-Braves get Rick Ankiel, Kyle Farnsworth, and cash considerations reportedly worth around $2 million .
-Royals get Gregor Blanco, Jesse Chavez, minor league LHP Tim Collins
When evaluating a deadline move such as this there are three main points to analyze.
1) Did the team improve its chances of getting to the postseason/making it further into the playoffs? If so, by how much?
2) What did the team give up in the deal and was it worth it?
3) What are the financial ramifications from this trade in the coming years? Or in other words, does the trade affect Atlanta’s payroll in 2011 and beyond?
Of course the first two questions are subjective and can be answered in any number of ways. The third question attempts to answer if the trade restricts the organization’s ability to go out and sign free agents/draft picks in off-seasons to come.
1) Let’s start with the obvious. Replacing Jesse Chavez with Kyle Farnsworth is clearly an upgrade for the Atlanta pen. Of course we all remember an 18 inning game back in 2005 where Farnsworth gave up a game tying homerun to Brad Ausmus in the ninth, but he is clearly the better pitcher. The main point of debate centers around whether or not Rick Ankiel improves the Atlanta outfield, specifically in centerfield where he will be playing primarily. Simply put, is he better than Melky Cabrera/Gregor Blanco?
In Cabrera’s case it is not even close. He was a pretty awful hitter when Wren traded for him, and he seems to have gotten worse. Coming off of a career best season, in which he posted a pretty average .752 OPS (most likely thanks to Yankee Stadium), Melky has been nothing short of horrific at the plate this season for Atlanta. Neither are anything special defensively. UZR does give Melky the slight edge in centerfield defense but still shows that he is below average at fielding the position. Overall, Fangraphs calculates that Melky has been slightly worse than a replacement level player this season.
An argument could be made for Blanco over Ankiel, but that argument would likely overvalue his mere 66 plate appearances at the major league level this season. While Ankiel gets on base less often, his impressive power numbers make him more valuable to a Braves’ lineup that lacks pop and is currently 10th in NL slugging. Blanco has been much better defensively this season than in years past, but for his career has a UZR of exactly zero in CF, meaning that he is just average. Also, Blanco may have better speed but isn’t much of a base stealer. Ultimately it comes down to needs, and the Braves need power. Ankiel gives them an increase in that category.
The Braves got better but very marginally so. Bullpen depth helps, but Farnsworth may only add about twenty innings over the course of the next two months. Likewise, Ankiel is only a marginal upgrade over Blanco. Neither he nor Cabrera can hit lefties very well either, something the Braves’ lineup has struggled with. Either way the trade helps to counter the Oswalt move, slightly improving the teams’ chance of winning the NL East.
2) No tears will be shed over losing Jesse Chavez. Blanco may be missed by some, but he was already twenty-six years old and never showed the ability to be a valuable everyday starter in the major leagues. LHP Tim Collins is barely pushing 5’ 7’’, but he has been a strikeout machine in his minor league career. Minor league relievers, however, typically do not carry much value and giving Collins up to make the current team better (even barely) makes sense.
3) The $2 million sent to the Braves along with Ankiel and Farnsworth more than covers their 2011 option buyouts for next season. Ankiel’s option is a mutual one worth $6 million and will almost certainly be declined considering the Braves will have to pay Nate McLouth more than that next season as well. Farnsworth comes with a club option worth $5.25 million next season, and it will be interesting to see what Frank Wren decides to do with it. Either way, the trade does not restrict the Braves financially for 2011 and beyond.
This trade in no ways jeopardizes the Braves’ future while making the club at least somewhat better. If Ankiel can play passable defense in CF, the team will clearly be better off. If not, he should at least break even with his offense upgrade, and Farnsworth makes our bullpen stronger. The bottom line is that Wren did a good job helping the club when the market did not present him with a whole lot of options.
Now, let the debate begin.
Tags: Gregor Blanco, Jesse Chavez, Kansas City Royals, Kyle Farnsworth, Rick Ankiel, Trade Deadline
Posted in Roster Moves | 4 Comments »
It appears that Nate McLouth’s days in Atlanta are done for the time being. After going 1-for-15 in his five games back from the disabled list for a concussion sustained in a collision with Jason Heyward, the Braves front office has decided to give Nate more time in Gwinnett to figure things out. They will likely continue to look for possible trade options for McLouth as the July 31st trade deadline approaches.
