Additions: Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, Kenshin Kawakami, Tom Glavine (re-signed), Boone Logan, Eric O'Flaherty, David Ross, Garret Anderson, Greg Norton (re-signed), Brooks Conrad. Midseason: Casey Kotchman, Stephen Marek
Subtractions: Mike Hampton, Will Ohman, Julian Tavarez, Chuck James, John Smoltz, Royce Ring, Ruben Gotay, Brent Lillibridge, Tyler Flowers. Midseason: Mark Teixeira, Mark Kotsay
I'll kick things off by annoyingly quoting myself from September:
Manager Bobby Cox expects to add two quality starters, whether via free agency or trade. I would target Derek Lowe due to his strong health record. He might cost $14-15MM per year. After that I'd ink a more affordable veteran like Paul Byrd, Freddy Garcia, or Randy Wolf. That bargain starter may come from Japan, with Koji Uehara and Kenshin Kawakami considered the top names.
Granted the market shifted, but the Braves got Lowe at exactly $15MM per and Kawakami at $23MM over three years. On top of that GM Frank Wren added one of the game's most reliable innings eaters in Javier Vazquez. The Jake Peavy talks didn't work out, but Wren shifted gears and did a great job bringing in three solid starters as well as Glavine. Throw in Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson at midseason, and many others, and Wren turned a deficit into a surplus. The loss of Smoltz was surprising and disappointing but not really a big deal for the 2009 Braves.
The Braves had more drama with the near-Rafael Furcal signing, but they were already respectable in the middle infield. Anderson isn't spectacular as the left field import, but he'll help (and isn't any worse than Ken Griffey Jr.). Presumably the Braves have some cash left over for a possible midseason addition. But using CHONE projections, their lineup projects to score a healthy 4.93 runs per game. The Mets and Phillies tied for second in the league last year with that same figure.
The Braves should have a pretty good defense again; last year's was rated seventh in the game in The Fielding Bible II. Last year's bullpen wasn't great, but more pitchers are healthy this time around. Overall, this looks like a 90 win team to me.
Bottom line: Despite the offseason drama, Wren assembled a deep, revamped rotation to go with an already-above average offense. The Braves should return to their contending ways in '09.