Results tagged ‘ Trades ’

Cards, Wainwright dealt bad hand

Wainwright2.jpgPitchers and catchers were joined by position players, which meant the next step in the progression toward the 2011 season was to play some Spring Training games. You can put a big check mark by that one as well. Spring is in full swing.

There is a sense of renewal in the air, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve already heard the phrase, “Hope springs eternal.” Somewhere, there are even long-suffering Chicago Cubs fans saying, “This is the year.”

Now that baseball is back, it’s fun to get caught up in the excitement of the teams in uniform and taking the field with all their new pieces for the first time this year. However, there is a flip-side to that coin. Injury.

The St. Louis Cardinals found out first hand when ace right-hander and perennial Cy Young contender Adam Wainwright was lost for the season after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. It was the latest in a string of events and stories that haven’t exactly instilled confidence in Red Birds camp.  

With the fallout from tabling their very public contract negotiations with superstar first baseman Albert Pujols still echoing around camp, the injury to Wainwright only serves to further dampen the Cardinals spirits. While there’s never a good time, no club wants to have to address a major injury before the season even begins. And there is no way around the fact that this one, quite literally, hurts.

Wainwright will undergo Tommy John surgery on Monday and miss 12 to 18 months, wiping him from the Cardinals rotation for at least one full season. The righty went 20-11 with a 2.42 ERA in 2010, striking out 213 hitters over 230 1/3 innings of work. It was the second year in a row that Wainwright threw as many innings, leading the senior circuit with 233 in 2009. Durability didn’t even begin to speak for Wainwright’s value, but it was certainly a large part of it.

Thousands upon thousands of words have been spilled in newspapers, internet reports, blogs, sports radio, television, and all forms of social media in an attempt to underscore Wainwright’s importance to the Cardinals’ playoff hopes. His loss will place pressure on veteran co-ace Chris Carpenter and 24-year-old lefty Jaime Garcia to carry their load and then some.

The loss of Wainwright will also send the Cardinals scrambling for some sort of replacement, whether internal or via trade. It will be no easy task. Wainwright was the best pitcher not named Roy Halladay in the National League last season. 

No word yet on what exactly Cardinals GM John Mozeliak has planned, but he will do everything in his power to offset the loss and allow St. Louis to contend in what should be a very competitive NL Central race. With the exception of the Pirates, the rest of the division either supplemented their 2010 success with a few new cogs or completely rebuilt their roster with major additions.

The Cardinals added some power in Lance Berkman, but that was done in mind of solidifying the middle of the order and helping put runs on the board for the likes of Wainwright, Carpenter et al. Now the rotation will be reliant on Carpenter and Garcia to anchor the front end, while Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse will have to step forward and do a little bit more than simply eat innings and keep the club in the game.

Trade rumors have persisted regarding highly touted center fielder Colby Rasmus, who has not exactly meshed with manager Tony LaRussa. The jury is still out on Rasmus’ path to possible superstardom, but it’s hard to imagine the Cardinals selling low on a young impact bat simply to plug a hole in the rotation. A panic move won’t fix this problem. No overly exciting names are dangling on the free agent market and the trade market is often difficult to project.

Still, Mozeliak will need to get creative. The time is now for the Cardinals to set the tone for the franchise this decade. In more ways than one.

 

The Breakup: Baseball Style

Michael Young.jpg

The discord currently brewing behind the scenes between the Texas Rangers and their All-Star third baseman Michael Young could very well prove to be one of the more fascinating offseason storylines.

One thing is for sure, the sordid details may not remain behind the scenes for much longer. Strong words from Young were reported late Monday.
According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, Young made some very direct remarks to clear up any public misconception regarding the linking of his name to trade rumors. I’ll get to those in a moment.

Essentially, the dispute stems from the Rangers assuring Young
that they were not seeking to trade him, while reports continued to
persist that the team was still actively shopping him. Those reports did not sit well with Young. 

