splash. The debate of whether to get an outfield bat or a starting pitcher is probably swirling around the mind of Frank Wren from the time he wakes up until the time he goes to bed. The issue is there is not a clear cut answer to this debate.
When you look at the stats neither the offense or pitching of the Braves jumps out at you as a major clear cut strength. I’ve broken down what I consider to be 5 of the most important offensive stats and 5 of the most important pitching stats and still could not conclude anything.
Team Batting Average: 15th best
Runs Scored: 10th best
Total Hits: 16th best
Home Runs: 15th best
On Base Percentage: 12th best
Team ERA: 14th best
Runs Allowed: 12th best
Batting Average Against: 14th best
Whip: 17th best
Strike Outs: 14th best
So as you can see the stats show a middle of the pack offense and basically a middle of the road pitching staff. So which one would you build upon if you were Frank Wren?
If you want my opinion I’d have to go with pitching. Why? Baseball is a game based upon offensive FAILURE. A good hitter makes an out 700/1000 times. A 30% success rates. And that’s a hitter who is performing at a reasonably high level.
A pitcher on the other hand gets the other side of success. Even facing a good hitter he’s going to be successful in getting him out 700/1000 at bats. For a 70% success rate.
As the weather cools off so do the bats of most major league teams. A lot of play off games played in the cool October air are low scoring affairs that requite good pitching to be successful. The last thing you want to have happen is that you go into a playoff series with a staff that can’t put up enough zero’s. This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on your offense to score runs, which only causes them to press more then they normally would.
I think the Braves need to add another quality starter and further deepen this rotation. The old saying is “pitching wins championships” and I think Wren should follow that advice.
Who would you guys like to see the Braves make a trade for? Are you in favor of a trade for a pitcher or would you rather see a productive bat come to town and aid the sometimes struggling Braves offense?
By: Bob McVinua