Fix the Braves

OK, the Braves have needed fixing for some time, but after last night’s complete meltdown, I think it’s time to address what I would do to fix the team, mainly through trades. Don’t look for all of these guys to be traded, nor should they—you can’t trade away the whole team. I view these potential deals as independent of other deals.

The following people should be traded immediately.

Adam LaRoche: He’s probably about as popular with Atlanta fans as Raul Mondesi, but Adam is having a nice year. He gets on base and hits for power. He’s not a good fielder and runs like a catcher, a slow catcher. In fact, if I was to bet on who would be the next left-hander to play catcher in MLB, I’d bet on LaRoche. He’s got a monster arm, and while he’s a below average first baseman as a hitter, he’s be a good-hitting catcher. Don’t look for it to happen, I’m just saying. The Braves should trade him because he might actually generate something quality in return. Even if he’s just pinch-hitting, he can be valuable addition to a team. Plus, he’s cheap and still reserved for the next three season. He’s the type of bat contenders try to add to their bench for the stretch run, so I suspect he’ll be the first to go. Plus, Chipper has to play first base. Wilson Betemit has to get in the lineup and Chipper’s defense, while never as bad as advertised, is better suited for first these days. He will be at first next year, so it’s better that he start learning now.

John Thomson: Poor John Thomson. Has there been a player in Atlanta Braves history, whom the front office hated this badly? In his three years in Atlanta, he’s had one rough stretch as a pitcher, and it just happens to be right now. The guys upstairs won’t even be discreet about their desire to rid themselves of one of their best free agent acquisitions, yet that can’t stop making excuses for Horacio Ramirez—the concussion will be excuse #236. Because of Thomson’s low salary, I think there will be several teams willing to give up some quality for him. He’s a slightly above-average major league starting pitcher. Maybe all he needs is for an organization to show a little confidence in him. We sure don’t know if it helps, because the Braves never tried it. Unfortunately, Thomson’s blister problem makes a near-term trade unlikely. Regardless of how he does when he comes back, I expect the Braves to move him as soon as he shows he’s healthy. And while I like Thomson, it’s good for the Braves to unload his contract and go with the youngsters. Because he’ll be a free agent after this year, he has to go to a contender.

Chris Reitsma:
I’ll put him here, but he’s just been so bad that I doubt he’s going to bring much of anything. I don’t think Chris’s career is over, and I think he will be a middle-relief team-jumper from here on out. Such guys can be valuable, but Chris has just been too bad this year to prove that he can even do that. He still has two years of arbitration left, so some team might be willing to take a chance on him. Maybe there’s a team who plans to be in the mix in the near term, who will take him, sign a three-year $3 million deal and hope for the best. Maybe he could return to work with Leo Mazzone.

Here are the guys the Braves should consider trading.

Edgar Renteria: His value couldn’t be any higher. And given the market for shortstops, that’s good news for the Braves. Renteria’s defense is not good, but his bat is. While PrOPS says he’s overperforming, it’s not by much. I think his offense won’t stay where it is for the duration of his contract. I know Tony Pena is capable of striking out in only two swings, but he’s an acceptable defensive shortstop until some of the younger kids are ready. Before the season is over, someone is going to be willing to take much of Renteria’s contract off of the Braves hands. I don’t necessarily think that he’s overpaid, but the Braves don’t have the luxury of paying the market price for shortstops right now.

Marcus Giles: Giles has one year of arbitration left, which makes him somewhat attractive despite his horrendous 2006 campaign. Giles will certainly play better, but he’s not going to be that .900 OPS player that I once thought he would be. He’s a good defender, so that minimizes some risk as to how far down his offense will stay. I suspect many GMs would be willing to take him.

John Smoltz: Oh boy, I’d hate to see this guy go, but it’s nearly time. He’s still one of the league’s best starting pitchers and is worth what he’s being paid. But like Edgar Renteria, the Braves need some payroll flexibility beyond paying players what they are worth. They can trade him for some good young players, without eating any of his contract. Last night, ESPN interviewed him about being traded, and I felt like I was watching Kevin Nealon doing Mr. Subliminal, “Well, I understand I might be traded, and Detroit would be an obvious possibility (please, trade me to Detroit).” He doesn’t want to end his career losing.