This situation is clearly not some simple “change of heart” that was reported earlier in the day, leading Young to kindly request a trade. That could not be further from the truth according to Rangers infielder:

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“I’ve
kept a low profile out of respect for the team, the coaching staff, my family and the fans because I didn’t want to put anybody on an unnecessary roller-coaster,” Young said in a brief phone conversation. “Now, I think it’s important to address the inaccurate portrayal that is being painted. The suggestion that I’ve simply had a change of heart and asked for a trade is a manipulation of the truth.”

“I want to be traded because I’ve been misled and manipulated and I’m sick of it.”

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Those are words that absolutely no front office wants to have linked to their handling of players, particularly veterans who have been with a club almost long enough to gain those all too valuable 10-5 rights. Once those kick in, Young can veto any trade that Texas may agree to. Young may have declined to give specific details on the rift, but his days in Texas are no doubt numbered. To be expected, Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels had a markedly different take:

Snip 1.png

“It’s not our first choice,” Daniels said. “Our first choice is to continue
with our offseason plan and continue with Michael playing a pivotal role. He’s had a change of heart about that role. If we can accommodate his request and upgrade the club, we’d like to do that.”

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Relationships between players and management can be bumpy in some cases, but this is the biggest verbal barb that I’ve heard a player slinging in the general direction of his current employer. Still, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that there have been more epic rifts and much worse things said behind closed doors. However, this particular situation has spilled over into the public forum, and I’m hard pressed to say that it isn’t at least partly justified.

While the Rangers are coming off their first trip to the World Series in franchise history, there is no question that they would like nothing more than to find their way back in 2011 and bring home the trophy this time around. It was to that end that they set about attempting to secure Cliff Lee to a very lucrative and long term contract this winter.

When that didn’t work, it turned out that Plan B was to allow aging designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero to seek his fortunes elsewhere and bring one of the best available hitters on the free agent market into the fray. 

Unfortunately for Young, this is where things started to head south. The Rangers signed third baseman Adrian Beltre to a monster contract (six-years, $96 million) on January 5. It was on that day that you could consider my mind, much like Young’s, to be completely boggled.

Young has been a good soldier for the Rangers for the better part of a decade. He has previously changed positions not once but twice in order to accommodate the Rangers’ desire to add new faces to their infield. Coming off his first Gold Glove Award at any position in 2008, he wasn’t too pleased about having to shift from shortstop to third base
when Texas requested he do so. It turns out that the third time he was asked to move may have been strike three for Rangers management.

If the Rangers feel there are better ways to spend the $48 million remaining in the final three years of Young’s contract, they would probably be correct in that
assumption, given that he is now a
man without a position. They still contend that the plan to use Young as a designated hitter and super utility infielder should not be seen by the player as a downgrade. To make matters more complicated for the Rangers, suitable options for a replacement DH are now somewhat limited after Guerrero signed with the Baltimore Orioles.

Coming into his age 34 season, several reports on this situation have attempted to gauge what Young’s value would be. One of the factors for potential trade suitors to consider is how he would perform outside of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. His home/road splits point to the rather obvious fact that, like most Rangers hitters, Arlington has been very, very good to Young. Over the course of his career, Young’s work on the road (.279/.322/.411)
has been decent, but nothing compared to his line at home (.322/.372/.487).

There were plenty of reports linking the Rangers and Colorado Rockies in discussion involving a possible trade in December. The two sides may rekindle their earlier dialogue, but obstacles persist. Though Coors Field would help offset Young’s move away from hitter-friendly Arlington, the price would have to be
right for both sides.

The Rangers will have to offset the money owed to Young thanks to their now acrimonious relationship to make any deal work. In fairness, they would probably have had to do that before the falling out, but their current rift can’t be particularly good for leverage in trade talks. Colorado, or any interested team, may have to supply the Rangers with a suitable designated hitter.

Young can block trades to all but eight teams, but If I had to guess, I’d put the Dodgers and Padres in the mix with the Rockies. There doesn’t seem to be one clear front runner.  

 

Here we go again…

Ankiel_Farnsworth_470_264.jpgGreetings out there in Braves Nation. It has been quite some time since last I wrote. By the looks of it, somebody was paying attention when I mused giving the sometimes maligned and occasionally productive Willy Taveras a job in the organization. I knew if I left that entry up long enough, it would elicit a response.

