'Tis The Season To Have An Atlanta Braves Offseason


The 2013 offseason for the Atlanta Braves has been sort of a let down compared to the 2012 one.  With the additions of both B.J. Upton and Justin Upton and the emergence of Evan Gattis in the Winter Leagues – not to mention Chris Johnson who was just a little addition to the Upton trade, CJ came up huge for the Braves and bringing back Jordan Schafer – fans were excited about the occurrences heading into 2013.

Dec 5, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees newly signed catcher Brian McCann puts on his new jersey during a press conference at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman-The Star-Ledger

The Braves have made moves but nothing to the extent of last winter season.  The Ryan Doumit trade, Gavin Floyd signing, Mark Hamilton signing and the Matt Gamel signing have all been overshadowed by the departures of Brian McCann and Tim Hudson.

“In a perfect world, we’d love to have both of them back,” Braves GM Frank Wren said.  “But I think you look at our franchise and how we operate for a long time, we like to operate from within.  If the situation comes up where someone is out hitting or out performing the guys with our club, we’re content to go with our young players.”

McCann’s departure struck the hearts of many when he put on that famous Yankees uniform but Wren stands by his position as he goes on about the catcher position and signing of Doumit.

Sep 18, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Atlanta Braves outfielder Evan Gattis (24) waits on deck in the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

“We have a dynamic young catcher in Christan Bethancourt who’s not far away.  He was in Double A last year and performed very well, he’ll be in Triple A this year.  He’s going to be knocking on the door.  We also like the emergence of Evan Gattis.  He proved last year he can handle it behind the plate and gave us comfort that he can handle that job.  And now getting Ryan Doumit, which sprung from really smart guys in our office during the winter meeting talking about how do we fill out our staff – we wanted a left handed power bat and we wanted protection behind the plate.  Also, we wanted to be able to use our two best pinch hitters.  They are Gattis and Gerald Laird.  You look at their pinch hitting numbers and they are both over .350 and the only way you can utilize them is to have a third catcher.  So Doumit was on our list, he’s a switch hitter power bat from the left side and his ability to play multiple positions.”

If you’re question Frank here about having three catchers on the roster, it actually makes sense.  Most managers don’t want to use their backup catcher as a pinch hitter in usually any situation during a game for the sake of an injury to your primary catcher.  But having three catchers, you’re able to pinch it one of these guys who isn’t starting that game.  Also, though it may not be pretty, Gattis and Doumit can both play other positions.

Other than a new ball park, roster moves and other daily things Wren goes through, this offseason he’s dealing with the slumps of his two highest paid players, B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla.

Oct 3, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves center fielder B.J. Upton (2) reacts after striking out against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fifth inning of game one of the National League divisional series playoff baseball game at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

“There is a plan in place and that plan is to start early.  Most MLB players take some down time during the winter months, they still work out physically to stay strong but they try to clear they heads about baseball.  The plan is to start January 1st, Craig Walker and his guys are putting some workout plans in place to get them back on track.  In B.J.’s case, it was a think where going to a new team and signing a big contract and they expectations not only from him but of the fans probably got the best of him and I think we’ll see him bounce back.  Too young, too talented, too athletic to not bounce back.  And the case of Dan Uggla, he still did some things that were impressive – 20 home runs, he still continues to walk a lot, we just need to get him back hitting towards his norm.  He does that team will be real solid.”

True, the Braves had some guys who struggled last year but if you look at the team we had, the Braves won 96 games and won the NL East.  Young guys with lots to look forward to and Mr. Wren agrees…

“You look at our team, Freddie Freeman is one of the best young first baseman in the league.  Chris Johnson finished 2nd in the batting title at third.  Justin Upton, I think is still just scratching the surface of what he can be and the same case with Jason Heyward.  And that’s not even to mention a guy who is probably one of the best young players in the entire sport, Andrelton Simmons.  We think our club is pretty well covered and we have a lot of young guys who have the chance to improve with their careers.”

