RClKVums

How much Hart in these extensions?

It’s been little noted in the coverage of the Braves’ flurry of contract extensions, but it would be fascinating to know just how much of a role John Hart played.

I had forgotten until the past couple days that the Braves in November hired the former Rangers and Indians GM as a special advisor. If you’ll recall, Hart was among the pioneers in signing young stars to extensions before they hit free agency. At Cleveland in the 1990s, he locked up a core that included Jim Thome, Kenny Lofton, Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez. It worked out pretty well. In Hart’s 10 years with the Tribe, they won six division titles and two pennants.

Who knows what sort of input Hart has here? We surely don’t  know, and probably never will. But I doubt a special advisor would be instrumental in pushing such a franchise-shaping series of moves as the Braves’ brass has made. The more likely scenario is that the Braves hired Hart because they knew they’d be embarking on the lock-up-the-kids strategy and wanted someone on speed dial who’d done it successfully. Not only that, but Hart extended the Cleveland core as that team was about to move into a new ballpark, as the Braves of course will do in three years. Tomahawk Take did a thorough look at all this, so cap tip to them.

Apparently, JS and Hart are big buds. Of course, Hart has already had a hand in shaping recent Braves history, as he was on the other end of two of JS’s most infamous trades: He was the Indians GM in the Justice/Grissom for Lofton/Embree deal, and he was a special advisor to Texas when JS shipped them half the farm system for Teixeira.

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FW enters his walk year

Fredi is not the only member of the Braves’ hierarchy working on the final year of his contract. FW’s contract also expires after this season, though I suspect he’s a safe bet to be extended — unlike many among the team’s young core.

But should he be?

It’s difficult to judge. Under Wren’s leadership, the Braves restocked what had become a barren farm system following the disastrous Tex(as) trade. And he’s made some shrewd deals, acquiring Michael Bourn and Javier Vazquez for almost nothing. He dealt Edgar Renteria at just the right time — ditto with Tommy Hanson. And even though he struggled last season, Justin Upton — owed 28.5 mil over the next two years — is a bargain in this market.

But Wren has also made some well-publicized blunders: Lowe, McLouth, Kawakami, B.J. and, of course, Uggla. Barring a turnaround by B.J., those are five big missteps, ones that a team with tight purse strings can’t afford. One-third of the Braves’ payroll is tied up on two players who hit under .200 last year.

FW should be fighting for his job this offseason. It won’t be easy, and Wren has only himself to blame. If he can dig himself out of the hole he dug — extending at least some of the young core, finding a taker for Uggla — I’d support an extension. If not, perhaps it’s time to find a different voice, one independent from JS, whose retirement is overdue, IMO.

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Why weren’t the Braves in on Fister?

Doug Fister, two years removed from free agency,  is a workhorse who eats innings without eating up much payroll. The 30-year-old right-hander — career 3.53 ERA and 1.213 WHIP — has topped 200 innings in 2 of the past 3 years and is projected to make $6.9 million in 2014.

Though not an ace, he’s the next best thing: An affordable workhorse.

My question: Where was Frank Wren? He was a protege of Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski, so that should’ve given him a leg up over Nats GM Mike Rizzo. An offer of J.R. Graham, Ryan Butcher and Tyler Pastornicky would’ve been at least comparable to the trio of players Washington sent to the Tigers for Fister.

Anyone think that’s too much? Didn’t think so. And it’s a safe bet the Braves won’t find anyone better than Fister, especially at that price. They’re rumored to have interest in Jeff Samardzija, who allegedly has a bigger upside and will come a higher price, prospect-wise. And he’ll be 29 on  Opening Day, so don’t expect him to suddenly evolve into an ace. In 66 major league starts, Samardzija has a 4.32 ERA and 1.321 WHIP.

Regardless, the Nats just got better. With Fister in the fold, Washington now boasts the best rotation in the division, if not the National League.

