Where Do We Go From Here? 2013, Free Agency and Trades, Part 1 (by Ryan C)

Editor’s note: this is the first of three posts.

The Atlanta Braves won 96 games in 2013, a season in which the following things happened:

As amazing as it seems in retrospect, the Braves were a very successful team in 2013, but there are some obvious questions going into the offseason. In the following three articles, I will provide some ideas for trade targets and free agents signings for the offseason. (I refuse to address the need for an “ace” through trade as I’m terrified that the Braves will trade away too much and I’d be left to blame. Someone else can have at that.)

Of course, the Braves could easily do nothing more than move Alex Wood to the rotation, stick Dan Uggla back at 2nd, use Pastornicky, Pena, Schafer, Terdoslavich, and Laird as bench options, and promote three of Hale, Buchter, S. Simmons, Ian Thomas, or J.R. Graham to RP duties on the big club. But somehow I don’t think that’ll be their path. I believe they’ll make a trade that will impact the roster in a significant way. Who might that be? Glad you asked.

Laying the Foundation

Money: The Braves look to have about $82 million committed to 20 or so players, leaving the following positions available: Starting 2nd baseman, 1 Bench Player, 3 Pitchers (either 1 SP and 2 RP or 3 RP, depending how the Braves view Wood).

These are the players who I think they could potentially include in a deal.

Sell-high Candidates

  1. Craig Kimbrel: In a market that is about to go insane with cash flow, the most dominant closer in baseball could very well bring back a king’s ransom. Selling high on Kimbrel, right when he’s about to get really expensive would be very smart.
  2. Chris Johnson: With a .394 BABIP, we likely just saw the peak year of Mr. Johnson. His defense will always be a liability at 3rd base and his WAR will likely be much closer to 2 than 3 this upcoming season. Everyone knows that he’s likely to regress, but even so, his trade value will probably never be higher.
  3. Jordan Schafer: Jordan faded over the course of the season, but proved valuable when healthy. His .348 BABIP helped him have his most successful Major League year to date. He has three more years of control, and it might be possible to snooker a desperate team into thinking that he’s a center fielder.
  4. Gerald Laird: I don’t advocate trading Laird, but he was good in part-time play, even when pushed to third catcher duties. His salary might make him an attractive second-stringer for a catching-hungry team.
  5. Kris Medlen: Since coming off of Tommy John in 2012, Medlen has performed well above expectations. Our minor league system has a lot of starting pitching, which means that a pitcher like Medlen — an above-average starter who will be a free agent after 2015 — could be expendable. It’s the same situation as Brian McCann last year. He’s a good player who doesn’t cost much now, but will cost a lot soon.

Sell-low Candidates

  1. Dan Uggla: The dictionary definition of selling low. I’d trade Uggla to any team that will eat $5 million of his contract.
  2. B.J. Upton: Relative to his contract, B.J. was probably the worst regular in all of baseball. The Braves might have to eat $40 million to get rid of him. He’s not going anywhere.

