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Let's Just Imagine What Might Have Been: Jason Bay to Atlanta

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Let's Just Imagine What Might Have Been: Jason Bay to Atlanta
(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Here we are on June 26, 2009.

The Braves sit five games under .500 and just four games back of the Philadelphia Phillies (talk about luck...).

For those of us who watch the Braves, we know that the problem is the offensive attack.

But, it wouldn't have to be this way.

Just shy of a year ago, the Braves came within minutes of getting current Boston star outfielder Jason Bay from the Pirates (details are from a Rob Bradford article on WEII).

This deal was near completion before the Braves entered "selling mode," so that means that, even with the decimated pitching staff, the Braves were still viewing themselves as legitimate contenders with Mark Teixeira still at first and the rest of the roster standing, basically, as it is now.

The hole in the offense was widely considered left field, thus, Bay was the target.

In the deal, ultimately stamped out by Pirates owner Frank Coonelly for lack of Major League-ready talent, the Braves would have sent the following prospects to the Buccos: Conception Rodriguez, Brent Lillibridge (ultimately in the deal for Javier Vazquez), Brandon Jones, and Jeff Locke (ultimately in the deal for Nate McLouth).

So close, in fact, was this deal from being finalized, that there was actually a Braves' jersey with "BAY" stitched on the back.

Kinda sends chills up your back, doesn't it?

As we all know, Bay was eventually in the three team deal that sent Manny Ramirez to LA, Bay to Boston, and a wealth of prospects to Pittsburgh.

With the "what-happend's" done, let's move on to the speculation.

So, let's plug Bay into the line-up on August 1:

1 L 2B Kelly Johnson
2 R SS Yunel Escobar
3 S 3B Chipper Jones
4 S 1B Mark Teixeira
5 R LF Jason Bay
6 L  C  Brian McCann
7 R RF Jeff Francoeur
8 L CF Mark Kotsay

That, my friends, is a playoff-caliber offense; one that could easily carry a staff led by Jair Jurrjens and (before the elbow problems which still take him down in this scenario) Tim Hudson.

Let's say that Bay does what he did with the Sox down the stretch: nine home runs, 37 RBI's, and an .897 OPS.

Combine that with the rest of that lineup above, and think the Braves CONTEND (but probably miss out on) the playoffs (hey, the Brewers won 90 games).

But, with Bay doing his thing, you can probably add 15 wins to the Braves as his bat could probably cut into the one-run losses.

That puts the Braves at a very respectable 87-75.

Now, we move on to the offseason and, suddenly, the Braves are a very attractive free agent (and players with veto power) destination.

Keep in mind the Braves said before last offsason that they had about 40MM dollars to spend on free agents/other upgrades, so that's where I'm getting all of these numbers from.

First, you have to take away Bay's extra salary ($6 million) from the Braves $40 Million spending limit entering the offseason.

That's still $36 million dollars, though, to fulfill the following preliminary goals: a back-up catcher, more veteran pitching depth, and an holes left by free agents or trade chips that depart.

I say Teixeira still leaves for pinstripes (20MM would be hard to resist), so a hole opens up at first on this potential roster.

I also say the Braves package Yunel Escobar, Charlie Morton, Gorkys Hernandez, and Kris Medlen (about what was offered in November) for Jake Peavy (who, as Chipper Jones said, is the only reason he wasn't starting in Philadelphia on Opening Night--if he had wanted to be in Atlanta, he would be a Brave now, and Bay may have given the Braves the extra leverage they needed to get him).

So, that eats another $11 million of that $36 million, leaving $25 million for Wren to spend, and another hole at shortstop.

I could still see Wren getting David Ross for $2 million a year, Kenshin Kawakami for $7 million per, and luring Rafael Furcal (who's biggest problem with the Braves was the fact that he would've played second base, not shortstop) for about $7.5 million a year.

That would drop the offseason allowance to $8.5 million, which should've be JUUST enough for arbitration raises that were owed to Kelly Johnson, Jeff Francoeur, Matt Diaz, and others.

I also see Kotsay leaving in free agency and Josh Anderson still getting traded to Detroit (the single vacancy would be filled by the guy who WAS our center fielder at the start of this season, Jordan Schafer).

The hole at first is still there in this scenario, but there are a couple of ways that it could be resolved, provided that some infielders are open to a position change.

You could directly plug Omar Infante or Martin Prado at first, or move Chipper there and move the previously mentioned super-utilitymen to third (that's what I'd go with).

Now, this offseason wasn't what Lowe, Ross, Kawakami, and Vazquez was, but it would've been close.

All of that would've set up the following 2009 Opening Day roster:

 

Lineup

1 S SS Rafael Furcal
2 R 3B Omar Infante
3 S 1B Chipper Jones
4 R LF Jason Bay
5 L  C Brian McCann
6 L 2B Kelly Johnson
7 R RF Jeff Francoeur
8 L CF Jordan Schafer

 

Bench

INF Martin Prado
OF  Matt Diaz
C   David Ross
OF Gregor Blanco

 

Staff

R Jake Peavy
R Jair Jurrjens
R Tommy Hanson
L Jo-Jo Rees
R Kenshin Kawakami

 

Now, as you look at this roster, you find that this lineup is quite a bit better than the one going out onto the field now, the bench is, essentially the same, and the rotation is not quite as deep.

Sure, Peavy at the top is awesome (provided he doesn't roll his ankle in Atlanta), but you lose the NL's second-highest K guy in Vazquez and you have to face Derek Lowe who (most likely) goes to the Mets (plus, Jo-Jo probably ends up in the rotation...AHHH *bang*).

I did this to see how this team could've shaken out if the almost had turned into reality.

So, what do you think?

Does Bay help or hurt the '09 version of the team, through my "what-if" scenario.

My take: with a slightly depleted staff, the Braves are sitting right at .500 today, searching for more pitching before the July 31 deadline instead of more pop.

But, we will never really know because of a owner that wanted Brandon Moss and Andy LaRoche more than Brandon Jones and Brent Lillibridge.

 

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