So the dust has settled on what has been a less than explosive off-season for the Atlanta Braves. From a fan standpoint, I've heard it all.
John, in Savannah writes:
"Really Frank? Melky Cabrera for Javier Vazquez?"
Emily from Decatur blogs:
"We signed who? Troy Glaus?"
Dan from Peachtree City texted (from his golf cart of all places):
"Bring back LaRoche, or I'm selling my season tickets for whatever I can get!"
Ahhh yes, the hot stove was a brutal one for our good friend Franklin E. Wren. but let me make one thing clear to all of those spewing negative overtures from Arkadelphia, Arkansas (yep, look it up), to Valdosta, Georgia about this Braves off-season.
It really wasn't that bad.
Before you drag me through the coals, and dismiss my claim as some guy who doesn't have a clue what he's saying, let me point out just a few positives that came from this past off-season.
For starters, you have to give credit where credit is almost undeniably due. Frank Wren has done the most impressive job of rebuilding this Atlanta Braves rotation from the ground up.
I'm almost baffled he wasn't given a little more consideration for executive of the year. Here's a guy coming in who, right off the bat, traded fan favorite Edgar Renteria to the Tigers for one of the most important cogs of the Braves future, Jair Jurrjens.
Now here we are a couple years later literally saying Edgar who? Not only is that because of Jair jurrjens and the stellar start to his young career but also because of the confidence Wren (and Bobby Cox) showed in Yunel Escobar.
Are you seeing the trend?
The Braves aren't going to get that massive bat through free agency anymore. The trade market was just as dismal as the free agent market, where selling the farm was simply not an option. I've seen this team go out and get names such as Sheffield, Drew, McGriff, Teixiera, and etc. Not anymore folks.
The real question isn't "what is he doing?" it's "why is that such a bad thing?" Landscapes in Major League organizations are changing continually and the Braves are currently in a youth movement that I am more than positive the rest can't keep up with.
It was beyond ridiculous to watch Adam Wainwright win a world series in 2006 and post 19 wins in 2009 for the St. Louis Cardinals. It was tough watching the Braves trade away the farm to Texas (essentially placing them in the top tier of farm systems the last two years and fueling their own youth movement) for a year and a half rental that won a world series in the Bronx this past Fall.
What am I getting at? Give Wren credit for not only his rebuilding job of the rotation but for protecting the farm system this off-season and putting together a team built for a 162-game season.
Why are we excited about Heyward, Freeman, Julio Teheran and beyond? Because he refused to fold for the Peavy's, Gonzalez's, Bay's and others of the world. What can Troy Glaus bring to the table? Pushing Brian McCann out of the cleanup spot and into the 5th hole will not only ease his mind to do what he does best, but late in games gives the Braves a legitimate game changing threat they didn't have last year.
Throw in a full season of Martin Prado at second and a healthy and comfortable Nate McClouth (remember him?) and you have the makings of a very solid Braves ball club. A club Braves fans should be even more excited about with the players coming up in 2010 and 2011.
What really needs to happen for the Braves is for this current cast of talent (and yes I do mean talent) to essentially take that next step. I've enjoyed watching McCann the past four years as he's become the undisputed second best catcher in major league baseball.
Joe Maurer decided to go all world, and it's time for McCann to do the same. Chipper Jones is in the twilight of a brilliant career and McCann needs to channel Jones, circa-99, and assert that this is his team now.
Heyward is going to have to grow up in a hurry (which trust me folks, I think he will), and Jones is going to have to bring it all together and play his usual style of ball (or anything even resembling 2008) to bring this offense together.
Give it time Braves fans. Frank Wren did a decent job of putting together a ball club that, come spring training, you will be more than proud of. He just needed to go through his usual question and answer session. otherwise known as the Braves hot stove since he took over.