A glaring hole in the Atlanta Braves' lineup since Rafael Furcal left for free agency after the 2005 season has been consistent on-base percentage and speed. Not coincidentally, the Braves' postseason hopes have been mostly held in check since that time.
Though Frank Wren has stated he is done making major moves this offseason after acquiring Dan Uggla, the need for speed at the top of the order is clearly evident. If the right proposal came along, could Wren find himself adding a top-of-the-order hitter? In a game that is returning to a base of moving runners from station to station, having a disruptor on base could be quite beneficial to the middle of the order.
Though a free agent like Carl Crawford would be far too expensive for Atlanta, there are still a number of potential candidates that might be available. Which candidates are reasonable, and which are only dream targets? Look inside to find out.
One of the more logical candidates, Podsednik could help a number of teams who are looking to add a speed-type outfielder. He should be heavily pursued, as he is a free agent that would not require breaking the bank to sign, or giving up draft compensation.
Podsednik played the 2010 season on a contract worth just less that $1.7M, and could grab a similar short-term deal this winter. Such an investment would easily be worth it, as he has hit .300 and stolen 30 bases the last two years. However, inconsistency had plagued his career prior to recent seasons, and he also struggled after a midseason trade to the Dodgers.
Most wouldn't consider this a "major move," so Scott is probably a guy that Frank Wren would have no problems pursuing. Considering the "low-risk, high-reward" signings he has opted for in the past, this deal makes a lot of sense. Podsednik's speed would fill a hole in the Atlanta lineup that has been there for years, and this signing would seemingly work well for both sides.
Though Rasmus may not be known as a leadoff man, Fredi Gonzalez may elect to put this speed-and-power hybrid atop the Braves lineup if they can acquire him. Rumored for weeks that the Cardinals were shopping him after he requested a trade, the rumors have begun to heat up again recently. Rasmus and Atlanta appear to be close to a perfect match.
Though he is not a highly successful base stealer, Rasmus had a high on-base percentage in 2010. He has the potential to hit for 30 home runs annually, which is a species that has gone primarily bare in the past season. The cost for acquiring an established hitter like Rasmus would likely be high, as many teams will likely be in pursuit of the 24-year-old. Frank Wren has made it known he will not give up much from the pool of talented prospects that Atlanta has gathered, so a Rasmus trade might not be probable.
Would Frank Wren trade a talented arm or two for Colby Rasmus' services? If the rumors are true, discussions are already underway.
Yes, the guy whose name your kids have been tickled about for years would be a great fit in Atlanta, but is there logic behind the speculation? Coco Crisp is a speedy center fielder who would add a solid bat and stolen base ability to the top of the Braves' lineup.
In a move that likely frustrated Frank Wren and other general managers looking for an outfielder, the Athletics wisely picked up Crisp's option for 2011. Though the club option was a bit on the expensive side at almost $6M, Billy Beane could see the future trade market and decided to pick it up. The busy A's have already acquired David DeJesus and traded Rajai Davis, but will they force another outfielder to change his address? With a crowded outfield and Billy Beane's lust for prospects, the answer is likely yes.
With the A's having to part with one of their talented young starters to acquire David DeJesus, it is reasonable to propose that the Braves may have to give up either Mike Minor or Brandon Beachy to acquire Coco Crisp. Frank Wren would obviously not even consider throwing away a talented pitcher for only a year of Crisp, so there may be no way a deal happens here.
However, with such a crowded outfield, Beane may be desperate to shed Crisp and his salary and might settle for B-level prospects. Given Atlanta's organizational depth in the minor leagues, Beane may be comfortable with settling for some lower-level minor leaguers. Acquiring Crisp all has to do with the asking price, which has not been publicly stated at this point.
B.J. Upton has had an odd career so far with Tampa Bay. He was formerly a second overall pick, third baseman, and shortstop, but is currently a center fielder. Upton has moved around positionally but not organizationally. He has some serious power and speed, but also some inconsistencies with making contact, evidenced by his.239 average over the last two seasons.
The numbers have gone down, but the potential is still there for the 26 year old. The Tampa Bay Rays are rumored to be shopping him, but will a high price tag turn Frank Wren away?
If you simply look at his career highs, you might say Upton is among the best in the game. 44 stolen bases in 2008, with 24 homeruns, a .300 batting average, and a .386 on-base percentage all coming in 2007. If he can find those numbers again, the organization that holds him would be quite delighted. In order to convince the Rays to part with such potential superstardom, a team would have to bring a hefty proposal. Likely, a player with as much potential as Upton would only be a starting point.
Even if the Rays are asking for less than a big-time prospect, it is possible that Upton would require a good sum of cash. Having just entered his arbitration years, Upton could gain upwards of $6M annually before he reaches free agency.
Though acquiring him is an interesting option, too much talent to give up, too much uncertainty about his future and possibly too much money will likely close the door on an Upton trade before much discussion gets started.
Drawing many comparisons to former Brave Andruw Jones, Matt Kemp may be one of the most popular options for the Braves. The power-hitting center fielder is not accustomed to hitting leadoff, but his career so far boasts a solid on-base percentage and good speed.
Matt Kemp is owed about $7M for the 2011 season, and will likely gain more through arbitration in 2012. At a very hefty price, it would seem that Kemp is not a good financial fit for Atlanta. The Dodgers are another team that will likely covet some of Atlanta's pitching depth. But, if the price came down a bit, Kemp could be a very valuable rental player for Atlanta in 2011.
Acquiring Matt Kemp is not very realistic if you look at all that would have to take place, but sometimes the stars seem to be align themselves and a deal seems destined to happen. Matt Kemp may have fallen out of favor a bit with the Dodgers recently, so there is a chance that they may want to shop him a bit more urgently.
It's harder to put up better numbers leading off than Jacoby Ellsbury did in 2008-2009, and though he missed almost all of the 2010 campaign with a rib injury, he still stole seven out of eight bases in limited time. Ellsbury is a true speedster and can steal bases as good as anyone in recent memory. He can turn doubles into triples and, as we've seen, even steal home.
Adding Ellsbury to a lineup that already features some fearsome bats would be phenomenal for Atlanta. In my opinion, adding Ellsbury would so far as turn Atlanta from contenders vying for the National League Pennant to the favorites to go to the World Series. If a deal like that can be made, it needs to be done no matter what the cost. But what would it cost? Frank Wren would likely have to part with some of that valuable pitching depth to nab Ellsbury. Prized prospect Julio Teheran would likely not even be mentioned by Wren, but other pitching prospects would be discussed.
Adding Jacoby Ellsbury would be very beneficial to the Braves' ballclub, but it is no stretch saying that adding him would be costly. If Frank Wren could acquire two All-Star caliber players in the same offseason, he will have pulled off quite a heist. If he acquires Ellsbury, he will certainly have to pay more than Omar Infante and Mike Dunn. But will the Braves' general manager be brave enough to roll the dice?