You don’t want to hear it, but I’m going to say it, for Atlanta fans it’s time to start looking to the future. And for the first time in some 15 odd years, the future doesn’t appear to be now. Don’t get me wrong, the National League East is competitive and it really is anybody's division. But in this type of race, it is easy to fall behind the likes of the Mets, Phillies, or even the youthful Marlins.
I hadn’t planned on spending time talking about pitching again, but with Tom Glavine recently hitting the DL for the first time in his illustrious career and Peter Moylan’s year being potentially finished, perhaps it is time to cover some of Frank Wren’s options should things start to get out of hand.
All hope is not lost yet, but there are some problems on the mound. Mike Hampton has been a useless leech on the Braves’ payroll for the past couple of years. Moylan may need Tommy John surgery, which will be a real hardship; he has been a steady hand in a shaky bullpen. Tom Glavine is on the 15-day DL so hopefully he will be back soon; if not, that would be a loss of a sound veteran starter for Atlanta. To top it off, his replacement, Chuck James, has had problems with his left rotator cuff. After finding a strong closer for the first time since John Smoltz occupied the role, Rafael Soriano is out with right elbow tendinitis. To sum it up, a seemingly deep bullpen at the start of the season is becoming increasingly shaky.
In searching for a solution, I have a theory; it won’t be popular with a lot of diehard fans, but it follows my theme of “planning for the future”. Let’s be honest; Mark Teixeira was acquired as a means of propelling the Braves to the post season during the 2007 campaign. Well, it’s 2008, and this time next year, one way or another, Teixeira will probably be in a different uniform. If the current trend continues, pitching is going to remain a constant issue. Well, thank goodness for the potent offense that the team has been able to possess year in and year out. With that being said, Teixeira is a hefty bat, but he isn’t expected to be in the lineup next year anyway, so why not use him as trade bait to gather a couple of young arms to solidify this pitching staff for years to come?
There are many teams that could use a bat and could survive to lose a couple of young arms. Whether it is the Toronto Blue Jays looking to replace the recently released Frank Thomas, or the Tampa Bay Rays waiting to finally break out and add a franchise superstar, there are options within the league. I’m not saying he is worth trading away at this stage of the game, but come the trade deadline it may be do or die for the boys in Atlanta.