Grading Atlanta Braves' Frank Wren's Performance in 2013

Daniel Kock@@dannykockContributor IIISeptember 18, 2013

TAMPA, FL - MARCH 05:  General Manager Frank Wren of the Atlanta Braves smiles during batting practice just before the start of the Grapefruit League Spring Training Game against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field on March 5, 2013 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

As the 2013 regular season winds down, now is a time to reflect on the performance of general manager Frank Wren this season.

We can now gather enough information about the moves he's made to get the Braves into their current position.

What did he do right? What could prevent the Braves from reaching the ultimate goal of a World Series title?

Let's take a look at the grade for Wren in the past yearstarting from the conclusion of the 2012 season.

In-House Signings

  • Exercised options on Tim Hudson, Brian McCann and Paul Maholm
  • Signed Reed Johnson to a one-year contract
  • Agreed to terms with Jason Heyward, Cristhian Martinez, Kris Medlen, Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters on one-year

Wren took care of business within the organization with fairly obvious but necessary moves.

Picking up options on veteran pitchers Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm were expected moves with a young and unproven rotation for 2013.

There was also little doubt the Braves would pick up McCann's $12 million option with him under control for one last year.

They re-signed pinch-hitting specialist Reed Johnson and also agreed to terms on one-year deals with some key pitchers to go with Heyward.

The majority of the players on this list are currently injured, but it's hard to fault Wren for that. These moves were necessary and don't play a huge role in his final grade.

Offseason Free-Agent Additions

  • Agreed to terms with Gerald Laird on a two-year deal; B.J. Upton five-year deal; Ramiro Pena one-year deal

Picking up Laird instead of re-signing has proven to be the better choice.

Laird has played in more games than Ross and has a higher batting average (.262/.207) and on-base percentage (.347/.298). Ross happens to be making twice as much as Laird.

The Braves got better value with the addition of Laird.

The signing of the utility infielder Pena also proved to be of great value until his season ended with a shoulder injury.

Pena provided plus defense at all the infield positions and proved to be valuable in the lineup as a switch-hitter.

He showed surprising pop at the plate with three home runs as well as a .773 OPS to go along with his .278 average.

His injury was a tough loss for the Braves as he'd likely be pushing Dan Uggla for time at second base in the postseason and would be a solid play in late-inning situations.

Meanwhile, awarding the richest contract in the history of the Braves (five-year, $75.25 million) to Upton could not have gone worse in year one.

If he qualified for enough at-bats, he would rank second to last in the National League with a .188 average and .298 slugging and third from the bottom with a .274 OBP.

He has struck out the fifth most times in the NL (146) despite playing in just 118 games and hit a putrid .111 with runners in scoring position.

All this has helped him compile a -1.1 offensive WAR rating.

It's now a question whether he will start when the postseason begins.

Braves fans surely didn't envision that scenario at the beginning of the season. Through one year, the Upton deal has been a disaster.

Offseason Trades/Waiver Acquisitions

  • Claimed Jordan Schafer; claimed David Carpenter; traded for Jordan Walden; traded for Justin Upton and Chris Johnson

The offseason waiver claims and trades Wren made were great moves.

Many Braves fans were confused at bringing Schafer back to Atlanta. However, the 27-year-old has put his troubled past behind him and been a quality asset to this team.

With B.J. Upton's struggles, Schafer has seen his fair share of playing time in center field and has more than held his own.

Despite struggling as of late, he's put together a .335 OBP with 21 stolen bases in 86 games this season.

Schafer has embraced his role as a leadoff hitter rather than power hitter, which has helped him cut down on his strikeouts this season.

He could steal some runs for the Braves in the playoffs if given the opportunity.

Nobody could have envisioned the roles David Carpenter and Jordan Walden would have as we hit the stretch run.

After season-ending injuries to O'Flaherty and Venters, Carpenter and Walden have been two of the relievers to step up in their absence.

Walden assumed the setup role for much of the season and has compiled 14 holds with a 2.78 ERA. Wren picked him up from the Los Angeles Angels for Tommy Hanson, who has spent time in the minors this season after posting a 5.59 ERA with the Angels.

Meanwhile, Carpenter has come out of nowhere to post a 1.95 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 60 innings. His mid-90s fastball will be valued by manager Fredi Gonzalez in the postseason.

The move that gained the most headlines this offseason was acquiring Justin Upton from the Arizona Diamondbacks. That deal looks even better with the emergence of Chris Johnson.

Upton leads the team with 25 home runs and 90 runs scored, and Johnson leads the team with 32 doubles and the entire NL with a .330 average.

The two have the second and third best oWAR ratings on the team (Johnson 3.1 and Upton 2.8).

This trade continues to look like a steal for the Braves.

In-Season Additions

  • Acquired Luis Ayala; traded Juan Francisco for Tom Keeling; acquired Scott Downs; claimed Elliot Johnson off waivers

Wren didn't make big splashes during the season but continued to make shrewd moves.

Ayala and Downs added much-needed bullpen depth. Ayala has posted a 1.89 ERA in the second half of the season, and Downs has held left-handed hitters to just a .219 average.

The Braves gave up very little for two veteran pitchers who will likely play a role in the postseason.

Wren dumped Francisco after it became evident that Chris Johnson would be the starting third baseman moving forward.

Keeling's future is as a left-handed middle-reliever specialist, but he struggled in the minors with a 5.68 ERA.

He will need to improve dramatically next season to make a case for making the MLB in the near future.

The Braves were looking for a middle infielder after the injury to Pena and picked up Elliot Johnson.

Since joining the Braves, Johnson has hit .246 with five RBI. With the severe struggles of Uggla, it isn't out of the question that Johnson will be in the starting lineup in the postseason.

However, that may say more about Uggla than Johnson at this point.

Final Verdict

Overall, the work by Wren this season has been outstanding and a major reason why the Braves have the best record in the National League. 

The bullpen has remained one of the best in baseball despite losing their top two setup men for the entire season.

The additions of Justin Upton and Chris Johnson have helped the offense score the fourth most runs in the NL while hitting the most home runs.

However, the signing of B.J. Upton cannot be ignored and prevents him from receiving an "A." That signing will likely prevent the Braves from being able to re-sign McCann in the offseason, which is a tough loss.

Upton could still make Wren look like a genius over the next few seasons or even in the playoffs with a superstar performance.

But for now, it's been a disaster and why I give Wren a  "B" for his performance in 2013.



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