Thursday, December 17, 2015

Chipper Jones rejoins the Braves

News came down today that Chipper Jones is going to be rejoining the Atlanta Braves Organization as a special assistant to baseball operations. Whatever the heck that means. I'm hoping it means drinking more beers in the booth while he shoots the breeze with Chip and Joe. But in all likelihood it means he can help with finding talent and recruiting free agents to play in Atlanta once we spend some money.

Still just think about it, Chipper, Chip, and Joe as a weekly regular feature on broadcasts. It would be appointment TV just to see what went haywire with Chipper's stories. Add in Tom Glavine and John Smoltz to make it a 5-man booth and I'd never want to watch anything else.

In fact, just dump Chip and Joe, and let Tom, John, and Chipper handle the broadcasts. We'd all enjoy it just as much.


Friday, December 11, 2015

Bye Bye Bethancourt

Last night the Braves pulled off another key move to me, which is getting rid of a guy I was tired of hearing about for so many years. Christian Bethancourt, in the minds of many as a potential catcher of the future, but always in my mind as a guy who couldn't hit, was traded to the Padres for a pitcher named Casey Kelly and a very young catcher named Ricardo Rodriguez.

I honestly don't care that we got anything back, because I was more than prepared to release Bethancourt to greener pastures elsewhere. But the fact we got anything other than a bag of balls for this guy is pretty huge to me. But again, I'm not crazy enough to believe that the Padres gave us anything they actually believe will work for our crappy hitting catching prospect. I've said it before, but this is the redneck swap meet trade. Two rednecks show up, and the other one honestly believes he can repair the other guy's busted crap.

So who is Casey Kelly? He's a 26 year old righty with 40 innings in the majors and a 6.69 ERA after 8 starts. Are you excited yet? Do you have the warm feeling in the pit of your stomach? Exactly, of course you don't. This guy is the broken outboard motor we got in exchange for our fridge that hasn't run right in 2 years. And Kelly's never been really good at the minor league level either, with an ERA of around 4.50 at AA ball or better. His WHIP is over 1.35, which isn't great, and he gets raked with hits rather than giving up a bunch of walks. Simply put, the guy doesn't miss bats and will need a lot of help before he's truly MLB ready. Plus, he's not young. Can the Braves fix that? I doubt it, but I also doubt the Padres can fix Bethancourt.

Oh and don't worry about Ricardo Rodriguez for now. He's too young and too raw to even consider playing for years. He's all of 17 years old, and until he can drink you'll probably never see him if he even pans out at all.

Basically we're gonna get our team of guys out on a dock with a cooler full of Natty Ice, some Skynyrd on the radio, and we're gonna see if we can't fix that Kelly outboard motor.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Braves trade Shelby Miller: What did we get?

So if you were waiting on Shelby Miller to get traded during Winter Meetings? Congratulations! It finally happened. Shelby is going to the Diamondbacks in exchange for OF Ender Inciarte, pitching prospect Aaron Blair, and SS prospect Dansby Swanson.

If you've heard anything from the pundits so far on the trade, it's pretty universal that we fleeced the Diamondbacks. Which I find hilarious because two of these pieces are prospects we have no idea about yet. However, never let it be said that in today's hot take society we can't immediately approve it as trade of the decade or crap all over it right after it happens. Because that makes sense. (Not really)

I have no idea if this is a great trade because I'm not dumb enough to tell you anything about how prospects will perform at the MLB level. I'm sure there were tons of Bethancourt lovers out there, but I was never one. Now look what's happening with that kid. We're trying to better deal him out of town so we don't get scooped on the 40 man rosters in the Rule 5 draft. That's the nature of prospects. What looked like a franchise building option 4 years ago is this year's horse on the way to the glue factory.

So what part DO we know? Ender Inciarte is a 25 year old OF from Venezuela, and he's a utility outfielder who can play all three positions. Is he a great hitter? Maybe. He's a good hitter from what I've been able to gather. He doesn't have a ton of power, but he can hit for average (.292), and he's fast, averaging about 20 SBs a year so far. His OPS is rather meh at .716, but for the guy we want as a potential top of the order guy, he can fill that spot well. Am I over the moon about the move from this regard? Not really. Now the WAR guys will flip out about his defense, but I've made my statement on that over and over again. In today's baseball I need to know you're an offensive answer in the outfield first. The defensive side to me is gravy unless he's a full time CF. Then it's a big plus. And I'm thinking Ender will be the CF answer on this team (hopefully).

What else did we get? How about 23 year old righty starter Aaron Blair? A nice prospect from the Arizona AAA squad who will probably see MLB action in 2016. He had a 2.92 ERA between AA and AAA last season. Per the scouting report from the Diamondbacks, Blair is a big strong guy with a fastball in the low to mid 90s, and a sinking action on the ball. Blair has a lot of strikeout possibility due to his size and velocity, plus if he can continue to get better action on the ball he'll really get some guys to roll over for double plays and ground outs.

Also the Braves got Dansby Swanson, the overall #1 pick from 2015. This is the part that has the pundits freaking out about how lopsided the trade could be. It's so very rare that you see a team part with a #1 overall pick in the draft, and unlike football these pan out very well at a very high rate. Swanson is a 21 year old out of Vanderbilt who plays SS and slugged .482 in A ball with limited plate appearances. The excitement is that prior #1 over draft picks have been guys like Carlos Correa, Gerritt Cole, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, and David Price. If Swanson can pan out like those guys? You're looking a franchise changing player. Which is why it's so odd to me that the Diamondbacks let him go. I'm wondering if they know something we don't know, or if they just needed pitching so badly they were willing to quite literally bet the farm on it.

