Offseason In Review: Atlanta Braves

We've finished all the AL clubs in our Offseason In Review series.  The Braves kick off the NL today.

Major League Signings

  • Tim Hudson, SP: three years, $28MM.  Includes $9MM club option for 2013 with a $1MM buyout
  • Billy Wagner, RP: one year, $7MM.  Includes $6.5MM club option with a $250K buyout. Vests with 50 games finished
  • Takashi Saito, RP: one year, $3.2MM.
  • Troy Glaus, 1B: one year, $1.75MM.
  • Eric Hinske, 1B/3B/OF: one year, $1MM.
  • Juan Abreu, P: one year, $400K (estimated).
  • Total spend: $41.35MM.

Notable Minor League Signings

Trades and Claims

Notable Losses

Summary

The Braves entered the offseason with several significant free agents: Hudson, LaRoche, Soriano, and Gonzalez.  GM Frank Wren led off by signing Hudson at a fair price.  He then guaranteed $10.2MM to Wagner and Saito, $9MM less than Gonzalez and Soriano ultimately required.  Much is riding on the elbows of the 38-year-old Wagner and 40-year-old Saito, yet the new back end of the Braves bullpen doesn't seem riskier than Gonzalez and Soriano.  This was a gamble worth taking, and the Braves also came away with Chavez and the #35 and #53 picks in the 2010 draft (while losing #20 to Boston).

The pitching additions left little in the budget for other moves.  Wren opted for risk/affordability at first base.  Johnson was let go for nothing, though Prado may match him at the league minimum.  The Hudson signing, in the view of the Braves, necessitated the trade of Derek Lowe or Vazquez.  The Braves were willing to eat $9MM of the $45MM owed to Lowe, but found no takers.  Instead, Vazquez was traded in a cost-cutting move that makes hurts the Braves' rotation in 2010.

Leaving Logan out of the equation, the Vazquez trade saved the Braves $8.9MM.  When was the last time you saw a legitimate pitching surplus?  Odds are that Vazquez will be significantly better than the Braves' worst starter in 2010.  If the Braves fall two or three wins short in the NL East, we have to point to this cost-cutting move.  To be fair, the Braves' front five still looks excellent. 

Their lineup carries plenty of risk with Glaus and Chipper Jones.  But if healthy this has to be one of the NL's best offenses – Matt Diaz carries their worst projected OBP at .349.  Cabrera doesn't seem like the outfield addition the Braves needed, but can you name an affordable free agent who'd match his .296/.367/.441 projection with acceptable defense?

You could make the argument that every team would be better with an extra $11.5MM spent, and the Braves just didn't have the budget to keep Vazquez.  This one stings, though, since it wasn't a win-now trade.  The deal, and the Braves' offseason, will look better if Cabrera has a big year.  He's part of a strong-looking club that should contend all season.


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105 Comments on "Offseason In Review: Atlanta Braves"


Nejhaden
5 years 4 months ago

I’m going to go with Vasquez’s career year being a unrepeatable thing.

killerweaksweet
5 years 4 months ago

Agreed, what do you do with an investment that hits its maximum, you sell it

start_wearing_purple
start_wearing_purple
5 years 4 months ago

Anyone else still confused by the Vasquez trade?

Michael Brown
5 years 4 months ago

Nope, I for one believe he is a great pitcher, but he will not post anywhere near the same numbers this year…I’ve said it a thousand times…

2009 Opening Day:
Lowe
Vazquez
Jurrjens
Kawakami
JoJo

2010:
Hudson
Jurrjens
Hanson
Lowe
Kawakami

Enough said.

vtadave
5 years 4 months ago

Not exactly going out on a limb to say a guy going from the NL to the AL East will regress some. Pretty much a given. Braves have a nice rotation on paper, but I’d be at least a little concerned with Jurrjens’ shoulder. I think Lowe could be a little better, though he finished awful last year. I wonder if the Braves are going to let Hanson throw 180+ innings?

Bravoboy10
5 years 4 months ago

They’ll prolly let Hanson go out there without a limit for the most part, he through 186 including AFL last year. Maybe skip him once and let Medlen go but other than that I doubt a restriction.

RiverKKiller999
5 years 4 months ago

Lowe is gonna be the opening day starter again this year .They already said that on the AtlantaBraves website by Mark Bowman,correct?But that is an upgade from last years starters with Jo Jo being in the rotation.Now we he’s not in the rotation this year thank god .

drumzalicious
5 years 4 months ago

actually after a few off days the rotation will stack like

Jurrjens
Hanson
Hudson
Lowe
Kawakami

Michael Brown
5 years 4 months ago

Meaning all 3 or 4 game series are full of quality starters. I love it.

