Believe In The Braves?
Yesterday, I spent 10-hours driving around Atlanta, taking appointments for my part time job and listening to sports talk radio. Here, every show has a former NFL player and a host who knows just enough about sports to be dangerous — in a bad way. Writing baseball for the atypical fan, I sometimes forget just how much of a knowledge gap exists between someone like you and the caller who believed a prospect package centered around Christian Bethancourt would net Rays David Price.
Interestingly enough, the host was spot on in his assessment of the Braves’ core at the moment. In summary, the Braves have a number of young, mid rotation starters and a young core of strong position players. Most teams would be thrilled to build around Andrelton Simmons, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton, Craig Kimbrel, Julio Teheran and Mike Minor, no?
Of course the host also wanted to sign James Shields as a free agent this off-season and spent an entire segment extolling the benefits of spending 30-million or so on Matt Garza and the aforementioned Shields. Doh!
For me personally, the Braves are in a difficult position when assessing their upward mobility. In 2013, their team payroll was about 90-million with nearly a third of it dedicated to sunk costs (Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton). Both will return in 2014.
Soon enough, they’ll need to make long term decisions on Freeman, Heyward, Minor, Kimbrel and the good Upton. When taking production and service time into consideration the second wave of Simmons and Teheran may be the most valuable assets of the bunch. This makes it difficult to envision their extending the first group.
As for prospects, Alex Wood and Christian Bethancourt are keys to keeping the core intact. As cheap, controllable pieces, each helps offset bad contracts the team has doled out. Hypothetically, would Julio Teheran, Christian Bethancourt and Alex Wood be enough for David Price? Maybe, but would it cripple the finances of the organization long term?
This leaves the Braves in a catch-22 considering the MLB playoffs have become as much about chance as actual talent. Between play in games and best three of five series, a deep rotation of quality, but non-elite starting pitchers is much less valuable than during the season. In their four game series against the Dodgers, one could argue the Braves’ best (Minor) was the fourth best starting pitcher featured in the series behind Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
When a Matt Kemp-less Dodgers team has its way with the Braves, it’s difficult to see a World Series ring coming from this ball club.
So what, if anything would you do to bring a ring to the ATL? For me, this starts with signing Andrelton Simmons to a long term deal. As for the rest of the pieces, I’d love to hear what you think.
3 Feb 2014 / Mike Newman /
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