BradyAnderson

Top 9 moves the Braves didn’t make

In no particular order:

  • Signing Brady Anderson. It was the year after the Kenny Lofton trade, and when it became clear the Braves weren’t going to re-sign one of JS’ biggest mistakes the GM started wooing Anderson. The Baltimore CF, 33 at the time, was one year removed from his absurd 50-homer campaign and while his power dropped noticeably in ’97 he still put together a solid season, compiling a .863 OPS from the lead-off spot. Fortunately Peter Angelos was running the Orioles, and his five-year, $31 million offer lured Anderson back to Baltimore. He was pretty much a bust after that (save for ’99) and was released a year before the end of his contract. The Braves ended up signing the Big Cat to a $24.75 million, three-year contract. Galarraga had a .946 OPS in Atlanta.
  • Signing Jeff Francoeur to an extension. In 2007 the Braves purportedly offered the Lilburn Flash in the Pan a six-year extension worth some $27 million. The Entitled One is said to have wanted double. Thank God JS didn’t bite.
  • Signing A.J. Burnett. He would’ve cost more than Derek Lowe but was just as ineffective.
  • Trading Glavine and Gant for Mike Greenwell. Bobby was willing to do it but the Sox got greedy, asking for Kent Mercker. GM Bobby countered with Gary Eave. Boston GM Lou Gorman said no, saving the Braves from a trade that would’ve rivaled Brock for Broglio as baseball’s most infamous deal.
  • Trading Doyle Alexander for Steve Searcy. The Braves preferred Searcy to Smoltz but the Tigers wouldn’t part with the southpaw, thought to be major-league ready. Bobby settled for Smoltz. Searcy won six games with Detroit and Philly, finishing his career with a 5.68 ERA.
  • Selecting Marc Newfield over Chipper. After Todd Van Poppel said he wouldn’t sign with Atlanta Bobby set his sights on a pair of high school sluggers. Newfield was projected as the next Dave Winfield but finished up with numbers similar to Tommy Gregg, according to Baseball Reference.
  • Trading for Jake Peavy. Accounts vary as to who exactly the Braves were willing to trade (Yesco, Tommy Hanson …), but it doesn’t matter. One overpriced, injury-prone veteran pitcher had just left — FW didn’t need to replace him with another.
  • Signing Fukey to a three-year deal before the ’09 seasonThank you Arn Tellem.
  • Signing either Hanson or Jurrjens to a contract extension. It’s possible neither will be pitching in the majors next season.

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.

Cease with the spin

Even if the season were to begin Friday, manager Fredi Gonzalez insists the Braves would be OK despite making no deal for a new left fielder during the Winter Meetings. …

“We didn’t come here with a sense of urgency,” Wren said after 3-1/2 days at the Winter Meetings. “You always like to see if you can put together the perfect fit. The perfect fit for us is obviously a true leadoff hitter. I don’t know if we’re going to come away with that or not between now and early April. And it might go beyond that. We might piece it together, put our team together the best way we can, and as the season progresses see if we can find that true leadoff hitter.

“We don’t feel like it’s [requirement right now]. We feel like we have a pretty good ballclub.”

“Pretty good ballclubs” lose in the first round of the playoffs, assuming they make it there. The Braves hierarchy, given little choice by Liberty, appears to be okay with that.

Obviously you don’t want to telegraph panic, but as I outlined the other day the Braves don’t have any acceptable internal options. The team as presently constituted ain’t going to win a pennant.

But hey, the winter meetings weren’t a total loss. Fredi’s option for 2014 was exercised, likely ensuring postseason disappointment over the next two years regardless of who mans LF.

Who are these internal options we’re hearing about?

Braves general manager Frank Wren has been evaluating his internal options in the event that he does not land another outfielder before the start of next season.  But as we progress through this first week of December, this still has to be viewed as Plan B.

More like Plan Surely You Must Be Joking:

  • Juan Francisco, who struck out 70 times in 192 AB in 2011. On a different team, maybe, but this Braves line-up can’t support another 150 to 200 K’s.
  • Evan Gattis, who has scant experience above Single-A and would be expected to play a position he’s ill-suited for (the converted catcher is 20 pounds heavier than Ryan Klesko, FYI).
  • Jose Constanza. No need to elaborate.
  • Ernesto Mejia, 27, who has spent 8 years in the Braves system. He’s got some pop but struck out 288 times in his last 270 games. Against minor league pitching.

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?

Did FW spend more than he had to for Upton?

Now we know why Upton signed so fast.

