This season hasn’t exactly gone the way most Atlanta Braves fans have wanted but it is long from over. Atlanta has greatly underachieved and yet are just 5.0 games back of the Wild Card leading Colorado Rockies and 7.0 back of the National League East Philadelphia Phillies.
Despite the early struggles Atlanta is far from done. Something I have noticed is that General Manager Frank Wren has been receiving a lot of criticism from fans for his “idiotic” moves. Let’s take a look and see how “idiotic” they really are.
The first move I would like to point out is the trade for Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan. Atlanta acquired the pair from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Tyler Flowers and Brent Lillibridge. So far this year Javier Vazquez is 8-7 with a 3.01 ERA and 158 strikeouts in 140.1 innings pitched. Vazquez is tied for 3rd in the Major Leagues in WHIP (1.05) and has the 3rd best K/9 (10.13). In other words Vazquez has been spectacular this season. Logan on the other hand has been mediocre with a 4.50 ERA in 10.0 innings pitched.
Let’s look at what Chicago got. Tyler Flowers, was the starting catcher for the U.S. Futures team. Great, right? Oh wait that Brian McCann guy is blocking his way to the majors. Brent Lillibridge is currently sporting a fantastic .162 BA in 26 games for the White Sox this year. The bottom line is Frank Wren robbed the White Sox. That trade was not in anyway fair.
Wren has received some flack for the signing of Derek Lowe. Lowe is signed for four years and is making $15MM this year. Not a great contract but Lowe brings the post season experience Atlanta could use. Lowe just happens to be the only pitcher in Major League history to be the winning pitcher in the deciding game of the Divisional Series, Championship Series and World Series in one post season. That’s experience for you. Lowe is also very durable so the 4th year on the contract does not seem so bad. Lowe has pitched in no fewer than 180 innings in the last 7 years. Had Wren not offered the 4th year on the contract there is no way Lowe would have chosen Atlanta.
That is just terrible because Smoltz’s 2-4 record and 7.12 ERA looks so great. As for Tom Glavine, his fastball was topping out in the low 80’s. Really? Atlanta wants to win, not give out pity contracts.
A controversial signing was that of Japanese veteran Kenshin Kawakami. So far he is just 5-8 with a 4.37 ERA. One should also know that the ball is smaller in Japan so it can take some time for Kawakami to adjust. For comparison Daisuke Matsuzaka was 15-12 with a 4.40 ERA in his first season with the Red Sox. The next season he was 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA. I’m not saying this will be the same with Kawakami but don’t condemn him yet.
Next we have the Nate McLouth trade that in the thoughts of has decimated Atlanta’s farm system. Atlanta gave up Charlie Morton, who has pitched well (2-3, 3.60 ERA), Gorkys Hernandez and Jeff Locke. In Hernandez’s 53 games for AA Altoona he is hitting a sparkling .239 BA with 5 stolen bases in 10 attempts. Stealing bases is what he does so that’s not looking so great. Not to mention Hernandez and McLouth play the same position so he could have potentially been blocked. In Locke’s 10 games with Advanced A Lynchburg he has a 1-4 record with a 5.31 ERA. Again, Frank Wren robbed a team.
Recently Wren traded Casey Kotchman for Adam LaRoche and cash. This deal was obviously made in an attempt to give the power starved Braves lineup an added boost. Kotchman has hit just 6 home runs this season while LaRoche has 13. Kotchman’s batting average is 30 points higher but he has no where near the power of LaRoche. LaRoche also traditionally gets hot in the second half.
Another complaint is Kotchman’s amazing defense as he has yet to make an error. LaRoche has made just 1 this season while having 61 more total chances. LaRoche also sports a better range factor (9.94) over Kotchman (9.41). Is Kotchman’s defense really that much better? I don’t think so.
The bottom line is Wren has robbed 2 teams on the trade market and really made one signing that hasn’t helped Atlanta (Kawakami). That signing also hasn’t really hurt them either.
Frank Wren has done an above average job whether Braves fans want to admit it or not. He is just so easy to blame for Atlanta’s problems.
Have you ever found yourself watching a baseball game or even Baseball Tonight and see one of your team’s former players and think to yourself “What could have been if we held onto him?” I do it on almost a daily basis. I decided to put together a team of former Atlanta Braves. Almost all have been developed by Atlanta but a few were acquired by trade and for one reason or another allowed to move on.
One former catcher is Texas Rangers starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “Salty” is currently hitting .250 with 6 home runs and 29 RBI in 64 games for Texas. Another catcher is Kansas City Royal Brayan Pena. Pena is currently hitting .319 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI in 22 games for the Royals. Both Salty and Pena are switch hitters.
At first base you have a former fan favorite in Adam LaRoche. He is currently hitting .259 with 12 home runs and 39 RBI for the Pittsburgh Pirates. At second base you have that Mark DeRosa guy. You may have heard about him being amazing at a handful of positions. You’re welcome St. Louis. Atlanta fans have been crying about letting him go for years now. DeRosa is currently hitting .261 with 13 home runs and 50 RBI.
Shortstop is what really gets me mad. You have studs like Rafael Furcal (.254, 3 HR, 19 RBI) playing for the Dodgers and Elvis Andrus (.262, 3 HR, 15 RBI) playing for the Texas Rangers. Texas thought so much of Andrus that they made Michael Young (5-time All-Star, 2005 AL Batting Champ, 2008 Gold Glove winner) change positions to third base. At third base you have current Tampa Bay Ray Willy Aybar. He is currently hitting .279 with 7 home runs and 25 RBI. Atlanta had plans for Aybar before he had issues with substance abuse. It’s such a shame to see someone with so much talent get moved around like he has been.
Moving to the outfield you will see current White Sox star Jermaine Dye. Dye is hitting .297 with 20 home runs and 54 RBI. He would be great in the current Atlanta offense that is starved for power. Another former Brave is Andruw Jones who is currently having a solid season with the Texas Rangers. He is only hitting .250 but has 14 home runs and 34 RBI. Two former outfielders who were acquired by trade and then allowed to move on are Gary Sheffield (.277, 10 HR, 31 RBI) and J.D. Drew (.260, 12 HR, 37 RBI).
When you get to the list of pitchers it can really get ugly for Braves fans. A rotation could consist of Jason Marquis (11-5, 3.61), Kevin Millwood (8-6, 3.34), and Adam Wainwright (9-5, 3.09). Not to mention John Smoltz of the Boston Red Sox. The bullpen could have Joey Devine (0.59, 11 Holds) at the end of games.
Losing players in trades or to free agency is part of baseball. But it’s always nice to wonder, what could have been?
You don’t know what ya got till it’s gone,