Players I left off the list

  1. Anthony Varvaro: Seemed to fall out of favor last year and wasn’t trustworthy in close games.
  2. Tommy La Stella: He hasn’t played above AA. While I think he’ll be a candidate for the Opening Day job, he’s not even on the 40-man yet. He’s a lot like Gattis: we like him because of his AFL performance, but he’s older than top prospects and he’s had so little time in the upper minors that he doesn’t have much trade value.
  3. Tyler Pastornicky: With his gruesome injury last year, I’m not sure that it’s wise to keep him in the Braves’ 2014 Opening Day plans.
  4. David Hale: In swingman limbo. Depending upon the needs of the organization, Hale could be a long man in the pen or stretched out in AAA as starter.
  5. Paul Janish: A scrap heap, one-dimensional player that will return back to the Major/Minor league merry-go-round.
  6. Elliot Johnson: See Janish, Paul.
  7. Jonny Venters: Venters was re-upped by the Braves and the early prediction is April/May, an approximation which seems very unlikely. He went under the knife on May 16, 2013. Brian Wilson underwent a second Tommy John at the end of April, 2012 and was back pitching in the Majors 16 months later, late August of 2013. As a second Tommy John is less predictive than the recovery time of the first, it might be more realistic to hope Venters will be ready sometime in the second half of 2014. Even that might be pushing it. His money is calculated in the money mentioned earlier, however I’m reserving his roster spot for other relievers since we know for sure he won’t be on the 25-man Opening Day roster.
  8. Cristhian Martinez: Ol’ Lisp always seemed to be on the cusp of trustworthiness, having incredible long outings out of the pen where the starter crapped the bed the first few innings and it was his job to keep it close. Then, he’d earn some trust and quickly puke it up by having a string of poor outings. (See 4/12/11 & 4/13/11 as examples: in the first two of those, he combined for 7IP 4K 1BB 0R, and then he followed them by allowing run(s) in 6 of his next 7 appearances.) Shoulder surgery probably diminishes what little faith the organization had left in him.
  9. Joey Terdoslavich: Joey did himself no favors in his call-up. I could easily see him making the roster, but I could also see him starting in Gwinnett or being a throw-in on a deal.

Note on Brandon Beachy: I counted Beachy as one of the Braves’ starting pitchers, because the Braves are optimistic that Beachy will be fully healthy by Spring Training. But no one knows how Beachy will respond to his second elbow surgery, not even Beachy. He’s a dominant pitcher as long as he’s healthy, but that’s the caveat you have to attach to every pitcher. Fingers crossed.

62 thoughts on “Where Do We Go From Here? 2013, Free Agency and Trades, Part 1 (by Ryan C)”

  1. During this T’giving season, I’m very thankful for the chance to write an entry on Braves Journal. I’ve been following for over a decade and have wasted serious amounts of my life dreaming about roster construction. Therefore, it’s only appropriate that my first post be on that topic! Thanks again, Alex and the rest of the crew. Long live Braves Journal!

    Edit on the post: Alex, I didn’t mean for the Beachy part to be in “players left off the list” as I fully counted him in the 20 roster spots. Not necessarily a big deal, but just a note.

  2. Just a note re my comment about the comparisons of Mays and Cobb to A-Rod’s post-season-it was not intended to be anti-A-Rod and I do not have the seemingly pathological hatred of him that some do. I agree that his “choking” in the post-season has been exaggerated. I was more aiming at the idea that looking at players’ post-season numbers who have not been in the playoffs much doesn’t tell you much, positive or negative. Same would be true if Mays’ numbers were much better-see Aaron, Hank. As a matter of fact, you might expect the numbers to be worse for players that played in a lot of post-season games because they are seeing better pitchers/hitters. For example, people talk about how much worse Glavine and Maddux were in the post-season, but that seems to me partly a function of pitching so many games against better teams. And their numbers aren’t that bad anyway. If Bob Gibson or Sandy Koufax had pitched as many post-season games as the Braves-especially against teams that had seen them before-I bet their records would be worse.

    The point is, Mays and Cobb didn’t play in that many post-seasons-and they played in far fewer games than Arod-so comparing their numbers to his is not really valid to me.

  3. Remy (from the previous thread): Alou only got one at bat in the series(remember, the trade for Cepeda cost him the 1st base job). In Game 3, he lined out to short against Nolan Ryan in the 8th with 2 on 2 out and the Braves trailing 7-4.

    I was crushed, too.

  4. So after three straight lawyers and the most successful run of all pro sports unions, MLBPA is going with a retired ballplayer (Tony Clark, that really tall 1B who bounced around for like 10 years) as its new executive director.

    I don’t know anything about Mr. Clark’s particular off-field talents, but it seems like an abrupt shift for MLBPA. I’m really curious about this.

  5. I guess the Braves don’t really NEED George Kottaras, but I think he’d be better than Laird (at least from an OBP perspective) plus a few years younger. He’d be cheaper I believe, or at worst a wash cost-wise. And he hits lefty so could be platooned with Gattis. No idea why the Royals released him but would be worth a look.