Assuming the Phils were, as reported, Upton’s other major suitor, how did the Braves end up paying $20 million more?

Did Wren just get snookered by an agent, a la the Derek Lowe signing? MAJOR blunder if so.

I’m thankful Stan Kasten called Jerry Reinsdorf in 1990

Via the Chicago Tribune, circa 1990:

For weeks it had seemed a foregone conclusion that Larry Himes would be named the general manager of the Atlanta Braves soon after the season. In fact, the Braves reportedly came within hours of calling a press conference to announce the selection of Himes a week ago. …

A source in Atlanta said Kasten changed his mind after speaking to Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, a charge Reinsdorf hotly denied.

Kasten ended up choosing JS, the best decision he ever made. Himes, formerly the White Sox GM, ended up taking the same job with the Cubs, where he would soon do the Braves a gigantic favor.

And how lamentable is the departure of Maddux? One day you have a Cy Young winner, and the next you don’t.

“Let’s just examine how this worked out,” Himes says. Isn’t it always the way? I knew how many games Maddux had won and he doesn’t ask. 20.

Himes forms with his hands an imaginary pile of money. This was Maddux’s money. Maddux didn’t take it in time. Now this money belongs to Jose Guzman and Dan Plesac and Greg Hibbard and Randy Myers.

“If this had been a  trade,” Himes swears, “I would have had to take it.”

Guzman and Hibbard combined ERA was roughly two runs higher than Mad Dog’s in ’93. By ’95 their careers were over. Dan Plesac had a 4.68 ERA in two seasons with the Little Bears, saving one game. Randy Myers had three solid seasons on the North Side but left for Baltimore after the ’95 season.

Heckuva trade, Larry.

*Among the other contenders for the Braves GM post in 1990? Don Sutton. Seriously.

He would’ve been better than Himes.

The albatross

A schizophrenic team breeds a schizophrenic fan base, so 86 last week’s post praising Frank Wren’s adept dealmaking. While he’s made some outstanding trades as GM, his checkbook privileges should be revoked.

For example, the trade for Dan Uggla was a good move, or at least defensible. Signing him to a five-year contract was not.

Consider FW’s “hires”: Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami, Fredi, Larry Parrish, Uggla. Who’s the biggest bust?

I’d have to go with Uggla, who has the third-lowest slugging percentage among NL regulars (topping only Furcal and Cameron Maybin). Lowe was a flop, but he was a key contributor to the 2010 playoff run. KK won only 9 games as a Brave, but, at three years and $21 million, the cost was manageable.

Uggla, hitting .223 with a .743 OPS as a Brave, has three years and $39 million left on his contract. Good luck finding someone to take on that burden. Maybe they can package him with a player another team covets, as the Red Sox just did in their monster deal with LA, but I don’t see it happening. The Braves could agree to pay half his salary and he’d still be owed $6.5 million per year.

Fortunately, the Royals need a second baseman, so not all hope is lost. Hell, I’d trade Uggla for Francoeur at this point.

Please, Ryan Dempster, save Frank Wren from himself

Ryan Dempster had a terrific first half. So did JJ in 2010. There’s no guarantee Dempster will continue to pitch like an ace, and his career numbers suggest he won’t. Most likely he’ll be another third starter in a rotation that has nothing but (with the exception of JJ).

Hell, I’m not even certain Dempster will have a better second half than Randy D. The veteran Little Bear had a 4.80 ERA last season and a WHIP near 1.5. Those are Derek Lowe numbers, and they’re not far removed from Dempster’s career norms (4.31, 1.432). By the way, he’s 0-8 in 16 appearances (10 starts) at Turner Field.

He turns 36 next spring, so I wouldn’t be keen on re-signing him — not with Huddy and, perhaps, Ben Sheets, coming back.

If you’re going to trade Randall, you better get an ace in return. Or at least Matt Garza. The Braves couldn’t even get the Cubs to throw in Reed Johnson or Jeff Baker, right-handed hitting utilitymen who’d fill a giant hole on the Braves bench.

Delgado has been inconsistent but has shown flashes of brilliance. He’s accomplished something Tommy Hanson, for one, hasn’t this season, completing eight innings in a game. Twice, actually, same as Dempster (and tied with Huddy for the team lead).

