ESPN.com – MLB – Braves: Goodbye to Maddux, Sheffield, Lopez
The old guy, Julio Franco. None of the other free agents were tendered, so the Vinny Era is over. And the Boom-Boom Era. And the Shane Reynolds Era, but we already knew that. So it’s not all bad.
The two free agents we might miss from the low-profile players were Matt Franco and Kent Mercker. It sure looks like the Braves are committing to LaRoche at first base, but we’ll see. The Darrens Holmes and Bragg will also go elsewhere.
Since I ended up looking like a big doof last year when I declared the Braves dead because of the Glavine and Millwood defections, I’ll hold my fire on declaring the Maddux, Sheffield, and Javy departures as disastarous.
That said, you’ve got, what, $30M walking out the door there? If the Bravos don’t do something smart with that money (and not “invesit in municipal bonds” smart), I will be watching a hell of a lot of Indians games this summer.
This looks like it could be a watershed year for the Braves dynasty.
The club has always been able to keep players it wanted to keep. This year, two hall of fame players with plenty of life left are departing with no compensation.
I have never been a big fan of paying large dollars for other teams’ free agents. Often you are paying big dollars for the down hill side of a career. I’m truly afraid that we are going to get a couple of names (Mientky, Karros, Zeile, Travis Lee, etc.) so the Brass can claim that we are still trying to put a winner on the field. But that would be a loosing proposition.
Or worse trading youth for mediocre “established veterans” like Jacques Jones.
Unfortunately, of late the Braves have done a very poor job of trolling the freely available talent pool. Little Sarge? A lifetime 5th outfielder isn’t exactly what I’d like to replace Sheffield. C.J. Nitkoswki? Used to have a fun website, but that’s been gone as long as his potential.
I’m rambling. Long story short: I don’t believe the Braves are in the financial difficulty that they are claiming; I don’t believe they wanted to keep Maddux at any cost; I don’t believe they will wisely invest the savings from Maddux, Sheffield, Lopez, and Castilla. I don’t want to be doom and gloom, but (1) the bullpen is one fragile arm and a bunch of question marks, (2) the starting rotation has two inning eaters but no excellence, (3) the only guarenteed offense is Chipper. Is this the year the run ends?
Let’s go one by one here:
I don’t believe the Braves are in the financial difficulty that they are claiming
Then why would they behave this way? Letting popular players go will hurt attendance and depress TV ratings costing them money. Putting a poorer team on the field will hurt attendance and depress ad rates, costing them money. If the team gets bad enough, they miss the playoffs and lose all the post season revenue. It makes no sense for a company to sacrifice all this money unless the old way of doing business isn’t working either.
I don’t believe they wanted to keep Maddux at any cost
This one your right about. And may I add, Thank God.
I don’t believe they will wisely invest the savings from Maddux, Sheffield, Lopez, and Castilla.
All four of these players will be worse next season then they were this season, but will be paid for this season’s numbers and therefore overpaid. I don’t know what they will do with the money, but overpaying for veterans on the downward slope of their career is the very definition of a bad investment.
(3) the only guarenteed offense is Chipper
Your first two bullet points are basically correct but this is just silly. Did Marcus Giles get hit by a bus? And I know Andrew is frustrating but he was third in EQA of NL centerfielders.
Pardon my frustration this morning, I’m a USC grad.
Hey, it could be worse. This could be Hawks Journal.
Like Robert said, don’t forget Marcus Giles, who was awfully good last year and likely will be better this year than Chipper, Sheffield, or Javy. (Vinny, of course, sucks, so who cares about losing him?)
The loss of Maddux is painful, but probably wise. I just hope they adequately replace him with Millwood or someone else. The Phillies arbitration offer worries me; Boras might just accept it. Maybe after that the Phillies will trade him back to us.
I’ll reiterate; the current arbitration/compensation/free agency rules are dumb, and need to be changed. I don’t think anyone ever thought arbitration would become a detriment to teams retaining their best players in free agency.
I’m not forgetting Marcus Giles. I am a huge fan.
His .390 OBA in 2003 was higher than he had in the minors since 1999 at Single A. His .526 SLG this year was higher than he had in the minors since 1998 in Low A.
For his career in AAA, he has a 874 OPS. And in AA, its 861. Most players loose about 10% moving from the majors to the minors. If he has the talent / drive / whatever to post a 825ish major league OPS, that makes him a very good hitting 2B. But that doesn’t make him a cornerstone for an offense. And even if he has no slippage from AA/AAA, he is not close to the offensive force that Chipper or Sheffield is.
