November 2008

What’s the price tag for Teixeira?

I’m going to make a departure from talking about the quest for the holy rotation, and take a moment to look at a free agent race the Braves will not be taking part in. That would be the courting of premier first baseman Mark Teixeira.

There have been a few rumors, but nothing really to report in the way of offers just yet. With plenty of time left, and the Winter Meetings still a couple of weeks away, the teams that are serious about signing Teixeira are going to have pony up some serious cash for a long term commitment. 

It’s been reported
that Miguel Cabrera‘s 8-year $153 million contract is thought to the jumping off point for any offers submitted for Teixeira’s services. It seems logical to me. Teixeira’s physical conditioning and gold glove defense add two aspects that are not present in Cabrera’s list of attributes. Statistically, Cabrera holds the edge in career batting average, at .309 to Teixeira’s .290. Otherwise Teixeira has the lead in both homers (203 to 175) and RBI (676 to 650). The two players are practically identical in OBP (Cabrera leads .381 to .378) and dead even in slugging (.541). For those wondering, Teixeira has played in 24 more games, so this statistical analysis is pretty spot on.

The biggest difference (on paper anyway) in the two players is Cabrera being three years younger than the 28-year old Teixeira. While an eight year deal is likely to see Teixeira give what should be the prime years of his career for the club that signs him, it is worth noting that he has already turned down an 8-year $140+ million extension from the Texas Rangers. That prompted the trade that brought him to Atlanta in July of 2007.

tex_fist_pump.jpgAtlanta GM Frank Wren stated that the Braves made Teixeira and agent Scott Boras an offer that would have given the first baseman a salary that was among “the highest in baseball.” It seems pretty clear after the trade with the Angels that it was likely the length of contract where the two sides could not come together. No one knows exactly what that means, but I’d project that any deal with the Braves was probably worth about $19 million per season. Not exactly underwhelming in and of itself, but there may be a team out there willing to pay more. If knowing that the previous offer was an eight-year pact, would the Braves go shorter in duration? We may never know.

What I do know is that the Braves traded a considerable bundle of talent to the Texas Rangers, a team which has gotten markedly better rather quickly. They may even trade what was once the center piece of the deal, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, this off-season. They have plenty of depth at catcher. Anyway you look at it, the Rangers made off much better than just receiving compensation picks in next years draft. Shortstop Elvis Andrus hit .295 with 54 stolen bases at AA, while starter Matt Harrison went 9-3 with a 5.49 ERA in 15 starts for the Rangers.

This is the point I would usually stop because I’ve seen enough, but there were two more prospects in that deal. Perhaps the brightest spot for Texas will be righty Neftali Feliz, who won 10 games at two stops and struck out 153 batters in 127.1 innings. More sickening? He surrendered just three homers in doing so. Lefty Beau Jones looks destined as a career in relief, but his low to mid-90s fastball and plus curveball show it could become a nice piece of the puzzle in Arlington within the few years.

One of these days, I am going to stop laying out the merits of this deal in hindsight. It was a risk/reward deal from the beginning, and the Braves gave themselves at least two shots to win with Teixeira. It didn’t work out. Not all trades do.

Getting back to the subject at hand, the race to sign Teixeira looks to have at least five possibilities that we know of. The Angels, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Washington Nationals – as of yesterday, and perhaps the Baltimore Orioles. Rest assured though, we all know that the words “hometown discount” will not be factoring in to any deal for the last two teams on that list. And the word “discount” will not be making an appearance in any deal Teixeira ends up signing… in case you were wondering… which you shouldn’t be at this point.

It’s hard to handicap the sweepstakes in my view. I could see Boston. I could see a return to the Angels. Then the Nationals had to go and make me wonder. One place I don’t see being Teixeira’s plans is the Bronx. He just doesn’t strike me as a New York kind of guy. Then again, a teary-eyed Jason Giambi didn’t when the Yankees bounced Oakland out of the post-season in 2001. I reserve the right to be wrong.

Ok, I’ll say that Mark Teixeira is a member of the Boston Red Sox.

