Offseason Braves Best Template

This is the final in an 8-part series on the offseason options of the Atlanta Braves.  The schedule will be as follows:

Monday, November 4: Free Agents

Tuesday, November 5: AL East trade options

Monday, November 11 PM: AL Central trade options

Tuesday, November 12 AM: AL West trade options

Tuesday, November 12 PM: NL East trade options

Wednesday, November 13 AM: NL Central trade options

Wednesday, November 13 PM: NL West trade options

Tuesday, November 26: “Best” options for the Braves in the 2013-2014 offseason

Credit: Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports

Okay. Sometimes you have to admit that nothing you do can stop life from happening.  I am going to take you off of the Braves track for a quick moment, and please stay with me.  My intention was entirely to complete the offseason overview on November 14th with a write up of the best road path for the Braves this offseason.  I had the article written in text mode and simply needed to load it onto the server and schedule it for Tomahawk Take’s readers.  Then a tragedy occurred.  A little background on me: I come from a rural town of roughly 500 people in South Dakota where an average graduating class from the public school is 20-25 students.  Needless to say, everyone knows everyone, and when you’re successful in sports, you’re a local hero.  So one of those local heroes, a 2012 graduate and 20 years old, was killed in a terrible accident on November 13th.  He struggled to recover for 36 hours before doctors let the family know there would be no recovery.  In the mean time, the community started a tremendous program called “Bows for Bo” (Bo was the young man’s name).  People with ties to the community began putting up yellow and black ribbons wishing best wishes to Bo.  They were wishing for the best for their former hero, but alas, the “best” was not to be.  Bo passed away, but before he did, his organs were donated per his wishes.  As a healthy 20 year-old man, his organs were in excellent condition in spite of the accident, and Bo became a bigger hero than any exploits on a field or court could have ever made him.  The funeral was held at one of the largest high school gyms in the area, and it was packed to the point of standing room only.  Please, in memory of Bo, allow me a moment to ask you the reader to strongly consider becoming an organ donor the next time you get a new identification.

Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Back to the focus of this post:

Since the posts I put forth, a number of things have occurred that drastically altered what my original idea was going to be, and no doubt that in the next two-three weeks a lot of things will happen that will alter this line of thinking, but here’s what I would do…

1. Trust the youth
The Braves had the youngest non-Astro team in all of baseball in 2013, yet they finished competing for the best record in all of baseball.  They did this with their two highest-paid players struggling mightily and with multiple rookies and second-year players in key positions for the team.  In 2014, I truly think the team needs to lend more credence to its young players.  While an “ace” is something stated as a need by the team, I see three or even four young starters who could emerge as ace-types in the rotation right now.  Coming into 2013, no one considered the Tigers to have multiple aces, but after 2013, it’s arguable to say they have three.  The Braves’ young rotation arms of Julio Teheran, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy, Alex Wood, and David Hale are all capable arms, and young guys like J.R. Graham (if he can get healthy), Cody Martin, Aaron Northcraft, and possibly Sean Gilmartin will be pushing for an opportunity to start as well with the club.  There are a number of very strong arms on the team already.  There is no reason an ace couldn’t emerge from that list of starters.  While I will say that I would like to have another starter that could eat up a guaranteed 200 innings to keep innings off of the bullpen as the young starters will likely require more bullpen time, overspending in money or prospects for an ace simply doesn’t make sense right now.  Turning attention to other needs, trusting the youth would also be wise.  At catcher, Gerald Laird and Evan Gattis would make a solid combination, and if Christian Bethancourt makes a move to claim the spot, Laird will be a solid backup and Gattis can play around the field to get his bat in the lineup.  At second base, Ramiro Pena showed a lot before his injury in 2013 on offense and defense.  Many have forgotten how good he was, and he could easily be the best in-house candidate to start at 2B to start in 2013 not named Uggla on the current 40-man.  Tommy La Stella tore up the minors this season and showed an incredible batting eye in the Arizona Fall League, and he could certainly push at 2B in 2014 as well.  Considering the bench, Joey Terdoslavich gives the Braves a switch hitting option off the bench that can play 1B and corner outfield spots.  Jordan Schafer showed excellent defense and solid offense in 2013.  Tyler Pastornicky is still only 24 in 2014 and hit .300 in limited major league action in 2013 off the bench.  The Braves could simply fill their “holes” all with internal options.