Ricky Bones
5 years 4 months ago

Let’s not say silly things. Vazquez is not a great pitcher.

danecook
5 years 4 months ago

yeah he only ranked 4th in the NL cy young voting last year. terrible

Ricky Bones
5 years 4 months ago

You’re almost as witty as the actual Dane Cook. Keep up the good work.

Ricky Bones
5 years 4 months ago

You’re almost as witty as the actual Dane Cook. Keep up the good work.

Michael Brown
5 years 4 months ago

The Vazquez we saw last year, was a great pitcher. While his record might show otherwise. He knows how to pitch, he has command of 4 pitches, 3 of which are plus pitches and he is extremely durable.

Ricky Bones
5 years 4 months ago

What Vazquez’s numbers show & what watching him pitch in a variety of situations shows are two entirely different things. When it’s crunch time, the guy folds quicker than a French prize fighter. That’s not the makings of a great pitcher.

Ricky Bones
5 years 4 months ago

What Vazquez’s numbers show & what watching him pitch in a variety of situations shows are two entirely different things. When it’s crunch time, the guy folds quicker than a French prize fighter. That’s not the makings of a great pitcher.

Michael Brown
5 years 4 months ago

By the way, nice job Tim.

NYBravosFan10
5 years 4 months ago

I really do think we have the best rotation in the NL. And maybe the whole MLB. I said maybe because you gotta admit the Red Sox rotation is pretty damn good. But when Tommy Hanson is your#4 starter then you are pretty well off. And KK and Lowe are gonna have a better year. If Mclouth can pull his head out of you-know-where and start hitting the ball at some point this spring then there isn’t a weak spot on our lineup. Even the pitchers spot because Lowe and KK are good hitters!!!!

5 years 4 months ago

If McLouth doesn’t start hitting, and Heyward makes the team out of spring training then he better be looking in his rear view mirror because Melky just might replace him in CF and at lead-off.

Michael Brown
5 years 4 months ago

Relax people it’s the first week of spring training. McLouth will be fine.

PWHATL
5 years 4 months ago

Schafer isn’t far behind, either. He’ll be the team’s every day center fielder (at least against RHP) by season’s end if all goes well.

drumzalicious
5 years 4 months ago

If McLouth doesnt start hitting Schafer could be back up by May

killerweaksweet
5 years 4 months ago

thats ridiculous

Ricky Bones
5 years 4 months ago

They have some very nice pitching, but no bonafide ace. Hudson can no longer be considered this due to his injury history (although he could redeem himself w/ a fully healthy & highly productive year) & none of the younger guys have done enough to be considered an ace either. W/o an ace, especially when some teams have two, a team cannot have the best rotation in their division, let alone league or all of baseball.

NYBravosFan10
5 years 4 months ago

Yes they can. They have one of the best full rotations in baseball. Look at the Mets. Best pitcher in baseball but then it drops totally. Close to the same thing with the Phillies. Halladay is dominant, Cole isn’t quite the ace type unless hehas a bounce back season and then the best is J.A. Happ. There isn’t much drop in the braves rotation.

Ricky Bones
5 years 4 months ago

Child please. The Phillies rotation is worlds ahead of the sorry excuse the Mets are trotting out there.

Ricky Bones
5 years 4 months ago

Child please. The Phillies rotation is worlds ahead of the sorry excuse the Mets are trotting out there.

NYBravosFan10
5 years 4 months ago

Yes they can. They have one of the best full rotations in baseball. Look at the Mets. Best pitcher in baseball but then it drops totally. Close to the same thing with the Phillies. Halladay is dominant, Cole isn’t quite the ace type unless hehas a bounce back season and then the best is J.A. Happ. There isn’t much drop in the braves rotation.

MLB_in_the_Know
5 years 4 months ago

The Vazquez trade was a calculated risk. Yes, he had an amazing year last year, no doubt. It came down to one thing, historically Tim Hudson is a superior pitcher than Vazquez. Yes, Vazquez may have been more durable recently, but when Hudson came back last fall and proved he was healthy, it was all but certain he was going to be in a Braves uniform in 2010. – Meaning one of Lowe or Vazquez would be dealt.

Yes, we would have much rather dumped Lowe on someone else and kept both Hudson and Vazquez, but that was impossible. We were able to trade Javy, get a premium young pitching prospect, an outfielder who should excel in the NL, a young left handed bullpen arm and cash savings.

