It isn’t a secret that the Atlanta Braves are seriously struggling right now…
…like an 18-year old mule named “Gluestick” carrying Kim Kardashian’s 68 suitcases up the trails of the Grand Canyon. There were steps taken to improve the club with the acquisitions of James Russell and Emilio Bonifacio, but there are still gaping holes on this club that need to be addressed. In this segment, I’m going to brew me about 4 cups of coffee, sit in my leather armchair rich in the smell of mahogany, and put on my “What if I were Frank Wren and Fredi Gonzalez” cap and go to imaginary work. We’re really doing it, you guys! Let’s go!
Addressing Atlanta Braves B.J. Upton
…but, he’s doing so much better the last 10 games, right? Well, sort of… Yes, he has been getting on base at a decent clip (.356), but that’s about where the positive stats end. Over the past 10 games, B.J. has struck out 14 times, stolen 3 bases but has been caught twice, and has a grand total of 2 extra base hits. Overall, this “improvement” has led to a .663 OPS, up from his season’s total of .615. Essentially, it’s a difference between putrid and terrible. When Bonifacio was acquired, Braves’ fans probably took a united deep sigh of relief thinking that B.J. was going to be seeing less time and, at the least, would be platooning with the newly-acquired super-utility man. Wrong. Here’s the money quote from Fredi himself:
“I want to keep my guy there [in the leadoff spot],” Gonzalez said. “I think he’s had some success there in that spot. That’s what we want to do. We want to put guys in positions where they’ve been successful. ‘Boni’ is not an everyday guy and I don’t want to jerk B.J. around.”
Ugh. Not only does this tell us Fredi isn’t considering taking B.J. out of the lead-off spot, but also insinuates he doesn’t foresee any platoon situation. In my opinion, this is inexcusably stubborn and leads me to the first “fix”.
Fix #1- Emilio Bonifacio starts in CF and leads off against LHP. From the right side of the plate, Bonifacio has ripped the cover off of the ball slashing .403/.442/.583. While both his numbers against RHP and LHP are better than B.J.’s, there’s no defending Fredi’s inability to see reason here. If Bonifacio was only acquired to help fix the bench and not to aid in CF, there will be little to no impact from the trade.
*Not wanting to be too extreme, I left out my idea to completely “Dan Uggla” B.J. and banish him to the bench, so be thankful!*
Addressing Atlanta Braves’ Mike Minor
Mike Minor looks terrible. There’s really no other way to look at it as he can’t keep the ball in the park and has lost effectiveness in all of his pitches. The Braves have to make a decision if they’re going to stay in contention. The easiest solution is to give David Hale the job and I really can’t say in full confidence that there’s any other better option. I guess one could consider Gus Schlosser or Cody Martin, or really roll the dice and give LHP Williams Perez a shot, but I don’t think any would really be more or less effective than Hale. There are other options that the Braves could explore through the waiver wire, and Buster Olney suggested the Braves should put in a claim on Mat Latos, who is under contract this year for 7mm, but has another year of arb-eligibility in 2015. This would be wicked smart for the organization and would solidify a rotation spot next year. However, like most of us know, the Braves are handicapped in the trade market due to not being able to take on money and the fact that Latos is under control for 2015 would greatly increase his price. So, for now the fix….
Fix #2- Fake DL Mike Minor or option him to Gwinnett, giving the 5th starter spot to David Hale. It’s not sexy but Hale has proven himself to be a solid option and his advanced metrics suggest his performance isn’t fluky. He’ll at least give the Braves a chance to win, something that Minor hasn’t done for the majority of the 2014 season.
Addressing Atlanta Braves’ bullpen
James Russell isn’t really a difference maker, but he does solidify the much-needed LOOGY role out of the bullpen. Lefty Chasen Shreve was effective in his short-lived call-up but not against lefties. While Shreve has seen a reverse platoon split this year, with LHB hitting him better than RHB, his ability to come in and strike out any hitter, no matter the match-up, is valuable. Furthermore, I don’t like the idea of only having one lefty in the ‘pen.
Fix #3- Bring Chasen Shreve back up. If Minor goes to the DL, this move is easy as Shreve can be called up right away. However, if Minor just gets optioned to Gwinnett, the Braves will have to bring up someone for the next few weeks before re-calling Shreve. With Avilan still struggling to find himself at AAA, Shreve is the best in-house option. I don’t buy the small sample of Shreve’s ineptitude against lefties in the majors and think Shreve is a long-term option for the Braves as a LHP that can dominate hitters, no matter the box they choose.
Addressing Atlanta Braves’ bench
2 major steps have been taken to increase productivity from the bench and I LIKE IT! However, there are still some more moves that need to be made if the Braves are to get the best bang for their buck. Both Ryan Doumit and Ramiro Pena have been utterly useless this year. Doumit hasn’t responded well to the lack of playing time and the transition to a full-time PH and Pena hasn’t hit like he did in his fluky 2013 season, which isn’t all that surprising. With the acquisition of Bonifacio and his ability to play all positions, the need for defensive replacements greatly decreases, and the need for a pure bat greatly increases.
Fix #4- Shuffle the deck: Purchase catcher Steven Lerud‘s contract from AAA Gwinnett and OF Cedric Hunter from AA, designating both Ryan Doumit and Ramiro Pena for assignment. The trade for Ryan Doumit, on paper, was a decent move by Frank Wren as it gave the Braves flexibility to use Gattis as a PH when Laird was catching. However, this isn’t happening and Doumit hasn’t caught any games since mid-April. This greatly decreases his value and limits his value to pinch hitting, of which he’s done very poorly. Pena was supposed to be the Prado/Infante replacement: a player that could be plugged anywhere in the infield that would not cost the Braves offensive production. This hasn’t happened either. With the acquisition of Bonifacio and the call-up of Gosselin, Pena is buried on the bench. Giving Lerud a bench spot means the Gattis card can be used and Lerud can be called on to hit RHP. Hunter is having a fantastic season at AA and has shown a good combination of patience and power at the plate. He has the ability to play all OF positions and brings offensive production that Jordan Schafer could not provide on the bench. With Doumit being gone next year and Pena likely being designated for assignment in the offseason, seeing what Hunter and Lerud could do off the bench the next 50 games could create cheap bench options for 2015.
Tags: B.J. Upton Cedric Hunter Chasen Shreve Cody Martin David Hale Emilio Bonifacio Gus Schlosser James Russell Jordan Schafer Luis Avian Mat Latos Mike Minor Ramiro Pena Ryan Doumit Steven Lerud Williams Perez