Atlanta Braves: 10 Ways They're Still Better Than Marlins, Nationals in 2012
The Atlanta Braves have been stagnant for much of the offseason.
The Marlins signed free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes, pitcher Mark Buerhle and closer Heath Bell, while the Nationals traded for Gio Gonzalez.
Reyes will join Hanley Ramirez on the infield, while Gonzalez will join a young rotation that includes Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman.
Although those are decent transactions for each team, here is my list of 10 reasons why the Braves are still better than the Marlins and Nationals.
10. Won't Spend, Spend, Spend...Then Sell, Sell, Sell
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The Marlins have shown in their history that they will spend a lot of money of free agents, then get rid of them very quickly after a season of success.
After the 1997 season in which they signed multiple free agents and won the World Series, the Marlins traded their star players including, Jeff Conine, Moises Alou, Robb Nenn, Devon White, Kevin Brown and Al Leiter.
When looking at the contracts signed this year by new Marlins, it breaks down like this:
- Jose Reyes: 2012-13 - $10 million each season, 2014 - $16 million and 2015-17 $22 million each season. This includes a $22 million option in 2018.
- Mark Buehrle: 2012 - $6 million, 2013 - $11 million, 2014 - $18 million and 2015 - $19 million.
- Heath Bell: 2012-14 - $9 million.
So, other than Bell, the numbers show the back-loaded contracts of the players, meaning, should the Marlins not win in year one or two, they won't have to shell out big bucks for Reyes and Buehrle, as they will likely sell these pieces off.
History has shown this to be true.
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Stealing bases is a new part of the Braves' arsenal with the acquisition of Michael Bourn last year.
With that, Atlanta got a 60-plus stolen base guy. Throw in Jason Heyward, if he returns to rookie form and/or Jose Constanza, then the Braves have some definite speed on the basepaths.
And don't forget about the wild card of the whole bunch, Tyler Pastornicky. Over his minor league career, the shortstop has 146 stolen bases since 2008.
For Washington, Ian Desmond had 25 steals, while Jayson Werth had 19. And with Werth supposedly being the team's power hitter, that's a bad sign.
Florida has Jose Reyes at the top of the lineup, which is great for them, as long as he can stay healthy. Having played in only 126 games, Reyes stole 39 bases. The Marlins' other base stealer is Emilio Bonifacio, but the question is whether or not he's going to be in the starting lineup. If he's not, that hurts the Marlins on the basepaths.
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The Braves had one of the best bullpens in all of baseball last year, well at least until September.
With Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty for the seventh, eighth and ninth, the Braves had three pitchers that had under a 2.10 ERA. Combined, they had 290 strikeouts.
For the Nationals, Drew Storen closed out games, while Tyler Clippard was the holds guy for the team. Other than that, the Nationals struggled in the bullpen.
Then, for the Marlins, there's Heath Bell. After that is the pitcher now known as Juan Oviedo. The Marlins struggled with the rest of the bullpen, which is why they went out to sign Bell.
7. Freddie Freeman
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The Braves have last year's Rookie of the Year runner-up in Freddie Freeman, while the Marlins have Gaby Sanchez and the Nationals have Adam LaRoche (for now).
Freeman hit .282 with 21 home runs and 76 RBI a year ago. Not only that, but his glove at first base was a major plus for the Braves last year as he dug countless balls out of the dirt to save errors on other Braves' infielders.
LaRoche hit .172 in 43 games last year, a season after he hit 25 home runs and 100 RBI for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Sanchez hit .266 with 19 home runs and 72 RBI, which are decent numbers. But, with the free-agent frenzy of the Marlins this offseason, will there be room for Sanchez in the middle of the lineup?
6. Brian McCann
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Brian McCann is one of the best catchers in the game. A perennial All-Star, the only time he can be stopped is when a fluke thing happens, like for instance his depth perception stemming from his contacts.
Last year, McCann hit .270 with 24 home runs and 71 RBI. More than that, he is a leader behind the plate, handling Atlanta's young pitching staff, well except for Tim Hudson.
For Miami, John Buck hit .227 with 16 home runs and 57 RBI. Buck will likely find himself at the bottom of the Marlins' order again this year.
Washington's catcher situation is still up in the air. Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores will compete for the job in spring training, however, the inexperience behind the plate for both are going to hurt the Nationals and their young pitching staff.
5. Possible Trade Chips
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The Braves have multiple trade chips with their depth in the minor league system, something the Braves have always had.
If Atlanta begins the season with its roster the way it currently looks, the Braves will have multiple players they can use as trade chips throughout the season, including Martin Prado, Jair Jurrjens, or even one of the multiple top pitching prospects.
Other than Prado, the Braves will be looking for top value for any of the other players, as they have the luxury to ask for a lot in return, especially for a team that all of a sudden needs pitching help due to injury.
The Marlins and Nationals don't have as many trade chips, as their farm systems, other than a few top prospects, has a bare cupboard.
4. CONSISTENT Winning Tradition
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Sure, the Marlins have won more World Series titles than the Braves in the last 20 years, but other than those two years, what have the Marlins really done?
The Braves have been consistent winners since 1991, with the exception of 2006-09. Regardless of what anybody says, it's hard to win 14-straight division titles, no matter what sport you're in. In fact, no other team has done it in major sports history. Yes, the Braves only won one title, but over the course of 14 full regular seasons, the Braves were the best team in the NL East.
As for the Nationals, the jury is still out on them as they continue to fail to win on a consistent basis.
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When the team leader openly expresses his displeasure with having to move to a new position so the team can sign a top-flight free agent, there's a few problems in the clubhouse. That attitude shows selfishness is running rampant throughout the clubhouse.
The one thing the Braves have never been short of is leadership.
Since being called up to the majors, Chipper Jones has been that guy for the Braves, showing his unselfish attitude on many occasions.
In 2002, Chipper showed his team-first attitude when he moved from third base to left field so the Braves could sign Vinny Castilla away from the Colorado Rockies.
Chipper again showed his team-first mentality when he was willing to re-work his contract so the Braves could sign Tim Hudson long-term in 2005.
Martin Prado showed that team-first attitude last year when he agreed to move to left field from second base so the Braves could trade for Dan Uggla.
Now, why can't certain Marlins' leaders do the same for their team to make them better?
2. Starting Rotation
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The Braves have the deepest starting rotation in all of baseball.
With the ability to go nine deep, Atlanta has no shortage of starting pitchers.
Expected to be the starting five for the Braves to open the season are Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor. Waiting in the wings should there be a trade or injury, Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Arodys Vizcaino, Kris Medlin and Sean Gilmartin have the ability to take the ball and be a rotational starter.
What other team in all of baseball has that kind of depth? Sure, Philadelphia has a better first three, but after that, who do they really have?
Florida and Washington in no way compare to the Braves' depth in the starting rotation. They each have their aces, then a lot of question marks.
1. Chipper's Final Season?
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This is possibly Chipper Jones' last season in a Braves uniform, unless he decides to come back (which could still happen).
But, if this is Chipper's last season, do you think the Braves are going to settle for anything less than a playoff berth?
Jones is the heart and soul of the Braves and a farewell tour is just what the doctor ordered.
Chipper Jones is Atlanta Braves' baseball. This is the year where he'll finally hand off the torch.
To whom? Only time will tell.