After missing the MLB postseason for the fourth straight year, it was clear that the Atlanta Braves needed to make some changes. After some unsuccessful offseasons in previous years, the Braves are looking for a turnaround in 2010.
Has Atlanta finally found the right mix of players to return them to the playoffs?
The Braves signed 38-year-old Billy Wagner to a one-year, $6.75 million dollar contract on Dec. 2, 2009. Wagner missed much of the 2009 season after tearing his medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his left elbow in September 2008.
The injury caused the Mets' reliever to undergo Tommy John surgery, putting him out of action for one year.
After appearing in just 17 games in 2009, Wagner now heads to Hot-lanta to become the Braves' closer. He is a proven closer, even at an older age, saving 34 games at age 35.
However, Tommy John surgery has been the demise for many pitchers over the years. It will be interesting to see how Wagner responds to the rigors of being an everyday closer after his operation.
In addition it is troubling that Atlanta doesn't have a reliever to fall back on. With Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano gone, Wagner is not only the top guy, he is the only guy.
Atlanta is obviously confident in his health and abilities. If they are wrong, it could spell big trouble for the Braves' bullpen.
On Dec. 22, 2009, the Braves and the New York Yankees finalized a trade that sent outfielder Melky Cabrera, pitchers Arodys Vizcaino and Michael Dunn, and cash from the Yankees to Atlanta for pitchers Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan.
In his fourth full MLB season, Cabrera hit for 13 home runs and 68 runs batted in. In addition, he hit for a batting average of .274 and swiped 10 bases. The Melkman would also hit for the cycle, the first Yankee to do so since Tony Fernandez in 1995.
Melky Cabrera is a solid outfielder with quite a bit of potential. The 24-year-old former Yankee will provide the Braves with extra outfield assistance.
However, was it worth giving up ace Javier Vazquez?
Last season, Vazquez won 15 games with the Braves. In addition, Javier ended the year with a 2.87 earned run average and averaging nearly ten strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
To me, this is a long-term deal for the Braves. Atlanta traded a very good, but aging, pitcher for a young outfielder. This season, it will look like the Braves got the short end of this deal.
However, as each player progresses, Atlanta will be glad to have acquired the Melkman. If he can continue to progress, Cabrera could be a strong future asset for the Braves organization.
After starting first baseman Adam LaRoche filed for free agency, the Braves needed someone to fill that gap. Atlanta signed corner infielder Troy Glaus from free agency to be the Braves' starting first baseman.
One problem with Atlanta's offense last year was the lack of power. Only three players hit 20 or more home runs. Two of those players, Nate McLouth and Adam LaRoche, weren't with the team for the entire season.
Glaus is well-known for his power. He has hit 304 career home runs and has hit as many as 47 in a season.
However, Glaus is also aging. He is currently 33-years-old. Also, Troy missed much of the 2009 season after having arthroscopic right shoulder surgery prior to the start of the 2009 campaign. He wouldn't return until the first week of September.
Like the aforementioned Billy Wagner, Glaus is coming off of surgery. The Braves believe that his bat still has pop. Also just like Wagner, Glaus is the only solid player at his position. If he gets hurt or doesn't perform up to expectations, there is not a good backup option.
In addition, first base is not Troy's primary position. He has only played six games at first in his career .
There are many questions surrounding Glaus's signing. In my opinion, Atlanta took a risk by signing him. If it pays off, they will have a productive power bat. If not, it could be a major offseason failure for the Braves.
Atlanta bolstered their bench by adding corner outfielder/infielder Eric Hinske to their roster.
Hinske signed a one-year, $1.5 million dollar deal with Atlanta on Jan. 5, 2010.
In my opinion, this is a good signing by the Braves. In the past, Hinske has been a solid contributor in the primary pinch-hitter role. He should be able to give Atlanta a solid bat off the bench.
In addition, Hinske should be able to provide relief for Chipper Jones at third base and Troy Glaus at first. Considering both of these players' ages and injury history, he should see quite a bit of playing time, even in a backup role.
This is a low-risk move by Atlanta. Even if it doesn't work out, the signing doesn't majorly affect the team. However, should Hinske stay healthy and play well, the Braves will have an effective left-handed bat.
This offseason, the Braves have taken a few risks. Billy Wagner's recent Tommy John surgery raises a few question marks in the bullpen.
Troy Glaus' injury history and lack of experience at first base makes his signing rather risky.
However, at the end of last season, it was clear the Braves needed change. If these risks work out, they may be just what the Braves needed to make a playoff run.
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