My previous post on rebuilding the Braves has caused a bit of a stir. I want to clarify a few things.
— I do not think the Braves are in for a long rebuilding process. I suggest trading away players who may not be around for the long-term. I did not suggest trading away Yunel Escobar nor Jair Jurrjens because they are under the Braves control for five more years. As a fan, I sure hope, and expect, that the Braves will be competitive before these guys hit free agency. In fact, I wouldn’t be opposed to the team signing long-term deals with these players as the team did with Brian McCann.
The point is that if 2009 is lost—and I think it is—then go ahead and lose. Certainly, I don’t want the players on the team to give up. I think that a group of players who are scrapping for respect is a good story. And who knows? If some young prospects and veteran castoffs put together a good season, the team could make things exciting. Then you have the opportunity to make some in-season trades to improve the team in the present. I think building for 2010 and beyond, even if that means losing more in 2009, is the quickest way for the Braves to become competitive again.
— I agree that Kelly Johnson and Casey Kotchman are valuable major league players, and both individuals have opportunities to grow into better players. The fact that they are still controlled by the team that owns their rights for three more years means that they are good players to have on your roster. I get this. It is for this reason that I suggested that they be traded. The Braves can capture some of that value by trading them to new teams that will compensate the Braves for that value. Keeping them around to struggle to .500 doesn’t help much.
Below is a diagram of the relationship of revenue to wins from 2002–2004. (I have some more recent data on my other computer, and it looks similar. Also, I converted all revenue estimates into 2004 equivalents.)
Wins are more valuable for teams that win more games, this means that there are gains from trading players who will have more value on winning clubs. Rather than win more games next season, I suggest the Braves forgo some of these wins in 2009 (which better teams will value more than the braves) for more wins in the future.
— I’m not completely opposed to signing free agents who will help in the long term. For example, San Francisco got a bargain by signing Aaron Rowand to a five-year deal. If the Braves have the opportunity to sign a free agent for a salary less than his marginal revenue product during this offseason, then I am all for it.
— A few posters at David O”Brien’s blog picked up my post, and here is what DOB had to say.
not being critical of the article or the view expressed, just letting you know: It’s not going to happen. Braves aren’t going to approach 2009 like that, and if you’ve heard Wren’s comments about the subject you’d know what I mean. They believe they’ll contend by strengthening a few areas.
Just telling you how they’re approaching it, because they’re not viewing it the way that article proposed. At all.
I’m not surprised. I don’t claim to have all the knowledge relating to the situation, nor am I trying to predict what the Braves will do. I’m a Braves fan, and this is what I think would improve the team. Maybe Chipper is more valuable to the Braves than I think he is. Maybe the gains to winning a few more games for an average team are more than I estimate. Maybe the budget is going to balloon and the team is going to attempt to improve through free agency and trading prospects for proven veterans. I don’t work from the Braves, and I know that I’m not the most popular guy in the executive halls of Turner Field.
But, I do hope that members of the Braves front office are not deluding themselves into thinking that there is a high probability that this team makes the playoffs next year by adding a few free agents. This team needs more than that. I’d rather see the Braves take a shot at retooling for 2010 and beyond than adding pieces for a run in 2009.
Addendum: I wasn’t clear enough in my discussion of Mark Kotsay. I don’t think the Braves should make signing him a priority at all. If he wants to give the Braves a discount to play everyday—something that I heard mentioned as recently as last night—then it might make sense to let him man the position instead of Gregor Blanco or Brandon Jones. I believe Blanco and Jones are marginal major league players who have value as back-up outfielders. If another team wants to trade the Braves something of value for them, Kotsay might possibly be the cheaper placeholder. But as a practical matter, I’m not sure they would bring much in return. There is nothing inherently wrong with signing free agents or trading away prospects. My point was that the decision to sign Kotsay depends on what the Braves can get for him or his potential replacements.