Detroit Tigers v Atlanta Braves

Re-examining the rebuild: #Braves whiffed on Kimbrel trade

Like every other Braves fan, I was thrilled when John Hart unloaded Melvin Jr. in the Craig Kimbrel deal with the Padres. But in retrospect I’d much rather have the prospects San Diego received than the salary relief gained by the Braves, especially since the savings mostly ended up in Liberty Media’s pockets.

Yes, the Braves did get Matt Wisler but he’s probably never going to be more than a solid third starter.

Consider what the Pads got for Kimbrel this winter: Four prospects, including CF Manuel Margot, ranked among the Top 50 prospects in baseball, and SS Javy Guerra, a top-notch defender who hit 15 HR last year in Double-A ball.

Another closer traded in the offseason, Ken Giles, netted the Phils a significant haul, highlighted by Vincent Velasquez, who struck out 16 and walked none in 9 shoutout innings today against the Pads.

 

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Open Thread, 4/13, #Braves vs. a nest of vipers

Snakebit? More like devoured by a nest of vipers.

Actually, most of what has befallen our hometown nine isn’t really bad luck. It’s either by design–assembling a landfill of a roster in the name of rebuilding–bad managing, bad execution, bad drafting, bad free agent signings or, in the case of Olivera, just plain revolting human behavior.

CB contends that Olivera’s arrest for allegedly beating up a woman, combined with his hitting .245 with little power and a sub-.300 OBP as a Brave, officially makes the trade a bust. It’s hard to argue otherwise. Whatever becomes of Wood and Peraza is beside the point now. The Braves must pay an alleged woman beater who is suspended indefinitely by MLB $36.5 million for this season and the next four. They can release him, but they’d still have to pay him.

It’s nearly impossible to see how the Olivera experiment ends well. At least maybe Smith will stay with the big club for a while. But, alas, the road to respectability will be long, winding and really bumpy.

Meanwhile, Daniel Castro joined the club in DC to take Olivera’s roster spot. He isn’t starting tonight. The lineup against Tanner Roark (the JD Drew of pitchers is sick and won’t go tonight): Mallex, Markakis, Freddie, Garcia, KJ, Pierzynski, Aybar, Peterson, Wisler.

 

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Schuerholz ends forgettable reign as #Braves president

No question, John Schuerholz was the best GM in Braves history. But as a president, his record was poor.

He’s every bit as responsible as Frank Wren for the franchise’s drift to irrelevance. JS hired Wren, after all. And eight months before firing him, JS extended Wren’s contract, saying he had done a “wonderful job.”

Fredi’s appointment also came on JS’ watch. And he seemed quite comfortable being the “company man,” robbing the Braves of any individuality as they transitioned into a faceless corporate holding with a ballpark experience heavy on distractions and vanilla-flavored corn pone but low in customer service.

Expect more of the same with the promotions of Derek Schiller and Mike Plant, who in 2015 said it takes me about five more minutes to get to the site in Cobb than to get to Turner Field from south Atlanta.” By helicopter, perhaps.

Plant also recommended people ride their bikes to the new stadium, a death wish if ever there was one.

 

 

 

 

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One great trade won’t redeem embattled #Braves hierarchy

One great trade, and there’s no debating Coppy pulled off a beaut yesterday, does not repair the strained relationship between the front office and a fan base tired of hearing one thing and seeing another.

And what happens when his trading partner isn’t Dave Stewart?

But it goes beyond questionable trades and even more questionable explanations for said trades

CD touched on much of this in a recent comment:

Derek Schiller, it’s good to know that AAA baseball in Cobb County is going to be a huge boost for the entire Atlanta region! Never mind that economic research overwhelmingly shows that pro sports do little to boost local economies. People would spend their money elsewhere if teams moved. …

But, hey, let’s all flock to the yard next year to celebrate the final year of historic Turner Field before we head up the Connector to meet our pal, the shameless disgrace of a yayhoo politico Tim Lee. JS thinks attendance will rise next year because of nostalgia for Turner Field. He’s either blatantly lying or utterly clueless about his own fan base.

