Grading the General Managers: Frank Wren (2007-’14)

(The others)

Next time you watch Noah Syndergaard dominate another line-up remember the name Matt Lipka. That’s who Frank Wren drafted over the Mets hurler.

Mike Trout could’ve been a Brave, too. The Angels drafted the face of the game with the compensatory pick gained when Mark Teixeira signed with the Yankees. Or to put it another way, Anaheim obtained the rights to Trout for Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek.

Sure, the draft is a crapshoot and it would be unfair to judge Wren’s record on that alone. But when you combine his failures there with the disastrous free agent signings and questionable hires (Larry Parrish!?!), you get a resume that’s spotty at bet.

And if you want to blame someone for Heyward’s departure, Wren’s your guy. According to multiple sources FW made little effort to sign Jay Hey when he still could’ve been afforded. Of course, the B.J. contract ended any hopes of getting that done.

Some argue those bad contracts were all defensible. Really? B.J. was paid $75 million (the Phillies, runners-up in the bidding, offered somewhere in the mid-$40s) despite coming off a season in which he batted .246 (his best in four seasons) with a .298 OBP.

It’s generally not a good idea to sign one-dimensional players like Dan Uggla to long-term extensions after they’ve turned 30. Not a good idea to sign Chris Johnson to an extension, period. Or give $60 million to a 36-year-old.pitcher. It could’ve been worse: Wren thought he had signed Rafael Furcal to a 3-year, $30 million deal in 2008. From 2009-11, Furcal missed 159 games and stole just 43 bases.

Wren’s record in trades was better, though still hit and miss.

The good:

  • Jose Ascanio to the Cubs for Infante and Will Ohman.
  • Edgar Renteria to the Tigers for Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez. Renteria was near the end of an excellent career, including exemplary service to the Bravos.
  • Jon Gilmore, Tyler Flowers, Brent Lillibridge, and Santos Rodriguez for Boone Logan and Javier Vazquez. Vazquez had a Cy Young-type season for the Bravos. None of the guys we sent north have done anything of note.
  • Casey Kotchman to Boston for Adam LaRoche. Rochey had a nice half season back in Atlanta. Kotchman continued to be the Oberkfell of the other corner.
  • Juan Abreu, Schafer, Brett Oberholtzer and Paul Clemens to the Astros for Michael Bourn.
  • Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Nick Ahmed, Zeke Spruill, and Brandon Drury for Justin Upton and Chris Johnson.
  • Hanson to the Angels for Walden.

The bad:

  • Teixiera for Marek and Kotchman.
  • Vazquez and Logan to the Yankees for Melky, Mike Dunn and A. Vizcaino.
  • Charlie Morton, Jeff Locke, Gorkys Hernandez to the Pirates for McLouth. Not a disaster, but Locke and Morton have emerged as serviceable back of the rotation types.

If Wren had a strength it was identifying and signing players off the scrap heap. Eric O’Flaherty, Aaron Harang, David Carpenter, Gavin Floyd, Anthony Varvaro, David Ross, Eric Hinske and Troy Glaus were among the reclamation projects that paid off.

But those guys don’t win you championships. Many defend Wren because the Braves won more than they lost during his tenure, neglecting the fact many of the best players from those teams (Heyward, Freeman, Chipper, Medlen, McCann, Prado, Escobar, Huddy, Venters, to name a few) were inherited from the previous regime.

Grade: C-


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