The Yankees or Red Sox could get away with a deal like this, but teams whose payrolls fall short of $100 million should always resist trading a top pitching prospect for a 35-year-old third starter.

First half report: the pitchers, manager and coaches

Time agian for the eagerly awaited, much anticipated, widely debated, half masticated, slightly inebriated, somewhat ruminated Office quarterly report. I’ll start us off with the hurlers and the braintrust.

First, the good news.

Kimbrel. A+. He’s simply the best closer in the game. His all star game performance confirmed that, which made me smile.Poor hitter Since early May, Kimbrel has been like the 5-foot-10 12-year-old who overpowers all the other, smaller kids. Big league hitters have barely touched him since his first 11 appearances.  He allowed nine hits in those first 11 games, as he found the range with his slider and perfected his fastball command. Since then, woe be to NL batsmen. In 22 inniings since, he has allowed four hits and a single earned run. That comes to an ERA of .41. Kimbrel has not walked a batter in his last 19 innings. So, yeah, A-plus.

Huddy, A. This wiry 37-year-old personifies guts and guile. His 7 shutout innings at Philly in his last start comprised a masterpiece of the G&G genre. Tim’s few bad outings have mostly come at home. On the road, he’s 4-1, with  a 1.94 ERA. Overall he’s fashioned a 2.41 ERA in June and July and for the season he’s averaging 6-2/3 IP a start. One key to his success: he’s keeping the ball in the yard. Huddy’s allowing just .4 homers per 9 innings, the fourth best mark in the league.

Beachy, A. He was the team’s clear No. 1 and among the best in the game before he blew out the arm. If it’s possible, his loss has proven to be even more devestating than it appeared it would be. Bill James was right.

Hanson, B-. Tommy’s been solid. Surmount the six-inning barrier more consistently and he’d be flirting with genuine acehood. It’d be a huge help if he could do that in the second half.

Delgado, C. All in all, he’s done as expected for a rookie in a contender’s rotation. He has flashed brilliance — at Miami and at home against Balttimore, to name a couple examples. Other times he’s been sunk by one bad inning. Hallmarks of a kid pitcher. Long-term, I think he’s going to be a good big league starter, here or somewhere else. I hope it’s here.

Minor, D. He’s been like Delgado, only worse. However, he has shown promising sings lately. Unlike Huddy, he has not kept the ball in the yard, ranking among the worst in baseball at serving up gopher balls. Looks like he’ll stay in the rotation when Sheets joins it. Let’s hope that proves the right call.

JJ, C-.  His recent decent work earns him this grade. He clearly would’ve gotten an F based on his first go-round. His 2012 chapter 2 has hardly been dominant, except his first return start, but he has been effective.

Venters, D. Painful to watch the game’s best setup man the past two years devolve into such a mess. He can’t control his slider, nor his fastball.

O’Flaherty, B. He’s returning to form after a rough start to the season. Thank goodness. His WHIP, ERA and batting average allowed have all dropped in each month this season. He’s given up just 2 earned runs in his past 14 appearances. Keep that up, please.

Medlen, B-. Medlen also appears to be righting himself recently. We should keep in mind that this is his first season back from Tommy John.

Christhian Martinez, B-. He’s been OK, which is good enough in his role.

Durbin, B+. Where would the team be without April’s whipping boy? For a long stretch, he was the team’s second best reliever. As was apparent to no one except Wren, I guess, Durbin was a shrewd, cheap pickup.

In the dugout 

Fredi, D. Despite his woeful performance, I hold out hope that he’ll suddenly learn from his mistakes. Silly me. I’d love to know what the players think of him. At least publicly there has been no grousing or second-guessing from the troops, so that’s good. And to the extent he helped make the decision to bring up Simmons, that’s good on him.

McDowell, C. I’m leery of judging pitching and hitting coaches too much. But there is scant evidence to suggest that McDowell has fixed any mechanical flaws or seriously helped any young pitchers. Maybe he helped Durbin.

Walker/Fletcher, B+. J-Hey appears back. That was job one. The offense has been better than last season, though the consistently superb at-bats of April have come and gone since.