Perhaps, we’d be better suited taking a look at the recent Trade Deadline movement.

The Braves have roared back to the top of the National League East this year. There was that little speed bump early, but now the team is primed to make a run in October for the first time since 2005.

While much has changed since that last playoff appearance, some things are eerily the same. Remember when Atlanta was making deadline deals that season? I do.

It’s funny how the Braves were busy trying to bolster their bullpen some five years later and were thinking along those same lines. Kyle Farnsworth has been productive for the Royals this season. His power arm won’t be expected to close games this time around, but should fit in nicely with the current mix to bridge the gap to Billy Wagner.

Atlanta also added outfielder Rick Ankiel in that trade with Kansas City. The jury is still out on what exactly Ankiel can bring over the course of a full season, but the Braves will seek to get every thing they can out of him in 2010.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the price was particularly steep, but what I did find somewhat curious in the deal was the inclusion of left-handed reliever Tim Collins. Atlanta acquired Collins from the Toronto Blue Jays as part of the Yunel Escobar trade, but his stay in the organization proved to be brief.

Collins, just 5-foot-7, has very impressive strikeout numbers that come thanks to a wicked curveball. While he was named the Blue Jays Organizational Pitcher of the Year by MLB.com following last season, there are some who believe his eventual role in the majors would likely be that of lefty specialist.

After watching him pitch in the Florida State League last year, I have to say that there is just something special about the little lefty. His path to the Big Leagues should only improve with a move to the Royals organization. Seeing as Wagner was slight of stature and big on stuff, Collins could be a success story in the same vein down the road.

Parting ways with both Gregor Blanco and Jesse Chavez shouldn’t impact the Braves whatsoever. If anything, adding a pair of more experienced players simply gives Bobby Cox more pieces to work with in his final campaign at the helm for the Braves. Depth is key.

QUICK HITS: Second baseman Martin Prado will try to avoid the disabled list after suffering a fractured pinky while sliding into home during the 10th inning of Friday’s victory over the Reds. Atlanta can ill afford to lose the NL hits leader (138) and the team leader in runs scored (75). A decision will likely be made on Monday as to whether or not he will land on the 15-day DL… Hand injuries have been a common theme this season, but rookie standout Jason Heyward has bounced back nicely from the ailing left thumb that slowed him down prior to the All-Star Break. The right fielder is hitting .349/.453/.460 in 16 games since the break. He even threw in a steal of home last week against Washington to remind everyone just how impressive the soon-to-be 21-year-old truly is. 

Till next time,

G-Mc

Let the Hot Stove season begin…

With the New York Yankees crowned as baseball’s champion for the 27th
time, it marks the end of the 2009 campaign. Some clubs saw their
postseason aspirations dashed long ago and their attention turned to
the building process by midsummer, but now all 30 clubs will be on the
market to add to the mix for next year and beyond.

The activity
will have its usual highs and lows, but as always there will be plenty
to talk about. Special focus here will be given to the National League
of course, where the Atlanta Braves will look to build on a solid ’09
season by finding the missing pieces to the puzzle.

There is
little doubt in my mind that this past winter and regular season will
be one that represents a turning point for the franchise. John Smoltz,Tom Glavine and Jeff Francoeur were among the departed, while Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez and Tommy Hanson helped bolster the club’s playoff chances in their first season in Atlanta.

General Manager Frank Wren
has a working list of Atlanta’s needs, one that he will compare when
working the phones and meeting with other team executives as well as
when scouring the free agent market.

First moves of the winter…

As
free agents officially file and the offseason begins, the Braves have
already taken a couple of steps toward the upcoming season. And it all
starts where else, but in the pitching department.

tim_hudson.jpgThe Braves are expected to announce a three-year contract extension with veteran right-hander Tim Hudson at some point in the near future.

Mark Bowman of MLB.com reported that Hudson has passed his physical in his most recent blog entry (which you can read here),
paving the way for deal to be made official. Contract terms are
expected to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-years and $27
million.