I’m also not forgetting Andruw. He is a good hitter for a CF. But not a great offensive performer. He was 53rd in MLB in OPS last year, 53rd in Runs Created, and 71st in RC/game.
Is it good to loose Maddux? I guess it depends on the cost. I wouldn’t sign him to a $14.75m deal either. But since the Braves never once discussed resigning him, we will never know what it would have taken. He has been with the team for 11 years, has never negotiated in the media, has never been involved in scandal, and has been the best Atlanta Braves pitcher ever. Even last year, while soundly thrashed by fans on various web boards, Maddux was the best Braves starter according to Baseball Prospectus’ Support Neutral rankings. I can’t believe that Schuerholz couldn’t have at least sat down with him and seen if there was something that could be worked out. If Maddux was making a 3 year $40m demand, fine let him go. But according to all press coverage, JS never once even started the negotiating process.
As to why the Braves would claim financial difficulty that isn’t real … well that has been the driving force behind the last decade of the Selig reign for MLB. And remember, according to Forbes, the most profitable franchises most years are not those that have been competing but rather those that have run cheap payrolls and have gotten a big chunk of revenue sharing.
Letting Javy go was the only decision to make. He won’t have another year like this again, he’ll be mucho expensive, and we have a replacement in Estrada.
Letting Sheff go had to be done. Yeah, I think he can be good for a while yet, but he obviously doesn’t want to be in Atlanta and a disgruntled Sheff would be a very bad thing. Shoulda offered him arbitration to get the pick, but c’est la vie.
It pains me to see Maddux gone (I wanted to hear Skip yell “and there’s number 300!”), but no decent deal was there to be made. He woulda taken arbitration again and stayed at $14-15 million. I think the Braves would have signed him off the open market over San Diego and whoever, but like Mac notes, the system is set up to discourage that. Bad system, bad.
If, out of all of that money we are now saving, we can sign a Vlad, a Millwood, or, alternatively a number of less-expensive but useful dudes, I think we’ll be fine. If we decide the future is now and plug in Wainwright or whoever into the rotation and call Marte up over the summer, well, at least that’s progress in rebuilding, albeit premature rebuilding. If we basically stand pat everywhere and try to add overpaid dudes like Jacque Jones, Doug Misprint, and this year’s version of Shane Reynolds, it’ll be a long summer.
Yeah, what they said. We all know this lack of action is saving the club mucho dollars of payroll. last year, they said they were gonna lower payroll but didn’t really do it. This year it is already done, effectively. no way we go out and sign 30 million dollars worth of players now. But if they can use some of that to reinvest in some key guys, we certainly have a good shot.
Think of our competition too — the Marlins obviously earned some favorite status, but they will now be without Derek Lee and Pudge, at least. That’s attrition I see as more severe than us losing Maddux and Sheff.
Look, I know we all love Giles. But a mid-range power guy who’s had one full year in the majors is hard to pencil in as your No. 3 hitter (which is where I’d assume he’d go right now).
I know he had a good minor league track record, but there’s nothing to say he doesn’t take a 2001 Hidalgo or 2003 Adam Dunn step backward after breaking out this year.
Other than that, I’d agree it’s time to see what the kids can do. They need to bring in one more good hitter for the middle of the order, but it wouldn’t break my heart to see a 75-85 win season this year if it means LaRoche, Wainwright and Marte are going to get quality playing time soon.
If they can sign Hidalgo or Reggie Sanders to play right until Francoeur gets a year in the high minors and maybe a Chris Stynes type for third, that would be nice. One-year deals max, of course.
No, not Chris Stynes!
Hidalgo (whom they’d have to trade for) seems to be the best chance for a good RF in 2004. I’m not that high on Francouer, but the Braves have a lot of hitters in A-ball and lower, and I figure one of them will make it and could be up in 2005 or 06.
About Marcus… Maybe we should be worried about his on-base skills, a little, but I think he’ll be in the high 300s. And the power spike is, to my mind, pretty normal for a 25-year-old with about a year’s worth of experience, maybe a little early. He might even improve if some of those doubles turn into homers.
Last year, Marcus’ best comp (by similarity score) for his age was Scott Spiezio. Now, it’s Odell Hale, who was a great player until he got hurt. Among recent players, the highest is Mike Sweeney! More realistically (because I don’t think we can expect a second baseman who hits like Mike Sweeney) you see names like Bret Boone, Jose Vidro, and Jeff Kent. Going back a little, Ken Boyer and Jim Gilliam. I think he can be as good as those guys — and those are/were really good players, the guys just outside the Hall of Fame level.