Wren, B-. It’s tough to judge the GM because it’s difficult to know how much he controls the purse strings. It’s easy to fault him for not constructing a stronger bench. Francisco has proven to be a decent addition, offering passable power production in limited ABs. Durbin, again, has been a godsend. And promoting Simmons was obviously the right move. It’s not Wren’s fault Venters lost it or that Beachy got hurt. The year’s story on Wren will be told over the next three or four weeks.

CB will be along directly with grades for hitting and defense.

Coulda been a Brave

Mike Trout was drafted via the compensation picks alloted to the Angeles after the Yankees signed Texshowmethemoney. Instead the Braves settled for Casey Kotchman and a career minor league pitcher.

The Angels phenom will join Matt Harrison and Elvis Andrus in KC for the All-Star Game.

Could be an interesting trade deadline….

…or this could mean nothing. From Bowman:

If Jurrjens struggles like he did while posting a 9.37 ERA before being demoted to Triple-A Gwinnett in late April, the Braves will have even more reason to aggressively pursue Ryan Dempster or any of the other attractive starting pitchers that might be available on the trade market.

To fit Dempster or another of these pitchers within the constraints of this year’s payroll, the Braves will need to be creative. With Chipper Jones and now Indians pitcher Derek Lowe both coming off of their payroll next year, the Braves will have some money to play with on the free-agent market this winter.

But still uncomfortable by the results of the 2009 offseason, when they acquired Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami on the free-agent market, the Braves might use some of the money budgeted for the future to address their needs on this year’s trade market.

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How bad is Chad Durbin?

Comparing him to Scott Proctor is an insult to Scott Proctor. More like Frank LaCorte, who was 1-8 with an 11.68 ERA for the ’77 Braves. LaCorte walked 29 and allowed 67 hits — including 10 homers — in 37 IP. Let’s hope Durbin doesn’t last that long.

What the hell was FW thinking when he signed this guy to a MAJOR LEAGUE contract?

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FW’s seat should be getting warm

He’s made some nice trades, but FW has made many questionable decisions of late. He hired Fredi. And Larry Parrish. He signed a 35-year-old pitcher to a four-year, $60 million deal. He pissed away $27 million on Kawakami. The extension he gave Chipper was probably not the wisest use of resources. The jury’s still out on the Uggla deal but is he a guy you build a team around?

And does anyone think signing Fatnandez and Durbin was a good idea?

Recalling another winter of discontent

I think we all agree this offseason has generally sucked, as we’ve watched the Braves stand pat and learned that the local nine’s descent into small marketdom has been assured by the bean counters at TimeWarner.

But the winter of 2003-’04 was pretty glum, too — a preview of the malaise to come.

In a span of four days in December the Braves said goodbye to Greg Maddux and Adam Wainwright and hello to John Thomson and J.D. Drew.

Two years later Wainwright was closing for the world champion Cards, Just Disabled was looking to opt out of his Dodgers contract and JT was finishing his last season as a Brave. He won 2 games, lost 7 and didn’t seem to give a shit.

Payroll constraints, coupled with uncharacteristic shortsightedness by JS, cost the Braves dearly as the decade wore down. FW, at least, has not been myopic this offseason.

Rating the GM’s: Frank Wren

FW will mark his fifth anniversary as Braves GM this October. During that time he’s established a reputation as an outstanding dealmaker, acquiring JJ, Omar Infante (who he later turned for Dan Uggla) and Michael Bourn for very little. But his record on free agent signings and hires has been spotty at best. And while it’s too early to judge, the Braves received low marks for the last couple of drafts.

A year-by-year look at the Wren years:

2007-’08

Signed Tom Glavine. A popular move but not the best use of $7 mil, especially when you consider the way it ended. PR doesn’t really figure into this eval, but I think we can agree FW gets an ‘F’ there.

Traded Renteria and Jose Ascanio for JJ, Gorkys Hernandez, Omar Infante and Will Ohman. A ++

Signing Corky Miller, releasing Brayan Pena. Seems like a minor transaction, but Pena was an outstanding clubhouse guy and, most importantly, a stabilizing influence on Yesco. Pena has been a decent backstop with the Royals while Corky may have been the worst Brave ever.

Traded Tex for Marek and Kotchman. Would’ve been better off with the draft picks that could’ve potentially netted Mike Trout and Tyler Skaggs, two of the best prospects in baseball.