  6. I can only imagine the Yankees in 1998: “I say, that Rivera is hitting arbitration and about to get expensive. Let’s trade him at peak value. Who needs to win now anyway?”

    Who’s supposed to close if Kimbrel (who’ll be subject to more fan mental masturbation in regards to being traded than Chipper-to-first-base) is traded? Venters coming off UCL reconstruction surgery? Walden? Please.

  7. Don’t trade BJ or even try

    His value has never been lower. They committed to him and he is moving to the area; trading him would be a Marlin’s move. With his brother on the team, his value to the Braves is higher than it is to any other team.

  8. Dan, we are not the 1998 Yankees. Don’t compare us to them.

    We’re also not the 2003 Marlins selling off our players.

    We’re the 2013 Braves with a budget, a roster with salaries, a different economic climate, and a different market in respects to how types of players are valued.

  9. @14 I thought trading BJ would be more like the Marlins trading Reyes.

    It would look bad and insult Justin. I would say that alone makes him five million a year more valuable to the Braves than to other teams. At this point, I wouldn’t risk mentioning his name because of the possibility of a leak.

    Uggla is a whole nother story.

  10. If someone offers you something spectacular for Kimbrel this winter, take it. If not, no biggie. Next year is the year he gets more expensive than a closer should ever be.

  11. @16
    I think someone will offer something spectacular for Kimbrel. I’m not sure if Wren has the cojones to say yes.

    Also, I hope this is the year that we hear rumors that Wren is listening on everyone, but not actively shopping anyone but Uggla.

  12. @19 That was updated last an hour ago. On Twitter a few minutes ago, DOB confirmed the deal, pending a physical.

  13. The article reflects that update even though the URL is unchanged –

    The Yankees are in agreement on a five-year, $85 million contract to sign free agent catcher Brian McCann, according to multiple reports, including CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman. There’s also a vesting option for a sixth year, that would make the contract worth $100 million.-

  14. Stupid contract, but at least he can be their DH also. He’ll hit 30-40 HR’s in that park.

    Really hard to swallow the fact that we have lost Prado, Hudson, Chipper, and McCann in what seems to be the last 12-14 months. It’s Heyward and Freeman’s team now. Hope they can step up and be leaders.

  15. I love you Mac, you deserve the contract, especially from the Yankees. Now you can start trying to keep the Yankees from making the playoff.

  16. 22 — I hope McCann continues to have a wonderful career, but that the Yankees go 0-162 for the next 6 years and beyond.

    McCann to the Yanks… ugh.

  17. Good luck McCann. Playing in NY is like nothing else. There's playing for the Yankees, then there's playing MLB, it's that much better.— Mark Wohlers (@MarkWohlers) November 23, 2013

    “Fuck off, Wohlers.”–every Braves fan who was around in 1996

  18. Mark Wohlers for the Yankees in 2001:

    35.2 IP
    4.54 ERA
    1.43 WHIP
    1-0 W/L
    Zero saves

    Postseason, pitched 2/3 of an ALCS inning against the Mariners, gave up 3 hits, a walk, and a homer.

    It’s that much better, Mark? Fuck you.

  19. Wohlers doesn’t hang that slider–> Braves go on to win Game 4–> Braves go on to win the World Series = Yankees lose World Series–> Yankees lose ALDS the next year–> Steinbrenner gets pissed off because in the last three years Yankees have two first-round losses and were uncompetitive in a World Series–> Steinbrenner fires Torre–> Yankees don’t have dynasty from 1998-2000.

    Damn it, Wohlers.

  20. Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman are basically the only two closers who remained healthy and effective for the same team for a long period of time, in the era of the modern closer. Others were either traded, or left as free agents, or got injured and were no longer effective. Elite closers rarely stay elite for more than 3 years.