The firepower is there for Atlanta’s offense but everyone needs pitching.  One of the key elements to the offseason was to get some sort of pitcher to Atlanta.  Wreny Wren Wren talks about the pitching staff…

“The reality is that one third of teams have a true ace and the 20 other teams just have really good pitching but they really don’t have that ace that you want to talk about.  We love our pitching, we have good solid pitching, we may not have that true ace but we have guys that can sit near the top half of a rotation and they proved that this past year.”

GO BRAVES!!  And Happy Holidays!!

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

    Almost every other team made better personnel changes. The Braves didn’t, not really, and thus the 2013 roster will essentially have to perform better to have a chance to be atop the NL East next season. What that means is that our current rotation must improve from last season, bullpen must improve, and BJ and Dan’s slumps must go away if fans hope to see more than another disappointing season next year.

    • cothjrr24

      The Braves had 96 wins last season, and according to WAR in McCann and Hudson, the Braves lost 4.4 of them. How about not focusing on what the offseason has lost and look at what it’s gained:
      1 Brandon Beachy- if healthy, could easily out produce Tim Hudson
      2. Evan Gattis- given the starting job, Evan could be a 3.5-4 WAR catcher, the total of he and McCann’s ’13 WAR combined.
      3. Uggla/La Stella/whoever else- the Braves 2b last year weren’t even collectively worth 1 WAR. I’d bet my house that the FO will not let that happen again. If Uggla doesn’t hit the first month (assuming he’s still on the team), he’ll be released and/or benched.
      4. BJ Upton- -0.6 WAR last year. If I were a betting man, I’d say B.J. will be a 2-3 WAR player in ’14.
      5. Heyward, Freeman, Simmons, Jupton, Gattis, Minor, Teheran, Wood- They’re one year older and primed for success.
      Is there talent there that can make up the 4.4 WAR hole left by McCann and Hudson? Hell yes.
      Is there talent there that can make up for the other teams’ improvements in the NL East? Hell yes.
      Additions:
      1, Nats added Fister and a LOOGY- Probably a 2 WAR upgrade, however I expect much more from them.
      2. Mets added Granderson and Bartolo Colon, but lost Harvey for the year- Maybe a 1 WAR upgrade, but I don’t foresee them being much, if any, better than last year.
      3. Phillies- added Marlon Byrd and traded for some small pieces and all of their aged-veterans got a year older- Improvement? Highly doubtful and I think it’s possible they could be worse.
      4. Marlins-With Furcal, Salty, G. Jones, and McGehee on the roster, the Marlins improved their chances the most- Maybe a 6-7 WAR upgrade and I wouldn’t be surprised if it fluctuated 3-4 either way.
      Final diagnosis- 3 top-50 free agents and 1 top-30 pitcher came to the NL east. I say big whoop. Will the teams be better? Overall…probably. Can the Braves be better? Overall…probably. However, being better doesn’t guarantee a better record.

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

        Lot of what-ifs. But then again, every season is. No one hopes the Braves’ perform any more than I, but I think a more realistic outlook is that the Braves’ success from 2013 will not be the same in 14. I think they’ll be competitive, so don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think they can waltz into the NL East title with such ease again next year.

        • cothjrr24

          And neither do I. I expect the Nats to be good and be neck and neck with the Braves, the Marlins to be better and the Phils and Mets to be roughly the same. If it makes sense, I could see the Braves being a better team with less wins.

      • fireboss

        In the worst division in the NL. The Nats will not be that bad again and we have to be as good or better than 2013 to stay in the hunt.

  • cothjrr24

    Been following for quite a while now, but this piece needs some serious work. Gettin’ sloppy, you guys.

    • Matthew Jones

      For instance…..

  • Matthew Jones

    The BJ Upton comments sounds like what’s been said on here a while back in that they think he’ll do like Jayson Werth did in DC. As for Uggla, if he hits .220 and knocks 25 HRs, as long as that .220 isn’t killing us I’d personally be ok with it. I wish we had the DH in the NL, though. He’d be a prime candidate for it.