Merry Christmas Red Sox Nation.

Till Next time,

G-Mc

Damn Yankees? You bet…

I certainly won’t be the only scribe writing on behalf of a club that will be hard pressed to sign a premier front of the rotation starter, because the New York Yankees are throwing more than their allowance out there to build a strong squad for that new stadium you may have read about.

We’ve seen the Jake Peavy saga cool off considerably, with the Braves publicly stated that they will being “moving on” to fill their needs. At least for the time being. Numerous reports have shown that the Yankees are going to be setting the bar quite high when it comes to Grade-A starters. Take their reported offer to CC Sabathia for example – 6-years and $140 million. How do you think the Milwaukee Brewers feel about that? Not so great, but this is nothing new when it comes to the Yankee way.

Maybe the folks in Wisconsin haven’t been affected directly by the Yankees persuing their free agents, but you can rest assured that all of baseball has felt the effects of big money Bronx deals. You can chalk the Braves up for one tough off-season when it comes to bringing in their new starting pitchers.

sheffyankees.jpgThe Braves have lost free agent players to the Yankees in the past five years, including Gary Sheffield, Jarrett Wright and Kyle Farnsworth. This year, they will be competing for what looks to be A.J Burnett and Derek Lowe. Reports have right-hander Ryan Dempster heading back to the Chicago Cubs for a 4-year $52 million deal. If you do the math between the Sabathia offer and the Dempster deal, you are starting to get a pretty good idea what the years and the money on Burnett will be. Throw in the fact that he can openly shop that 4-year $54 million deal that Toronto had on the table. It boils down to the simple fact that every agent has to love: If you can get the Yankees involved then you can make your client a rich(er) man.

Never to be outbid, even when they are bidding solely against themselves, the Yankees have taken to the offensive and are preparing an offer that rests somewhere around 5-years and $80 million for Burnett’s services. When reading that the Steinbrenner boys plan to follow in their father’s footsteps of setting the bar rather high when it comes to player contracts, it became apparent that not only were the Yanks going to be players in the free-agent market but that they may well end up owning several of the shiniest pieces this off-season.

baberuth.jpgThe Yankees have taken this route for years, signing free-agents to big deals, rewarding their stars with big deals, trading the farm and taking on big contracts of stars that other clubs seek to unload. Maybe all this started when they purchased Babe Ruth? None of this necessarily should make them the real life pirates of baseball (all apologies to the Pittsburgh franchise). The city and the organization simply likes to win and they have the money to make happen more quickly that every other team in baseball. Put those two things together and it always leads to interesting storylines and sometimes whimsical back-and-forth fun. It also serves to make them easily hateable for many. Hard economic times or not, the Yankees are going to be spending aplenty this winter.

So what does all this mean for Atlanta?

Having somewhat put the lid on the Peavy discussions (believe that if you like), the Braves will have the tough task of assigning a value to their future and signing one of these star pitchers. I’m starting to think that if Dempster signs with the Cubs, Sabathia and Burnett sign with the Yankees, and Lowe opts to go back to Boston (for example), the Braves will have to get creative via trade or start kicking the tires on Ben Sheets.

It could play out the way I just outlined. Or it could turn back around, leading the Braves and Padres back to the table to complete that long-running trade rumor, and Burnett or Lowe to different pastures. Atlanta could end up finding an entirely different trading partner to boost the rotation with. That’s the fun of the the off-season.

Who’s ready for those Winter Meetings?

Till next time,

G-Mc

Deal or no deal?

Sheez. Somebody had to jump the gun and announce the trade was in the final stages and go and have all of us thinking we would have a big day to blog about. Scott Miller of CBS Sportsline wrote a blog last night that had the Padres approaching Peavy to waive his no-trade clause and accept a deal to the Atlanta Braves. Based upon the fact that absolutely no one else was reporting it, and no one I knew had mentioned the trade being a done deal, I knew that it might just be getting our hopes up.

I’m just ready to see this thing happen… because I’m impatient, if nothing else.