  21. Much more will be written about him by others, but, for me, Brian McCann is the greatest catcher in Braves history. It is a shame that the Braves could not keep him. $100 million is a lot for a 30-year old catcher who has spent much of the last two years battling injuries and vision problems. It is a measure of his greatness that even with all of his problems and his advancing age, the Yankees were willing to give him $85 million and a no-trade clause without batting an eye. (Of course, it is also a measure of how few other great catchers there are in the majors.)

    When Mac would write up McCann, he would always point to McCann’s career stolen base rate: he’s 23 out of 31, a 74% success rate. Not bad for one of the slowest baserunners in the majors. Mac pointed it out as a sign of McCann’s superior baseball IQ. Another sign is McCann’s continual presence on lists of the best pitch framers in baseball. Those combined with his batting numbers, which always put him among the top three or four catchers in baseball even when he was injured. McCann is the classic coach’s kid, in the best sense: he knows the game inside and out.

    He’s going to a park that was built for the benefit of left-handed power hitters, which will serve to make him look even better. At the moment, it’s unclear who else will surround him in the lineup, as the Yankees try to decide how hotly to pursue Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson. McCann can’t solve their offensive woes by himself. But the Yankees truly, desperately needed a catcher, and Brian McCann was the best one money could buy.

    In my opinion, he’s been the best catcher in the history of the Braves franchise. You can incline towards Del Crandall, Javy Lopez, or Joe Torre (who also played some infield), and I wouldn’t blame you. But for my money, the hometown hero was the best of all of them. I’m sorry he wasn’t able to finish his career here like Chipper, but he got a great contract and he goes to a team that needs him.

    I wish him the best.

  22. @34 – respect.

    Brian McCann is one of my favorite players I’ve ever watched. I’ll always remember Game 2 of the 2005 NLDS, for which I was in the stadium when he took Clemens deep. I’m going to miss him a lot, but I wish him best of luck.

  23. Losing McCann and Hudson – two players that will be hard to replace, both on the field and from a leadership perspective. I have my doubts that Gattis can replace McCann as full time catcher.

  24. Best of luck to Mac. Love the kid, but that’s a lot of dough for the second half of Lance Parrish’s career. Don’t hold anything against him for it, though. I have a pretty strong rule that, barring child labor or sex trafficking, you should never hold getting paid for his work against a man.

  25. Much more will be written about him by others, but, for me, Brian McCann is the greatest catcher in Braves history.

    Brian McCann: 9 seasons, 23.5 WAR
    Javy Lopez: 15 seasons, 29.6 WAR

    Obviously, I suspect that if Mac had stayed in Atlanta even two more years he would have taken over the lead there, but he didn’t.

  26. @41 Sam, you’re actually underrating Mac relative to Javy… going off BRef’s WAR, Javy accrued 23.3 WAR over 12 seasons (4368 PA) with the Braves, while over the course of the last 9 seasons (4354 PA) McCann has been worth – wait for it – 23.5 WAR. If you prefer Fangraphs’ WAR, McCann has a substantial WAR lead over Javy during their respective Braves’ tenures, 29.4 to 26.3.

    Anyone know the terms of McCann’s sixth season vesting option?

  27. Javy Lopez won an NLCS MVP in 1996, hit a game-winning homer in Game 2 of the ’95 World Series, and destroyed Cincinnati and Colorado in the ’95 playoffs, including another game-winning homer against the former in the NLCS that year.

    Meanwhile, McCann had exactly one worthwhile postseason moment (homer off Roger Clemens), and it came in a series in which he sucked overall and the Braves lost. He apparently had a decent NLDS in 2010 (I remember he hit a game-tying homer in Game 4), but we lost that series, too.

    I’m not trying to be your standard NFL talking head and claim that the postseason is the only thing that matters, but when things are relatively equal (Javy more WAR in more years is relatively equal, I say), I go with the guy who almost single-handedly won a playoff series and was an integral part in winning a World Series. Also, McCann never had a year that could hold a candle to Javy’s 42-homer year.

  28. I think Torre’s fame as a manager tends to make people overlook his accomplishments as a player. He was a good catcher. His hitting is especially impressive when you consider that he played during the second deadball era. In my view, he’s clearly the best catcher in the team’s history.