He left out the biggest whopper of them all, from VP of Operations Mike Plant.

“I make it a point of letting people know it takes me about five more minutes to get to the site in Cobb than to get to Turner Field from south Atlanta.” 

According to Google maps, that’s a 14.5 mile drive, so even without traffic — after midnight, if you’re lucky — it’s, at best, a 10-minute commute.

During rush hour it’s closer to 45 minutes — assuming there’s no accidents, which there often are. Plant also encourages people to ride their bike to the Mallpark, a good idea for those with a death wish.

Winning will solve a lot, and yesterday’s trade makes me more optimistic that maybe they’ll contend in a few years.

In the meantime, Liberty Media and their shameless shills threaten to market the Braves into irrelevance.

For old time's sake, one last time.

Duane checks in from the Mouse/Open Thread Aug. 14, #Braves vs. Serpents

You might be asking yourself, “Self, where’s Duane been? We ain’t heard from that smart, handsome fucker in a long time.” You’d be right! But here I am, in Whorelando–ha, really Orlando–of all places.

I’ll fill you in on how I got here in a minute. It’s a not really that long of a story.

First stuff first. I see our hotshot Cuban third baseman can’t even get a hit against damn rookie league pitchers just out of high school and junior college. Hector Oliver was 0-for-2 last night in a game down here.

This is what we gave up Alan Wood and Piazza for?! Shitfire. Let’s hope Fidel picks it up soon or we’re gonna be as screwed as …well, screwed. I can’t think of a good something we’ll be as screwed as. As Maryilyn Chambers, how bout that? She was screwed a lot.

Anyway, we got 116 minor league pitchers and nobody can hit the damn ball. I hope Mr. Hart and his nerdy Dick Grayson sidekick find some hitters or we’re gonna have a staff full of Shelby Millers next few years.

Moving on. Why am I in beautiful central Florida? Well, Hal and Brenda went on a second honeymoom to Disney. They towed their camper. I hid in their camper. Brenda discovered me and quickly decided I was not welcome. I managed to get a job as the only Anglo on the Disney grounds crew, and here I am. In case you don’t know, it’s hot as a ditch digger’s ass crack down here in August.

Sorry Gotta go weedeat over by Space Mountain.

Go Braves! (Photo of me and the ex for old times sake)

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Open Thread

The Bravos come home to face a lefty with whom I am utterly unfamiliar. Robbie Ray sounds like a dude you went to grade school with. He’s got decent numbers. He’ll face: Peterson, Maybin, Markakis, Gomes, Pierzynski, Garcia, Swisher, Simmons, Julio.

Oh, and the home team signed Edwin Jackson. Guess you have to fill the bullpen with somebody.

 

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Twenty five years ago today, the Nixon Administration ended

Russ Nixon was one of the unluckiest managers in baseball history. In 1982, he replaced John McNamara as manager of the post-Big Red Machine Reds, inheriting a team that finished last in runs and near the bottom in ERA. He was fired following the ’83 season with a 101-131 record.

Nixon was managing in the Braves system when Chuck Tanner was fired 39 games into the lost season of ’88. He led the Braves to a 130-216 record, about as good as you could expect from those dreadful teams.

When the ax fell on June 22, 1990, Nixon took it in stride.

“Heck, I’ve been expecting it,” he said in a telephone interview from his home in Covington. “It’s been evident the last two weeks. One of the bullets was going to get me, they’ve been shooting so many at me.”

Until Frank Wren was dismissed last October, Nixon was the last manager or general manager fired by the Braves. He probably deserved better.

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Enough with all this Gloomy Gus Business!

By Tim Howell

A wise man — or let’s say person, for you gals out there! — once told me that when you frown, you frown alone. But when you smile, the world smiles with you!😉 How about that!