Hudson, 34, bounced back from Tommy John surgery to make seven starts
for the Braves in September and October, going 2-1 with a 3.61 ERA in
42 1/3 innings of work. Following the return of Hudson, righty Kenshin Kawakami was bumped from the rotation to the bullpen.

Extending
Hudson adds to the team’s core strength, which is once again starting
pitching. It also adds the flexibility of dangling a top-end starter on
the trade market, where the Braves could find a possible match that
would bring the team a much needed corner outfield power bat.

Atlanta also signed recently released righty reliever Scott Proctor,
formerly of the Florida Marlins, to a minor league deal with an
invitation to spring training that will allow him to compete for a
bullpen job. Proctor, 32, was placed on the disabled list in spring
training and was sidelined with Tommy John surgery in May.

Originally
a 5th round selection by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1998 amatuer
draft, Proctor was dealt to the New York Yankees along with Bubba Crosby in exchange for Robin Ventura
on July 31, 2003. He found his way back to the Dodgers exactly four
years to the day later, heading to L.A. as former Brave Wilson Betemit was shipped to the Bronx in 2007.

The
righty proved to be very durable in the 2006 and 2007 seasons, hurling
83 games in each campaign with ERA’s of 3.52 and 3.65 respectively. Arm
troubles began while with the Dodgers in 2008 and culminated with arm
surgery last season.

Hot Stove Coverage
 
Developing
stories and analysis will continue all winter, with the Braves
offseason shopping list coming soon. In the meantime, be sure to check
out MLBTradeRumors.com for all the latest news and rumors from all over baseball.

Till next time,

G-Mc
 

Winter Meetings: Day 3

If you haven’t heard ad nauseum that CC Sabathia agreed to a 7-year $161 million contract with the New York Yankees today, then you just haven’t been paying attention. The good folks at ESPN have had everyone but Steven A. Smith (thank God) weigh in on Sabathia’s decision and the fact that the New York Yankees successfully outbid every team… including themselves.

Quite frankly (to steal it from Steven A.), this should come as a suprise to absolutely no one. After sitting on a 6-year deal worth a reported $140 Million, it took a trip to the Sabathia home by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman (if there was ever a more appropriately named GM) to get the deal done. And now we have the first premier signing of the winter, setting the bar rather high for starters and sending other teams scurrying to secure their prize acqisitions. Speaking of which…

Braves attempting to top market for Burnett…

This has been our lead topic since the Jake Peavy talks took a turn toward Chicago’s Northside and hasn’t veered South again. Honestly, if the Yankees can outbid themself for a pitcher, then I can certainly argue with myself over whether or not the Braves should be letting this A.J. Burnett bidding hit astronomical numbers. With all the rumors swirling around, there is a chance that the report is exagerated – as Mark Bowman pointed out. in contrast to the Fox Sports report that had Atlanta offering $80 million guaranteed over the next five seasons.

For the sake of my argument and the content of this blog, let’s say the Braves are offering Burnett a 5-year $80 million contract. No, it’s not Sabatha money – which trumps Santana money, which trumped Zito money, which trumped Hampton money – but we are still talking about the same pitcher who has been in the majors for parts of 10 seasons now and has won more than 12 games on exactly one occassion… last season’s 18.

Injuries sapped his performance in 2006 and 2007, limiting him to 21 and 25 starts respectively. While his numbers from a year ago (18-10, 4.07 ERA, 231 K) in a career high 34 starts are for the most part impressive, the idea of signing a guy who has shown such a history of injury to a five year contract at age 32 (in January) just doesn’t thrill me. In fact, it doesn’t even make me excited to about next year, because all I think about is what Atlanta was going through last season. Injuries. And so, am I to assume that to fix a rash of injuries that one is to go out and sign one of the more injury-plagued talents in the game?

When the Yankees and Red Sox began expressing serious interest and serious dollar amounts, the Braves may have found themselves on a slippery slope with an off-season checklist that still lacks that ace pitcher. The Yankees can afford to miss with Burnett and not feel the financial effects, but Atlanta is in a rather different boat. They paid $40 million for 9 wins from Carl Pavano and large sumes for Jarret Wright, Kevin Brown, Kei Igawa and others who never produced to expectation.