Who the Braves should not trade.

Tim Hudson: Hudson’s name has been thrown out there quite a bit, but I think the Braves need to hold onto him unless they get some ridiculous offer. Hudson is worth what he makes, and he’s locked up for at least the next three seasons. Despite the fact that the Braves get all sorts of praise for farming pitchers, they haven’t really produced much quality in recent years. The next crop of youngsters might make it though, but some security is needed. Davies, James, and maybe even Anthony Lerew could be be part of rotation for the next Braves run, but I’m not convinced. Horacio Ramirez and Jorge Sosa are breathing their last gasps as starting pitchers. Don’t be fooled by the occasional bright spot here and there, these guys are mediocre. And Mike Hampton, please don’t remind me how much the Braves are paying him to pitch for the next two years.

And on the non-trade front.

Jeff Francoeur should be ordered that he will finish the season with more walks than home runs. I don’t care if it’s through some sort of bonus or punishment, but the natural out machine needs to stop it if he’s going to develop. Let’s stop the nonsense that he can develop in his current mold into anything other than an everyday outfielder. That’s a worthy human achievement, but a waste of talent, and isn’t worth the hype that the Braves PR machine has put in place. Even with an isolated power of .250, he’s going to have to bat .300 to get to an OPS of close to .900. So far, he’s not shown the ability to hit for average. The home runs are distracting him from all of the outs he’s causing. The euphoria of home runs is like eating candy; it’s good, but you can’t live on it. This is the type of thing he should have learned in the minors last year. I’ve said it many times before, he was rushed. You can’t learn in the big leagues when you’re trying to get to the playoffs. However, that doesn’t seem to be an issue any more. So, the team should use this time as an opportunity to let him learn.

Of course there are many other things the Braves could and could not do, but these are just my thoughts for now. I don’t think there’s much hope for this year. It’s possible, but very unlikely given the way the team is playing. Even if Chipper and Andruw go on to have monster seasons, the rest of the team is too weak to allow the Braves to recover.

12 Responses “Fix the Braves”

  1. Dave says:

    The AJC keeps talking about trades that should be made apparently in an attempt to win now. This is the first (and most realistic) published opinion that the Braves need to make trades in order to compete next year and beyond. Earlier in the season (before the wheels came off), any time there was discussion of adding a starter or closer via trade it seemed the talks broke down over saltalamacchia’s availability. Does anyone see a reason why the Braves would adamantly keep both Saltalamacchia and McCann?

  2. CG Hudson says:

    Speaking of trading Braves, I found it amusing that ESPN featured speculation last night on dealing Andruw Jones in the offseason the reason being that he is a Boras client with impending free agency after 2007 and all that usual bluster. Stability-wise for the Braves, I can think of fewer worse moves unless they can teach the Frenchman to play CF and thus soften the blow of his fairly unimpressive offense.

    On the Smoltz trading front, forget Detroit; I whole-heartedly endorse a deal to Cincinnati as the Braves could acquire some bullpen fodder out of their middle levels (they always manage to rip off the Reds — think Rob Bell and Bubba Nelson) and Cincy would get its ace for the stretch drive (did I mention I’m a lifelong Reds fan exiled in Atlanta?)

  3. John W says:

    I was hoping never to have to read a post such as this one, but it’s clearly time.

    Sadly, I got the notion from Built to Win that Schuerholz very much defines himself by the run of division titles, and I hope he doesn’t mortgage the future to win now. Of course, that would assume that he has half the clue you have as to what the team needs, which I’m not convinced he does.

    Let’s just hope he’s not planning on riding the farm system until it’s completely dry or until everyone’s washed up from being rushed to the majors.

  4. Derrick says:

    Actually, I don’t think that Detroit is that bad of a trading partner. You’re obviously not getting Verlander, but Zumaya in the bullpen throws almost as hard and could be a dominant starting pitcher. You might also find a way to get Granderson out of that deal, but Detroit does have some good young prospects that might be traded in their new win-now status.

  5. flournoy says:

    Of course there are good reasons for the Braves to keep both Saltalamacchia and McCann. Having too many good players may be a problem in some sense, but it’s a much better situation than not having enough. Who could the Braves possibly acquire who would represent a better long term investment than Saltalamacchia?

