5 Items That Should Be High on Atlanta Braves' Offseason To-Do List
There was no September collapse in 2012 by the Atlanta Braves.
Just an October nightmare.
It was a very Kris Medlen-like performance, as the righty threw 6.1 innings only giving up two earned runs to the St. Louis Cardinals, but the double play that should've happened—which Chicago Cubs fans always seem to overlook so well—and two other errors cost Atlanta the first-ever Wild Card game.
The "Infield Fly Heard 'Round the World" didn't help, but the normally sure-handed Braves' defense collapsed.
This offseason may not be as painful as the previous, but the disappointment will linger in the clubhouse, especially as Chipper Jones—the poster boy of Atlanta baseball—is retiring.
Here are five things the Braves need to consider this winter.
1. Take Care of Small, Important Contracts
To succeed in the playoffs, a team must be complete in all areas, and the Braves' roster had the pieces this season.
Backup catcher David Ross started the Wild Card game over hometown favorite Brian McCann.
Ross went 3-for-4 with an early two-run home run and two singles in the playoffs.
Hey Frank Wren, lock him up.
Reed Johnson, Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons are each due a little money on contracts, so give it to them.
Relief pitchers Chad Durbin and Peter Moylan should both be brought back at the small price they demand.
2. Figure out Michael Bourn's Contract Early
There is no denying that Michael Bourn was the catalyst for the Braves' offense.
As a client of Scott Boras, the speedy center fielder will demand a pretty penny in free agency. Personally, I think he should be given a competitive offer, but I am neither Frank Wren nor Liberty Media.
Conversely, a few Atlanta players have been let go—i.e. Andruw Jones, Marcus Giles—to the disdain of fans, but proved to be brilliant moves.
If Wren has something up his sleeve, great, but he cannot afford to spend time waiting for Bourn without thinking of other possibilities such as Angel Pagan, Cody Ross or Josh Willingham.
3. Decide on Martin Prado's Position
The young utility man is good for a lot more than blowing bubbles.
Martin Prado played four positions late in the season, and played them all well.
Even with his "I'll play where you need me" mentality, the Braves need to decide if Prado will take over for Chipper at the hot corner or stay in the outfield.
Unless a Reed Johnson and Prado platoon is planned in order to avoid Juan Francisco vs. left-handed pitching, acquiring someone a full-time third baseman or left fielder in the offseason would allow Prado to focus on one position.
His versatility can still be utilized in giving a teammate a day off here and there, but the constant position change in the field could be detrimental to his fielding.
4. Pick Up Options on Franchise Staples
The backbone of the pitching staff has been almost exclusively been Tim Hudson since his acquisition in 2005.
With 49 wins, an ERA slightly above 3.00, and a WHIP near 1.20, Huddy has been dealing the last three seasons. He is absolutely worth his $9 million dollar option.
While college teammate David Ross is usually Hudson's battery-mate, starting catcher and Georgia-boy Brian McCann knows how to call a game and swing the bat.
Though David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that B-Mac is facing offseason surgery, the five-time Silver Slugger has the tools to get back on track next season after his disappointing 2012.
On a side note, although not a franchise staple by any means, southpaw Paul Maholm has a $6.5 million dollar option that Atlanta will most likely pick up as well.
5. Seriously Review Dan Uggla's Status
If Dan Uggla is going to hit 30 home runs and hit under .250, that is one story.
Now, could I do what Uggla does? Except for strike out, not a chance. But his powerful bat is a huge factor in the middle of the Atlanta lineup that needs to be a constant threat.
Granted, the second baseman did tie for the league lead in walks, but Uggla had 168 strikeouts in 523 at-bats.
Under 20 home runs and a below .225 average cannot be tolerated for too much longer by a $10 million-plus per year player.
The offseason is just a short time away, and there will certainly be meaningful conversations in Frank Wren's office very shortly.
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