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
- Acquired RP Jesse Chavez for RP Rafael Soriano
- Acquired OF Melky Cabrera, P Arodys Vizcaino, P Michael Dunn, and $500K for SP Javier Vazquez and RP Boone Logan
- Garret Anderson, Kelly Johnson, Adam LaRoche, Javier Vazquez, Rafael Soriano, Mike Gonzalez, Buddy Carlyle, Brandon Jones, Greg Norton, Boone Logan
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.