Offseason In Review: Atlanta Braves

The Braves took their offseason inactivity to a new level this winter.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Trades and Claims

Notable Losses

The Braves made the first trade of the offseason, shipping Lowe to the Indians in the name of saving $5MM.  Facing a relatively large arbitration tab, GM Frank Wren had limited flexibility even after that salary dump and a payroll increase.  He entertained trade offers for veterans Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado, but ultimately held onto both players.

Wilson

There was a case for offering Gonzalez arbitration, but perhaps the Braves didn't feel a possible supplemental draft pick was worth risking a potential $4MM salary for a player they no longer wanted as their everyday shortstop.  Gonzalez signed with the Brewers, and Wren chose Wilson (pictured) as his "traditional backup shortstop" behind rookie Tyler Pastornicky.  As Bill Ballew of Baseball America points out, Wren has had success aggressively using rookies as regulars before with Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward.  Pastornicky is not that level of prospect, though, and I wonder if a bid for Marco Scutaro or Jamey Carroll would have offered more security than Wilson (who, incidentally, will start the season on the DL).

The league's best bullpen included 316 innings from Jonny Venters, Craig Kimbrel, Eric O'Flaherty, and Cristhian Martinez in 2011, and in October Wren cited Martinez, Anthony Varvaro, and Kris Medlen as reasons bullpen depth was not a concern.  The Braves lost veterans Linebrink and Sherrill to free agency, after the duo provided 90 1/3 innings of 3.39 ball.  A lot of teams would have spent a few million dollars to replace them, but I agree that the Braves still have plenty of bullpen depth.

The majority of the Braves' offseason MLBTR archives involved Prado and Jurrjens trade rumors.  Reportedly, the asking price was huge: highly-regarded Rockies third base prospect Nolan Arenado in a deal involving Prado, and a Zack Greinke-like deal for Jurrjens.  If good health allows Prado to return to his 2008-10 offensive levels, keeping him rather than signing Josh Willingham, Michael Cuddyer, or Cody Ross was the right move.  The Braves poked around on trade targets Seth Smith and Adam Jones but couldn't find common ground.  I think the Jones discussions solidified that Jurrjens' stock is down as well, as last year's misleading 2.96 ERA can't disguise the fact that he started only 43 games over 2010-11.

The Braves were obviously down on Lowe after his late-season struggles.  They felt they needed the $5MM more than Lowe's innings, even though Tim Hudson is the lone remaining starter who exceeded 152 MLB innings in 2011.  Now we know Hudson will miss the first month of the season.  Somehow, the Braves' rotation still looks above-average, with Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy, Jurrjens, and some combination of Mike Minor, Randall Delgado, and Julio Teheran.  However, I don't see a workhorse in that group, so the bullpen may be taxed again as the season wears on.

Wren has said this team deserves another chance, despite last year's collapse down the stretch.  They've still got several of the game's best young pitchers and some All-Star caliber bats, so the team should be in contention even if they're not the preseason NL East favorite.

Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.


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47 Comments on "Offseason In Review: Atlanta Braves"


3 years 6 months ago

Prado and Heyward were non-factors last year.  If those two can come close to resembling what they were in 2010 and the pitching can hold up (pre-all star break Jurrjens and Hanson), the team will be fine.

sourbob
3 years 6 months ago

Yeah, the Braves are essentially hoping that regression to the mean carries them this year. It’s not an exciting plan, but it might work.

TimotheusATL
3 years 6 months ago

It’s honestly not the worst idea in the world. If Prado and Heyward recover from their 2011 aberrations (or in Heyward’s case, abomination) and Uggla doesn’t have another awful first half, that’s picking up a lot of value for nothing more than the arbitration raises which were mostly offset by the Lowe salary dump. You’ve also got the fact that McCann rushed back from injury to attempt to carry the team, and was very likely fighting through injuries that completely sapped his core strength.

