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.