I said a week or so ago we’d know soon whether this was a new ear or more of the same. Cautiously I’d say that today’s roster changes indicate a new era. In case you haven’t heard Joe Mather was placed on waivers and Scott Proctor released, while Brooks Conrad, Brandon Hicks and Matt Young join David Ross and Eric Hinske on the bench. Conrad goes on the basis of last year’s heroics and nothing else. he’s not shown he can catch the ball any better at second or short and playing him at 1st as they did once this spring is pure comedy. Hicks has been hitting better as the Spring progressed. and that paired with his superior fielding, made him the choice over Lucas whose bat cooled a lot lately. The real surprise for me is Matt Young. Not that I’m against it, I’ve been a fan of the little outfielder for a while but thought his left handed bat in a lineup already full of lefties would result in Mather being the choice. The release of Proctor means Cristhian Martinez gets the last bullpen slot after strong multi-inning outings while Proctor never found anything like major league form. These choices signal more than a couple of new bench players getting a chance, it completes the exorcism of Bobby Cox from the dugout and the first real signs of Fredi Gonzales’ managerial direction.
In Young and Hicks he chose two career Braves who’ve proven themselves in the minors and were able to do it under the pressure of roster competition this spring. Their youth and enthusiasm will help energize a team that thinks – as I do – that the Phillies are showing their age much sooner than anyone expected. The addition of Uggla, undoubted ability of Prado and a resurgent Chipper lift the weight from McLouth and Freeman’s shoulders and allows them to just go out and play. The only remaining dubious roster selections – Sherrill and Conrad – should be on a short leash. Sherrill was worse this spring than Proctor. As Bob pointed out last week, even lefties smacked him around. With O’Flaherty and Venters a strong lefty duo already available his usefulness as a lefty one out only guy is diminished, particularly with the uncertainty surrounding Utley’s playing time this year. Conrad was kept to bring late inning lightening. If he doesn’t he too is expendable, more so if Mather clears waivers and he or Ed Lucas find their stroke at Gwinnett.
Those of you who remember the kerfuffle here when Scott Diamond was claimed on waivers might be interested to know the Twins like him enough to want to trade to keep him rather than sending him back. I speculated on some options the Twins could offer that I’d look hard at a while back in another venue. After looking at the Twins prospect list they have a couple of outfielders and a third baseman worth a peek. The one I’d ask for is Aaron Hicks a switch hitting center fielder with speed and a ++ arm. he doesn’t hit for much power yet and is only 21 but he walks a bunch (OBP of 401 in low A last year) and the twins look pretty well set in center so they might do that. I’d also be interested in Nate Roberts a left handed hitting corner outfielder who played in Rookie + last year, Anderson Hidalgo a third baseman who played in low A, Oswaldo Arcia a switch hitting outfielder in rookie + last year and Angel Morales a center fielder from high A ball. In reality we OUGHT to make this trade and get something worthwhile back. Fifty thousands bucks these days is coffee money. While Frank Wren has consistently stocked the minors with good pitchers we are short of high quality outfield and infield prospects where our holes look to be. This could be a chance to fill one of them with a known entity instead of a late round draft choice, a waiver claim or a rehab project.
Braves Not For Sale
Most of you read Bob’s note on the report that Liberty Media were ready to sell the Braves. Today during the game Chip interviewed Braves CEO Terry McGuirk who flatly denied those reports, said the numbers used in them were completely inaccurate and that the story was a work of fiction. In such things there’s always doubt. Such a strong denial smells a little like a vote of confidence for a manager just before a team goes anew direction. On the other hand there are already two teams on or near being on the market; Houston and LA. Time will tell where this story goes of course and since I didn’t win the powerball I am financially short of the wherewithal a down payment.
Let us know what you think of the final roster moves and the non-sale of the Braves. We’re all ears.