Which brings me to our eager, young 2015 Bravos. Like all of you, I’ve read and heard all the hand wringing and moaning about how awful this year’s squad is going to be. My reaction? I’m not buying it.

President John Schuerholz put it beautifully when he said, “This looks like a team that is going to play really good baseball and play the game with spirit and a winning attitude and a committed attitude of winners.” (We could use some leadership like that from some other president I know about. But I’m not here to talk politics!)

President Schuerholz’s candid view is good enough for me! After all, that man knows a thing or two about winning, a winning attitude and a committed attitude of winners. And what more can you ask for than a winning attitude AND a committed attitude of winners. For starters, the leadership is going to be AMAZING. Nick Markakis, EY Jr., J. Gomes, A.J. Pierzinski (spelling is not my strong suit, sorry!) and Jason Grilli will be terrific voices of experience in the clubhouse. And don’t forget, Braves Country (ah. feels good to type that. Makes me think of sweet tea, church, anti-gay marriage laws and families listening together on the front porch) the steady, calming hand of Fredi Gonzalez is back! I don’t know of a better leader in baseball than that good man.

Secondly, think of the excellent pitching. Our young staff should be as strong as any in the game. Julio, Minor, Alex Wood (woof! woof! Go Dawgs!), and Shelby Miller….I’ll go to the post with any of those guys and like my chances any day against any ball club. Then we have Craig Kimbrel (with a K!) at the back of what should be another stellar bullpen.

And the lineup this year will be scrappy, will make contact, move runners and play an exciting brand of baseball. Speaking of baseball, this great game is played not on paper or computer screens where the national media is trashing our team, but on good ole American dirt and grass, which by the way will be all over Gomes’ uniform as that clever tweet from the ball club said! It’s not played on paper or on an attitude of paper.

So we’re going to show all you Negative Nellies, Gloomy Guses, Pessimistic Pauls and Downcast Daves out there! There’s a blessin’ in this lesson. I for one can’t wait to watch these hungry, dedicated Braves shock the world in 2015! You can’t measure a man’s heart or his winning attitude and attitude of a winner!

Joe Maddon

If only #Braves had a managerial opening …

Two weeks after the Braves re-commit to Fredi Haas, the manager considered by many to be the best in baseball suddenly becomes available.

Even if Fredi had been let go, you have to wonder if the Braves would’ve gone after Joe Maddon. He’s not a graduate of Braves U., after all.

Maddon is likely to end up with the Cubs. The Dodgers, meanwhile, lured Andrew Friedman from Tampa to be their GM while the Braves focused their search on a retiree who hasn’t run a ballclub since 2005.

Imagine entering 2015 with Freidman and Maddon at the helm. Too bad the Braves showed no such imagination.

 

 

 

 

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Dayton Moore is Frank Wren lite

Frank Wren is going to lose his job because of a lousy personality, although he should be losing it for his crappy investments.

Somehow, Dayton Moore has kept his job despite signing Gil Meche and Jose Guillen to contracts totaling 8 years and $91 million. He also signed Jeff Francoeur to a 2-year, $13.5 million deal. Bad moves, though none as costly as B.J. or Uggla.

He received criticism for his big trades but actually did fairly well getting Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain and Jake Odorizzi from the Brewers for Zack Greinke, then flipping Odorizzi and Wil Myers to Tampa for James Shields and Wade Davis. Shields, a free agent, will be pitching elsewhere next season, but the trade made the Royals legitimate, and Myers slumped badly this year.

Dayton has drafted fairly well and made some shrewd under-the-radar moves, acquiring Coco Crisp and Ervin Santana for a song and snapping up closer Joakim Soria in the Rule 5 draft.

But he also hired Trey Hillman and, worse, Ned Yost.

The Braves can do better.

