Brave Gamble: Wagner Is Proof The Braves Want to Win Now

Josh RutledgeCorrespondent IDecember 3, 2009

NEW YORK - AUGUST 20:  Omar Infante #4 of the Atlanta Braves bats against the New York Mets on August 20, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Winning is a risky business. It's much easier to lose.

But the Atlanta Braves are determined to win in 2010. Not 2011. Not 2012. In 2010.

The problem is Atlanta can't simply hope for the best in 2010. The Yankees can hope for the best. The Phillies can hope for the best.

Those clubs have the answers. There might be a few additions and subtractions here and there, but the gist of a winning franchise is already in place.

Not so in Atlanta. The Braves are building a winning franchise. And to get to that point will take a lot of calculated gambles. Billy Wagner is one such gamble. 

In acquiring Wagner, General Manager Frank Wren indicated that Atlanta won't be re-signing either Mike Gonzalez or Rafael Soriano. Both are top-notch closers. Both will command a hefty salary.

What are the chances Wagner can effectively replace either one of them? Iffy. Wagner was once the most dominant closer in baseball, but he's not that closer anymore.

He's coming off surgery, and his performance since that surgery has been questionable. He's shown flashes of good and bad.

So why did Atlanta take the gamble? Because if the Braves are going to win next year, they need to get lucky.

There are questions looming on this team. Who can provide power next season? Was Chipper Jones' 2009 collapse an aberration or an indicator of his aging ability? Will Tim Hudson bounce back from surgery?

There are only so many questions that Atlanta can deal with in the offseason. Yes, Wren can go out and sign a big bat. He'll most likely find someone to fill that void of power in the lineup.

But to solve that problem, he has to create a problem somewhere else. Wren can't afford to bring in a big bat and re-sign two of the best relievers on the market, so he had to take a calculated gamble.

If Wagner fails, the Braves are in trouble. 

But that's what it is going to take if the Braves are serious about winning in 2010. Wren can only do so much to sort out the potential questions. Again, Atlanta will ultimately just have to get lucky.

Wagner will need to play well. The offense will have to produce more power. The pitching staff will have to play up to last season's standard.

A lot of things have to go right, and it's Wren's job to create an environment that increases the likelihood of things going right.

Wagner increases that likelihood because his arrival means the Braves can focus on signing a bigger bat to fill a bigger hole than the one left over from Soriano and Gonzalez.

Of course, if Wagner fails, people will criticize Frank Wren for bringing him to the team. But in this case, the benefits outweigh the consequences.

It's a risky business, but Frank Wren is here to gamble.