Would Javy have taken the same 3 year $28M contract Hudson took to ensure quality starting pitching for more than just this year…no, he wouldn’t have. The way things worked out, it was the right move, although we would have liked to keep Vazquez that was not workable.

bbxxj
5 years 4 months ago

To those confused or those who dislike the Vazquez deal, just look at it how the Braves look at it:

In a complete payroll neutral deal:

Vazquez (1yr)
Logan (3yr)

for

Hudson (3yr+1yr)
Cabrera (3yr)
Vizcaino (6yr) *top 50-75 prospect*
Dunn (6yr)

Now I freakin loved watching Vazquez pitch for the Braves and I hated to hear that he was moved, but when you step back and look it, it becomes hard to argue with the actual value of the players exchanged. I think its also a fair bet to say Hudson will put up better numbers in 2010 than Vazquez will.

Now our offense doesn’t have a 40HR hitter and Glaus may be the only player who even gets close to 30, everyone knows this, but there is not a single easy out up and down the lineup. Every player sports a high or at least decent OBP and hits the ball hard. This is a lineup that is going to grind you to death, not run or slug you to death.

drumzalicious
5 years 4 months ago

indeed. Verry much an upgrade over last years team of impatient hitters. I really want the top of the lineup to be

Prado
Heyward
Chip
Glaus
McCann

thats like 30 pitches lol

kentavo
5 years 4 months ago

Yes, but does Bobby realize this isn’t a HR-slugging team? He hasn’t so far. Or is Wren assembling this group for the post-Bobby years when another manager can adapt to more of a small-ball style?

nicks720
5 years 4 months ago

Frank Wren had a very mediocre offseason. This team is good, and if healthy could make the postseason, but that could turn into a big IF. Wren tried to save money with the bullpen and first base and that could end up really hurting this team. He signed Wagner too early b/c he lost his first round pick (they do NOT have the 20th pick) and he wasn’t able to get a first round pick when Gonzo signed with Baltimore (unlucky) and Soriano accepted arbitration (unplanned). If he would have waited on the Wagner signing until after hearing Soriano’s decision, Wren could have handled the bullpen situation/draft pick situation better.

When they freed up $7mil by trading Vazquez, I thought they would use that to get a bat. Instead they spent $1 mil on the starting first baseman, instead of maybe investing all of the money into keeping LaRoche (who couldn’t have done any better after the trade last year) or acquiring Damon.

Like I said, this team could compete this year, but not because of this offseason. Heyward is going to have to be huge because, sorry fans, Troy Glaus does not lead teams to the playoffs.

alxn
5 years 4 months ago

I would guess that the whole point of rushing the Wagner and Saito signings was to force Soriano’s hand. It really did not make sense for him to accept arbitration and come back as a middle reliever.

atlantaspike
5 years 4 months ago

I think you are overstating the case here a bit. The Braves 1st round pick of Minor over Matzek made it pretty clear how they value the draft. They took their money and spent it on Salcedo. Saito and Wags are perfectly acceptable bullpen choices, who cost less than Gonzo/Soriano, who have their own injury issues. I think Damon could have been a good sign as well, but if you think Heyward is going to play this year, you have a very tradeable chip in Cabrera, and insurance in case Heyward flops. Unlike Damon, Cabrera can fake better than Damon in CF should McClouth struggle or get hurt. I’d give him a B right now.

barroomhero
5 years 4 months ago

I actually am thinking that Lowe may come back and rebound nicely this year. I know his peripherals were bad last year, and this is sort of a hunch I have, but I see him as providing solid pitching from the bottom of the rotation. He certainly is durable at the very least.

I think Vasquez is going to come back to Earth a bit this year (especially in the AL East) but the Braves have the depth to handle it. I like them this year and they should be in a nice dog fight with the Phils this year. Right now, I don’t think they have quite the offense, but maybe Wren can get creative at the trade deadline.

bjsguess
5 years 4 months ago

I loved the idea of moving Vazquez. I just hated what they got for him. Right idea – wrong implementation. Cabrera is a corner outfielder who MIGHT post an OPS above 750. Seriously – there are about 100 players in baseball that can provide that level of performance.

As someone above mentioned, this whole season hinges on a bunch of guys who have major health concerns. If only half of the guys (out of Glaus, Chipper, Wagner, Saito, and Hudson) who are health risks miss serious time Braves are done. That doesn’t include the inevitable injuries to those guys who haven’t had a history of injury problems.