And as soon as I finished this entry, the Yankees went and did this

Maybe Atlanta should concentrate on another target and allow themselves the financial flexibility of persuing other options both this winter and down the road. The Braves may have to find themselves getting more and more creative when it comes to reloading and competing. The days of spending the big money on free agents, and the days of Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz are both things of the past. But, on the other hand, I will say that a deal for Peavy would have been the best scenario to fill the needs.

Smoltz just got really popular on the rumor mill…

Smoltz_boston.jpgAll of a sudden, the name John Smoltz started appearing on the boards everywhere. I noticed the initial post that Ken Rosenthal put up on Tuesday, citing if the Braves are yet to offer a contract then what is to stop other teams from taking a chance on the 41-year old righty? Essentially, I guess there’s nothing to stop it. Next thing you know, Peter Gammons is reporting that Smoltz’s medical records and recent throwing session videos are being handed around to interested teams and the Red Sox are among those to recieve them. then Rosenthal is back at it with a source telling him the Braves are prepared to lose Smoltz if it comes to that.

Bobby Cox was absolutely thrilled with the way Smoltz looked last week in his first throwing session. “I’ve never seen John so fired up about something in my life,” said Cox. “He loves
challenges, and he’s got a big one ahead of him. But what I saw for the
very first time out off the mound was incredibly good.”

He even remarked that Smoltz is planning to pitch at least two more seasons during his scheduled press conference in Las Vegas. That was news to me, but one thing at a time I guess. So Bobby must have really seen everything he could have ever hoped for from John, who threw his entire assortment of pitches for the first time since undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery in June. The Braves would love to have him back, but at a rate that would allow them to maintain budget and give Smoltz a chance to earn bonuses based on performance.

This story will probably develop rather slowly, but I’d be somewhat shocked to see Smoltz trotting out to the mound at Fenway Park or anywhere else for that matter. And come on people, Smoltz pondering the Mets?! Really? I doubt that very seriously.

Wednesday’s top rumors and done deals:

  • CC Sabathia ended weeks of speculation by signing a 7-year $161 million deal that includes an opt-out clause after three seasons with the New York Yankees.
  • Mets add J.J. Putz to their bullpen in a three-team 12-player trade that involved New York, Seattle and Cleveland. New York parted with Aaron Heilman in the deal. Putz will be the set-up man for Francisco Rodriguez, who signed a 3-year deal with New York Tuesday.
  • The Tigers traded for Tampa Bay starter Edwin Jackson, giving up prospect Matt Joyce.
  • Scott Boras updated the status of several of Mark Teixeira, stating that Tex has received long-term contract offers. Washington and Boston are believed to be the two top contenders for his services, and the contract could be for up to 10-years and exceed $200 million.
  • Baltimore agreed to terms with shortstop Cesar Izturis on a 2-year $6 million contract.

Till next time,

G-Mc

Winter Meetings: Day 2

Here are the most interesting tidbits of Braves news today. There was no major move, but plenty of speculation that Atlanta would be among the major movers at the meetings. With Day 3 still ahead and the race for free-agent pitcher A.J. Burnett heating up, the Braves have plenty of work still ahead of them in Sin City.

Zack Greinke for Jeff Francoeur? Not so fast…

Francoeur_take_a_seat.jpgIf you thought there might be renewed life to the previous rumor that a Greinke-Francoeur trade may have been discussed between Frank Wren and Kansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore, you can essentially disregard that line of thinking. ESPN’s Steve Phillips plays the role of rumor killer. A reprised story surfaced this morning, courtesy of the Boston Globe’s Tony Massarotti, but never showed up on the radar of any Braves scribe. The post also said that this deal was contingent on what the Braves are able to accomplish in regards to signing Burnett. So please note that this rumor was apparently just that and/or the product of idle hands – which as we know are the devil’s workshop.

Francoeur, 24, saw his career came off the tracks somewhat last season. Batting average (.239), homers (11) and RBI’s (71) were all down significantly from his previous two seasons. Even a trip back to the minors did little to bring things back around.