    Francoeur came up through the minor leagues as a center fielder, and he could certainly play there as a major leaguer. The most obvious problem with his defense is his erratic throwing arm (resulting perhaps from an overzealous attitude when trying to throw out baserunners), and he’d be no worse in center than in right with that problem.

    And of course, if the Braves were to deal Smoltz, “bullpen fodder” would not be any part of the return whatsoever. Nor would the Braves have any need for relief pitching filler at that point.

    The only point J.C. makes that I don’t agree with is that Adam LaRoche might bring something valuable in return. I may be giving general managers too much credit, but I don’t see any reason why a team would give up much of value for an .800 first baseman with no defensive value (at first or anywhere else). His contract situation helps, but players like him can be found anywhere. Every contending team should have a LaRoche clone on their AAA club. The Braves themselves probably had one in Scott Thorman until so recently.

    I do think that LaRoche should be traded, for he has no future with the Braves. The longer he stays a Brave, the worse his contract gets, and thus the lesser his trade value becomes. If the Braves can get a workable AA/A “live arm” for him, I’d pull the trigger.

  6. Frank says:

    A bit of perspective is in order. This year is a loss but my biggest fear is that JS, out of panic, makes some lopsided trade of a decent prospect (Salty?) for a washed up vet. Trades to retool for next year should be the focus since the division is lost and the wild card is a remote with so many teams ahead of the Braves.

    RE trading Smoltz–I’d also hate to see it happen but, given their awful performance, the Braves probably should seriously consider it. Better do it soon, though, because at the rate Cox is working him (120 pitches last night), Smoltz won’t have anything left come July 31.

    I’d add Giles to the trade now list. Betemit can play 2nd and Pena Jr/Prado could also be worked in. Also, Giles just might still be marketable enough to acquire a decent pitcher.

    I think the key factor in deciding what to do with Andrew, Chipper, Hudson, and Renteria is next year’s projected payroll. If it is the same as this year (or, ugh, lower) then I’d say move one or two of these vets to free up some dollars. If payroll will increase (presumably with the new ownership) then keeping them is more reasonable.

    Finally, no need to keep around any of the mossbacks. Pratt should be released or stashed on the DL until Sept; we might as well find out now whether the 2005 version or 2006 version is the real Bryan Pena. Same with Remlinger, though perhaps he could be dealt for a longshot minor leaguer. Jordan is exactly where he should be until Sept when he can be activated for his mythical leadership.

  7. Marc says:

    It seems to me they have to get rid of one of the big contracts and the only one that is realistically tradeable is Andruw. What the Braves are showing is that while it’s great to have a good farm system, you need to be able to make moves for major league players, including taking on salary on occasion, to win big. The Braves payroll is so hamstrung by the few big-salary players and ownership won’t spend a dime above the current level. And, frankly, it doesn’t make sense to try to sign Andruw to another contract that will be even bigger than this one. I just don’t think he is worth it, at least not for a mid-market team.

    I agree with John W that JS is fixated on winning divisions to the exclusion of everything else. But I don’t think he will mortgage the farm. From a fan’s perspective, JS is secretive and disingenous, but he is not a fool and he knows, I’m sure, that the team isn’t going anywhere this year. I mean, what possible trade could fix all the holes on this team, especially in the bullpen?

  8. Jay says:

    Given that Giles is underperforming his PrOPS, I think the team should give him time to improve before entertaining offers. He’s got another year of arbitration, so they could hold him until the offsean in the hopes that he puts up good second half numbers.

    Other than that I think these deals all make a ton of sense. Dealing Thomson, LaRoche and Renteria could bring in enough talent/free up enough payroll to make next years team much better.

  9. Andrew says:

    Built to Win showed me that Schuerholz might not be as brilliant as I thought before he wrote his book. It also showed me that Andruw isn’t going anywhere, because he negotiated his last contract himself while taking a pay cut. I think our worst decision was letting Dayton Moore go because I feel he may be a more capable General Manager than Schuerholz at JS’s old age. All of that said, the Braves seem to find a way every single year to win more miraculously than the previous, so I have learned to always keep the faith.

