Are the Braves resigned to their small-market fate?

Increasingly we’re hearing management say it’s okay with internal LF/3B options, as if there are any. I’m encouraged by Juan Francisco’s development, but there’s nothing to suggest he won’t add another 150+ strikeouts to a line-up that could easily lead the league in K’s. Jose Constanza is a 4-A player at best, Evan Gattis is a DH who may or may not hit big league pitching and Jordan Schafer has blown every chance he’s received.

Meanwhile, the Reds are on the verge of acquiring Shin-Soo Choo (career .289 BA, .381 OBP, .465 slugging, 20 SB a year) in a three-team deal  that would net the Indians Drew Stubbs, who’s fallen far short of expectations, and a minor league pitching prospect. I’m not saying the Braves could’ve topped that offer, but Cleveland needs pitching and the Braves have it.  Choo is a FA after this season, and, though he strikes out plenty, gets on base at a clip Francisco will never match. And the Reds aren’t gutting their farm system to get him.

An NL competitor is about to get better, and right now the Braves are worse than in 2012. B.J. Upton does not equal Chipper and Bourn. Not even close.

More troubling is the lack of any movement on extensions for Martin and Jay Hey. Prado, a free agent after next season, has indicated a desire to re-up and likely won’t drive an impossible bargain. But this market would tempt anyone, and the Braves better not let Martin’s agent drive up the price.

Hard to believe but Jay Hey is just three years removed from free agency. The closer he gets to 2016 the less interested he’ll be in passing up a potential bonanza for short-term security. By the way, Kris Medlen will also be a FA in 2016.

Hell, even Tampa managed to lock up its franchise player, Evan Longoria, through 2023. Such commitments are not without risk, but the alternative is the Pittsburgh Pirates. FW better get moving or it won’t be long before we find ourselves in the same boat as Pirate fans, desperate for mediocrity.

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12 Comments on Are the Braves resigned to their small-market fate?

  1. I know team officials can only operate within the budget parameters that Liberty Media gave them, but the notion that the Braves are a small-market team is unadulterated horseshit. Milwaukee, the No. 35 media market is a small-market team. Same with Cincinnati (No. 34) and Kansas City (No. 31). (And the two franchises operated by leadership outside The Used Car Salesman’s family have made major moves this off-season.) Atlanta is No. 8, and the Braves have a fan base that stretches across at least half a dozen states. We’re never going to be able to match the New York or L.A. teams in terms of market power, but we should be able to keep pace with the likes of, say, Detroit (No. 11), and we aren’t.

  2. Agreed, though they do have a small-market TV deal. Our window is closing fast — better enjoy these next 3 years.

  3. rankin' rob // December 12, 2012 at 11:05 am //

    Heck, I enjoyed the Braves in the bad old days. I’ll still enjoy them as we draw down payroll and fall into the middle of the pack. My expectations aren’t great. I know that if we do get to the postseason we’ll crap our pants on national TV anyways. Best to enjoy the day in-day out sturm und drang of the regular season. Leave the big money and high pressure to teams seriously trying to compete. With Fredi at the helm you would be delusional to feel otherwise.

    I do kind of wish pro sports in this country had relegation British and European soccer. If finishing in last place meant you went to AAA ball next year I think we’d see teams be a little more serious.

  4. I’m not filled with gloom as you are, but I agree that the time is now to lock up Heyward, Prado, and Medlen. That’s what I’m worried about.

    With the number of strikeout artists in this lineup, I’m happy to pass on Choo.

    We did pretty well with Klesko in LF, so I’m not worried about Gattis out there. He’s probably going to end up behind the plate anyway.

  5. Klesko had played more than 20 games above Class-A when he came to Atlanta. There’s no way of knowing what Gattis can do against big league pitching, and settling for him in LF (he’s a good 30 pounds bigger than Klesko) would be folly.

  6. I should have been more clear. I was thinking about defense. Reports have been that he’s been surprisingly competent in LF. According to baseball Reference, he’s an inch taller and 10 lbs heavier than Klesko.

    As for the hitting, I agree. And yes, we’re in big trouble if he’s getting any significant playing time this year.

  7. Rosenthal reported today the Braves made an “aggressive offer” for Choo. I’d be interested in hearing exactly how aggressive. Choo is a solid player who I think would be a good LF addition – he strikes out too much and is a free agent at season’s end, but has a good OBP. I wouldn’t part with Teheran for him I don’t think, but I probably wouldn’t have an issue in moving Delgado. But I don’t think we did, nor should we have, offered a package that bested Cleveland netting Drew Stubbs and Trevor Bauer. Great deal for them so it’s tough to really argue.

  8. I don’t think I would have liked to have seen the Braves match the package the Indians wound up with for a Scott Boras client entering the last year before free agency. Been there, done that, no thanks.

  9. rankin' rob // December 12, 2012 at 3:42 pm //

    Man, the cumulative effect of scrolling down the page and seeing all of the sad sacks on the right side here does make me realize we won’t suck as bad as those teams, even if we do stand pat.

  10. Rays can compete on a tiny budget. A’s can compete on a tiny budget. Even the Nationals are in the bottom half. It’s just a matter of having good scouts, a good minor league system and a willingness to spend on the draft instead of free agents.

    Yeah, there will be a lot of stars leaving and a lot of turnover, but if you take out the three biggest contracts on the team (Uggla, Upton, McCann) the Braves are a $40 million team and it’s not like Uggla or McCann played too far above replacement-level last year anyway.

    I believe a small-market Braves team will be competitive year-in and year-out. It just won’t dominate like the 90′s team did and I’m okay with that.

  11. Jack Straw // December 12, 2012 at 6:40 pm //

    Klesko really busted his ass to become a competent left-fielder. He was no Gold Glover, but he surprised me a number of times.

    Wren has missed several opportunities this off-season, but a left-fielder, ultimately, is a replaceable part. I am worried about catcher.

  12. Jon Heyman says Cubs are willing to eat $26M of remaining $36M on Alfonso Soriano’s contract.

    That might be worth trading for.

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