 

 

 

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Frank Wren all but out as #Braves GM

Via Mark Bowman:

Now that the Braves have been essentially eliminated from the playoffs, they might not wait until the conclusion of this season to make what would be their most significant organizational change in nearly a quarter of a century.

As the Braves have collapsed over the past few weeks, there has been growing reason to wonder about the futures of general manager Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez. The club has not dismissed a general manager or manager since 1990. But this could change within the next few days.

Bowman is a careful reporter, so you might as well eliminate the qualifiers. Wren is history.

He goes on to list Dayton Moore as the leading contender to replace him. Can’t say that excites me.

More on Moore later.

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All eyes on Terry McGuirk

The Braves’ CEO, a corporate lackey right out of central casting, is about to make the biggest decision of his tenure.

No question he should fire Frank Wren, the architect of this anemic offense who has drafted poorly, hired unwisely and spent foolishly. I know most would rather see Fredi go, but who’s more responsible for the Braves’ decline? Fredi didn’t sign B.J.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d prefer a different manager (TP? Dave Martinez?) but it would be terribly unfair if Wren stays and Fredi goes. After all, who hired Fredi?

It wasn’t, as many people believe, Bobby’s call. No doubt he approved, but by then Bobby was largely out of the loop.

Remember this:

According to a major league source, the relationship between Cox and GM Frank Wren deteriorated during the spring to the point that Cox packed his bag and climbed into his car to drive home from spring training until dissuaded from doing so by one of his coaches.

Cox was unhappy at the way the John Smoltz issue had been handled, the source said, and because he had not been kept up to speed on other personnel decisions. The relationship appears to have been patched up, although the parting with Tom Glavine was another strained episode, and the expectation is that Cox will be back because he’s excited that the Braves have another core of young talent developing.

Wren has a history of alienating the wrong people, dating back to his days in Baltimore when he ordered the team’s charter jet to take off without Cal Ripken Jr., who was running a few minutes late. And while letting Huddy go may have been the right move, it was handled horribly. Offering him a $2 mil, 1 year contract was an insult that ruined any opportunity of bringing him back for a club-friendly deal.

And it doesn’t stop there. According to Bowman, JS had to step in to keep Roger McDowell — who deserves the credit Wren receives for resurrecting the likes of Aaron Harang and David Carpenter — from bolting for the Phils.

Obviously the offense has been the primary problem throughout this frustration-filled year for the Braves. But long before scoring became a nightly struggle, this organization started to experience some of instability that seemingly marked the start of the struggles that have followed.

Highly-regarded scout Dom Chiti and notable pitching guru Dave Wallace both left the Braves to join Buck Showalter’s coaching staff in Baltimore. While both benefited financially by going to a Major League coaching staff, Wallace had indicated in the past that he was not interested in going back to the big leagues. But his mindset changed as he butted heads with members of the front office.

Mark Bradley touched on the front office discord in a recent column: “Those on the inside decry Wren’s micromanaging and general bullheadedness.”

And he’s strayed far from the plan he laid out following the 2010 season.

“We’ve talked about it — and it’s a hard thing to do — as we transition to a more athletic team,” he said. “Where speed and defense and those areas are so valuable in the overall scheme of things the way the game’s played today, transitioning more to that type of team as we go forward, while also maintaining our strong pitching base. Not to say you can’t have a very successful team without that, but if there’s one attribute that plays so well in our game it’s speed. In the last five or six years, there’s been a re-emphasis on speed.

Reading between the lines, I suspect JS is no longer in Wren’s corner. He brought John Hart to the organization last year, which had to make FW a little nervous. But, according to Peter Gammons, McGuirk and Wren are close.

We’ll soon find out just how close. With big decisions to make on Jay and J-Up, next year’s GM will set the course for the franchise for years to come. Stay the course, and SunTrust Park will be as empty as the freeways around it are full.

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Why Frank Wren must go

*One run in three games merits a repost. 

There was a lot of blowback when CD gave FW a C- for his tenure as the Braves GM. If you’re one of those who think Wren hung the moon, I’d advise you to stop reading now.