Greinke, 24, went 13-10 with a 3.47 ERA in 202.1 innings of work last season, striking out 183 hitters in his 32 starts. It makes sense from the standpoint of young players, but the Royals have put a significant amount of time and devotion into Greinke’s career, which was plagued by inconsistency and breifly saw him sidelined with an anxiety disorder. His potential is unquestioned though, and it appears Greinke is staking his claim as one of the best young hurlers in the game. He looks so good in fact, that Dayton Moore personally debunked the rumor later in the afternoon.

Outfielder from the Cardinals

Ken Rosenthal certainly stays busy over at Fox Sports, chipping in a new spin on an old topic. The Braves and Cardinals had previously been rumored to be working a deal, with the post popular version involving Kelly Johnson (or perhaps Yunel Escobar) heading to St. Louis for Ryan Ludwick. While that one never came to pass, the Cardinals made moves to solidify their infield for next season, trading for Khalil Greene and retaining the services of second baseman Adam Kennedy.

The lastest buzz according to Rosenthal involved a potential swap of Rick Ankiel for Mike Gonzalez and, secondarily, Joe Mather for Blaine Boyer. The Cardinals are seeking bullpen help and opted not to bring closer Jason Isringhausen back (at least not yet), so Gonzalez makes sense for them. However, these deals don’t seem to merit a great amount of discussion (again, at least not yet).

Top rumors and done deals for Tuesday

  • Francisco Rodriguez signs 3-year worth at least $37 MM deal to close games for the New York Mets.
  • Kerry Wood is close to a 2-year to join the Cleveland Indians bullpen. The deal likely contains an option for a third year.
  • Baltimore Orioles trade catcher Ramon Hernandez and cash for super utility man Ryan Freel and two prospects.
  • Third baseman Casey Blake resigned with the L.A. Dodgers for 3-years and $17.1 MM.
  • The Philadelphia Phillies extended the contract of manager Charlie Manuel through 2011.
  • Infielder Mike Lamb re-signed with the Milwaukee Brewers, agreeing to a 1-year deal.

Till next time,

G-Mc

Winter Meetings: Day 1

The Winter Meetings are usually the time where there is much to report,
but Day 1 has not seen anything major. You know it’s a slow news day
when the biggest signing of the day may be Mark Loretta inking a $1.4 million deal with the Dodgers, or Adam Everett heading to Detroit for $1 million. The most substantial trade? Well, that involved Gerald Laird
heading to Detroit. There was more news talking about where people were
not going, than deals getting done. Then again, it’s only Day 1.

Frank Wren headed to Las Vegas with one piece of the puzzle already having been acquired, with the Javier Vazquez
last week. While that does leave quite a few other things on the list,
it allows the Braves to turn their focus to acquiring the ace starter
they’ve been searching for in A.J. Burnett. Should the Braves be able to broker that deal in Vegas, then it would mark a new chapter for the team.

And
as we all know, when one door closes, another door opens. With that
said, Monday marked the official retirement of four-time Cy Young
winner Greg Maddux. We may never see another pitcher who racks
up the number of wins (355) as Maddux finishes with. And while his
style was not one of sheer power pitching dominance, his control was
unbelievable and his ability to carve up a line-up was always a
pleasure to watch. If you needed nine innings, Maddux could get you
there in two hours and less than a hundred pitches. He was that good,
and then some.

Speaking of Hall of Fame bound right-handers, the Braves were encouraged by what they saw in a recent throwing session from John Smoltz. In fact, it was so good that Braves manager Bobby Cox could hardly contain his excitement when talking to the the AJC’s David O’Brien:

“Oh, he’ll be back — no doubt in mind,” Cox said after he and pitching
coach Roger McDowell watched the 41-year-old pitcher throw off a mound
for the first time since career-threatening shoulder surgery in June.
“Roger was impressed, and John’s on cloud nine. No pain at all. None.
Zero pain. Man, he’s way ahead of schedule.”

The
fact that Smoltz is on the mend and throwing without pain fits in
nicely with a time table that should have him ready to go this spring.
An offer certainly seems forthcoming if Smoltz has sold everyone that
his comeback is actually not a comeback at all, but just another
chapter in a storied career. A healthy Smoltz would be another piece of
the rotation solved.