Could they beat the Phillies … sure. But all of the stars have to align properly. The Phils are a much safer bet. Given payroll constraints I’m not sure the Braves had any better options though. I give them credit for rolling the dice. This route was their only play to challenge in the NL East.

redsandyanksfan
5 years 4 months ago

its not like wren set out for melky and only melky, Vizcaino was the prize of the trade while getting a decent player in cabrera and a big arm for the pen in dunn. I think it was a decent trade for the braves they could have done better i think, but overall it freed up more money for the other players they got while not having to eat salary like they would have done with trading lowe

bbxxj
5 years 4 months ago

Top 100 prospects aren’t chump change you know. Don’t sleep on Vizcaino. By assembling multiple high ceiling starting prospects like Teheran, Vizcaino, and Delgado the Braves are increasing their chances of getting one or more of these guys to become cost control ACE in the bigs.

ronny9
5 years 4 months ago

Lowe will have a rebound year, combine that with what i assume will be an above avg sophomore season for Tommy Hanson and you have easily a top 3 rotation in the NL. Unfortunately one of the rotations ahead of you is also in your division.

They also have Heyward who is going to be a huge bat for them for years to come. Overall i look for Heyward to be an everyday player by June. If not they are crazy.

**If he doesn’t start for the Braves from day 1 then it is only for the $. (usually if a team sends a kid down that deserves to be on the MLB team from day one, and then comes up around mid to late may it saves the service time clock for a year) therefore i can see the braves as a mid market team trying to squeez every dollar wherever they can. **

Troy Glaus could provide a big bat (or at least an above avg power bat) to the #5 spot in the lineup.

Tim Hudson could have anywhere from a season where he wins 2/3 games and needs surgery again to a season where he wins 16/19 games and bounces back completely.

So IF:

Two of:
Lowe has a bounce back year, Hanson has a good sophmore year, Hudson has a solid 12/15 4.00 era year

AND Two of:

Heyward is as good as he’s currently projected to be, Troy Glaus hits .280 with 20 homers, Chipper doesn’t fall off the face of the earth offensively.

Happens then the Braves have a good shot of at least challenging for the wild card, if not chasing down the Phillies.

And if its not this year, with the team they are very quietly building, its going to happen soon

Michael Brown
5 years 4 months ago

Expecting .280 out of Glaus might be a bit high, personally I’m okay with the .260-.270 range and 20-25 homers…anything more is just icing on the cake.

goldenglove002
5 years 4 months ago

Shouldn’t Salcedo qualify as a notable minor league signing?

tomymogo
5 years 4 months ago

Matt Diaz the worst projected OBP. Have to disagree on that one. He just had the best OBP of his career with 390. But I get the point, 349 is still very respectable.

baconslayer09
5 years 4 months ago

Can somebody please tell me why the Braves gave Hudson three years? The guy hasn’t thrown 150 innings since 2007. Plus, they threw nearly $30 million at him.

k26dp
5 years 4 months ago

Because Hudson’s had a nice bounce-back after Tommy John surgery, and there’s no reason to think he won’t be worth that contract.

baconslayer09
5 years 4 months ago

He’d be worth it if he pitched, which isn’t all that likely to happen very much.

5 years 4 months ago

You’re right, nobody’s every come back successfully from Tommy John surgery.

Except of course for A.J. Burnett, Chris Carpenter, Mike Gonzalez, Josh Johnson, Peter Moylan, Carl Pavano, Kenny Rogers, John Smoltz, Rafael Soriano, Billy Wagner, David Wells, Randy Wolf, Anibal Sanchez, Mariano Rivera, Fernando Rodney, Arthur Rhodes, Francisco Liriano, Jimmy Key, Steve Karsay, Jason Isringhausen, Tom Gordon, John Franco, Ryan Dempster, Doug Brocail, Erik Beddard, Andy Ashby… and Tommy John.

baconslayer09
5 years 4 months ago

That still doesn’t excuse the fact that he’s been injury-prone.

You’re actually a lot more prone to injury after you have the surgery, because a surgically repaired joint isn’t anywhere as strong as a naturally growing joint.

baconslayer09
5 years 4 months ago

He’d be worth it if he pitched, which isn’t all that likely to happen very much.

MLB_in_the_Know
5 years 4 months ago

I think one thing that should be pointed out – if Troy Glaus doesn’t work out and the Braves are still in contention, there may be a lot of 1B on the trade market this summer.

If you look at 1B who will be free agents after this year and whose teams may not contend, it is clear that if Glaus does get injured or doesn’t produce, there will be options on the trading market and the Braves will have some money to spend this summer that they didn’t spend on Damon.
Berkman
Dunn
Konerko
D. Lee
Pena
Adam LaRoche (again)

And this is not including Fielder and A-gone who will be FA in a year and a half but whose teams may listen to offers.