At the very least, it’s a lot less risky than signing a big name free agent or two to anything approaching a nine-figure deal as an overreaction to last year’s collapse.

bjsguess
3 years 6 months ago

It’s regression to the mean offensively while at the same time betting on the pitching to stay as good as it was (which exceeded every projection system I have seen). You could easily have regression on both offense and pitching and end up exactly where you were last year. Exceptions being that the Nats and Marlins made significant upgrades in the off-season.

Clayton Wilson
3 years 5 months ago

 It’s a solid plan. See if the current guys can bounce back and if they can’t, plenty of arms to trade for a bat or two. They didn’t really need to make any major off-season moves.

Clayton Wilson
3 years 5 months ago

 It’s a solid plan. See if the current guys can bounce back and if they can’t, plenty of arms to trade for a bat or two. They didn’t really need to make any major off-season moves.

3 years 5 months ago

Your points are valid.  The wild card here is Hanson and Jurrjens’ health.  I don’t see either of them reaching 200 IP but if they can hit 180 or so it will really help the team, even if they aren’t quite as sharp as they were during the first half of 2011. 

Mike Minor made some big improvements last year after the all-star break.  No reason to think that he won’t be an upgrade over Lowe.

NYBravosFan10
3 years 6 months ago

If Prado and Heyward come back to form and we get a full season of Uggla, Hanson, Jurrjens and McCann at their best then who cares about our offseason?

stl_cards16
3 years 6 months ago

I think you can make that case for just about every team.

iheartyourfart
3 years 6 months ago

get real the mets don’t even ahve dan uggla

Phillies_Aces35
3 years 6 months ago

If Johan Santana can return to ace form, if Jason Bay can return to All Star form… They wouldn’t be the joke many people think they’ll be.

3 years 6 months ago

Except this is a completely different situation.
If you look at the Braves you’ll see both Uggla and Heyward had 2 of the lowest BABIPs in the league last year. Both have a very likely chance of regressing, as well as Minor’s BABIP against if he’s given a full season in the rotation.
Santana, OTOH, is coming off serious surgery and is a complete question mark. Bay is on the wrong side of 30, is 2 years removed from contributing with the bat, was luck neutral last year, and is, by all accounts, below average to altogether terrible on defense.

rundmc1981
3 years 5 months ago

They’re not pushing the walls in that much. C’mon, man. It’s the Mets.

CowboyJames
3 years 6 months ago

+1

3 years 6 months ago

The back end of the rotation needs to step up though—the bullpen really was overtaxed and it showed near the end of the season.

3 years 6 months ago

Agreed. I’m not a Braves fan, but this point could be made for the Braves more than any other team. Team high fWAR’s were Hudson and McCann at 3.7. The year prior, Uggla, Prado and Heyward all eclipsed that, and yet none of them were within 1 WAR of matching that total.
Assuming you put Minor in the rotation, where he belongs (his .350 BABIP last year was ridiculously unlucky), Hanson can put together a full season, and you have Bourn for a full season, this is a team that could very easily win 95+ next season.

NYBravosFan10
3 years 5 months ago

As much as I don’t buy into sabremetrics such as WAR, fWAR and BABIP I think I kindof get the gist of what you’re saying and so I agree with you. I refuse to believe that the Braves don’t have the means to give the Phillies serious competition. It’s tough to argue with their pitching but I can say that their offense isn’t what it used to be.

geauxbraves2000
3 years 6 months ago

Too many “ifs” on this team to expect any type of postseason birth:
1) If Heyward is healthy and bounces back
2) If Prado is healthy and returns to form
3) If JJ can stay healthy
4) If Hanson can stay healthy (and stop giving up so many HR)
5) If Hudson can return before the ASG (I wouldn’t count on that)
6) If the younsters can make an impact
7) If the bullpen is not overused
8) And so on.

Maybe a couple of those “ifs” become reality, but there is no way we can expect all of them to.  Perhaps, but IMO, not likely.