Offering arbitration to Sheffield had no downside. You either get picks or you get a great player for one year. And, hell, if you’re absolutely unwilling to pay on the off chance he accepts, you can trade him for Johnny Estrada’s cousin or cut him and only be on the hook for ~$2MM.
Maddux likely would have agreed to decline an arbitration offer in order to keep the negotiating window open, if only Atlanta had shown any desire to keep him. Not even making an overture after eleven years and with him on the verge of 300 wins is unacceptable.
For years, I haven’t been able to stand this management team and only stuck around because the players I’d become attached to in my youth were still around. At least now I can finally cut the cord.
Chipper, Andruw and Marcus, I hope you all have great years while the likes of Paul Byrd lead you down the toilet.
San Diego, here I come.
Yeah, I’m no big Stynes fan, either. He didn’t hit much last year even for a Colorado Rockie and I understand he’s a real horse’s ass as a person (even worse than Sheffield, from what I understand).
But I was thinking in terms of a someone as a one-year, pre-Marte stopgap. More likely, DeRosa and Betemit get first crack at splitting the third base job in 2004.
“You hear these days about the (lack of) loyalty among players, guys moving to different teams all these years. You know what? I was a guy who wanted to stay, and the opportunity was not even put in front of me to make that choice. They don’t know what I would have accepted”
This was from Rich Aurilla, ex-Giants SS. But it could very well be from quite a number of players, including several Braves I wish we had at least made an effort at retaining.
The FA market is getting flooded with 6+ year players not offered arbitration. I expect more of the same when the non-tendered list of arbitration eligible 2-5 year tenure players comes out soon. Charlie Finley had a good financial idea three decades ago – make every player a FA every year. But from the standpoint of a fan who enjoys a large degree of stability, this is a mess.
I don’t blindly root for the uniform; I root for the performers. That doesn’t mean that I picked up the Mets as a fan when Glavine went North. But wholesale changes are rarely a good thing. Next year’s Braves will bear little resemblance to the club of 2003 that I enjoyed so much.
If baseball really does want to be like the NFL, this is a good start.
Dan, as you may know, Marvin Miller was the one who came up with six-year free agency. He realized that a limited number of free agents every winter would push salaries up (basic supply/demand theory). But it finally looks like the owners have figured out a way to combat that, albeit 30 years too late in their case.
I don’t like to see teams turn over every year, but I’d much rather see that than easily replaceable guys like Vinny Castilla get multi-year contracts.
As someone above wrote, the Roaring 90s era of astronomical baseball salaries appears to be over, at least everywhere but in New York. Mainstream journalism is hardly catching on, however. You still see columnists bitching about Alex Rodriguez’s salary or the Yankees’ payroll, rather than the fact that relatively wealthy franchises like the Braves and Giants have had 50 percent roster turnover the past two years and remained competitive.
I remember a lot of the same things being said when Millwood and Glavine were let go last year. We gave up more than we got back (in Ortiz and Hampton) and look which players/team was better. Millwood pitched a no-hitter, but ended up with a worse record/ERA than Maddux.
Our main competition in the East, Florida, just lost the main reason they won the World Series. One thing we can count on next year is another Division title with the likes of the Phillies, Expos, Marlins and Mets making a lot of the same bonehead decisions. The Mets took a budding SS and moved him to a position he has never played, which in turn took a 2nd baseman and makes him play a position he has never played.
I still like our chances, although the Cubs may have just bought themsleves the World series with the moves they made.
I still like our chances, although the Cubs may have just bought themsleves the World series with the moves they made.
But fortunatley they are still the Cubs and therefore have no shot.
I agree that the Braves are still in good position to be a force in the NL. It all depends on who they use their savings on and whether they can get a few rookies to step up. They haven’t lost a single players who was a good bet to be better next year than they were this year. The market is flooded with players who can help this team to yet another post season. With plenty of money to play with, it’s all about picking the right players.
I don’t blindly root for the uniform; I root for the performers.
Then you must be pretty unhappy with today’s sports. I watch just about every game, every year so I don’t mind some new blood. There is only so many times I can watch Chipper play an out into a double, or Millwood hang yet another 0-2 curveball, or Maddux have a fit on the mound after not getting the call on a ball six inches outside. Next!
Then you must be pretty unhappy with today’s sports.