2. Be patient
While the youth could fill the needed holes, last offseason (and many offseasons before) have shown that those who have the patience to wait out the first (and sometimes second) rush of signings and trades can find very good deals after the first of the year during the offseason.  If no one is willing to offer a king’s ransom for David Price, might the Rays take the offer that Jim Bowden of ESPN recently proposed with Lucas Sims, Jose Peraza, and Alex Wood going to Tampa Bay with Price and outfield prospect Drew Vettleson? Or save Vettleson as long as there’s an extension agreed upon before the trade is made?  Likewise, if no one bites on trading for a number of the Angels bats early in the offseason, could one solid prospect net Howie Kendrick?  Conversely, if you’re shopping Dan Uggla, could a team that is frustrated with Kendrick’s trade price and Daniel Murphy‘s trade price, might you pony up a low-level prospect and eat much of Uggla’s salary?  These are certainly out-there prospects for things that could happen, but often these solid moves happen later in the offseason, especially with the new qualifying offer delaying some of the top free agents in signing their new deals, leaving the second-tier waiting for the first-tier guys to ink.

Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

3. Be smart
Some of the most impactful moves are those moves that no one notices in the offseason. Last offseason, Ramiro Pena was granted free agency from the Yankees, and the Braves signed him to a major league deal.  All Pena did was hit .278/.330/.443 with solid defense before injury ended his season.  David Carpenter started the 2012 season as an Astro, was traded mid-season to the  Blue Jays, then was traded as part of the John Farrell signing with the Red Sox to manage, and then claimed by the Braves when he was waived by the Red Sox.  He ended up hurling 65 2/3 innings of relief for the Braves in 2013 with a 1.78 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 10.1 K/9.  Yes, he will be remembered for a tough moment in the playoffs, but for a man who was on 4 teams in 2012 to be in the spot he was for the Braves showed how shrewd a move this was.  Jordan Schafer was selected off waivers from the Astros, and he filled in during B.J. Upton‘s struggles this season, stealing 22 bases and providing excellent defense at all three outfield positions.  Three players who cost less than $2M total and were basically picked up off of another team’s scrap heap, yet they played pivotal roles for one of the best teams in the game in 2013.  Heck, even in-season moves by the Braves were rather frugal and out of left field, but yielded good results like Luis Ayala, who was acquired for a minor league journeyman and sported a 2.90 ERA in 31 appearances, and Freddy Garcia, who dominated in his 6 regular season appearances (3 starts) with a 1.65 ERA and even had arguably Atlanta’s best postseason start.  Smart signings and pickups like these are what teams with payroll constraints have to do, and bringing in John Hart and Rick Williams into the front office only gives more talented eyes to the organization to find those bits of talent in places where others are ignoring.

This isn’t an exciting offseason plan, but I do believe it’s the best way for the Braves to play this offseason in preparation to defend their 2013 National League East Divisional Championship.  I welcome anyone’s comments on this, and thank you for your patience on my personal aside to the piece!

Topics: Atlanta Braves, Tomahawk Take

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  • cothjrr24

    On Uggla: I think there will be a market for Dan Uggla, however that market might be a bad contract swap. Beckett, Billingsley, Brett Anderson, Ryan Dempster, Brandon McCarthy, and Peavy all come to mind. Many of these would require something extra from the Braves, and many aren’t matches at all and would require a 3rd party. Nonetheless, there’s many bad contract/poor ’13 numbers SP out there that the Braves should be exploring. If they don’t work out, then we have to fall back on Alex Wood…no biggie.
    On Price: One of the obstacles that many look over in regards to Price is, well…his price. He’ll likely command north of 35 million in the next 2 years. With arb-estimates and guaranteed salaries this year coming in at 82 million, there’s no way the Braves could afford him in ’15. I’m sure that will hinder any trade discussion that the Braves will have with the Rays. In order to trade for Price, the Braves will have to make a trade prior to Price to free up some cash. People like Kimbrel or Medlen, and Uggla are either expensive or will get expensive. Those 3 alone will command around 70 million over the course of the next 3 years (Uggla 26, Kimbrel 30, Medlen 14-15). While it’s not realistic to trade Uggla without eating salary, Kimbrel and Medlen could both bring back significant prospects and free up some cash for an ACE! or, better yet, extensions for Heyward, Freeman, and Simmons. Personally, I’d like to see Kimbrel traded for prospects and Uggla traded in a bad contract swap. Something like:
    Kimbrel and David Hale for Roughned Odor, Joey Gallo, Neftali Feliz.
    Dan Uggla for Josh Beckett
    I enjoyed this post. Thanks for keeping the offseason interesting!