McLouth was held out of Sunday’s final game against the Marlins after failing to provide offensive production in the previous five games. Large points of frustration with McLouth were a soft groundout with the bases loaded in late innings on Saturday and a game-ending double play in extra innings on Sunday. Additionally, with runners in scoring position, Nate was 0-for-6 during the three game series with the Marlins.
Brent Clevlen has been activated from a rehab assignment and is expected to join the squad mid-game tonight. Gregor Blanco, who was sent to Gwinnett, is required to spend 10 days in the minors before being eligible to be called up. He will be eligible on July 31st. In 58 at-bats in Atlanta this season, Blanco has hit .310, but the Braves front office has not yet decided if Blanco will end up back in Atlanta in the next week. At this point, the Braves are still in search of the answer to a long-term solution in center field.
I don’t know what’s going to happen next for McLouth or the Braves as a whole in center field, but here’s wishing McLouth the best. If we don’t see a move for a center fielder at the trade deadline, I’d love to see Gregor back in Atlanta ASAP.
Tags: Brent Clevlen, Gregor Blanco, Gwinnett, Nate McLouth, Optioned
Posted in Roster Moves | 1 Comment »
The Braves once again pulled out an exciting (if not sloppy) win in eleven innings. There were so many story-lines coming from this game, but none greater than the clutch play of Prado, Blanco, Infante, and Glaus.
Prado had three singles last night, bumping up his average to .337 and furthering his already distended hit count to 114 — SEVEN more than the next closest bat in the entire league (Robinson Cano of NYY). Clutch aspect: Prado had the first two RBIs of the game.
Blanco continued right where he left off in June, going two for three tonight with a walk. He was the only Brave to cross the plate through the first 10 innings of play tonight for the Braves. This play is not out of place for Blanco who has been playing great as of late. He’s making a strong statement to be part of the lineup, but with Hinske also playing some great baseball, I think we will see these two sharing time out in left.
Glaus came up big in the bottom of the 11th, redeeming the error from the top of the inning in a big way with a huge double. After being on an 0-20 drought, this hit couldn’t have been any more timely. Despite going one-for-five in last night’s game, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have some great games to close out the first half of the season. That smack can inspire confidence in even the lowliest of slumping sluggers (to which fraternity Glaus does not yet belong).
And finally, the hero of the night: Omar Infante. You can’t say enough about this guy. Very much in the same vein of Gregor Blanco, Infante has been a quintessential utility player — showing up to play and getting huge clutch hits like we saw last night. Incredible situational hitting has been the calling card of the 2010 Atlanta Braves.
With all of this in mind, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see an Infante, Blanco, or Hinske move up to the 2-slot behind Prado until Heyward gets back in shape. I think it would create some fantastic scoring opportunities that we’re going to need to get win these final three series before the break.
Tags: Clutch Hitting, Gregor Blanco, Martin Prado, Omar Infante
Posted in Game Analysis, General | 2 Comments »
The hype surrounding the Washington Nationals phenom pitcher Stephen Strasburg is absolutely insane – and most of it is earned. But he’s hittable, and beatable.
The bottom line yesterday was Tim Hudson. Through seven innings of ball, Hudson struck out six, picked off one, walked three, and gave up a total of five hits. His extremely effective sinking two-seamer led to twelve groundouts – and only one fly out. Hudson showed that he’s back in ace form last night – as the nation watched expecting such a performance from the opposing pitcher.
Strasburg was almost as good. Through six innings he held the Braves’ offense scoreless. Nats manager Jim Riggleman almost pinch-hit for Strasburg when his spot in the order came up in the bottom of the sixth (someone came out on deck for Strasburg but was pulled back) and Strasburg came back out to pitch the seventh inning. Right now I’ll bet he wishes he hadn’t. Following a leadoff walk to Chipper (his 46th of the season), the Braves loaded the bases with no outs (thanks to an error) and tattooed WonderBoy for four runs (three earned). They then tacked on another unearned run.
Hustler of the night: Gregor Blanco, who surprised everybody with a bunt down the first base line that the pitcher couldn’t field cleanly for an RBI comes in second to Tim Hudson, who was absolutely ace-like last night.
Slacker of the evening: In the first inning, Melky Cabrera roped a double to left. Chipper then knocked a fly ball to deep left and Melky got caught somewhere between second and third. Had he tagged up, he could have scored when McCann singled to left. Instead, Melky’s slow self got caught trying to score from second to end the inning.
Strasburg Effect: 9601 walkup tickets were sold yesterday and a total of 21,608 tickets were sold since Strasburg’s previous start. The Braves’ franchise thanks Strasburg for coming to Atlanta, selling tickets, and then giving up the loss to improve the Bravos’ home record to 27-8.
The Braves sent the struggling Jordan Schafer to the minors today, calling up Gregor Blanco to take his place as the Braves’ center fielder. Schafer is hitting just .204 with 63 strikeouts in 167 at-bats – considerably slowed after a hot start. That’s a lot of striking out this year. The Braves tried to give Schafer a chance, but it’s been almost a month since his last game with more than one hit.
Gregor Blanco will start tonight against the Cubs. He’s hitting .384 in the past two weeks in Gwinnett. The Braves need more offensive production and hope that Blanco can provide some pop and a spark for the team. Jonathan is thrilled – he’s a huge Blanco fan and will enjoy watching him play tonight. Drop by the front row of 435 if you’re at the ballpark to find Jonathan and chat if you want.
Schafer still has potential as an outfielder in the big leagues – he just needs some more seasoning. We’ll see if he can turn it around in Gwinnett hitting off lesser pitchers.
What are your thoughts on the move? Good or bad for Schafer? Should we have traded Josh Anderson in hindsight?
Tags: Gregor Blanco, Jordan Schafer
Posted in Roster Moves | 4 Comments »
The Braves went into the offseason with several needs:
Two Starting Pitchers
We’ve acquired three. Ace-to-be Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami signed as free agents. The third, Javier Vazquez, was acquired via trade from the White Sox. The three pitchers will augment the Braves’ Jair Jurrjens as the four regular starters (all can eat innings), and we’ll likely see Jorge Campillo, Charlie Morton, and perhaps Tommy Hanson fight for the fifth rotation spot. Now that we’ve got a stable rotation, look for the Braves not to rush Hanson to the big leagues, though he’ll be ready in a year or two to start regularly. When Tim Hudson comes back from Tommy John surgery late in the season, he’ll provide the Braves with one of the best rotations late in the season, if he’s true to form. The Braves’ rotation won’t be something to sneeze at, even though it’s not going to be the best rotation in the history of baseball.
An Outfield Bat
I’d imagine the Braves are still looking to fill this need. Even though we’ve got Jeff Francoeur, Matt Diaz, Josh Anderson, Gregor Blanco, Brandon Jones, and Jordan Schafer as options, we need a bat to help replace the hole left by Teixeira’s departure and to protect Chipper in the lineup. If the Braves do sign someone, it will only be for a year or two, because in addition to the players I already listed, Gorkeys Hernandez and Jason Heyward are outfield prospects in the minor league system, just two-three years away. Maybe Heyward switches to first, but there’s still a glut of good prospects waiting to play outfield for the Braves. I don’t know if we fill this or go with young talent, but if we want to compete in the NL East, we probably need another bat somewhere in the lineup. Left field is a logical position for that bat to play. If I were Wren, I’d look at Bobby Abreu for this role.
Extending Chipper’s Contract
Please, Braves, do this now. Smoltz didn’t retire here, but Chipper needs to. We’re starting to get a reputation for getting the best years out of our players, making this their home, and sending them elsewhere to die. See Aaron, Murphy, Justice, Maddux, Glavine (though he left of his own free will), and now Smoltz. Don’t let it happen to Chipper.