I’ve never been quite so presumptuous as to imply that a fellow fan’s enjoyment of sports is feigned.
I’ve been following the Braves for decades, both when they’ve been great and when they were horrible. I’ve truly enjoyed winning, loosing, the triumphs and the failures, the years of rebuilding and the years of floundering. I take pleasure in the simple parts of the contests and the contestants rather than merely in the final outcome. But maybe I was wrong for taking my rooting interests the way I like?
I guess I should apologize for having enjoyed watching Chipper, from the time he was first drafted with such great promise, through the disasterous broken leg and the struggling first season, his growth into a superstar and now his quietly workmanlike excellence. Sorry.
Or maybe I should regret having enjoyed 11 years of the best pitcher who has ever worn the Atlanta Braves uni. Pinpoint control establishing mind over muscle while again and yet again showing this to be the greatest game because of the mind games between hitter and pitcher distilled down into that second long toss from 60’6″. Mea cupla, mea culpa.
Look, I don’t mind some turnover in personnel. Much as the sepia toned pieces of George Will or Ken Burns may mislead, there never was a time when men were men and players spent their entire career with one club. If Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron can wander around the league, it doesn’t cause the game to crash down if Greg Maddux does the same.
And yet I can’t stand the NFL in part because by the time I get to know a team, it isn’t together anymore. Parity is one thing; parody is what the NFL has become.
The Braves are being broken up not because the players aren’t still good – Sheffield certainly, Maddux probably, and Lopez likely will all be quality performers for at least the year to come. Nor are these players being sent off in trades to develop the next championship Atlanta club – refusing arbitration offers intentionally shortchanges the Farm. No, to me it seems that these moves are made to increase the bottom line at AOL/TW. A new management team has come in and is stamping its own version of mediocrity on the club.
Is it doom and gloom? Not necessarily. There is still a solid core of talent here. But when I see a team that falls short, loses Sheffield and then talks about Jacques Jones as a replacement and gives up on Maddux while relying on Paul Byrd to take up the slack? Well, I am not optimistic.
I’ve never been quite so presumptuous as to imply that a fellow fan’s enjoyment of sports is feigned.
I’m not sure I understand what this is supposed to mean, but if what I wrote offended you, I apologize. We live in an era where even good teams turn over 50% of their roster in the off season. You stated you root for the player not the uniform, so it seemed like an obvious conclusion that you would be unhappy with the state of sports today.
I would submit that today’s rampant player movement hurts baseball more than any other sport because over the course of a 162 game, slow paced season you feel like you get to know “your guys” more than in other sports. So when they leave, it hurts a little more. Fans get attached to players over the course of a long season, and when the league does this annual musical chairs act, it’s hard for the casual fan to keep up. Personally, I know I can’t talk to my dad about baseball anymore because he has just quit trying to keep up. When we try to have a discussion it’s just a series of “Oh, he’s with them now?” exchanges. Football’s season is short and the players careers are so short anyway, I don’t think it hurts them as much. You only expect a guy to last a few years anyway. Anything beyond that is a bonus. As always the standards for baseball are higher than other sports, and that’s probably a good thing.
Sorry for the ramble.
refusing arbitration offers intentionally shortchanges the Farm
Maybe, maybe not. One thing it did last year is made us trade Kevin Millwood for Johnny “don’t call me Poncho” Estrada. Could you imagine who we would have had to dump if all 3 of those guys would have taken arbitration if offered?
How about Andruw Jones for Toe Nash and Russ Ortiz for Brien Taylor? Maybe we could trade Johnny Estrada back to the Phillies in exchange for Tim McCarver. That would be the horrible result of offering those guys arbitration. Maybe offer it to one or two, but all 3. You know Maddux would take it in a heartbeat and so would Lopez. He’s not worth as much as Pudge, and Pudge can’t get $10 million/year for leading (yes, that ugly word leading) a team to a World Series win.
Call me naive, Bob, but in absolutely no way do I believe Maddux agreeing to arbitration forced the Braves to dump Millwood. The Hampton & Byrd additions were booked out by the club at ~$13m for 2003. Previous decisions to give significant deals to Castilla and over market deals to Smoltz and Lopez had a more deliterious affect on the bottom line than Maddux. For that matter, if the 2002 Forbes figures are accurate and even without giving a real world value to the self-negotiated TV deal with TBS, the Braves could still have been profitable even keeping Millwood.
