Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Is This The "Perfect Storm"???

Lots of chatter about significant players that are potentially available as we've reached the break, a handful of which could reasonably be expected to make the Braves serious contenders should they be acquired. That said, we all have to learn to temper expectations as fans. Frank Wren has been charged with keeping the organization competitive for the long run and given the current corporate ownership structure he's dealing with, going "all-in" isn't necessarily an option. However, it's time to take the GM cap off for a little bit and daydream a little.

There have already been rumblings that the team may very well dip into next year's finances to upgrade this year's product - there's significant money coming off the books following this season with Chipper Jones retiring, the end of the financial commitment to Derek Lowe, and the ability to further open up future salary space by declining to re-sign Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens, and Martin Prado. In other words Wren is in position to almost entirely turn the roster over moving forward.

The question is, is it time to do that with an eye towards retaining the pieces he might be able to acquire in an attempt at sending Chipper off into the sunset with his second ring? For today's piece, I'm going to argue yes.

The signing of Ben Sheets was brilliant. Sheets has looked very good in his first two minor league starts, and last night's stretched him to 90 pitches. He likely can be called upon to step into the rotation with the big club whenever Wren decides he wants to do so. The Sheets signing and slotting means one of Randall Delgado or Mike Minor will be optioned back to Gwinnett within the next two weeks. It also may very well signal that at least one of them is available in a package to further upgrade the rotation for a playoff run.

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the last month, you've heard that Zack Greinke is likely available whenever the Brewers receive a significant enough offer to pull the trigger. We "know" that offer isn't coming from the Yankees or Red Sox, and it doesn't seem that the Rangers or Angels are interested in topping significant offers if they're made. Word has it that the Orioles are likely to be bidders but aren't moving Dylan Bundy or Manny Machado under any circumstances. The Braves have always loved Greinke (who's from the Orlando area where the team's spring training complex is), and Zack is said to prefer to avoid the pressure that comes with pitching in the biggest markets. An unnamed former teammate has also been quoted as saying that Zack mentioned at times that he thinks he would like pitching in Atlanta. The time is right for Wren to pounce - yes retaining him beyond this year will be expensive, but he's the type of Pitcher you commit to building your organization around. Offer Milwaukee their choice of Delgado and SS Tyler Pastornicky or Minor, Pastornicky, and Zeke Spruill or another lower level pitching prospect for Greinke and bite the bullet after the season and hope that he can be re-signed for a somewhat team-friendly contract after having time to realize he will like it here.

Now we're finding out that Arizona is serious about being willing to listen to offers for Justin Upton. Upton's struggled a bit early this season, but is an elite level talent, and is signed through 2015 with $38.5 million due from 2013-2015. That number averages out to less of a commitment per season than Chipper's current contract. While he's not going to be a realistic "replacement" for Michael Bourn in CF if he proves to be too expensive to re-sign following this year, he would be an awfully good fit moving forward because he's capable of easily replacing Chipper's production in the middle of the order, and would allow Martin Prado to move to 3B for good if he's retained. One of Arizona's rumored wish list pieces is a top of the rotation SP as part of the package. This may finally be the time to turn that "currency" (Wren's own word) the organization has stockpiled - young, controllable high ceiling SPs - into a serious offensive threat. Build a package around Julio Teheran (and include Matt Diaz to clear a little salary) and see if you can pry Upton away. Doing so would likely mean you have to part ways with Bourn following this season, but Upton's the type of player you would do that for. With Andrelton Simmons out for 4-6 weeks, I'd also ask if they'd include Willie Bloomquist in the deal and upgrade the pieces involved where needed. Bloomquist is a very good super-utility type guy who can handle SS, and he's under control through next season for less than $2 million.

Those moves would leave you with the following roster for a postseason run...

CF- Bourn
3B- Prado
RF- Heyward
2B- Uggla
C- McCann
LF- Upton
1B- Freeman
SS- Bloomquist (until Simmons returns)   

Bench- Ross, Chipper, Hinske, Francisco, Wilson
SP- Greinke
SP- Hudson
SP- Hanson
SP- Jurrjens
SP- Sheets

Prado moves around between 3B, LF, 2B, and 1B the rest of the season to allow Chipper to continue to get plenty of ABs as well as allowing everyone to stay fresher as the season drags on. Then he can settle in at 3B next season or the team could choose to allow him to walk and spend his dollars on a CF replacement for Bourn and go with Francisco there. When Simmons returns, Wilson can be released.

That is exactly the type of roster that could send Chipper out on top one more time.


  1. aside from Tehran who is going out? I've heard that the D-Backs want a 3B/ major league ready players. Also would the Braves be willing to give Grienke an Jered Weaver type contract?

  2. All signs thus far point to a willingness on the organization's part to do what it takes to re-sign Greinke if they're able to land him. I don't think anyone (including Greinke) knows what that will take at the moment, but the rumblings that they're prepared to tap into next season's budget to acquire pieces leading up to this year's deadline would certainly lend creedence to that.

    As for what else would need to be packaged in a deal for Upton, that remains to be seen. Buster Olney speculated earlier today that one such package could be built around Martin Prado and prospects. This would seem plausible on the surface since Arizona's known to be looking for a long-term answer at 3B. However, I'm a litle skeptical that Prado will be moved in any deal at this point. He arguably deserved a spot on the All-Star team last night, and is probably the team's Co-MVP along with Bourn. There's very little available 3B talent on the free-agent market this winter, so you'd be creating a hole there while filling one in LF. In any case, I'd imagine that if Arizona was interested in Prado as part of the package, Wren wouldn't be willing to include Teheran - he could conceivably be turned into an inexpensive 3B if the organization isn't inclined to give Juan Francisco a shot at replacing Chipper next season.

  3. Would Garza be a better fit? He would be under contract for at least year and a halfand a possible extension would be less money than what it would take for Grienke. I think the prospects would probably be the same going out.

  4. It doesn't seem that there's nearly the same interest in Garza as in Greinke. For someone with Garza's pure stuff, his results often seem to fall short of his promise. Greinke's shown that he's a true "ace" while Garza profiles as more of an above average # 2 or # 3 in a good rotation. The Braves already have 2 of those in Hudson and Hanson. Hanson still has time to develop into that type of horse, and Beachy was on his way before his injury. Greinke is the type of guy that you can feel good about running out there against the Kershaws, Halladays, Lees, Hamelses, etc.. It seems the others are the type you think could give you a chance against those guys if things go right for you, but Greinke gives you a different confidence - that he can match those guys inning after inning until you can scratch out a run.

    Make no mistake, whoever gets Garza from the Cubs is going to get a good Pitcher, but my take is that the Braves feel that they've got guys in Hudson, Hanson, and Beachy that are already at that level and that they feel that Teheran and Delgado may very well turn out to be that good.

    Garza's been known to be available for quite awhile, and I'd think that Wren would've already gone to get him if the organization believed he could truly be a difference maker.

  5. I don't know about that last part. While I concede that might be part of the issue it may have also been a problem of the price isn't right yet. I think the bench mark for trades like that would be the Ubaldo Jiminez trade of a year ago. I have a feeling Wren would jump on a trade if it involved only Delgado as the main pitching piece with other prospects going out. That said I don't know if it's enough to get Theo to bit