Look, the deal may happen yet, and I have a feeling we will see the Braves coming away with their ace when it’s all said and done. Miller’s piece had the Braves giving up the long rumored package of Yunel Escobar, Gorkys Hernandez, either Charlie Morton or Jo-Jo Reyes and perhaps a fourth player. The new information was that righty reliever Blaine Boyer or one or two minor league left-handers (Jeff Locke among them) were on the table as well.

So where did all this rumor about catcher Tyler Flowers being in the deal come from?

Ah, thank you Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports and RotoWorld for coming to my rescue. When I thought all was lost. Here’s the rumor on Flowers.

The excitement of the Arizona Fall League has been in full force when it comes to the performance of two Braves prospects. Tommy Hanson, who has been wowing anybody who sees him pitch, and the heavy-hitting Flowers. The latter of these two is a relative new comer on the radar for many Braves fans, but I’m here to tell you that he has some serious power.

Last spring, I watched Flowers put on his batting practice displays that wowed every single teammate. Literally, heads turned as Flowers deposited baseballs into the far reaches of every spring training facility he visited. Braves beat writer Mark Bowman recorded the great first impression Flowers made on Braves manager Bobby Cox in just his first big league camp.

All that said, I’m happy with the framework rumored to be going in this deal. It’s not nearly as prospect laden as the Mark Teixeira deal and could net the Braves one of the best starting pitchers in baseball for as long as five years. You see, that was my fundamental problem with the Teixeira trade two seasons ago. There was no security that Atlanta would be able to retain Tex beyond 2008. And sure enough, a king’s ransom was paid for the eventual acquisition of Casey Kotchman.

This Peavy deal is a long term commitment to winning that I believe, among other things, will attract other free agent pitchers to the Braves based on the fact they are attempting to build a contender. One central theme of any trades the Braves make will be, does it make our team better in the long term (there’s that phrase again)? If the answer is yes, expect to see the deal happen. If the answer is now, then expect the Braves to pursue pitchers in the free agent market to check those off-season needs off the list. 

Losing a shortstop like Escobar is bittersweet, but I think the Braves have scouted and developed enough players in their day to weigh the pros and cons of letting the young Cuban infielder go in favor of the 2007 Cy Young Award winner. Atlanta has to give in order to get, and this package centered around Escobar seems to be far and away better than anything the Chicago Cubs have managed to muster on their own. Throwing in too many other prospects would take Atlanta right back to the Teixeira trap though, so Wren is going to be cautious not to go overboard just to make a deal happen.

If this trade goes down, Atlanta will then turn its attention to signing at least one more top of the rotation arm from a list that is headlined by A.J. Burnett, Derek Lowe and Ryan Dempster. Of the three, Burnett provides the impact arm that would combine with Peavy to give the Braves a dynamic1-2 punch that is built for the post-season. He’ll probably cost at least $17 million a year too.

The fun doesn’t stop there, as shortstop would be in need of an upgrade following the potential Peavy deal. Free agents Rafael Furcal and Edgar Renteria have both spent time in Atlanta and make a certain amount of sense. Furcal’s tools are far better than Renteria’s at this stage of the game, but Renteria has shown himself to be a better all around performer in the NL. There will also be a major cost differential between the two as well. Of course, that’s not a foregone conclusion by any means. The Braves could seek a trade or go after a completely different shortstop altogether.

Once the first piece falls, it will allow the Braves to start making other moves. Now we wait to see if Peavy is the first piece or if the free-agent market will produce the opening transaction of the off-season.

Till next time,

G-Mc
 

And now for the best Braves deals…

When last we left off, we were looking at some of my least favorite trades from the past 20 years or so. There’s going to be one deal that goes a year outside my little bubble, but it’s not my fault that I keep getting older but this trade looks better seemingly every season. Heck, it might be one of the best trades in baseball history.

