Monday, November 30, 2015

Braves need to decide on Mike Minor

The deadline for tendering contract offers to arbitration eligible players is approaching on December 2nd, and that means the Braves are in a bit of a pickle with pitcher Mike Minor. The AJC recently featured an article here on the subject:

My take is very simple, I wouldn't tender an offer to him. Under no circumstances am I making any offers to a guy who can't even throw off  a mound before his THIRD arbitration hearing, when I've had numerous chances to offer him a real contract before. The Braves obviously don't trust him. He's been hurt over and over, and he's only had one great season when you look at 2013. The rest of the time? He's a replacable player on average.

So with that in mind, and I've never been shy about my disdain for pundits who kept telling me Mike was some great piece in the Braves arsenal, I'd get rid of him. Finally. Cut the cord and end this so we can start anew with the multitude of pitchers we have in the minor leagues. I don't need to pay Mike Minor close to $5M to MAYBE pitch. What I need is a guy who is actually healthy now and we know will eat some innings in this throwaway season of 2016, with the hopes of a possible upside. Minor's not that guy.

We're also getting close to winter meetings, so stay tuned! It should be an interesting offseason as we head into December.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Is Shelby Miller on the Trading Block?

I feel like I'm doing more writing in the offseason than I did in the regular season. After all, rumors are more fun than concrete losses. Anyway, is Shelby Miller on the trading block? Yes and no. From what I gather the Braves are not actively shopping Shelby in the same way they were shopping Simmons as an example. For Simmons, they were looking at refilling the pitching ranks and getting value for a guy that they saw as a declining offensive asset.

Shelby is another story. He's an extremely valuable starter, and as such the Braves were only extending offers with extremely valuable position players. That's why AJ Pollack's name from the Diamondbacks came up. However, the Dbacks don't want to part with Pollack so the deal didn't go anywhere. That hasn't stopped other teams from asking.

So is Shelby a tradable asset? Sure, in the sense that anybody else is tradable. But the Braves are restocking pitching so while he's not as untouchable as Freddie Freeman, he's certainly not going to go cheap or for prospects either. He's affordable and effective, and he does the one thing the Braves need most right now: Pitch well and pitch deep into games. Now, if they find him some run support that would probably have won an extra 10 games at least last season.

Miller started 33 games last year with 205 innings pitched, a 3.02 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP, and a .238 opp batting average. That's awesome, and yet he only had 6 wins all season. I'm not crazy enough to tell you wins matter like the really old school crowd. I wish they did, because in the prior days of baseball we didn't get this specialized, people weren't blowing their arms out left and right, and guys actually pitched complete games regularly. Wins mattered a bit more back then. Now? They are completely useless. If people reference wins, I just move on with the conversation.

So what players would make sense in a Shelby deal? The names you'd likely hear would seem to be untouchable on the other side. I'd make the deal for a guy like Buster Posey as an example, but I doubt the Giants want to trade him. What about a guy like Todd Frazier to play 3B and a prospect? That's the kind of deal I would expect. It would have to be highly prized talent to part with one of the better pitchers in the league right now.

But at the end of the day, I think the Braves recognize his value, and I think other teams would be too leery of trading an everyday player for a pitcher to make the value match up.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Coppolella Needs to Man up or Shut up

As I mentioned before in my article about trading Freddie Freeman, and why it was stupid, the Braves came out today and said specifically that they aren't trading Freddie Freeman. Here's the piece by USA Today:

To quote that piece, here's John Coppolella:
I cannot make it any more clear: We are not trading Freddie Freeman. We are not. I'd give my right arm before we trade Freddie Freeman. It is not happening.
I'm not sure how he could be more clear, but also in that same piece he tells fans that he's not running for office.
I know it’s hard for our fans, but I’m not running for office. We are doing what I believe is what’s best in for the long-term interest of the Braves. I’ll trust our scouts and analytics. I’m getting so tired of this. If guys want to take shots, or (degrade) us, fine. But let’s let it play out for a few years before we start branding our pitchforks and torches. I feel in my heart this is the best for the Braves.

The quotes are from a frustrated man who is getting tired of the fans and media questioning his methods. They are also the quotes of a younger GM who is not really prepared to deal with the backlash that comes with making tough decisions.

Newsflash to Coppy, you're in one of the most high-profile positions in the South. You are the GM of the one team that seems to unite states that typically hate each other over football, but rally together en masse under your banner. And you expect the trades where you dump salary and well-known well-loved players to be what? Met with applause? A hearty slap on the back and a high-five? Get real. You made the tough calls, and you get the credit if you're right. But you also get to own the decisions when you screw up, and in many cases that's what got your predecessor Frank Wren fired. You're supposed to be the mature individual in the organization, not the whiny child wondering why people are being so mean to you.

In short, man up. Own your decisions and stop worrying about what the media asks or the fans say. If you think it's the best for the organization, you patiently say that for months and months until people are so sick of the rote answers they stop asking. You DON'T feed them petulant crap lines about being tired of people taking shots or that you're not a politician. Be the leader that past GMs have been. Stand there, answer the questions, and cut the crap.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Trading Freddie Freeman makes no sense

There's a lot of rumors swirling about Freddie Freeman and Julio Teheran. I won't get into the Julio piece because I think other teams watched Julio struggle last season and trading him now would be stupid for simply one reason: his value is too low to bother with it. The Braves want to stockpile pitching so dumping a lower-value guy makes little sense.