It’s obvious this team needs a major fix, thanks to the awful contracts handed out by FW. Only a fool lets the man who broke the machine repair it.

CD was pretty exhaustive in his review of the Wren years, but there were a few things overlooked. Like hiring Fredi. And Larry Parrish. And Greg Walker, who should’ve been let go a  few months ago if for no other reason to bring in a fresh voice — especially since, due to the B.J. and Uggla deals, the Braves couldn’t make any substantial roster moves.

Wren’s history of bad contracts extends beyond the Braves. During his one year as Baltimore’s GM he made Albert Belle the highest-paid player in the game, signing the 32-year-old DH to a 5-year, $62 mil contract. Career set-up man Mike Timlin was paid $16 mil over four years to close. Didn’t work out. Finally, Wren chose to sign injury-prone Will Clark over Rafael Palmeiro to man 1B. Clark’s career was over after the 2001 season.

And don’t forget, Wren almost signed Fukey to a 3-year, $30 million deal in 2008. From 2009-11, Furcal missed 159 games and stole just 43 bases.

According to Mark Bradley, “if you listen to some who follow the Braves — and a few folks who draw a salary from the club — this general manager hasn’t just spent unwisely. This GM is absolutely destroying (or has already destroyed, depending on the voice) a proud organization! Those on the periphery point to Mount Rushmore. Those on the inside decry Wren’s micromanaging and general bullheadedness — and then they point to Mount Rushmore.”

Bradley, pointing to the Braves record during Wren’s tenure, defended the Braves GM. But what will that record be after 2014? I’m starting to wonder if the Braves will finish above .500.

And how about next year? The Braves will have little flexibility to manuever, and with J-Up and Heyward are on the last year of their contracts, 2016 isn’t looking that promising, either. (The B.J. contract will probably keep the Braves from re-signing Jay Hey.) Outside of Peraza, Bethancourt and Sims, there’s little help coming from the minors. Wren’s drafts have something to do with that. In 2010, he selected Matt Lipka ahead of top pitching prospects Noah Syndergaard and Taijuan Walker and Tigers 3B Nick Castellanos. The #1 pick in the 2011 draft, Sean Gilmartin, was traded for Ryan Doumit. And 2013’s top pick, Jason Hursh, has 67 K’s in 126 innings at Mississippi.

Wren has done some positive things, as CD previously detailed. But the bad outweighs the good, and I’m afraid we’re about to see just how bad it can get. I doubt he’ll be replaced, though Peter Gammons, appearing on the MLB Network earlier this week, hinted that FW could be in trouble.

For the sake of the future, I hope he’s right. We welcome your rebuttals, but try to offer a broader defense than the Braves record. I’ve made a thorough case against, and I’d ask you do the same.

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The case against Frank Wren, cont’d

Mike Trout was drafted with the compensation pick received when the Angels didn’t resign Mark Teixeira. That pick would’ve belonged to the Braves had they not dealt Tex to the O.C. for Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek.

A lot of teams passed on Trout, and there’s no guarantee the Braves would’ve picked him. But odds are they would’ve selected one of the other first-rounders who followed Trout, a group that includes AL Cy Young contender Garrett Richards (helluva draft by the Angels), Rex Brothers (a tough lefty out of the ‘pen — wouldn’t that be nice), Tyler Skaggs (traded to the Angels; pitching competently as a rookie starter) and Chris Owings (.771 OPS as a rookie SS, not for the Angels). They also could’ve taken second-rounders Billy Hamilton, Nolan Arenado, Jason Kipnis and Patrick Corbin (drafted by the Angels).

Instead, the Braves got Oberkfell 2.0 and a 26-year-old middle reliever who never pitched in the majors.