  • fireboss

    I’m from a small town that experienced a similar loss when I was young and silly. It brings a town together and isn’t soon forgotten. My thoughts are with your small town family.
    I’d do a swap for Billingsley but the Dodgers won’t, they’re hiring pitchers not dealing them. They saw last year that you can;t have enough. The contracts are about the same but they have no use for Dan. Billingsley’s issue has always been consistency. He can be great for 2 or 3 starts then not so good for 3 or 4 but until injury he swallowed innings pretty well. As cothjrr24 says there is a market there but whether it will become active is the question.

    Ramiro Pena won’t sustain that slash over the long haul.A look at the players the Yankees used in their infield last year should tell you that if he could hit he’d be still be in a Yankee uniform. He’s a AAAA or bench player, useful because odf his versatility and periodic hitting streaks but not a daily starter. Rev is in the same category; an erratic defender, he hits well in spurts but hasn’t been able to put it together over the long haul. If he can fix his bat his defense is adequate – think Daniel Murphy – so far however he takes his defense to the batters box and it’s hindered his approach. I like Rev and Pena but don’t see them starting.

    Our pitching staff has a lot of similar pitchers. Minor, Beachy Teheran all sit about 90-92; fastball, sinker, curve change and are heavily fly ball pitchers. Medlen and Wood are about the same speed but more ground ball oriented. None are power arms that overcome mistakes by reaching for extra. Wood may eventually be the next Venters and JR Graham is likely to be a bullpen arm as well. At 5’9″ his he’s more Billy Wagner than John Smoltz and after watching him in relief stints last spring I think he could be a very good closer. As a closer he doesn’t have to throw as many pitches or and can rely on perfecting two. I haven’t seen Shae Simmons in person but his listed build is almost identical to Graham’s and on paper they look like the same guy. So we have Kimbrel replacement options.

    Gilmartin went backward last year. His ceiling is essentially Minor’s floor; a soft tossing control guy that’s might be a 5th starter.

    Price is a daydream we’d all like to have come true but as noted by others the payroll won’t support him and extensions for our best young players. Feliz isn’t being moved nor I suspect is Gallo. Odor does seem excess to needs now but I don’t see a matchup with Texas. I like Kendrick a lot and we could get him if we want to give them an arm – and an apology for Tommy Hanson. Not sure the Braves are willing to do the deal but I might be surprised as I think the Angels price will drop at some point. I could see them doing a Kendrick Phillips swap with some other details though

    • Benjamin Chase

      Thanks on the thoughts.

      I have always compared Graham to a young Derek Lowe, the type of guy who could be an ace reliever or be a 220 inning sinkerball pitcher. His pitch has heavy downward movement that induces groundball after groundball, and many who see him end up wondering what’s missing after seeing his movement and then noting low strikeout numbers in comparison. I love the approach, and I could see him doing well for the Braves in either role.

      Pena I’ll agree that I don’t expect a long-term run of THAT level of production, but he’s the type that could give enough offensively and defensively to hold the fort until someone from the minors takes the job from him.

  • http://www.tomahawktake.com/ Chris Headrick

    Ben I read about that tragedy with Bo, and it’s a small world – I had no idea that was in your hometown. On Ugga, as other’s have said, there might be a market for him, but I don’t see him going anywhere next year. Also, let’s not forget for all the flack Dan gets (and I’m a major culprit in that), he still has a high OBP and walks a ton even though he strikes out too much. He can be frustrating, but when you can typically hit around 30 homers, it’s not like he’s of no value any longer. I’m not the first of course to argue this, but if the Braves cannot move him, they might as well use the talents he does have. I think the Braves have largely grown disenchanted with Dan, but I won’t be surprised to see him starting at 2B next season, or at least platooning for a test.

    • Benjamin Chase

      That’s just it. I would put about 95% chance on Dan Uggla being the opening day 2B in Atlanta in 2013, but if there were to be a market where the Braves didn’t have to cover his whole salary, it will happen as late as early February. That said, I don’t know that there’s a good reason to go out and overspend for a guy like Kendrick or Murphy to play 2B when there are other options that should do just fine if Uggla is determined to be a goner.