But the Freddie trade idea? That makes even less sense than the Julio trade. Freddie Freeman is coming off a wrist injury, so you can understand why the Braves get nervous about having him on the books for the next 6 years at $118M. Wrists and hand injuries are some of the worst that baseball players can get at a position, because it keeps you sidelined while you are otherwise 100% healthy. It's maddening, and it hurts on every swing. However, even in over 200 less plate appearances last season, Freddie still posted 18 homers, slugged .471, and had 56 walks. His OPS was over .840, which is great for a slugger in this league now, and puts him among the best hitters in the game. IF he had the chance to play all 162 games, I think his numbers would have been even better than his 2013 campaign, the best of his career so far.

The Braves have no potential offensive firepower except at a couple of positions. Freddie is one of them. There's nothing they can get for Freddie offensively that would make sense to trade him, which only leaves the idea of trading him for a front-line Ace starter. Under no circumstances do I see the Braves trading Freddie Freeman for prospects only. Mainly because he's not like Simmons, who is the defensive mastermind but an offensive dud. In this day and age, teams pay for 2 things: Offense production, and top-line pitching. Freddie is one of those, and to get value he would have to be traded for the other.

But why in the world would the Braves trade for pitching and subsequently take the only feared stick out of their lineup? You can have all the pitching in the world, but if you can't score, you're doomed. Reference 2014 for the Braves. That team was 5th overall in ERA, and hovered around #1 in the majors for a long time. If you are in the top 10 in ERA in the majors, you're more likely to make the playoffs than not, but the Braves were part of 4 teams in 2014 that didn't make the playoffs in that top ten of ERA. The Braves, the Padres, the Mets, and the Mariners. Why? 29th, 30th, 22nd, and 19th in runs respectively. They couldn't score at all. And the Braves got WORSE this year in scoring.

So no, I wouldn't trade Freeman for pitching. I wouldn't even trade him for another 3 offensive players of better than average talent. Because it just doesn't make sense to do it that way right now. Freddie is one of the few actual ANSWERS this team has, and trading that away from magic beans would be a blow to the fanbase and the ticket holders. Because there's only one reason to trade Freddie for prospects, and that's to shed his $118M salary. If the Braves do that, they are spitting in the face of their supporters. Shedding payroll with the face of the Franchise would be like the Marlins trading Giancarlo Stanton for magic beans. That's something the Marlins do because they are a terribly run franchise with a madman miser for an owner.

It's not something the Braves do right after John Schuerholz just promised the fans we'd never see a season like 2015 again.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Braves trade Andrelton Simmons

Yes, I know. We have the sads that Simba will be leaving the Braves for two LA Angels prospects and Erick Aybar who will take over the SS role. The prospects are Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis who are reported the top two pitchers in the Angels system. Now, if you're looking for huge splash return for Simba? You didn't get that and you're pissed. If you're looking for a solid GM move that likely helps the WOEFUL pitching staff last year? You got a lot of help there.

Here's the thing. I loved watching Simmons play defense. He was the best defensive SS I've seen since I saw Ozzie Smith. But the problem that you will all remember if you take off the rose-colored glasses is that Simmons just couldn't provide much help hitting the ball. His OPS over the last two years was .617 and .660, and if you don't know that's freaking awful. Now, most SS's don't hit the ball well, so average offense is expected, but Simmons is probably mid-tier at best in the MLB when it comes to production.

Now, Aybar who will be replacing him isn't much better offensively, and he's slightly older, and he's nowhere near as spectacular with the glove. Obviously, he's a worse player than Simmons or they wouldn't have tossed in top prospects with the trade. Aybar is a lesser player, but he's a passable SS with good enough defense and he hasn't been any worse with the bat than Simmons. So, in my mind you're losing Simmons defense highlight reel, but it's a wash in the offensive department and you're getting more pitching for the future.

What about the pitchers? Sean Newcomb is a 22 year old 6'5" left-handed pitcher out of Massachusetts. He's a big boy who pitched his way into AA ball in the span of 2 years. The Scouting report on Newcomb is that he has a great fastball that starts in the low 90s and can get up to the high 90s on effort pitches. He has good stamina and can maintain velocity well as he goes later into games. Solid mechanics, and he's 245 pounds with apparently some ability to continue to add weight and strength to his game. That could be huge to have a power pitching lefty in the Braves arsenal.

Chris Ellis is a 23 year old 6'4" righty out of Alabama. Another tall guy with a gun. Like Newcomb he's got the 90s fastball velocity, but he lacks the control. That's something that Roger will have to work on with Ellis if he gets up to the majors quickly, but he's also playing in just AA ball right now. They'll both have to spend some time at AAA Gwinnett before they really get a chance to see time at the MLB level. I'm not sure we'll see them in 2016 at the last year of the Ted, but I'm certain we will see at least one of them in 2017 in the new ballpark, if not both.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Braves resign AJ Pierzynski

Small update tonight on the offseason front. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Braves signed AJ Pierzynski to a 1 year deal worth $3M. $1M of that will be in a signing bonus, $2M in salary, and $1M more incentives which I can only assume are based on amount of games played in the season.