 

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Stubbornness breeds stupidity and #Braves are paying for it

B.J. Upton is like Zaxby’s: Indescribably bad. And he’s getting worse. The highest-paid Brave is batting .171 in June with a .218 OBP. Luis Gomez, the notoriously light-hitting SS from the early 80s, had a .249 OBP for the Braves. Glavine (.244) and Smoltzie (.226) had higher OBP’s than B.J. has this month.

Yet Fredi keeps hitting him second, a move that can’t be defended, especially when his brother is hitting 6th. And if you’re determined to break up the string of left-handed hitters atop the order, why use a guy batting .152 vs. southpaws? It’s stupid, and it’s hurting the team. So why does Fredi keep doing it? I’d love to hear an answer.

I’d also love an explanation for keeping Uggla on the roster. The Oafbatross has TWO hits since May 1. Two. Sure, he hasn’t played that much, which is precisely the point. He’s of no use, so why is he on the team? He’s getting paid regardless. Wren’s stubbornness makes me wonder if we’ll still be bitching about B.J. getting playing time two years from now.

I’m glad there’s optimists out there, because I ain’t one of them. This team is not very good. The sooner the GM and manager recognize it, the better.

 

 

 

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Wren’s tenure a C-. A lot of good, but the bad is REAL BAD

First the bad news.

In the realm of team-crippling contracts, right now Frank Wren appears to be leading the Majors. Certainly other teams are locked into bad contracts. Some might even approach the folly of the Oafbatross and BJ deals.

Let’s look at a few.

The Dodgers are on the hook for $214 million for three so-so outfielders — Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier — through the year 2019. Crawford and Ethier are signed through 2017 and Kemp through 2019. But the Dodgers have oceans of money, so they might be able to overcome these large mistakes. They traded for Crawford, of course, but took on his contract at a time when it was pretty clear he was no longer a superstar.

The Yankees owe A-Fraud $86 million. They owe a creaky C.C. Sabathia $50 million AFTER this season. And, of course, their deals with McCann and Ellsbury are somewhat ridiculous. But they’re the Yankees. That’s what they do. They might not be good for a while, and these deals don’t help. So Brian Cashman might rival Wren in really bad, big contracts.

Then you have the Angels, with Pujols and Hamilton, and the Rangers with Fielder. Those are all terrible contracts. Yet unlike BJ and Uggla, those players have been and remain at least fairly productive. Those contracts probably will not, by themselves, hamstring those clubs to the extent the Uggla and BJ deals hurt the Braves. Of course, Wren has lavished big dollars on other non-performing assets: Lowe and Kawakami, most notably, though at $23 million Kawakami’s deal was nowhere near the scope of BJ and Uggla’s combined $135 million.img24496490

As CB has pointed out, the extension for Chris Johnson, while modest, looks more and more questionable by the day. Andrelton, Freddie, Kimbrel, and Julio are all as rock solid as long-term investments can be in baseball. I hope he can lock up Minor. AS CB has also noted, most GMs with the money to spend would have locked up those young players. Wren did it, and he deserves credit for that. But they were not shockingly innovative strokes.

Signing Santana was a solid move. It was one the Braves had to make, but it was far from a certainty. So credit Wren for doing it and perhaps convincing Liberty Media to fork over the money.

A verdict on big-ticket free agents and contract extensions? Because of Uggla, BJ, Lowe and Kawakami — none of whom gave the Braves even two decent seasons — Wren’s overall grade in signing prominent free agents and long-term contracts as Braves GM: D.

He has fared better on the trade front, in the draft and in lower-profile free agent signings.

First trades.  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 Bourn.
  • Jaye Chapman and Arodys Vizcaino to the Cubs for Maholm and Reed Johnson.
  • Prado, Delgado, Ahmed, Zeke Spruill, and Brandon Drury for Justin and Chris Johnson.
  • Hanson to the Angels for Walden.