Traded Tyler Flowers, Brent Lillibridge, Jon Gilmore and Santos Rodriguez for Javy Vazquez and Boone Logan. Seemed like a lot to give up but none of those Braves prospects have panned out while Javy V. was stellar in ’09.

Signed David Ross; selected Eric O’Flaherty off waivers. Very useful parts acquired for John Malone’s pocket change.

2009

Signed D. Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami. The Lowe signing can be rationalized but, with Vazquez already in the fold and Tommy Hanson nearly ready, KK wasn’t really necessary. The Braves dropped $83 million on the pair and have little to show for it. Thank God A.J. Burnett turned down FW’s offer, which was higher than what the Yanks ended up paying.

Traded Gorkys, Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton for McOut. Looked like a steal at the time but we all know how that turned out. His contract was something of an albatross, too.

Traded Francoeur for Ryan Church. Had to be done. Church offered little but the Lilburn Flash in the Pan had zero trade value at the time.

Dealt Kotchman to Boston for Adam LaRoche. Rochey almost single-handledy vaulted the Bravos into the playoffs in ’09, posting an OPS just shy of 1.000 in 57 games. Kotchman languished on the BoSox bench.

Signed Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito. Risky because of their age but they were more than effective.

Traded Rafael Soriano for Jesse Chavez. Finances dictated this trade but hard to believe the Braves couldn’t have done better.

Sent Javy Vazquez and Logan to the Yanks for Melky, Mike Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino. No one was much happy with this deal at the time but if Arodys is as good as advertised it will be remembered fondly.

2010

Signed Troy Glaus and Eric Hinske. The Braves don’t make the playoffs in 2010 without these two. Excellent value.

Selected Cristhian Martinez off waivers from the Marlins.

Acquired Alex Gonzalez, Tim Collins and Tyler Pastornicky for Yesco and Jo-Jo Reyes. Yesco had worn out his welcome (could Brayan Pena have prevented it?) so FW wasn’t dealing from a position of strength. I still have my doubts about Pastornicky but if he pans out this will stand as a shrewd move.

Traded Gregor Blanco, Collins and J. Chavez for Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth. If Collins can improve his location the Braves will regret this deal.

Acquired Derrek Lee for three prospects you’ve never heard of  and never will. No risk, no reward.

Traded Infante and Dunn to the Fish for Dan Uggla. An absolute steal, and while I have been critical of the five-year extension given to Uggla I’m starting to reconsider after seeing the contracts doled out this winter.

Traded Kyle Cofield for Scott Linebrink. When money is tight you shouldn’t be wasting millions on worn-out middle relievers.

2011

Traded Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens, Juan Abreu and Jordan Schafer for Michael Bourn. Filled the team’s biggest need without giving up any of the franchise’s best prospects. The money should be there to re-sign Bourn though I wouldn’t overpay. I don’t think we have to worry about that happening as long as Liberty’s in charge.

Acquired Matt Diaz for a PTBNL. Not worth mentioning if Diaz had been a free agent, but as it stands the $2 mil Matty D. will receive in 2012 could’ve been put to better use.

Shipped Derek Lowe to Cleveland for Chris Jones. I was amazed FW got the Indians to assume $5 mil of Lowe’s remaining contract.

——————–

All told not a bad track record, one that would merit a better grade if not for the Fredi Gonzalez and Larry Parrish hires. TP gets the last laugh, and FW sees his grade docked to:

B-minus

(More Braves GM ratings here)

Seth Smith should be a Brave

Seth Smith will make about $2.5 mil next season, apparently too much for the Braves to take on. Though I never advocated trading Martin for Smith the former Rockies outfielder would have been a nice acquisition as a platoon LF and pinch hitter par excellence.

Instead he’s going to Oakland, acquired for two middling pitchers ages 28 and 27. Hell, Todd Redmond and J.J. Hoover would have been a much more desirable package. The Braves could have afforded to trade both but apparently can’t afford another $2.5 mil.

Instead of a lefty hitter with a career.833 OPS backing up Martin, one who can play CF in a pinch, the Braves will have Matt Diaz, a liability with the glove who finished 2011 with an OPS lower than those posted by Gonzo and McOut.