The Atlanta Braves need to win nine of their next 13 to have a shot in the second half. Believe it or not, it is doable.
The next three are at home against the Phillies whom the Braves have beaten four out of six games this season.
Then the Braves go to Washington for three. Although Atlanta has struggled at Washington for a few years now, the season is on the line in this series.
After that it’s on to Chicago for three and Colorado for four. If the Braves can take two of three from the Cubs and manage a split in Colorado, they would finish the first half at 44-44. That’s the best case scenario for these Braves.
The worst case scenario is 6-7 or worse. A 7-6 is acceptable, but anything less is absolutely detrimental.
So this fourth edition of Stoking the Fires will contain my solutions for both scenarios.
Braves finish the first half strong at 9-4 or better (41-41)
Frank Wren needs to do anything and everything he can to get a big, right-handed bat in this lineup. Preferably a right-fielder. Preferably Jermaine Dye. Yep, that’s right. I will NOT let it go! I’ve been saying it since the offseason and I still have not changed my mind.
My scenario involves a three-way deal between the Braves, Brewers or Rangers and White Sox. The Brewers/Rangers get Vazquez, White Sox get Brewers/Rangers prospects and Francoeur, Braves get Jermaine Dye.
Dye makes $11.5, Vazquez makes $11.5. Salary issues are cleared up. And the Braves don’t have to give up any prospects, plus they get the right-handed power bat they so desperately need. Plus getting rid of Francoeur’s $3-million allows the Braves to get one more arm for the ‘pen.
Anyone have Frank Wren’s phone number?
I’d hate to see Vazquez go, but if it means getting Dye I’m all for it.
The Braves would still have a formidable rotation.
Not to mention an NL East/Wild-Card contending lineup.
CF – McLouth
SS – Escobar
3B – Chipper
RF – Dye
C – McCann
1B – Kotchman
LF – Anderson/Diaz
2B – Prado/K. Johnson/Infante
If the Braves finish the first half at 6-7 or worse (41-47)
Simply put, it’s time to sell. If the Braves completely drop the ball going into the second half, it’s over Johnny.
Scenario one: The Braves would have to start with trading Javier Vazquez to the highest bidder. Frank Wren could command two top prospects and another player for Vazquez at this point. He’d be the only big time pitcher on the market, and with his ’09 success he’d be a hot commodity.
*One reader in my last Braves rant pointed out that Mike Gonzalez and/or Rafael Soriano could be dealt since they are both free agents at seasons end. While I’d rather not see either of these guys go it is feasible that the Braves could get a decent major-league ready bat or a good prospect for one of these two.
*Trade Jeff Francoeur to the Royals for a player to be named later. This has to happen in either scenario in my opinion.
Scenario two: This one is gathering some steam. I have read articles from more than one respected media members saying that Chipper Jones should be traded when/if the Braves fall out of contention.
Personally, I hate the very thought of this. But I would not be a responsible writer if I didn’t include it as a possibility. Yes, I know the Braves just signed him to a big extension for him to retire as a Brave.
Yes, he is Mr. Brave. Yes, Frank Wren would receive death threats if it happened. But Chipper being dealt would bring the Braves a ton of talent in return. I’m talking three or four top major league ready prospects.
Trading Chipper should be the absolute last resort, but it is definitely tempting to think about the talent such a trade would bring in.
This way the Braves could keep this rotation intact for another run next season with great, young hitting talent.
If the Braves decide to sell at all, this needs to be Bobby Cox’s final season at the helm.
With a youth movement that trading these pieces would likely bring, a new direction and philosophy will be needed. Not only Cox, but this entire coaching staff, with the exception of Roger McDowell would likely need to go.
My hope is that the Braves finish strong and Wren is able to infuse this team with some major hitting talent. But if the season continues as it has so far, Wren needs to turn certain pieces into the future of Atlanta Braves baseball.
I do not expect these exact scenarios to pan out. I am a hopeful fan either way. Bring on the young talent and fight for 2010 and beyond, or bring on the big bat and let’s play for it all this season.
One thing is certain; it would be a crying shame if this Atlanta rotation is left on the outside come October. While the Braves have been terribly inconsistent with the bats all season this rotation could do some serious damage in a short series.
So if there’s a glimmer of hope going into the second half, Wren has to do whatever it takes to get a bat.