  10. Johnny says:

    I haven’t given up total hope but I’m also realistic. We’re most likely done. I guess that the deal with the devil that Schuerholz made in 1990 has expired. Lets face it through all of the detailed analysis the main thing that we are missing is this season is plain dumb luck. The REAL Reitsma, Sosa, Francouer, Langerhans, LaRoche, Ramirez and others bullpen shmoes too numerous to name all showed up at once. Combine this with an average year from Andruw and down years from Chipper and Marcus and you have last place. I’ve watched a ton of bad Braves baseball in my lifetime during the 80’s but at least this team has a core group of talented players that can be built around. If nothing else the Braves have found out:
    1. Jeff Francouer is NOT a star. And he’ll never be one unless he stops being Tony Armas (props to Mac Thomason..frighteningly accurate comparison) I’m not even convinced that he is a real major leaguer but at his current level of play he is defainately not a guy you build a team around.
    2. Ryan Langerhans is at best a 4th outfielder. I had hopes that he would be at least replacement level but not to be.
    3. Hudson and Smoltz are good but not good enough to carry a team. That our two best pitchers are old guys is a concern.
    4. That despite our reputation for developing pitching in house, we don’t. Davies might be good. Ramirez probably won’t.
    5. We have to stop depending on bargain basement bullpens. I think that Hudson, Smoltz, Thomson, Davies(when healthy) and ok sure HoRam or James looks a lot better if we had a decent bullpen. Mike Remlinger? For Chrissakes!
    6. We can’t shrug off injuries like we used to. Davies, McCann, Chipper, Giles, Renteria, the entire pitching staff. Got lucky last year with the emergence of the Baby Braves, no Babies worth having this year.

    Ok JC one question. I agree that 2003 looks like an outlier for Giles but since then he is consistently in the low 800’s OPS. Shouldn’t we keep a very good second baseman even if he didn’t pan out to be a super star?

    Last thing in this too long post. I’m not so sure that we make any trades of note. I only say this because the most likely buyers (I’m assuming contenders) of our tradeable talent don’t have any near term prospects that we can use.

  11. JC says:

    Ok JC one question. I agree that 2003 looks like an outlier for Giles but since then he is consistently in the low 800’s OPS. Shouldn’t we keep a very good second baseman even if he didn’t pan out to be a super star?

    I don’t know. At worst, Giles is a decent second basemen because of his defense. He still has good on-base skills, especially when he starts hitting for averages again. His power is just gone. One argument for keeping Giles is that despite the fact that he’s heading into his most expensive arby year, he’s not making much for a player of his caliber. I’m not sure of his agent or what, but coupled with his bad year, he might still be a cheap option.

    Ultimately, I think it depends on what develops on the farm. If Prado has a monster second half, I think Giles will be gone. But it also depends on what they do with Betemit and Renteria.

  12. Fsherman says:

    I agree with trading LaRoche and Reitsma and entertaining offers on Giles. I wouldn’t trade Thompson because he can fill in the rotation anywhere from number 3 on down or even long relief.

    I think anyone that wants to even consider trading Renteria hasn’t paid attention to this mans career or season. He is an excellent fielder and a professional hitter and while not a spring chicken he is still young enough to be just as good for some time to come.

    Also, trading Andruw Jones would only be worth while if we were getting a serious bat, the likes of Albert Puljols or Manny Ramirez. And the same goes for Giles, he is having an off year but his career offensive numbers are still better than the previous lead-off hitter that the Braves were lucky enough to rid themselves of during the offseason.

    There is absolutely no way I would trade Smoltz unless we were getting Mark Mulder or someone of that caliber with a multiyear contract. Smoltz has been one of the leaders of this team, he has been willing to take less money to remain with the team, and he has proven that as a starter or a closer he is still an ace!!

    While it was not mentioned in this article I am constantly hearing that we should trade Chipper Jones. I have only one thing to say to people that are this unenlightened. Look at Chipper’s career numbers compared to any other third baseman in the history of the game and you will find that his compare favorably in almost every offensive category, the same goes for his numbers compared to any other switch hitter in the history of the game. He, by the way, has also been willing to take less money so that ownership can spend it to fill other holes in the team. In this age of “show me the money” people like Chipper and Smoltz are hard to come by, they still produce (even if it isn’t as much as it once was), and are willing to be true team players!!!