The “you know Maddux would take it in a heartbeat” comment to me is telling of something completely forgotten: this is a long time superstar who wants to play for the Braves. Shouldn’t we as fans honor and applaud that loyalty? He has turned down more money to come to the club and never willingly went through free agency to maximize his salary. And how does the club reward him? By not even making an offer or opening any negotiations. Like I said earlier, I wouldn’t break the bank for him, but a two year deal along the lines of what Smoltz ($10m) or Hampton ($8m) are would not have hamstrung the team and would have returned good value in exchange. Would he take that? Who knows. But we know we didn’t even try.
And Rodriguez “leading” the Marlins to the World Series? I’d say the leader was Jack McKeon. If you want the guy on the field most responsible, I’d go with Josh Beckett. Best offensive performer for the year? Derreck Lee or Mike Lowell. Emotional sparkplug? I could make a good argument for Dontrelle Willis. And with all that, from the published reports I’ve read, Rodriguez’s sticking point with Florida was his demand for 4 years, not his demand for $10m.
I wouldn’t offer Lopez a long term deal. At his age and with his track record from 2000-02, I think he is risky. But one year deal that he would have gotten through arbitration would have been a pretty good risk. Having studied both the arbitration process and many of the individual arbitrators, I think any more than a 25% raise from the NAV of his last contract would have been unlikely. And I would be willing to sign him to a 1 year $8.125m deal in a heartbeat.
Oops. Hit post before I meant to. Sorry.
Anyway, the third big name who wasn’t offered arbitration, Gary Sheffield, was a no-brainer. It has been common knowledge that he has a deal with the Yankees. By offering arbitration, the Braves would have gotten a first round draft pick. Those picks are valuable, even if the Schuerholz regiem hasn’t made good use of them. And is it a bad scenario to have to keep the 3rd place MVP finisher on a largely market driven one year deal? There simply is no excuse not to at least offer arbitration to Sheff. None.
I see your points, but I don’t believe you would agree with offering all 3 arbitration. Obviously, the team we had didn’t get them a World Series win. Yes, Lopez and Sheffield were the offensive leaders, but they both had career years, and would have handicapped the ability to get other players without trading someone they don’t really want to trade (ie Millwood).
The argument that Boras made about the Braves not losing money doesn’t seem possible considering the payroll went up and the attendance went down again this past year.
I am a bit surprised by the lack of arbitration offers by the Braves, but look at the market. There are a significant amount of players out there that can be had for significantly less than 2-3 years ago. They could be looking for another Hampton type deal, which they would like.
Dan, Maddux accepted arbitration on Dec. 19, 2002. Millwood was traded on Dec. 20. The Byrd and Hampton deals (which were consummated on Nov. 18 and Dec. 18, respectively) certainly played a part, but Maddux was the straw that broke the payroll’s back.
Hampton and Byrd (not to mention Ortiz) were brought in as insurance for losing Glavine and Maddux, but when Maddux suprisingly accepted arbitration and thus was guaranteed almost $15M for the next year, someone in the TW/AOL front office reportedly told Johnny S. to get the payroll under a certain level by the end of the calendar year. The easiest and most apparent way to slash enough payroll was to get rid of Millwood.
Now I’m not blaming Maddux for Millwood’s departure (I have in the past, but ultimately have realized that it was Schuerholz’s stupidity), but it was a matter of cause and effect. Schuerholz showed a lack of foresight by thinking Maddux would reject arbitration, and he panicked when Maddux called his bluff.
I don’t feel sorry for or trust the baseball owners at all, so don’t get me wrong here…
BUT maybe the Braves wouldn’t be able to justify cutting payroll if the fans would come out to the park like they do in other cities where the team is a perennial winner. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with this, but let’s face it – unless the Obey-a-tron gives the command to wave around some foam tomahawks or some redneck decides to start the wave with 2 guys on and 1 out in the 8th, Atlanta fans are *apathetic*.
We’re not the only city with fan problems but come on, how about at least selling out playoff games!!! As an ex-patriate southerner I must say it is a source of much embarrassment to watch NLCS games with entire sections of unsold seats in Atlanta, or even worse, a stadium full of visiting fans (hello, Chicago).
Just felt like flogging somebody besides Schuerholz for a minute.
Creg — I understand your point. I would argue over semantics. Maddux’s decision *caused* the Braves to trade Millwood. Maddux’s decision did not *force* the trade. First, I don’t buy the claims of poverty so I don’t believe the trade was forced at all. Second, even assuming it was necessary, decisions to pay mediocrities well above the cost of cheap replacements was much more of a factor than paying a star, star’s wages.