So yes, on paper with the upside potential the trade looks great. However, we're still probably 4 years away from knowing if this was a great idea. Don't let anybody fool you into thinking otherwise. But if you believe the hype, this is a great step in the right direction for the Braves rebuild.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Winter Meetings Start Today!

Will your favorite player be traded? JUST KIDDING THEY LIKELY ALREADY HAVE!

It's Winter Meetings this week from the 7th to the 10th, and that means all the MLB bigwigs gather in Nashville, TN to discuss the various fates of their franchises. This is the time of year when many big deals get done, or at the very least the groundwork gets laid for the hottest of the hot stove moves.

The Braves are likely players in the free agent market in addition to taking on more trade responsibility, and Shelby Miller's name will likely come up over and over again. Why? Because outside of Freddie Freeman, he's the only real asset we have left on the Braves.

So stay tuned. If you see any big moves, I'll be here ready to give my two cents on how they affect the team. Warm your hands, it's hot stove time!


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Braves buy a lotto ticket with Gordon Beckham

I graduated from Georgia in 2003 and I watched Gordon Beckham play on the UGA Baseball Team that went to the College World Series in 2006. I remember heading back to Athens in the winter to watch those kids hit because they could crush the ball, and Beckham was one of the best.

But after he was drafted and made it to the show in 2009, Gordon's career as a hitter has been in steady decline. He started as a 22 year old slugger with an .808 OPS and a robust 14 homers in his rookie season. Last year he barely scratched out 237 plate appearances with an OPS of .607 and an average of .209. By comparison Melvin Upton had about as many appearances and hit .259 with a .757 OPS last year. And he sucks.

I have absolutely no idea what the Braves plan to do with Gordon because on paper he shouldn't be playing in the major leagues right now. Which means there's only one thing I think the Braves are thinking: he's a lottery ticket. Like many long-shot bets, you pay a little bit of money and you hope to get a big return. But you're not pissed off when it doesn't pan out 99% of the time because you didn't really invest much to begin with. That's Gordon Beckham at age 28, making $1.5M on a one-year show-me deal.

This could be a complete waste of time, other than the fact that Beckham can play 2B and 3B with average defensive ability. He's never going to WOW you at either position, but he's good enough to not spike himself out there, or have the ball go through his legs often. However, there is something to be said for a change of scenery. When Gordon had the chance to play in LA for a brief period in 2014, he hit much better than in Chicago. Granted, it's an extremely small sample size, but the Braves are signing him for a year. They WANT an extremely small sample size to pan out, or for him to be a bench player asset.

Either way, it's a dollar to win the Powerball. Sometimes that happens and you get a guy like AJ Pierzynski who hits 144 OPS points higher than his prior year average. And sometimes you get a guy who strikes out 50 times and carries a .180 average through the first half of the season. Most of the time it's closer to the latter than the former. But in today's market? It's a decent enough gamble to see a good player come back to Georgia and see if the home-cooking doesn't agree with him.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Jim Johnson is a key Braves signing (whether we like it or not)

If I told you that a 33-year old reliever was going to be a key part of the Braves success in 2016, you'd probably laugh. Then you'd ask, "What KIND of success in 2016? Don't you know we're selling off this payroll for peanuts so we can support the Cobb County Braves stadium?" Well, that kind of thinking makes you a jerk, sir, and I won't tolerate it.

I refuse to believe that the Braves are simply hanging up their cleats 2 years before debuting a new stadium and less than 6 months after trading away everything they had for magic beans...I mean pitching in the minors. Yes, I'm as grumpy as you are, but the Jim Johnson signing gives me a bit of hope that the Braves are addressing one of their biggest problems in 2015, and they are doing in a cost-effective manner that fits with the rebuild.

For those of you that don't remember, the beginning of 2015 for the Braves was actually pretty good. The Braves were actually winning games. I know, it's shocking but true. And a big part of the Braves winning games was that the pitching staff wasn't constantly imploding every time we made a call to the bullpen. Who was a big part of that success? Jim Johnson.

Johnson was typically a setup guy in the early part of the year while Jason Grilli was the closer. This at least provided a nice back end for the Braves in the 8th and 9th innings, and that will be the same in 2016 when Grilli returns from injury. If you look at Johnson's appearances in the first half of the season, he pitched in 49 games, and the Braves went 34-15 in games he pitched. Obviously, there are other factors in play, but it's important to note that Johnson had 20 Holds and 9 saves in those appearances. He was a very key player in the Braves bullpen that held on to key leads.

The most important part of your bullpen is your 8th and 9th inning guys, since you would hope that a starter can get you 6 innings, and you have a slew of guys to provide a 7th inning bridge. But nailing down that 8th inning setup man and 9th inning closer can really give your team the piece of mind they need with a lead, and it puts a bug in your opponents ear that they HAVE to score before the 8th or the game is over.

Jim Johnson only costs the Braves $2.5M in 2016, and Jason Grilli will only cost $3.5M. For $6M you may have shored up a huge problem for the Braves in the later half of the year. How bad was it? In the second half of the season after Jim was traded and Grilli went down with injury a few days later, the Braves bullpen had an ERA of 5.03. That's terrible in the same way that getting stung to death by bees while getting eaten by a shark is terrible. It's dead last terrible.

But Grilli and Johnson together in the first half? They had a 2.94 and 2.25 set of ERA's respectively. If they can get remotely close to that in 2016 and you provide a decent 7th inning bridge? The Braves bullpen could be back in business. Now we just have to score some runs.