Still, I will log into MLB.com, tune them in and root them on!

Geaux Braves!!

iheartyourfart
3 years 6 months ago

honestly they only need a few things to break their way.  Pretty much everything possible with the core of the team went wrong last season and they were still like a game away from the playoffs.

3 years 6 months ago

agreed there rotation is deep. mccan is the man behind the plate and with a fullseason of bourn there will be a legit table setter for the rest of the lineup. if bourn performs prado will see more pitches and itll trickle down. pitching is fine and deep.

3 years 6 months ago

also uggla wont have that horrible first half this season

rundmc1981
3 years 6 months ago

Wow, with fans like this is there no wonder to see why ATL ranks 15th in the league in attendance? 

I love your 8th reason: “And so on”. Even if 1-7 happen, I don’t think #8 will ever become a reality.

Last season was a fluke. Seriously. Hudson should come back by May-June at the latest. We have the pitching depth to hold us until then.

Hanson and Heyward both made major adjustments that, so far, have made a huge impact on their mechanics. I’m more worried about Hanson holding runners on than giving up the long ball. And his new adjustment has cut down on his delivery time, so there’s a correction already.

JJ has been healthy since the end of the season, where he was scheduled to make a postseason start. Reports are that he looks great and is gaining his velocity back that was gone for much of 2011, but we’ll see.

The bullpen is even better than last year. If Fredi does one thing right this year, it’ll be not overusing the bullpen because of fans such as yourself who refuse to give Fredi a mulligan, but rather make him pay for the same error that many never blamed Cox for: overusing the ‘pen. Cox was notorious for that. You ever wonder why no Braves RPs ever went on to much success after Atlanta? The subtraction of Sherrill/Linebrink and seeing more of Medlen/Vizcaino/Varvaro/Fish/Martinez will have an impact.

Our youngsters always make an impact. It’s the patchwork vets that are the questions. Heyward finished 2nd in NL ROY (2010), Kimbrel/Freeman finished #1 and #2 (2011) in NL ROY, respectively. Take in there a short-term impact from Costanza; stability from Venters and Beachy, and I’m wondering why you’re questioning the youngsters when Jones is lucky to play 120 games/season, Uggla was MIA until mid-Jone (2010), Lowe was awful, Gonzalez had the lowest OBP of any starting SS in MLB since 2010, and McCann was MIA August-Sept. Looks like you’re evaluating the team incorrectly. I wish the vets would pull their weight (and contracts) and provide the stats that the rookies often provide on league-minimum deals.

TimotheusATL
3 years 6 months ago

The only thing I’m really concerned about for the 2012 season is the infield defense. Upon Hudson’s return, you’ve essentially got a half-and-half staff between swing-and-miss fly-ball types (Beachy, Hanson, Minor) and sinkerballers (Hudson, Jurrjens, Medlen as a swingman). As long as the fly-ballers keep their HR/FB ratio down, they’ll be okay — it’s the sinkerballers I always worry about with our non-1B infield (I remain convinced that Freeman’s D is underrated).

The offensive players who encountered the greatest struggles last year, even if they only partially return to form, will add a significant amount of run production (Heyward, Prado, McCann) assuming that Bourn continues to play to his strengths and that Pastornicky provides an OBP upgrade over Alex Gonzalez (which would be almost impossible not to do unless you’re a pitcher).

Truly looking forward to this season. I think the Braves are going to surprise some folks who have already ruled them out due to the Nationals and Marlins upgrading themselves (and, of course, the Phillies becoming the National League Yankees). They’re still easily a 90+ win team — the only question is how far over 90 they can win to maintain wild card contention.

thekidfromyesterday
3 years 6 months ago

We don’t really need to worry about JJ and Huddy since we have really good young pitchers we don’t worry about pitching. Our problem is our anemic offense

Cory Taylor
3 years 6 months ago

The 1 major “If” is heyward. If he can contribute like he did in 2010 everything else will work itself out. The offense will be slightly above average and the staff will be great at not allowing runs. If 1 and 2 happen the braves should have a legimitate shot at winning the division

Steven D
3 years 6 months ago

I think the NL East got stronger and won’t be easy to skate by like last season. The Atlanta Braves are still a good team despite their collapse. 