Last season at the age of 38, AJ managed to play as the primary starting catcher in 113 games, with 407 ABs, 24 doubles, 9 homers, and 49 RBIs. He was one of the better sluggers on the team with a .430 slugging percentage, and he was the top hitter on the team in terms of batting average with a .300 average on the season.

In fact, AJ actually had a better year than catchers like Yadier Molina, Miguel Montero, and Jonathon Lucroy. And Lucroy is a guy I think the Braves are targeting as a possibility in the offseason. The fact AJ was doing all this at the age of 38 in the NL where he has to actually play the position? That's insane.

I think it's a great bargain for the Braves, regardless of his production going into next season. At the very least, the Braves need a veteran catcher to work with the staff. No, I don't expect him to slug .400+ and .700+ OPS at age 39. I think there will be some falloff. But in today's market of big money contracts going to very average talent, spending $3M on a solid catcher that can improve young pitching and teach them the progressions? That's big value for this team.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

In Memory of Tommy Hanson

I didn't know Tommy Hanson any more than running into him once in an elevator after a Braves game. I was wearing my Braves jersey and hat still, as I'd dropped a friend and sat in traffic forever. It was 2 hours after the game was over, and I think he was shocked to see anybody still in gear at my building, where he lived at the time.

I didn't recognize him at all when he walked on in all his 6 foot plus lanky red-headed form, in street clothes with 2 Budweiser tallboys in a grocery bag filled with ice. Mostly, I don't recognize any sports figures out of uniform because I'm just not that in tune with what they would look like as normal people, and not people I see on the TV all the time.

He took a look at me, and asked me how I was doing. I said fine, and that I was happy the Braves won that night. He wasn't pitching at the time. Then I remarked how pissed off I was about the Phillies continuing to win and spoiling our fun. This was 2011 so we were destined to finish in 2nd place behind those hot Phillies who won over 100 games.

He laughed heartily at my Phillies comment, and said, "Man I feel that." I thought he was a nice guy and I left the elevator wishing him a good night. It was 10 steps to my apartment when everything clicked. That I'd just commented on hating the Phillies with Tommy Hanson. I laughed to myself and went to bed, wishing I'd had something cooler to say.

That was my lone experience with the man, and he's gone today. I'm sad for that because he was such a promising young talent that obviously had some demons that got in the way. No young talent should be snuffed out before their 30th birthday, but whatever happened in Tommy's life whether it was self-inflicted or just a medical problem, I wish he had continued to get a chance to follow his dream of pitching in the majors. I worry about his family not only having lost one son, but his brother as well earlier in the decade.

While it's just a stupid one story about a chance meeting in the elevator, I felt today would be the day to post it. I remember Tommy today, and I hope he's found happiness and peace wherever he is now, and that his family can recover from their pain and wounds someday without falling into despair.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Braves Offseason Schedule

Several people have already asked me what the offseason will look like for the Braves, so I figured I'd make a short post for people to let them know what the calendar looks like.

November 6th is the qualifying offer deadline for free agents, but the Braves don't have anyone that qualifies this season for that number. Instead, the Braves free agents will be AJ Pierzynski, Peter Moylan, Ross Detwiler, and Edwin Jackson. I expect they will make an offer to AJ, and maybe Moylan. I'm not sure on Jackson or Detwiler.

On November 7th, Free agents can sign with any team as the negotiation period is over.

November 9th starts the 3 days GM meetings where talks get going on players. You'll see some media reports come out about thoughts on moves but very little actual action.

November 20th, you'll see the teams set their 40 man rosters for the Rule 5 draft. The Rule 5 draft is a way during the winter meetings for other teams to go after prospects that have been stockpiled in another organizations minor league system. The downside to doing this is that you have to play the drafted guy on your 25 man MLB roster for the entire season, and you can't option or demote him. So, it's a gamble if you want to make a minor league move. However, guys like Jose Bautista and Jason Grilli were both Rule 5 picks. So it does have some upside.

More on the rule 5 draft here:

December 7-10 is Winter Meetings. That's where you will start seeing the big moves if any. Many trades and signings will happen during this period of time, so that's when you want to be updating your Twitter feed if you care. I expect the Braves to be VERY active this year as they shore up their new roster and their expanded payroll.

January 15th, players and teams file arbitration figures. Braves only have one big arbitration player, and that's Shelby Miller, who will likely beat the hell out of the Braves no matter what he asks. So I expect the Braves to make an offer rather than go that route, and see if they can't work out a longer term deal. They also have Mike Minor who won at arbitration last season, but I'm unsure if they will even give Mike an offer to play next season and keep him on the team given his injuries. If they do, he'll have to go to arbitration again.

February is arbitration hearings.

And I'll keep you updated as we go along with analysis and payroll figures once we're past winter meetings. Enjoy the holidays!

If you want all the dates and details you can find them here: