Are Frank Wren and the Braves Waiting for 2011?
It hasn't been a great offseason for Atlanta. Simple as that.
The divisional opponents have gotten stronger. Atlanta has gotten weaker. Sure, we can debate whether Atlanta has made the right moves, but none of it adds up to a stronger team.
Next year, there will be no Vazquez, LaRoche, Mike Gonzalez, Rafael Soriano, or Kelly Johnson. There will be Melky Cabrera, Troy Glaus, and Billy Wagner. Add all that up and I'd prefer to have those former players, not the latter group.
All of which leads me to believe Atlanta is looking past 2010 and into 2011. That's the year when a lot of pieces will be in place. By that time, Jason Heyward could be a superstar. So could Freddie Freeman. The pitching staff is likely to be the deepest and most dominant in baseball, with Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, and a slew of young talent coming into form.
Every move that general manager Frank Wren has made this offseason has been overly cautious. Every move has been future-oriented. He's picked up Troy Glaus and Billy Wagner, and he's given them both short-term deals. In other words, he's giving them a chance to shine in 2010, and if they do not, Wren and the Braves can send them packing before 2011.
But it all comes down to 2011. Every move has 2011 written all over it.
Like it or not, Atlanta isn't serious about winning in 2010. Sure, the pieces could fall in place. Atlanta could be a fantastic team. But the percentages aren't great, and baseball is all about percentages.
Teams spend their offseason hoping to improve their percentage of winning the following season. Right now, I'd say the Yankees have about a 30 percent chance to win the World Series in 2010. That's probably the highest percentage in all of baseball.
You can't be 100 percent accurate, of course, but you can be decidedly better than other teams. There will always be a team like the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays who put together an odds-defying season. Again, that's beating the odds, though. It's getting lucky.
And for the Braves to win in 2010, they'll have to get lucky. Billy Wagner has to prove himself to be a reliable closer. Troy Glaus needs to provide power he hasn't had in several seasons. Derek Lowe has to shake off the late-season demons from last year. Chipper has to do the same thing. Can Martin Prado put up the numbers in 2010 that he did in 2009?
Put simply, there are a ton of intangibles in 2010 for Atlanta, and for the Braves to be successful, they all have to come together in a positive fashion. I don't like the odds.
I do like the odds for 2011, however, and I think Frank Wren does as well, which is why he's playing the percentages game here. The odds don't stack up in his favor for 2010, but they will in 2011. So he's willing to take the gamble.
He's willing to sacrifice improving the odds of winning in 2010 in order to maintain the odds of winning in 2011. Is it a good move? In the long-term, probably yes. In the short-term, it's frustrating.
But again, it's probably a good thing. It's all about luck.
Regardless of what Frank Wren does in the next several weeks, Atlanta just has to get lucky.
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