Jason Klinger
3 years 6 months ago

Definitely rough going in the NL East this year. Two teams are a lock to win 90 in this division (Philadelphia and Atlanta) and two more seem like a lock to win 80 (Florida and Washington).

Lastings
3 years 6 months ago

 No team is a “lock” until games are played…

NYBravosFan10
3 years 5 months ago

the Mets are a lock for something bad to happen to them. I can’t even say I hate the team anymore. No point in beating a dead horse.

Steven D
3 years 5 months ago

It feels like it, I certainly expect something bad to happen and it did with Ike Davis albeit it doesn’t seem like it was anything major. The Owners continue to play the underdog card while their star player David Wright doesn’t want want the Mets to feel that way. Instead of laying low, Ownership continues to look paranoid and inept. 

Michael Gardiner
3 years 5 months ago

 While it wont be easy skating we did not play the East well last year. We played the Marlins well(12-6) but I think we were 500(or just over 500)(9-9 or 10-8) against the Mets just under 500 against Washington(8-10) and well under against Philly(6-12). We were 500 against the division which is not the way you want to be a winning team but a few should work their way some time soon.

Austin
3 years 6 months ago

Joe Mather should not be counted as an off-season loss. He has been gone since June of last season.

ColoradoBravesFan
3 years 6 months ago

I understand and can agree that you don’t see a work horse on the Braves staff besides Hudson.  But I totally disagree that this means the “bullpen will be taxed again”  this season.

Hanson, JJ, Minor and Beachy should all be able to pitch deeper and pitch more innings than they did last season.  If needed because of injury… Teheran Delgado and Vizcanio will be better and able to pitch more innings than last season.  Medlen, Asencio, Varvaro, Moylan and Martinez should be better coming out of the Pen than Linebrink and Sherril.  And should be able to pick up some of the middle innings and late innings that are not high leverage. 

So, we should have starters pitching more innings and deeper into games, Better bullpen options that F. Gonzalez trust.  Now if only the offense will do its part and score some runs so that there are fewer close games and high levege situations/innings for the bullpen to pitch.  I want O’Flarherty, Venters and Kimbrel pitching in almost all the close games, I just want the Braves to be ahead and not have as many close games. 

jwick18
3 years 6 months ago

should make prado feel good to know the braves would have to have the top or atleast one of the top 3rd basemen prospects in the game for him. I may over value prado some but that trade would never happen on the rox end. I thought wheeler was who they were after

fireboss
3 years 5 months ago

I have 2 old overcoats that could replace Sherrill and Linebrink.  ERA is no judge of relief work and that combined number misses all the uh-ohs they took part in. Between them and Scott Proctor we wasted money and time we could have used on pitchers with an upside.
Everyone underestimates the value of of Kris Medlen. He isn’t flashy just effective As a starter all he did was average 6 innings a start while going 6-2 in 14 starts with a 1.2 WHIP, a 19% K rate and a 4.8% BB rate.  Stretched out as he should be he could give 170+ innings. Minor should be able to get close to 200 as well. If he can’t he should be given his trade. Hanson should hit 200, Jurrjens may get close and hopefully Huddy can get back in time to give us 150. Plenty of horses if Fredi knows how to give them their head. That will be the issue…

Clayton Wilson
3 years 5 months ago

OBP……finished near the bottom last season despite leading the league the year before with basically the same offense(replace Infante with Uggla). Coincidentally, they had one of the lowest HR totals in 2010 and were near the top in 2011.

