The Braves are trying to save money this offseason, so they dealt Derek Lowe and ate about $10 million of the $15 million owed to Lowe in 2012. They are looking at dealing Martin Prado, who made $3.1 million in 2011 and could make about $4.5 million in arbitration, with the Tigers and Rockies in on him. Michael Bourn’s salary could jump from $4 million to over $7 million. Jair Jurrjens’ salary could rise from $3.2 million to over $5 million. Eric O’Flaherty and Peter Moylan will make over $2 million each, with O’Flaherty jumping from $895K and Moylan standing pat at $2 million after an injury-plagued 2011.
Prado and Jurrjens are on the trading block, if Bourn’s salary request is too high, they could non-tender him, and Moylan needs to prove he is healthy or they could non-tender him, too. Based on the rumors going on, Prado to the Rockies for Seth Smith and Tim Wheeler would be a steal. They need a centerfielder with Bourn’s contract status, this year and going forward, uncertain. Smith would need to be a platoon player in LF, as he is very good against RHP (.287/.360/.518, 62 2B, 16 3B, 43 HR, 140 RBI in 967 AB since start of 2009) and miserable against LHP (.213/.279/.337, 9 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 26 RBI in 202 AB since start of 2009 season). Wheeler would be a great long-term solution in center, especially if he continues to hit like he did in 2011 in the Minors, when he posted a .287/.365/.535 with 28 2B, 6 3B, 33 HR, 86 RBI and 21 SB in Double-A.
Jurrjens is rumored to be going to the Yankees, who could really use some starting pitching. The Braves could use a shortstop and Eduardo Nunez is said to be a part of that package. Nunez posted a .265/.313/.385 line in his rookie season, with 18 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 30 RBI and 22 SB in 309 at bats. The Braves are said to like his bat. That’s laughable. He is living and breathing and younger than Alex Gonzalez. That is about his upside. His highest OPS in the Minors was .792 in 2005 in Rookie Ball (281 at bats) and his highest in the “upper levels” was .782 in 2009 for Double-A (497 at bats). Outside of Nunez, they would need to get some actual talent. Brandon Laird would be a solid-but-not-spectacular prospect. He is a 24-year-old 3B prospect who has done well the last couple of seasons between Double-A and Triple-A, posting 98 XBH (41 HR). Larry Jones won’t be there forever, so they need to find someone close for his first injury of 2012. Toss in a low-level prospect or two, who are typically a crapshoot, and the Braves dump salary, while gaining some value and organizational depth in the deal.
They can make the trade of Jurrjens due to the eruption of pitching talent that the team has had in their system. They need to be careful with the innings as they gain experience, but their rotation can be filled with Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor, Arodys Vizcaino, Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado and Kris Medlen. Whoever doesn’t make the rotation can move to the pen to limit their innings, while gaining experience against Major League hitters. This is what I would have as the 25-man roster based on these moves:
5 Starting Pitchers: Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Mike Minor, Randall Delgado, and Julio Teheran
6 Bullpen Arms: Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Kris Medlen, Eric O’Flaherty, Peter Moylan, and Cristhian Martinez
2 Catchers: Brian McCann, David Ross
1B: Freddie Freeman
2B: Dan Uggla
3B: Chipper Jones
SS: Eduardo Nunez
LF: Seth Smith
CF: Michael Bourn
RF: Jason Heyward
Bench: Tyler Pastornicky (2B/SS), Brooks Conrad (2B/3B), Erik Hinske (LF/RF/1B/PH), Matt Diaz (LF/RF), Jose Constanza (OF).
The team should go young but I think they should send Arodys Vizcaino to Triple-A to continue building him as a starter. He only has 56 2/3 IP above High-A, so he needs the seasoning. Matt Diaz would be the platoon parter for Seth Smith, as he has hit ..329/.376/.504 against LHP since the start of 2009 with 43 XBH in 389 at bats. Pastornicky could use more seasoning, as well, but his speed off the bench and versatility in the middle of the infield could be more valuable right now…and he is cheap.
The Braves will compete in 2012 because Jason Heyward will finally reach expectations, they’ll have a full season with Michael Bourn’s leadoff and speed skills, and they have the makings of a dominant staff if just one or two of their studly starting pitching prospects are mediocre to a little above average. They can continue to trim payroll in the coming years by continuing to manufacture talent. Andrelton Simmons, Sean Gilmartin, Edward Salcedo, and Joe Terdoslavich are the next wave and only Gilmartin is a pitcher.