Braves Trade Ship Still Becalmed While Nats–Marlins Get Stronger

Braves Trade / Signing Story So Far – eh…not much

Trades and signings continue everywhere oddly enough except Atlanta and Boston, the teams that would seem to need the most shaking up. The Red Sox have an excuse; money  Boston is hamstrung but their horribly overpaid $174 M roster. Boston is up against an enhanced luxury tax barrier and are unwilling to push through it. They have seven players – two of which won’t pick up a baseball this year – whose salaries add up to more than the Braves payroll the estimated growth it will take be allowed this year.

Adrian Gonzalez $21,857,143
Carl Crawford $20,357,143
Josh Beckett $17,000,000
John Lackey* $15,950,000
Kevin Youkilis $12,250,000
David Ortiz $15,000,000**
Daisuke Matsuzaka* $10,333,333
Total $112,747,619

** Estimated Salary (MLB Trade Rumors 12/12/2011)

The Braves have a reason too; money. The luxury tax isn’t a concern for the Braves. In fact if they could add another $15 M – the money the Red Sox will spend on John Lackey  – would probably have filled the needed holes already.

Why Doesn’t Wren Do Something? Money and internal policy.

Most know I am critical of his past trade and signing decisions. However, in Frank Wren’s defense he’s really up against the wall with this year’s payroll limitations, so he gets some slack for not making the Braves trade dreams a reality.

The long and short of the situation is that to add anything over $5M this year we have to shed some payroll somewhere. That makes a trade the only viable option available to GM Frank Wren. I went into detail about our projected payroll and the money remaining back on December 5th. David O’Brien said the same thing in more detail as a response to a question on this blog post . (It’s about halfway down the page in response to a question following his original post.)

Wren’s oft repeated statement “We like our team” is true of course why wouldn’t he like it, he built it?  On the other hand his post season interview shows he knows there are holes that need to be filled. How do we interpret the contradiction?  Let me see if I can clarify.

As someone one said. . .

Well, it was James Ellis Dolan who said it but I needed a title.

When you work for a man, work for him. Give him your dedication, honesty, sincerity and 100% of your skills. If you must damn him, do so from without; quit and then damn him to high heaven if that is your wish. But while you are in his employ, do nothing or say nothing negative about him, or to him. ~ James Ellis Dolan

It’s the kind of loyalty described by Dolan I think (hope) that explains the seemingly dichotomous position of saying we need a right handed bat and a veteran backup short stop and simultaneously saying the team is fine to go forward without change.

Former GM and current Braves president John Schuerholz brought Frank Wren to Atlanta. He work closely with him until taking over as President and promoting Wren to GM after the 2007 season. That alone obviously instills respect and loyalty towards Schuerholz.

Schuerholz of course reports to Liberty Media (who specifically there I have no idea) and treats them with the appropriate respect and loyalty.  So, when both men say there have been no specific payroll limits placed on them by the faceless conglomerate, I believe them. At the same time there has obviously been no direction to loosen the purse strings in order to make the team more successful other than what one might call cost of living adjustments. So, while neither man has fibbed, they haven’t for ethical reasons given the whole story either.  Having said I appreciate their position I believe part of his problem is self inflicted.

Pitching, Pitching, Pitching

Schuerholz and  Wren know only too well that the most expensive, fragile and unpredictable asset a team has is pitching. This off season’s free agent signings and extensions reinforce that perception as does recent history with Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami. As a result since Bobby Cox was GM the Braves have focused on drafting pitching first and worrying about everyday players later. There are interesting numbers there, consider that the Braves regularly draft more than 50% pitching yet when we needed starters in 2007,2008, and 2009 we had sign sign replacement level pitchers and pay big $ for the aforementioned veterans. More on that another time. The result of it has been a lot of high quality young pitchers and a few quality of everyday prospects.

A Limited Market

Since a trade has to work both ways and Wren enacted a self imposed ban on trading certain top prospects – the young guns as they’ve come to be known, Randall Delgado, Arodys Vizcaino, Mike Minor and Brandon Beachywe don’t match up well with many trading partners who have assets that would fit well for us.

Last year’s injuries to Jair Jurrjens makes him less desirable that Gio Gonzales even though from a talent point of view Jurrjens projects a higher ceiling. The willingness of the A’s, Cubs and possibly the Rays to trade their prospectsincreases the dificulty in formulating a deal so that teams seeking pitching are even looking at the erratic Edwin Jackson and aging Roy Oswalt in preference to giving away a prospect for our oft injured pitcher.  Because of those issues the GM may decide to keep JJ in the rotation until June or even the Trade deadline in order to get a better return.

Martin Prado’s injury and the staph infection that followed reduced his value as well. His value wasn’t what many fans perceived it to be to begin with and trading him is something I do not believe the GM want’s to do if he can avoid it. If Prado were to go, the only other major league ready option to back up Chipper Jones is Drew Sutton who last played third regularly in 2008 AA with Corpus Christi.

So that’s some of how we got where we are and why to the frustration of many, more trades haven’t happened. Much of it is beyond the control of the GM and Braves President even if the won’t say so publicly. Internal policies limit the trade market and our minor league system while flush with young arms lacks high quality major league ready every day players to fill the gaps.  I have ideas about ways around the issues but that’s for the next post.

You may contact me on Twitter @fredeowens or via e-mail [email protected]

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Tags: Braves Pitchers Hot Stove Jair Jurrjens Martin Prado

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