The so-so:

  • Teixiera for Stephen Marek and Kotchman. Teshowmethemoney was a very good player, but Wren had no leverage at all.
  • Francoeur to the Mets for Ryan Church. Meh.
  • Vazquez and Logan to the Yankees for Melky, Mike Dunn and Vizcaino. Logan has become a serviceable lefty reliever. Vizcaino later brought R. Johnson and Maholm.
  • Yunel Escobar and Jo-Jo Reyes to the Blue Jays for Pastornicky, Tim Collins and Alex Gonzalez.
  • Three stiffs to the Cubs for Derek Lee.
  • Anonymous minor leaguer to Seattle for Jack WIlson.
  • AML to the Pirates for a later-career Matt Diaz.
  • Finally dumped Lowe and most of his salary for someone named Chris Jones.
  • Gilmartin to the Twins for Doumit.

The bad:

  • Charlie Morton, Jeff Locke, Gorkys Hernandez to the Pirates for McLouth. Not a disaster, but Locke had a good half season and Morton looks like he might be a decent middle-back of the rotation starter.
  • Dunn and Infante to the Marlins for Uggla. Looked good at the time.

Wren has made very few flat-out bad trades for the Braves, a few very good ones but not many absolute master strokes. Overall trade grade: B.

Lower-profile free agent/waiver signings:

Here is where Wren has done some of his best work, especially signing pitchers. Handy acquisitions have included:

Billy Wagner (hardly under-the-radar but it was for just a season and late in his career), Beachy, O’Flaherty, Harang, Carpenter (struggling but was solid last year), Floyd, Varvaro, Laird, Bethancourt (amateur free agent), David Ross, Hinske and Troy Glaus.

It’s hard to call this a category of its own, but in these modest signings, Wren’s earned a B+.

The drafts under his watch as GM, starting with the 2008 selections, have been solid. Those drafts have so far yielded eight big-league Braves: Kimbrel, Minor, Hale, Simmons, Gattis, LaStella, Wood, and Shae Simmons. Not a bad collection of talent, and that crop compares reasonably well to what a few other clubs have done in the same period.

Drafting guys like Andrelton: good
Drafting guys like Andrelton: good

I looked at what most consider the NL’s two best franchises, the Cardinals and Giants. St. Louis’ last half dozen drafts have produced a stellar crop: Lance Lynn, Matt Adams, Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Carpenter, Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, Tyler Lyons, Kolten Wong, Seth Maness and Michael Wacha. That’s 10 big leaguers, and some very good ones. Advantage, St. Louis.

But Wren’s drafts compare favorably with other NL clubs I checked. In the NL East, the Mets have but one current major leaguer from all their 2008 to 2013 picks, Matt Harvey. The Nats have just four, and they have selected at or near the top of most of those drafts. Those players are a pair of overall No. 1 picks – Harper and Strasburg — Rendon and Storen.

The Giants have just three players they drafted during that period: Posey and Brandons Crawford and Belt. They also drafted current Met Zack Wheeler and traded him for Carlos Beltran.

As for what’s in the minors now, the picture is less positive. The Braves’ farm system ranks 24th of 30 organizations, according to Baseball Prospectus.

Wren’s draft grade, then, is a B.

All told, that’s a B+, two B’s and a D. Yet that D gets more weight than those other grades.

Take this year’s strikeout prone, defensively suspect team with a relief corps that may or may not prove adequate. I think the quality of a bullpen depends on a healthy dose of luck. Based on last year, this one should be OK. I’ll largely give Wren a pass there.

As for the offense, BJ and Uggla have obviously been gigantic sand bags weighing down the lineup. That is on Wren. The GM also traded for Johnson and Justin, a decent move in isolation. Yet those are two more guys who strike out frequently. So that’s four prolific whiffers, half a batting order excluding the pitcher, whom Wren has directly added to the team. All four are also from adequate-at-best to lousy defensively. Again, that’s directly on Wren’s ledger.

Mix all this up and I’m giving Wren an overall grade of C-. Am I being too charitable? Overly harsh? What do you think?

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.

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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.