A Backup Catcher
Done. It flew under the radar, but the Braves signed Dave Ross to a two-year deal to back up Brian McCann early in December. He’ll make ~$1.5M each year he’s here. The Braves have been resting McCann once a week or so to try and save his knees, so we’ll see some time out of Ross. Ross hit .225 with 3 HRs and 13 RBI last year for Cincinnati and Boston in 142 at-bats in 60 games.
The Braves will now turn to signing a bat for the outfield, extending Chipper’s contract, and re-signing Will Ohman. Once that’s done, I’d say we’re set for this offseason. I don’t think we’ll see the Braves sign any more starting pitchers. Setup arms in the ‘pen will come via Campillo and our farm system. Think I missed anything? Made bad assumptions? Make a comment and we’ll have some discussion about it.
Ignoring The Bad
By the way, I’m ignoring everything that didn’t go right. Rather not talk about it – no reason to dwell on it!
Tags: Bobby Abreu, Brandon Jones, Braves 2009 Additions, Braves Offseason Goals, Braves Trade Rumors, Charlie Morton, Chipper Jones, Dave Ross, Derek Lowe, Gorkeys Hernandez, Gregor Blanco, Jair Jurrjens, Jason Heyward, Javier Vazquez, Jeff Francoeur, Jordan Schafer, Josh Anderson, Kenshin Kawakami, Matt Diaz, Tommy Hanson, Will Ohman
Posted in General, Roster Moves, Speculation | 53 Comments »
When the Braves consider next year’s starting outfield, they have a bevy of players from which to choose. It’s just the first year the Braves will be plagued with this problem as they have tons of promising young outfielders in their farm system. Today we’ll look at some of the options in center field.
Mark Kotsay – The Incumbant CF
Kotsay’s contract expires at the end of the 2008 season and he may or may not be resigned. Kotsay has been effective in Atlanta, batting .299 with 37 RBIs, 6 HRs, and a .346 on-base percentage in 83 games. He’s been on the DL with back issues (he had back surgery in Oakland that knocked him out for most of last season) but for the most part has been healthy.
Gregor Blanco – The Rookie
Gregor Blanco has played the most time of the young Braves’ outfield prospects, batting .258 with 27 RBI, 11 stolen bases, and a .371 on base percentage. Blanco is speedy – he’s currently ranked second in the NL in bunt hits with 14. Blanco has been slowed recently by a bone spur in his ankle, which is growing worse as the season progresses. He’s doing a pretty good job batting leadoff and has impressed with his time in Atlanta.
Josh Anderson – Rising Star
Anderson has played most of the year in Richmond, but is absolutely tearing up the baseball there. He’s batting .316 with 37 RBIs, a .361 on base percentage, and a whopping 40 stolen bases. He’s cutting down on strikeouts when compared to years past, and and should definitely be considered when the Braves look at their outfield after the season. It’d be great to see some speed come back to Atlanta, where we have a history of speedy outfielders.
Jordan Schafer – Once The Future King
Schafer was once heralded as a sure lock for the Braves’ starting center field spot in 2009, but a run in with an HGH suspension (he says there’s a side to the story that hasn’t been told) has limited his playing time and knocked him back a step or two. He’s batting .269 with 46 RBIs and 9 HRs in just 71 games and has an OBP of .371. I’d be surprised to see him make the jump from AA ball to the big leagues, but it’s not impossible. He still has a future with the Braves organization, I’m just not sure it involves a role in center field in 2009.
Who do you think the center fielder should be next year? Kotsay or one of the youngsters? I’m excited about Josh Anderson and want to see him in the bigs next year for the Braves, be it in Center or Left. But with potentially Kotsay, Anderson, Blanco, Brandon Jones, and Matt Diaz competing for three outfield slots, it’s going to be competitive – and fun to watch.
Tags: Brandon Jones, braves future, Gregor Blanco, Jordan Schafer, Josh Anderson, Mark Kotsay, Matt Diaz, outfield
Posted in Speculation | 8 Comments »
Braves’ center fielder Mark Kotsay was placed on the 15-day DL today after tightness in his lower back prohibited him from even taking batting practice Thursday before the game against the Brewers. Speedster Josh Anderson was recalled from AAA Richmond and will be in Cincinnati on Friday night for the start of a three-game series against the Reds.