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

      I wish BJ success, but you cannot just look at numbers with BJ, and project an improvement. There is an eye test factor, and there is much more wrong with BJ than just his swing. We’ve said that before too. Do I think BJ cannot turn it around? No, he can, I just have serious doubts. I maintain the BJ contract was one of the largest debacles in baseball for years, and I said that pre-trade. Prove me wrong BJ, please!

      • Matthew Jones

        I hope that he proves us wrong, too. I wonder if he were to change his approach back to a more for average guy than homers if he’d get better. Granted, that’s like asking a lion to go vegetarian…it just ain’t gunna happen!

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

          It looks like it takes every ounce of his energy to try and hit for average. He is not the power hitter he thinks he is any longer. When he stays within himself, and controls that long swing, he’s better. I think he’s been a head case.

  • fireboss

    I have always been a huge Medlen backer but if he outperforms a 3.11 ERA I’ll be very surprised. I expect him to do what he did last year; essentially a 3 WAR. (fWAR is 2.7 rWAR is 3.3) 124 ERA+ guy and that’s pretty dang good – 10th in ERA+ 15th in rWAR. Minor is a 3+ WAR pitcher and Teheran could have a breakout season. Woody was new to the league and only threw 77 innings, he’s not a 3.11 ERA guy and will end up around 3.6-3.7 which is perfectly fine and not an insult. Beachy is the wild card. Over 4 seasons he’s only thrown 163 innings or roughly one season as a starter. His 2011 season would be a rousing success this year – 3.68 and either 2.8 fWAR or 1.6 rWAR – and essentially fill Hudson’s spot. It’s easy to see Heyward, JUP, and Gattis doing better. The problems here are BJ, Uggs and Simba.
    Simmons had a very low K rate but with an OBP under 300 and an average of just .248 it’s easy to understand that he led MLB in non-K outs. That’s not a problem for me but he also led MLB in infield popup outs with 65. The next closest NL guy was Jimmy Rollins with 49.His swing has to change or his timing improve. He’s young and he can do that.
    BJ was simply lost at the plate. He has a long swing and struck out 33% of the time – a number that’s increased every year since 2008 except one (2011). He’s lost all idea of where the strike zone is and reports indicated his ego got in the way of fixing it. That ego has been an issue in the past. If he starts badly this year he could rapidly spiral into the toilet again. At this point anythign more than a .220/.300/.375 season would be a surprise.
    Uggs is simply not hitting fast balls. Maybe dropping to a lighter bat and remembering to take the ball the other way fixes that. Like you I’d accept a 240 20+ homer season. I just don’t have faith we get that.
    I root for better,i hope for more but pragmatically I don’t expect it

  • amorelle hill

    ” In B.J.’s case, it was a think where going to a new team and signing a big contract and they expectations not only from him but of the fans probably got the best of him and I think we’ll see him bounce back.” The fans were RIGHT to have expectations; it’s not like they brought BJ up from AA. He just seemed to have an attitude that if he did anything, great; if not, so what. And the thing is, we NEEDED him. We were out of first place ONE DAY during the entire season; we had a good team, but he seemed disinterested in the whole shebang. I’d sure like to see an interview with him where I could get a good fix on his attitude, cause it doesn’t seem all that great.

  • amorelle hill

    Does anybody here remember back to when Smoltz had such a terrible time starting games – in the beginning of his career – and they sent him to a sports psychologist? We tend to think of him being the great pitcher he was from day one and he wasn’t. He had the talent but he got inside his own head and just cratered. maybe that’s what BJ and Uggla need? We all know Uggla can hit for power and he’s an okay 2nd baseman. If he’s going to be here, let’s get him some help before he completely loses all his self respect.

    • fireboss

      I remember and in his book Smoltz says it was important for him as well. The difference is in the men and the way they approach the game. You could not get the ball out of Smoltz’ hand. He pitched when he was in so much pain and never allowed anyone to know. BJ is a different generation and has a different attitude in general. Telling him to go to a sports psychologist would create likely create resentment about the stigma of having mental issues. Smoltz didn’t care what it looked like, he just wanted to win