We’ve seen the dealing of Jermaine Dye, Adam Wainwright and a boatload of young talents for Mark Teixeira, but now let’s take a good look at some of the deftest maneuvers the Braves have pulled in the trading game. Here are my top 5 favorite Braves trades of the last 20 years:

5. Tony Castillo & Joe Roa to the New York Mets for Alejandro Pena

Pena_Final.jpgThis is the kind of trade that every team looking for bullpen help in late August wishes they could pull off. Pena’s veteran presence was inserted into a bullpen that was in dire need of a stopper, and boy did it work. Pena responded by stabilizing the late innings in September and continuing to slam the door in October. Going 2-0 with 11 saves in 15 games, Pena’s presence helped the Braves stave off the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the first 14-consecutive Division titles. He made a good enough impression to be brough back to share in the joy of the Braves World Series victory in 1995.

4. Jimmy Kremers & Keith Morrison to the Montreal Expos for Otis Nixon & Boi Rodriguez

Nixon_Final.jpgI still miss the days of Otis Nixon and Deion Sanders seemingly running amok at the top of the Braves line-up. The Nixon trade was a superb deal in the spring of ’91 for Atlanta, giving them to have a true lead-off hitter and allowing Bobby Cox to move Ron Gant and his 30 homers into the middle of the order. Kremers never played in the majors again after his 29 game stint with Atlanta in 1990, but Nixon set a franchise single season steals record and was an important part of the Braves success in the early 90s. Then there was the matter of a certain catch during the pennant drive in 1992. Ask Andy Van Slyke if he remembers hat one.

Watch the catch for yourself by Clicking Here

3. Dan Meyer, Charles Thomas & Juan Cruz to the Oakland Athletics for Tim Hudson

Hudson_Final.jpgI remember seeing this trade scroll across the bottom line during Sportscenter and wondering just how John Schuerholz pulled it off. The Braves acquire one of Oakland’s famed Big Three aces, and gave away a flash in the pan outfielder, a middle reliever and a solid pitching prospect. None of the three were serious pieces of Atlanta’s future and it still boggles the mind to think that Oakland would trade a pitcher the ilk of Hudson for that package. Consequently, none of the three figured in Oakland’s plans either. Meyer was waived this winter after struggling to make good on his promise. The A’s dealt Cruz away, but poor Chuck Thomas turned back into a pumpkin and has not appeared in the Bigs since batting .109 in 30 games in 2005.

2. Melvin Nieves, Vince Moore & Donnie Elliot to the San Diego Padres for Fred McGriff

McGriff_Final.jpgWant to know how the Braves held off the San Francisco in an exciting down the wire pennant race in 1993? Well you can thank the San Diego Padres donation of Fred McGriff as the chief reason Atlanta caught fire and grabbed their third straight NL West crown. McGriff served as a part of the 1995 World Series winners and always provided the clean-up bat for four seasons in a Braves uniform. This trade was a big part of the Padres fire sale, that still to this day comes up whenever a team puts two or more stars the trading block. Too bad the trade of Mark Teixeira did not bring the same kind of return for Atlanta, because the price was much more than San Diego acquired for McGriff.

1. Doyle Alexander to the Detroit Tigers for John Smoltz

Doyle_Alexander.jpgThe trade that perhaps started it all. Well this trade and some excellent scouting and drafting I’d say. I pull this trade into the 20 year mark despite its 1987 deal date because Bobby Cox was the general manager who pulled it off. In other words, it’s a trade that helped build the core of the team. It netted a future Hall of Famer and gave the Detroit Tigers a boost since Alexander kicked into full gear after his trade (9-0, 1.53 ERA in 11 starts). Too bad the boost ended with Alexander getting shelled in his two post-season assignments (0-2, 10.00 ERA). Smoltz has become more than the Braves could have ever expected, and the foundation of the team for the better part of two decades.

Well those are my favorite deals, at least the last 20 years… or so.

Till next time,

G-Mc

I’ll trade you, but no take-backs!

As those that have followed the Braves rise to the top and subsequent slide back to the middle of the pack over the past two decades, one would notice that many of the key acquisitions during this time have come via the trade. It is a part of baseball that garners anticipation, excitement and sometimes disappointment for an organization and its fans.

