Dec 5, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez answers during the Major League Baseball winter meetings after the announcement that his option for 2014 had been picked up. Photo credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Braves Rumors As Winter Meetings Close

The party may be over but the wheeling and dealing continues . . .just not for the Braves whose big  announcement was that they picked up Fredi Gonzalez’ option for 2014.  Picking up his option isn’t a surprise and while I think the Braves finished in second last year in spite of his managerial prowess it’s rare to see a manager who finishes that high move on.  We’re stuck with him until he hears the call to search for the meaning of life and rides off on his Harley or I win the Powerball and build a consortium to buy the Braves. Don’t hold your breath.

Rumor Roundup

As GMs spend their last night in the Opryland Hotel rumors about the Braves and others of interest to the Braves are floating around so let’s take a look.

Danny Knobler

Knobler has a couple of Braves related rumors this evening

Rumor 1 – Brewers willing to part with Corey Hart

Knobler tweets that the Brew Crew aren’t having any luck signing a pitcher and might consider trading Hart to free up payroll space.  Hart would be a perfect fit for the Braves outfield and to back up Freddie Freeman at first base. The RH hitting Hart has a career slash of .276/.334/.491 who’s averaged 26 homers and 87 RBI a year. He’ll throw in 3 or 4 triples and 30 or so doubles for an ISO over 220. Depending on who’s WAR you prefer Hart is either a 3+ fWAR  or a 2+ rWAR man and as his extra base number indicate he hits a lot of line drives (19%) and his GB/FB rate is about 1 to 1. So Hart sounds perfect. Except. . .

This is Hart’s walk year and those numbers foretell a big payday in his future free agent journey – barring injury of course. A trade would net one year of Hart and there’s no guarantee of signing him after that. If the Brewers would agree to allow a windows to negotiate with Hart a deal might get done. However Hart has no incentive to move or extend unless the number is high enough and the term long enough to offset his free agent windfall. I don’t expect that to happen. If the Brewers are in a salary dump mode and would take a second tier prospect I’d make the trade and hope Hart could be persuaded to stay. If the price is Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado or even Sean Gilmartin I’d pass.  I really doubt this rumor has legs.

Rumor 2 – Marlins and Rays Interested on Juan Francisco

Knobler also tweeted that the Marlins and Rays are interested in Braves third baseman Juan Francisco. The Marlins interest make sense as they just traded Yunel Escobar to the Rays and have major league ready third baseman. Francisco is pre-arb eligible so he’d cheap – always something the Fish value above everything else – and he’s got big power that would fit in the lineup behind Giancarlo Stanton

Remember that GM Frank Wren covets Francisco’s bat so any trade would hinge on us having a 1st tier LF and not mixing and matching. Francisco was sent to winter ball and told to hone his batting guided by the tips Walker gave him and come to spring training in top shape. He seems to have taken that advice to heart. Francisco is ripping the Dominican league apart and with caveat that the numbers mean as much as a lottery quick pick here’s what he’d done going into tonight.

Juan Francisco 101 13 32 6 0 7 23 10 30 .375 .584 .317 .267

So, my guess is Francisco isn’t going anywhere unless the offer is big enough to coax Wren to part with a player he’s wanted for a long time.

David O’Brien Rumor

The Braves have interest in Nate Schierholtz.  I mentioned that the left handed hitting Schierholtz was still an lower tier bench option for the Braves.  In 2012 his slash was .257/.321/.407 with 6 homers and 21 RBI split between the Giants and the Phillies. His career splits shows he hits lefties – .284/.317/.391- better than righties .266/.319/.413 albeit with slightly less power and in about half the at bats. Schierholtz turned down an offer from the Orioles earlier today but late last night agreed to sign with the Cubs.

Troy Renck and Fowler Rumor

When the Braves asked the Rockies about Dexter Fowler the Rockies asked for Mike Minor and either Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado  giving the term Rockie Mountain High a whole new meaning.

Other News

Since we were talking about how well Francisco was doing in the Dominican earlier I thought I’d put up some other numbers for perspective.

Juan Francisco 101 13 32 6 0 7 23 10 30 .375 .584 .317 .267
Miguel Tejada 102 17 31 6 0 3 16 8 12 .366 .451 .304 .148
Christian Bethancourt 19 49 4 12 0 0 3 2 5 .269 .306 .245 .061

Tejada is obviously on the downward side of his career and has numbers close to Francisco’s. Conclusion? This is more like AA-AAA ball so let’s not get too excited too soon.  The flip side of that is Bethancourt’s unimpressive numbers indicate that even at this level his bat isn’t close to ready yet.

Meanwhile Braves number one prospect Julio Teheran  isn’t yet back. He didn’t allow a hit in his five innings of work Tuesday against Gigantes but this short season he is 2-1 with a 4.01 ERA and a 1.297 WHIP in 24 2/3 innings. This is a lot like spring training ball in that players work on their craft as well as trying to impress so while I’m not jumping for joy that Miguel Batista has better numbers than our best prospect, I’m also not headed for the bar to drown my sorrows. You shouldn’t either.

That’s a Wrap

The meetings haven’t been a big deal for the Braves the last two years so our lack of movement isn’t a surprise. While the GM says he’s still looking for that one big move he also laid the groundwork for his “we did the biggest thing we wanted to do “ speech by telling both Dave O’Brien and Mark Bowman that he was willing to trade Teheran or Randall Delgado for a significant return. He didn’t define that but assuming Wil Myers, Justin Upton level is probably close. If he doesn’t make the trade he can say he was ready but never got that significant offer. He said on MLB Tonight that Martin Prado is the Braves third baseman next season. Of course a hot spring by Francisco and failure to sign a RH left field leadoff bat (if you know who that might be I’d be interested to know, I can’t think of one) could find Prado back in left and Francisco at third. We will never know how hard he tried to get Upton or Myers but if one or both start the year for new clubs and not for the Braves, it wasn’t hard enough.

Tags: Atlanta Braves

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