Braves always round down when it comes to payroll

We assumed the trade of Tommy Hanson meant the Braves had around $14 million to spend for LF and the bench. Not surprisingly, that number shrunk over the weekend.

According to DOB, “indications are that have a total of about $10 million or slightly more to spend on those positions.”

Oh, but Terry McGuirk tells us Liberty doesn’t set any limits on payroll. So I guess that makes T-Mac the cheap bastard.

As an aside, isn’t it about time someone asked The Worst Commissioner in the History of Sports to name one franchise that was enriched by corporate ownership? Fox and the Dodgers? Disney and the Angels? Liberty and the Braves?

In praise of JJ was little reaction to the non-tendering of Jair Jurrjens, save for some crowing from the statistically obsessed who always discounted his contributions. JJ deserves better than that.

When the Braves acquired him for Edgar Renteria, I was more optimistic than most (some preferred Nate Robertson, whose career ended in 2010). JJ’s fifth start as a Brave proved me right.

Pitching before 52,495 at Shea that night, JJ endured a horrific third inning that would’ve led most rookies to self-destruct. With 2 outs, the bases loaded and a shrinking strike zone, JJ to walked in three consecutive runs, two of which came on full counts. He responded by retiring the next 10 hitters he faced, leaving after 6 innings en route to his third victory.

JJ was the local nine’s best starter that year, leading the team in wins and innings pitched. The following season he emerged as one of the best starters in the NL, winning 14 with a 2.60 ERA, limiting opposing hitters to a .237 BA. He led the Braves with 215 IP, saving his best in September, going 4-1 with a 1.43 ERA.

After a forgettable 2010 performance JJ rebounded in 2011, ranking among the NL’s elite starters, winning 12 games with a 1.87 ERA in the season’s first half. Stat geeks were unimpressed, citing his 5.3 K/9 ratio. But it was bad knees, not the lack of a blazing fastball, that spelled the end of JJ’s days in Atlanta.

Besides his stout work on the mound, JJ was also a stand-up dude, never complaining after he was demoted to Gwinnett last April. And don’t forget that June 22nd start in Fenway when he defied the skeptics to hold Boston to three hits and one run in 7-1/3 IP.

Alas, it was pretty much all downhill from there, eliciting a chorus of “I told you so’s” from those who measure effectiveness by strikeouts. They may not appreciate JJ, but real Braves fans should.

Here’s hoping he lands on his feet and resumes what has been a very effective big league career.

FW’s best trading chips

I suspect the Braves GM will go the free agent route to secure a LF, but if he can’t land, say, Shane Victorino, he could deal from strength.

The emergence of Luis Avilan gives the Braves three dependable southpaws in the ‘pen, and newly acquired Jordan Walden, a right-hander, has held lefties to a .206 BA and .620 OPS over his career. I’m not sure what Jonny Venters or Eric O’Flaherty would fetch in a trade, but consider the current climate.

Jeremy Affeldt just signed a 3-year, $21 million contract with the Giants. Last year, the A’s acquired Josh Reddick, who hit 32 HR and won a Gold Glove, for oft-injured Andrew Bailey. Relievers have rarely been more valued, especially if they’re left-handed.

興味をそそる, Japanese for “intriguing”

Trading O’Flaherty makes the most sense. He’ll be a free agent after next season, and considering the Affeldt deal, you can bet 2013 will mark the end of his time in Atlanta. He’s only 27 and his 1.95 ERA over the last four seasons is among the best in baseball. Despite his erratic 2012 campaign, JV would likely also net a decent return. He won’t be a free agent until 2016, making him potentially more attractive to clubs desperate for relief.

I’d prefer to keep both, but if FW can’t find an adequate LF via free agency, trading EOF or JV might be his best option. One possible trading partner: Milwaukee, who’s reportedly hot for a LH reliever. The Brewers have also been mentioned as a landing spot for Josh Hamilton, and if they signed him Norichika Aoki could be available.

Aoki, a Japanese League standout, batted .288 as a 30-year-old MLB rookie, with a .355 OBP, 30 SB, 10 HR and 37 doubles.

Teheran, Delgado inspiring little confidence

June, when Brandon Beachy is expected to return to full health, may not come fast enough for the Braves, who are counting on prospects Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran to fill the 5th spot in the rotation.

I’ve been high on Delgado but was a little troubled by his mediocre performance after being demoted to Gwinnett. Teheran was wildly erratic in Triple-A, though he finished strong.

Unfortunately, both are struggling in winter ball.

Terry Blocker

The 20 worst A-Braves players: #11 Terry Blocker

Terry Blocker is a helluva guy. When pitcher Dave Shotkoski was gunned down in West Palm Beach in 1994, Blocker, trying to make a comeback as a replacement player, took to the streets to help find the culprit.

Without ever meeting the man, Blocker was able to come up with a street nickname. He went to the police, who soon arrested Neal Douglas Evans, age 29, and charged him with first-degree murder and attempted robbery.

“Blocker saved us at least one day and probably two,” said Detective David Atherton of the West Palm Beach Police Department. “He went out on his own. Nobody asked him to do it. He’s very modest. He doesn’t think he’s a hero, but if some people had known what he was doing, he would have been in danger. I’m in danger every time I go there.”

Six years earlier, Blocker was the part-time CF for a Braves team that would’ve probably lost to most replacement squads.

Blocker was chosen by the Mets with the 4th overall pick in the 1991 amateur draft ahead of Frd McGriff, Mark McGwire, Frank Viola, David Cone, Matt Williams, Mark Langston, Sid Fernandez, Paul O’Neill, Ron Darling, Devon White, to name 10. (The Braves, with the 12th pick in the 1st round, selected Jay Roberts. The OF, a special teams stalwart with the Washington Huskies who had not played high school baseball, never advanced past Single-A, batting .187 over 4 years. )

GM Bobby Cox acquired Blocker from New York for pitcher Kevin Brown (not that Kevin Brown) prior to the ’88 season, throwing him into the OF mix along with the likes of Albert Hall, Gary Roenicke and Dion James. Blocker ended up starting 59 games in CF, providing decent defense but little else, batting .212 with a .250 OBP and .283 slugging percentage. The erstwhile speedster was 1-for-2 in SB attempts.

He started the ’89 season in Double-A Greenville but made it back to Atlanta, which tells you plenty about that Braves team. Blocker hit .226 in 31 AB, the last of his MLB career until attempting a comeback, 5 years later, as a replacement Brave. It was then that Blocker finally made his mark, albeit off the field.