I thought it would be fun to look at some of my favorite Braves trades, and some of my not-so-favorites, because we may have some trading fun to talk about here in the near future. I always like to hear the bad news first, so I can enjoy the good news a littler more… or at least temper my expectations. Here goes:

Top 5 Least Favorite Braves Trades:

10_player_trade.png5. Ryan Klesko, Bret Boone & Jason Shiell  to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Reggie Sanders, Quilvio Veras & Wally Joyner

Sanders was utterly terrible in his one season with the Braves while Veras tore an ACL and never appeared in the majors again after Atlanta. Despite there being no way to know these things would happen, Klesko, just 28 at the time, was a part of three World Series team and a product of the system. Boone had been the big off-season acquisition just one season earlier, so why trade these central pieces coming off a World Series appearance?

4. Jermaine Dye & Jamie Walker to the Kansas City Royals for Michael Tucker & Keith Lockhart

Here’s one where you can just say,”what if?” What if the Braves had held on to Jermaine Dye? Would he be the same player he became in Kansas City after some struggles? He’d more than likely have contributed at least as much as Tucker (the 10th overall pick in the ’92 draft) did in his two season with Atlanta. Lockhart proved to have the most staying power, lasting six seasons as a chief reserve and pinch-hitter. Hardly an even up swap for Dye and his 286 homers since 1997.

3. Adam Wainwright and Ray King to the St. Louis Cardinals for J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero

This is one reason the Braves find themselves looking for two front-line starting pitchers this off-season. J.D. Drew has moved on to greener pastures twice since having a career year for Atlanta in 2004. And I’m just going to say it now, Drew was not the second coming of Mickey Mantle. All Wainwright has done is prove the scouts that signed him right, developing into a staff ace by the age of 25. Too bad he doing so for the St. Louis Cardinals.

2. David Justice and Marquis Grissom to the Cleveland Indians for Kenny Lofton and Alan Embree

This is the ultimate in head-shakers. I couldn’t fathom the logic as a teenager and I still struggle to find anyone who would do this deal. Granted, Lofton was the ultimate lead-off hitter in 1997 and not the rent-a-player of the past seven or eight years, but still. Justice, who’s homer gave the Braves their lone World Series title of the 90s, was coming off an injury-plagued season but was still a potent middle of the order threat. Grissom was a consummate professional and still, in my opinion, every bit the center fielder Lofton ever was… and then some. To make matters worse, all three men would be playing in the same outfield in 1998… when Lofton signed a free-agent contract with Cleveland. Ouch. Atlanta did get 86 appearances out of Embree though. Heck of a silver lining.

1. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, Beau Jones and Neftali Feliz to the Texas Rangers for Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay

We have not even seen this trade bear fruit for the Texas Rangers, but it may be the deal that just keeps on getting worse for Atlanta. Teixeira was dealt away for Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek almost a year to the day later. Would you do that prospect buffet deal for Kotchman? Me neither. Of all the deals I’ve covered here, this is a trade that simply should have never been made. Teixeira turned down an 8-year $140 million extension from the Rangers and I would have to say that common sense logic would dictate the Braves would have to pony-up even more to keep him. Mahay bounced to Kansas City for a richer deal than the Braves wanted to give him, so the Braves really came out of this deal having seriously depleted their rich farm system for a calender year of Teixeira and 30 appearances from a 36-year old left-hander.

In Closing…

Boras.jpgThe Braves may not have known that Teixeira had already turned down that extension, but this trade was unable to push Atlanta in the play-offs. Maybe it was just all the poor luck of injuries this season that forced Frank Wren‘s hand when it came to trading Teixeira. Maybe it was Scott Boras and his hope of a $200 million pay-day for his client that forced the deal. If it underscores anything, it is that there are no promises in the game in this day and age. Even a player who spent his college years in Atlanta wants what he has coming. That’s why Boras claims a nice finder’s fee for that big contract Tex has coming.

So who is ready for a big trade this off-season?

Up next, my Top-5 Favorite Braves trades of the past 20 years.

Till then,

G-Mc