We came into the off season with barely any pressing issues. Before the off season truly began most Braves fans assumed that we would have a relatively quiet off season, which is not a bad thing. Then we heard that the Braves might have more money than we thought to spend. We had many thoughts of big trades, free agent signings, and even some crazy Jimmy Rollins and Hanley Ramirez rumors. Frank Wren let people know that Martin Prado and Jair Jurrjens were available for trade and seems to have been actively shopping Jurrjens. The Rockies took an unusually large interest in Prado but never added a center field prospect along with Seth Smith. The Orioles went nuts for a bit and then we found out that we actually don’t have a lot of money to spend. So here is what I would do if I was in Frank Wren’s shoes this off season.
Keep Jair Jurrjens
Jair Jurrjens is the teams biggest trade chip at the moment, and that is not a good thing. His value is down because of his knee injury which led to his abysmal second half. Teams see that he is a young quality pitcher under team control, but they also see an injury plagued pitcher whose results don’t match his apparent skill. His K/9 really has to worry teams even if he improved in BB/9, HR/FB, GB% and FIP. They think he has been getting lucky and doubt his ability to remain a #1 or #2 pitcher.
Jurrjens, acquiring a shortstop, trading Prado, and more after the break
So it would be smart for Frank Wren to hang on to Jurrjens and plug into the starting rotation for 2012. Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson both have injury concerns and neither of them are guaranteed to be ready to go by the time the season starts. Jurrjens could raise his trade value and at the same time be a quality arm in the rotation until Huddy and Hanson are ready to go. Even if they are ready by the season’s start we could have a rotation of Hudson, Hanson, Beachy, Jurrjens, Medlen and be fine. Jurrjens could raise his stock, Medlen will likely go back to the bullpen soon to make room for Mike Minor, and once Jurrjens is traded Julio Teheran could finally become a member of the starting rotation.
Trading Jurrjens now could really hurt the team if injuries turn out to be more than we thought. His value is also about as low as it can be unless, he continues to have knee issues. I think it would be best to hang on to him, and give our top prospects a month or two more in Gwinnett before coming up.
Our biggest need at the moment is not a left fielder. It is a capable defensive shortstop that can be used in case Tyler Pastornicky struggles. Shortstop is definitely an important position (more so than left field) and we can’t just assume Pasto will make it through the year, even though I have confidence in him.
Jack Wilson can play all over the infield and provide above average defense at each position. He can’t hit a lick but that really doesn’t mean a lot to me. If we are relying on our shortstop to help out the offense we are in trouble in the first place. I really am surprised that he hasn’t been signed already and if I had the GM position I would try and make it happen ASAP.
Brendan Ryan is the next option if Wilson signs elsewhere. He provides the same above average defense (if not better) and also can’t hit. The problem reason Ryan is my second option is because we would have to trade for him, and the Mariners would likely want a position prospect in return. Brendan isn’t worth enough to net a top prospect but Atlanta is lacking in position prospects as it is and trading one would have to be a last straw deal for me.
Keep Martin Prado
All of the Martin Prado rumors have had me worried since day one. I really like him, and how could you not? He’s one of the hardest workers on the team and never complains about anything. He does what is best for the team regardless of how it makes him appear as far as a valuable baseball player. Of course his bat plays better at second or third but did he pull a Hanley Ramirez? No, he did his job and moved to left field when the team needed him to.
Now, baseball is still a business and I understand payroll constraints but I really can’t see why a team would want to trade a player that dedicated to winning for a platoon guy. Call me crazy but I don’t think it happens. Prado is more valuable to Atlanta because of Chipper Jones and he is never going to bring back the prospects or everyday player that would make a trade with him worthwhile, especially not after his worst season since becoming an everyday player.
Personally I think Prado is best suited for third base. His range isn’t exactly stellar and that works nicely because at third you don’t need to cover as much ground. Most people will say second and they could be right but in our situation the point is moot because Uggla has the 4 hole on lock down as long as he’s hitting home runs.
As far as 2012 goes, Prado could still be a legitimate left fielder if he gets back to hitting around .300/.350/.450 which he is definitely capable of. Injury played a big role in his performance last season and if he stays healthy he will be fine in the outfield everyday. Where Prado really becomes valuable however is after next season when Chipper retires and we don’t have an every day third baseman. He will become one of the better third baseman in the league once he is playing there everyday and people will think back to this off season when we were thinking about trading him for Seth Smith.
Have Faith in the Team we Have Built
This isn’t what fans like to hear but they need to realize that we do not have the money, or the trade value that we need to land a big left field bat. It’s not good for the team’s future to trade off multiple assets (Prado, Jurrjens, position prospects) for right now. Nothing ever works out well when you trade the future for today, especially not with Frank Wren. You guys remember the Teixeira trade right? We don’t want another rental and as of right now, those are the only options. If Cody Ross‘ price tag drops a bunch they I would agree to signing him and even though he is left handed, JD Drew could be a valuable fourth outfielder and could spell Prado in left if Chipper goes down. Other than those types of additions however we should settle in with what we have. But that should be encouraging. We are going into 2012 with a better lineup than last year (Bourn in the lead off spot) and a better rotation (whoever replaces Lowe). As long as Prince Fielder doesn’t sign with the Nationals we are the clear #2 in the division behind Philly and could even be even with them if their offense continues to drag.
Keep the faith Braves Country, all is not lost.