While 300-game winner Tom Glavine is
taking slower steps, having just undergone his surgery in mid-August
(as compared to Smoltz’ June procedures), and is now throwing from flat
ground to begin his road back. Glavine’s season was a disappointment
for both the lefty and the Braves, with just two wins in 13 starts. A
decision for Glavine will likely come after the new year, but the
Braves certainly won’t be extending the $8 million offer they handed
him last season.

Stay tuned, Day 2 of the Winter Meetings is just a few hours away…

Till next time,

G-Mc

Not so long ago, in a division not so far away…

Peavy_wars.jpg

The San Diego Padres’ attempts to trade their ace pitcher to some
lucky team this winter has turned into a sprawling saga that seems to
make for sequel story, after sequel story, after – you guessed it –
sequel story. So I have decided to make this particular period in the
storyline that dark middle chapter that every great trilogy makes use
of. Call it whatever you like, but I prefer to craft it after my
favorite portion of another great trilogy. I’m guessing you already see
the theme here.

For the sake of the theatrics, here’s a plot synopsis to catch you up:

Episode 1: A New Hope

Really,
I’m not stretching here. Synopsis: The announcement that the Padres
intend to trade Jake Peavy ignited hopes that Atlanta would be able to
add an ace to the front of a rebuilt rotation next season. The length
of contract and a price tag relative or better than any comparable
pitcher that has hit the market made Peavy a sought after commodity for
any number of clubs. The plot twisted and turned a bit, showing who the
players in the Peavy Sweepstakes are before leaving a cliff-hanger
ending that saw the Padres unable to find a trading partner and the
Braves publicly calling off the hunt. It brings us to where we are
today.

Episode 2: The Padres Strike Back

I
quietly wondered if Peavy’s no-trade clause was going to be an issue that
would ever come bubbling to the surface of these trade talks, but eventually was able to come up with a rationale
that goes something like this: If the Braves are seeking Peavy, then they know
full well he has a no-trade clause and will thereby be assuming the
responsibility of their first talent to have such a clause. If they
want his services bad enough then Atlanta will end up granting this
contractual caveat.

Then Padres GM Kevin Towers brought us back to reality with this little nugget of joy courtesy of Tom Krasovic and The San Diego Union-Tribune:

“Atlanta has a club policy that’s been in place that no one will have
full no-trade protection,” he said. “I don’t see them bending the rules
for Jake. At this point in time, that’s not going to happen unless Jake
changes his position on that.”

Krasovic
further opined what we have heard from sources close to Peavy, that he
would prefer a trade to the Chicago Cubs because they seem more ready
to compete. That runs in direct conflict with the rumblings that
Atlanta is the attractive destination, since it is closer to his
Alabama roots. The Orioles are now mentioned as the illusive third team
needed to broker any deal between the Padres and Cubs, but the finances
may not be there after Ryan Dempster signed his 4-year deal. If there
is anything that seems clear to me, it’s that the Padres are determined
to trade Peavy, but the manner in which they accomplish it seems to be
far from orthodox. It strikes me as odd that Towers is kicking this stone up the street again, and mentioning the Braves on a semi-regular basis. We still have the exciting conclusion to look
forward to, and I can’t even begin to figure out where this story will end and where this pitcher will land, but I can tell you it will not be on the forrest moon of Endor.

In other, non-Peavy news…

There are some less whimsical things going on in Braves country,
including losing out on Mike Hampton’s services for next season. This move is hardly an intergalactic bombshell (but I guess nothing in this entry really is), because no one was mentioning his name as one of the major moves that would solidify this rotation. Hampton was seldom there over the past three seasons, but the Braves saw
enough of him from the end of July through September to get the idea that he could be a steady back of the rotation starter. The $2
million deal (with another $2 million worth of incentives)
was reportedly less than what the Braves offered the lefty. And just
like that, Atlanta can strike through Hampton’s name (in a different way
this time) on their list for 2009.

As a pledge to you, my readers, there will not be another Jake Peavy inspired blog until there is something substantial to report. So tune in for the epic finale… some day.

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