Kotsay, who missed his last four starts, had back surgery in March of last year. He came to the Braves in a trade for prospect Joey Devine. Kotsay is not the first Braves outfielder to go on the DL – Matt Diaz is expected to miss about six weeks with a partially torn PCL that will not require surgery. While Diaz and Kotsay are on the DL, Josh Anderson is expected to share time in center field and left field with Gregor Blanco.
Anderson was acquired from the Astros in a trade last year in November for reliever Oscar Villareal. He impressed in spring training and was beat out for the fourth outfield spot by Blanco.
Tags: Gregor Blanco, Josh Anderson, Mark Kotsay, Matt Diaz
Posted in Injuries | 1 Comment »
When all looked lost today and the Braves were down 4-0 going into the bottom of the seventh, the second string stepped up. Most of the starters took an at-bat or two and got to hit the showers early, but that didn’t mean the Braves were done.
Thanks to five Braves hits and two Indians errors, the Braves rallied from the 4-0 deficit to win the game 5-4 as the game was called on account of rain. The rally included RBIs from Corky Miller, Gregor Blanco, Brent Lillibridge, and our new favorite utility player, Ruben Gotay. Earlier in the day, Chipper almost knocked in pinch-runner Lillibridge, but he got thrown out at the plate by right fielder Franklin Gutierrez.
Hampton started for the Braves, and he looked good. The Indians strung three hits together in the second to score a run, but otherwise we should be once again encouraged by Hampton, who seems ready to start the season and answer any doubters who think he can’t handle the Majors anymore. He’ll pitch well for us until he breaks his arm turning on a light switch.
Jake Westbrook is downright nasty as a pitcher – the Indians have to be thankful for him and C.C. in the division race with the Tigers. I think the AL Central will be a very fun division to watch all year.
Next up? Oh yeah, actual regular season games. One, actually, against the Washington Nationals in DC, opening their new stadium. President Bush will throw out the first pitch and it sounds like the guys are excited to have the opportunity to be a part of the first game in the new park. Here’s hoping we torch the Nats.
Tags: Brent Lillibridge, Gregor Blanco, Mike Hampton, Preseason
Posted in Game Analysis | 2 Comments »
After last night’s loss to Cleveland, the Braves further thinned out their roster, getting ready for Sunday’s game against the Washington Nationals. Of course the most notable moves involved the ongoing battles for the limited number of backup spots on the roster.
Brent Lillibridge, impressive as he was in the first half of the spring, got sent back to AAA Richmond, where he’ll get more playing time. I think this is crucial, since either he or Escobar will likely be trade bait before too long. He needs to be playing all the time. Martin Prado gets to stay in Atlanta – his first time starting the season in the majors. Joining Prado (who played a few innings last night at first, by the way) is new acquisition Ruben Gotay, a switch-hitting contact hitter who can play second, third, and short.
In the outfield, Gregor Blanco beat out Josh Anderson for the backup job. Anderson got out-hit by Blanco this spring (.260 to .341) and despite his speed, Bobby couldn’t find a roster spot for him. I like Anderson though – if we have an issue mid-season with Diaz or Kotsay I’m sure we’ll see him (maybe even before Schafer, whom they might want to groom all season long).
Behind the plate, Corky Miller seems to have the backup job. Brayan Pena is still on the roster too, but he’s out of options and conventional wisdom says he’s traded by the end of the day. If Pena sticks around, he can pitch in at first as well.
So that leaves the five bench spots going to Blanco (OF), Gotay (IF), Prado (IF), Pena (C/1B) and Miller (C). I’m not sure what we’ll see happen if Pena is traded – maybe Anderson comes back up?
The Bullpen is finally solid, with slots going to Peter Moylan, Rafael Soriano, Manny Acosta, Will Ohman, Chris Resop, Royce Ring, and Blaine Boyer. I like this year’s ‘pen. Lots of arms who have the capacity to be good pitchers throughout the season.
Jeff Bennett and Buddy Carlyle are still fighting for the pitching slot left vacant by Smoltzie, who will start the season on the DL (it’ll be backdated and he’ll only miss one start). I’d give the edge to Bennett in this one – he’s been impressive, but Carlyle hasn’t put together a bad spring himself.