      • fireboss

        If Uggla would go back and look at his streak when he was hitting the ball to right and in the gaps then take steps to be that hitter he’d be better off but I think the benching was hard to take and not being on the post season roster – every ball player’s dream – was a personal insult that he won;t easliy forgive or forget. That would make things difficult for Fredi who has enough to think about without trying to learn how to deal with personal animus. That’s why I think he’s gone.

        • Matthew Jones

          Ditto on that for me, too. However, I think that a three-team trade would end up working. Now, call me crazy, but what if the Yankees were to get involved somehow? I think it would have to be that they get desperate for a 2B if Cano doesn’t resign with them (which I think he will, taking a backloaded contract to get them under the luxury tax this year and giving the Used Car Salesman a giant headache). Anyway, play along with me:

          Yankees get: Uggla (minus some contract paid by the Braves), Tim Beckham (Rays), probably Kimbrel
          Rays get: Hale, Sims, Gary Sanchez from Yankees
          Braves get: Price, JR Murphy, Bichette Jr, one other low-A position player from Rays

          I know that’s a ton of guys swapping, but I think it works out mostly. However, I’ve been known to ask for too much and never get anything right. :D

          • fireboss

            If Cano fiddles too long with his idiotic 10 year 300M demand the Yanks will go get BP and not be that much worse off. While Cano is a stud but unless Arte Moreno smokes some more medical marijuana I don’t see the market for him at that price. The M’s are starting too look like Price’s next home unless the Rangers want to empty their minor league system for him. Zduriencik is on the hot seat and will likely spend crazy money to win to cool it off. Actually Uggla might fit their too – it would be awful for the Ms but something that looks good on paper as they have a hard time convincing hiiters to come to Seattle.

            We all ask for too much and are mostly wrong. We don;t understand all the pressures on every GM nor can we know how they’re thinking. So let’s go make some trades while we watch the unicorns frolic …:)

        • Benjamin Chase

          I agree. That’s why I even consider a 5% chance that he’s not on the team. I do believe he and Fredi had good rapport going back to Florida, so I’m not sure it will be a Fredi issue, depending on how much choice Fredi truly had on the roster for the playoffs (we don’t TRULY know how the Braves divy out these responsibilities – I can tell you that Terry Ryan once stated that he had never touched playoff roster construction when Tom Kelly was manager but was the key decision maker with Ron Gardenhire, so who knows how things all work). I do know a number of managers put some distance there in that they don’t know everyone that would be eligible to be on the roster. Uggla has the skills certainly, and perhaps his highly personable nature would be valuable with the change in leadership structure in the locker room. In fact, that could be Fredi’s whole angle with him – come back and be a leader, and we’ll give you your best chance to re-establish value if you feel like you want to move on from Atlanta.

          I just think in the end, too much money will be required from the Braves’ budget in order to move Dan Uggla.

          • fireboss

            I go back to the quote from Dan after he was told he was essentially benched for Johnson. Asked whether it was Fredi or Wren who told him all he would say is he was in the room.Uggla felt and feels Wren doesn’t respect him. Then reading the comments from Fredi who said “one of the hardest days I’ve ever had to experience as a major league manager.” Fredi is a loyal guy and he knows that leaving Uggla off was an insult particularly looking at the rest of the. So I suspect it was pressure from Wren that made it happen but Fredi had to do it. I am positive that if Uggla had an option he’d be in Mississippi where they hid Kawakami, another player the Braves treated badly.
            The money is the stumbling block but it’s a sunken cost and sometimes you just write those off and move on.

    • Benjamin Chase

      Bo’s older brother was a friend in high school and his grandma is possibly the biggest supporter of the local sports teams that has ever been. The family is a notable one in the community, and the whole community is surrounding them in such a way that makes me certainly proud to come from a small farming community.

  • Matthew Jones

    We’ll be praying for your town, and for you Ben. Having had a best friend KIA’d in 2007 from Athens, I know what kind of personal pain it is. God bless.

    • Benjamin Chase

      Thanks. God’s peace on your loss as well, even if it may not be “recent”, it still stings. I lost three friends in a matter of 6 months when I was 18, and this accident has really brought up memories of all three of those.

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