I expect the pitching to regress a bit, but fully expect a better offensive showing from the Braves this season.

tomymogo
3 years 5 months ago

Tell me who should have they replaced of this group?
Derek Lowe, Alex Gonzalez, Nate McLouth, Brooks Conrad, Joe Mather, Scott Linebrink, George Sherrill

3 years 5 months ago

The team starting 2012 is a substantially different team than the one that began 2011.  Its not too different than the one than finished 2011 however.  It was this same group of guys that collapsed in September.

People can talk smack about McLouth all day long, but the simple truth of the matter is that he put up better numbers in Atlanta last year than Bourn did.  Maybe Bourn will be better this year, maybe not.

3 years 5 months ago

The Braves will win 75-85 games tops. Is it football season yet?

3 years 6 months ago

I do hope Freddi gives the starters more of a chance to go
longer into the games.  It’s great when the 3 headed O’ventbrel monster closes out the last three innings and makes it
essentially a 6 inning game, but rotating those guys in and out and letting the starters go deeper would go a long way to helping prevent another September collapse.

TimotheusATL
3 years 6 months ago

 Medlen’s return goes a long way towards fixing that issue.

GreenCustom24
3 years 6 months ago

Agreed. As awesome as it is seeing O’Ventbrel in there… There’s no reason Delgado (or anyone else, for that matter) should be pulled after the 6th when he’s given up 2 hits and thrown a total of 75 pitches or so. (Just an example I remember from August or so) Fredi did that too much in 2011 and it irritated the crap out of me. I understand pulling him after 6 if he’s in the 90+ range… but he easily could’ve gone at least another inning and given someone in the pen a much needed rest. 

3 years 6 months ago

He was pulled in the 7th after giving up the tying run on a Cody Ross bomb, but I think your point may stand. It was actually a no-hitter up until that point, though he had walked one (the runner was promptly disposed of via a Panda DP).

-C

3 years 6 months ago

I disagree. They were an 89 win team last year by essentially being a team without a lot of terrible players, but also no one played like a superstar.
It won’t take much for them to win a few more games next year, and at least wrap up the Wild Card.

Clayton Wilson
3 years 5 months ago

 150+ games of one of the best center-fielders in the game as opposed to 53 will help. Given Uggla’s 2nd-half last year and his career high in HR, I see no reason to believe that he’s declining. Heyward can’t possibly be any worse than last year. Minor/Delgado/Teheran are unlikely to be worse than Derek Lowe in the #5 spot. Martin Prado is healthy. They have one of the deepest bullpens and rotations in baseball. The infield defense won’t be pretty, but the outfield should be excellent. If some of these guys don’t bounce back, the Braves have plenty of pieces to acquire a bat.

I’d bet quite a lot of money on the Braves not finishing in 4th place. They didn’t make any flashy moves like the Marlins, Nationals, and Phillies did…..but they won 89 games last year with a TON going wrong for them, particularly down the stretch.

Clayton Wilson
3 years 5 months ago

 150+ games of one of the best center-fielders in the game as opposed to 53 will help. Given Uggla’s 2nd-half last year and his career high in HR, I see no reason to believe that he’s declining. Heyward can’t possibly be any worse than last year. Minor/Delgado/Teheran are unlikely to be worse than Derek Lowe in the #5 spot. Martin Prado is healthy. They have one of the deepest bullpens and rotations in baseball. The infield defense won’t be pretty, but the outfield should be excellent. If some of these guys don’t bounce back, the Braves have plenty of pieces to acquire a bat.

I’d bet quite a lot of money on the Braves not finishing in 4th place. They didn’t make any flashy moves like the Marlins, Nationals, and Phillies did…..but they won 89 games last year with a TON going wrong for them, particularly down the stretch.

rundmc1981
3 years 5 months ago

Uggla was absent the first 2 months, McCann the last 2, and Heyward has 1-2 decent months. And we couldn’t win a game in September. And we still won 89 games. That’s amazing.