More as we hear it – our ears are to the ground today as we wait for the final moves to be made.
Tags: Blaine Boyer, Brayan Pena, Brent Lillibridge, Buddy Carlyle, Chris Resop, Corky Miller, Gregor Blanco, Jeff Bennett, Josh Anderson, Manny Acosta, Martin Prado, Peter Moylan, Rafael Soriano, Royce Ring, Ruben Gotay, Will Ohman
Posted in Roster Moves | No Comments »
Contrary to popular belief, and by popular belief I mean the all-time great former Mets’ GM Steve Phillips’ NL East preview on ESPN.com, the Braves are alive and well and clicking. The Braves, after losing to those Mets today, are sitting at fourth in the Grapefruit League in runs scored. Among teams in the NL East, the Braves finished ahead of all four rivals. Of course, this number doesn’t take into account the Phillies’ playground stadium. The Phillies’ spring training stadium-Bright House Field-does have a short fence, but on the right side of the field as opposed to the left at Citizens’ Bank Park.
Getting back to the team at hand though, the Braves should have little to worry about offensively from their starting nine. Yunel Escobar is hitting a cool .400 this spring after last year’s .326 (319 ABs); more importantly for Escobar, he slugged .557, second only to Chippers’ .658. Of course, this is spring training we’re talking about and stats don’t translate to the regular season, but Escobar’s work ethic and hitting discipline has never been questioned since he was drafted by the Braves.
Other surprises included included Martin Prado (.318 in 66 ABs, most on the team) and Gregor Blanco (.400 in 35 ABs), both of whom have a chance to make the team. Prado more than Blanco, but at this point I think Bobby’s seen enough from Anderson and Blanco offensively to make the decision based on defense and whether they will be proficient in all three outfield spots.
As far as the rest of the cast goes, Francoeur is projected to have a breakout year by many “experts” and fantasy gurus. McCann is healthy again and could potentially put up the numbers he put up in 2006. Teixeira hit just .188 but, again, this is Spring and isn’t really a preview of things to come. He’s been warming up as of late, anyways. Most of the players seem to be getting into form quickly, but to be successful this year, the Braves need to do better against left-handed starters. The team should have little problems manufacturing runs and may even be better with Tex in there from the get-go.
Tags: Brian McCann, Chipper Jones, Gregor Blanco, Jeff Francoeur, Josh Anderson, Mark Teixeira, Martin Prado, Yunel Escobar
Posted in General | 4 Comments »
The second, and unfortunately the last, stop on our spring training tour was Sunday’s Braves vs. Astros matchup at Champion Stadium in Disney’s Wide World of Sports. Firstly, the facility there is very impressive – a great place to watch baseball. I felt like I was watching a college game, except all the big league players were there.
Despite Jonathan’s mantra of “watch this next pitch carefully, it might be Hampton’s last,” Mike did us proud, giving up two runs in six innings. In the sixth, it looked like he thought he was pitching batting practice, as he gave up back-to-back solo home runs. Before that though, he looked good, striking out four and giving up six hits. If he stays healthy, and I’m beginning to build confidence that he can for a period of time, he’ll be a valuable addition to our rotation this spring.
The Braves struck early, with Tex knocking in two in the first before scoring on Gregor Blanco’s triple. Blanco continues to impress, as he went 3-3 yesterday after starting and finished the game playing in right field. Brian McCann didn’t start, but he came into the game late and absolutely destroyed a ball into the Braves’ bullpen.
Chris Resop, Royce Ring, and Manny Acosta all looked good in their outings as well. I expect we’ll see Ring and Acosta in the ‘pen to start the year, but not 100% sold on Resop yet. It’s possible he sticks around, however.
Loved the game, loved the facility, and loved the trip. We’ll wrap it up in our upcoming trip recap. All of us are highly dissatisfied to be back in Atlanta at work and in classes. It’s far too cold here.
Until next year, Florida.
Tags: Gregor Blanco, Houston Astros, Mark Teixeira, Mike Hampton, Preseason
Posted in Game Analysis | 8 Comments »