    McCann was a terrific player for the Braves. But I think he was overrated behind the plate. His arm was nothing special. He was not a good game caller. He was a popular teammate and the pitchers liked him, but does being amiable necessarily mean that he was a great handler of pitchers?

    Like Nick, I’d take Javy over McCann. Javy was underrated behind the plate. And he hit in September and October.

  29. @44

    One has a better chance to put up a strong postseason resume when playing for a team that, unlike McCann’s Braves, could routinely advance deep into the postseason year after year.

  30. @48

    It’s true, but McCann has definitely had (and not delivered in) postseason opportunities. I’m with 44 — that’s why I’d take Javy over Bmac.

  31. @48 – there’s no reason to think the Yankees as currently constructed will be making the playoffs in half of the years of McCann’s contract, much less advancing deeply if they do. I mean, they’re the Yankees, and they can always spend more money on the problem if they want to, but right now, their offense is frigging terrible, even with the addition of McCann.

  32. @50 – Yes, there’s as much reason to suspect Javy was on PEDs in his later Braves years (including his career year before the contract) as there is reason to suspect David Ortiz, I suppose.

  33. @51 And I’m not sure about most of that pitching staff either. What a bunch of overachievers they were this season. I’ll never know how they ended up on the right side of .500

  34. The Yankees pathags for 2013 was a 79 win season. They overperformed a lot. Unless that spend and move some serious trade pieces, they will not be very good next year. Not as good as the Red Sox or the Rays. Probably not as good as the Orioles. Maybe as good as the Jays. McCann took the money and the name brand, but he’s not going to a perennial playoff contender unless they make serious other moves.

    They will go into 2014 with:

    C – Mac
    1B – an old and battered Mark Teixeira
    2B – ??? Robbie Cano wants a LOT of money
    SS – Jeter? He’s terrible. They need to sign Stephen Drew or something, but it’s The Captain.
    3B – Um…ARod seems to be likely to miss some games to start the season…
    LF – Alfonso Soriano I guess
    CF – Gardner
    RF – I can’t imagine they’ll run with Ichiro again; probably sign Beltran for a couple of years
    DH – Um…? I don’t really know. Should probably sign a SS and eat the Jeter-ego at DH, but that makes your DH terrible

    The pitching staff is equally riddled with holes. Sabathia is a huge question mark. Hughes probably won’t even be resigned.

    It’s not pretty in the Bronx these days.

  35. Torre was a tremendous hitter, but he moved around more on defense. He wasn’t as much of a pure catcher as McCann or Lopez.

    But McCann’s 2006 and 2008 campaigns were arguably comparable to Lopez’s 2003. Javy’s problem is that he didn’t stay on the field nearly as much; McCann has had injury problems lately, but Javy had injuries his whole career.

  36. Even through Profar is off the table, trading Kimbrel to the Rangers could really do some good for our farm system and future offense.

    2nd Baseman- Ryan Rua- 23 y/o .872 OPS with 32 HR between High-A and AA
    3rd Baseman- Joey Gallo- 19 y/o .961 OPS with 40 HR at A-ball
    2nd Baseman- Rougned Odor- 19 y/o .884 OPS between High-A and AA with 32 stolen bases
    OF- Nick Williams- 19 y/o .879 OPS at A ball 17 HR
    1b- Brett Nicholas- 24 y/o .831 OPS at AA with 21 HR

    That is some insane hitters in one organization and I’d take a combo of 2-3 of any of these guys for Kimbrel.

  37. I think we need to focus on a second baseman who can hit in the one or two hole. That is what this team needs (other than another starter)

  38. I don’t know, Alex. Torre caught about 100 games a year. He was a real catcher. Bragan was the manager for most of his career with the Braves. Bragan loved to move players around the field just so he could over manage. He put Aaron at 3B. He put Mathews in LF. Torre wasn’t moving around because he was some Earl Williams type.

    I don’t think one would be wrong in picking McCann over Javy or the other way around. Your point about the latter’s injuries is well taken.

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