Wren’s history has shown if there is a need, he will address it as quickly as possible. I have faith the Braves make the playoffs in 2010.

RiverKKiller999
5 years 4 months ago

I wouldn’t mind having Berkman on the Braves depending how good he does this year.I think Dunn,Lee,and Pena would be asking for too much .Konerko on the other hand I don’t think would ask for alot at all.Which leaves us with Konerko and LaRoche (again <)..But could Freedie Freeman perhaps make the team next year and start at 1st base opening day?He's been tearing it up in ST the last 2 seasons.I know ST doesn't mean much at all but you gotta give the kid credit.We would have a younger team as well.

MLB_in_the_Know
5 years 4 months ago

I was speaking more in terms of trading for one of these players as a half season rental in case Glaus doesn’t work out this year.

In terms of next winter’s solution to 1B, I do think we will be looking for a 1 year player with the intention of Freeman in 2012.

Michael Brown
5 years 4 months ago

I think we will be looking for a half-year replacement with Freeman in June 2011.

cheez13
5 years 4 months ago

People fail to realize that the Braves have made all kinds of improvements since Opening Day last year. They only look at the off-season. The 2nd half of the season, they were good enough to make the play-offs after they made all of those line-up changes. The first half they were .500 cause guys like Schafer, Francouer and KJ were hitting .200 with OBP of less than .300. McLouth OBP is still .350 and he’ll hit around 20 HR’s, he walks alot and has some speed so the fact that hit hits .260 isn’t the end of the world. He is suppose to get on base- period…I don’t care what his batting average is. Diaz, Cabrera or Heyward or any combination will provide better defense and better OBP than Garrett Anderson (.300 OBP hitting 4th and 5th…ouch!).

Health is a concern with every team…look at the Mets last year. Chipper hit in the 1st half but didn’t in the second half yet the Braves were better in the 2nd half. So, not everything rides on him. McCann is an all-star and Escobar is on the cusp of being one the best SS in the game.

3david
5 years 4 months ago

I saw Heyward hit a massive bomb against the Tigers in Lakeland today. He is a difference maker. Glaus is tearing it up too. The middle of the order looks solid, with or without Chipper. Heyward’s gotta start on this team. With Prado, maybe Chipper, Glaus, McCann and Escobar in the middle, this team will score runs. McLouth, Cabrera and Diaz should have to battle for the other 2 outfield spots.

NL_East_Rivalry
5 years 4 months ago

I was there too. That was a great HR from my 1st first-hand look at him. The game was fun, just hope Chipper heals today so he can hit off Halladay/

RiverKKiller999
5 years 4 months ago

McLouth will start in CF…Heyward in RF..and I would have to guess it will be a platoon with Cabrera and Diaz in LF .

Bravoboy10
5 years 4 months ago

First off Heyward is going to be the RF on Opening Day and if Bobby is thinking straight he’ll bat 7th againt lefties and 5th against righties, instead of sticking him in the 8 hole like they did with Scaffer every game last year. People talk about how Altanta can no longer play “keep us close and sit back for the three run homer” style anymore, while that may be true this line-up has power. I don’t think an over/under of 160 homers is unrealistic. I know it’s been said and will continue to be, but if they stay healthy they can play with anybody. The Phillies may look better on paper, but head to head in the playoffs I like Atlanta’s matchups. They run away with having a better # 2,3,4 starter and better backend of the ‘pen.

cheez13
5 years 4 months ago

baconslayer writes “Can somebody please tell me why the Braves gave Hudson three years? The guy hasn’t thrown 150 innings since 2007. Plus, they threw nearly $30 million at him”

Thats a perfect example of a someone making a stat fit their arguement. Its deceiving. He got injured in the middle of the season (2008) so yea, he missed parts of 2 seasons. If he gets hurt in the beginning or the end then he only misses one season. In 8 yrs prior to his injury, his least amount of innings was 188 and threw 200+ for 6 of those 8 yrs. Yes, he had TJ surgery but thats the only injury he has had in his career. It doesn’t make him injury prone…all kinds of guys have come back from it. I think its a steal….9 mil/yr… Randy Wolf got 10 mil/yr and Hudson has a much better track record than Wolf. Wolf has been injured in his career. Sheets got 10 mil even though it was only one yr and that guy has been hurt more than anybody. Hudson in the open market gets 3yr/30 mil easy.