Atlanta Braves: What Does Frank Wren's History of Moves Tell Us About Deadline?
John Shuerholz and Bobby Cox began building the Braves dynasty in the late '80s.
Fast forward to 2007, and John Schuerholz is promoted to president of baseball operations after a legendary tenure as Braves general manager. Waiting in the wings was assistant general manager Frank Wren, formerly of the Baltimore Orioles. After serving as Schuerholz's assistant for several years, Wren's Braves posted records of 72-90 in 2008, 86-76 in 2009 and 91-71 in 2010.
The Braves eked back into the playoffs as the winner of the NL Wild Card, but fell to the eventual World Champion San Fransisco Giants by losing three one-run games.
This season is the first of Wren's tenure without future Hall of Fame skipper Bobby Cox in the dugout, so the pressure is on for him to establish his footprint on the Braves organization with another playoff run in 2011.
Currently, the Braves are leading the Wild Card race and sit five games behind the Philadelphia Phillies, leaders of the division. The past four years have seen some improvements and some setbacks.
Wren's legacy will be defined in part by which trades he can make happen at the 2011 trade deadline. In this article, I will use Frank Wren's history of moves and trades to try to predict who we will see donning a Braves jersey on Sunday at 4 p.m.
Trading for Jair Jurrjens
In 2007, one of the first moves made by new GM Frank Wren was to send veteran shortstop Edgar Renteria to the Detroit Tigers for prospect Jair Jurrjens and outfielder Gorkys Hernanez.
After posting respectable numbers in his first few seasons in the big leagues, Jurrjens has had a breakout season in 2011. He was named a National League All-Star and has posted a 12-3 record while boasting a 2.38 ERA.
He is by far the anchor of the Braves staff in 2011, and at 25 years old, has a long and bright future ahead of him.
Edgar Renteria was, in turn, traded to the San Fransisco Giants, where he played a key role in their 2010 World Championship. He has struggled in 2011, however, and at age 35 is struggling to find an everyday role after being traded again to the Cincinnati Reds.
Gorkys Hernandez is currently with the Pittsburgh Pirates' AAA affiliate, and could see some action with the big club in the future. Although some baseball analysts believe that this deal was set in motion by John Schuerholz, it was Wren who made it come to fruition.
This is probably his best deal as Braves GM. It shows a shrewd eye for talent, and filled a Braves need by acquiring a great young pitcher. While Renteria still had gas left in the tank, he is now in the twilight of his career while Jurrjens is in his prime. Wren gets an A+ for this move.
Trading for Nate McClouth
This was a financially sound deal for the Braves, although McCouth has not lived up to expectations in center field.
In 2009, the Braves dealt Gorkys Hernandez, pitcher Charle Morton, and southpaw Jeff Locke to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Nate McLouth.
Morton had a rocky 2010 season before finding his footing this year. Currently he is 8-5 with a respectable 3.69 ERA and has established himself as a member of the Pirates starting rotation.
According to most analysts, Hernandez was traded when his value had peaked.
Locke was traded after three uneventful seasons in the Braves' minors, and thus far has not improved. He is currently 6-8 for the Pirates' AA affiliate, although at 23 years old he has a fair amount of potential unfulfilled.
McClouth was coming off an All-Star season in 2007, so Wren thought he was buying a player who was peaking. Unfortunately, it appears McClouth peaked with the Pirates, as he has yet to regain his All-Star form since coming to Atlanta.
While it would have been nice to hang onto Morton, dealing him cleared the way for Wren to bring up a young stud from Gwinnett named Tommy Hanson. In this case, the player has to be held accountable for his performance, and McClouth's performance has been sub-par since the trade. Give Wren a solid B for this trade.
Trading Mark Teixeira
John Schuerholz signed Mark "Tex" Teixeira in 2007 amid a hunt for a World Series.
In 2008, after Frank Wren was rebuffed by Teixeira on signing a multi-year deal, Wren was forced to deal the All-Star first baseman to the Los Angeles Angels for first baseman Casey Kotchman and minor league pitcher Steven Marek.
Teixeira helped the Angels to a 100-win season and an AL West regular season crown before landing with the New York Yankees as a free agent in the offseason.
Casey Kotchman was ultimately dealt to the Red Sox in exchange for Adam LaRoche. Stephen Marek is currently a relief pitcher for the AAA Gwinnett Braves.
The biggest point in this trade was who the Braves didn't get. By all accounts, Wren had his heart set on including Nick Adenhart in this deal, but the Angels refused to give up the talented prospect. Wren was burned by time and had to back off the demand or risk getting nothing for Teixeira and losing him to free agency.
Had he been able to add Adenhart, he gets a B+ or an A- for this deal. However, both Kotchman and Marek played virtually no role in the Braves' success, so Wren gets a weak C here.
Acquiring Arodys Vizcaino
In late 2009, the Braves sent pitchers Javier Vasquez and Boone Logan to the Yankees for Melky Cabrera, Michael Dunn, and Arodys Vizcaino.
Boone Logan is currently a reliever for the Yankees big club. Javier Vazquez, touted as one of the "best pitchers in baseball" at the time of the trade, self-destructed in New York and was relegated to the bullpen late in the season. He was then dealt to the Florida Marlins, where he currently boasts a 7-9 record with a 5.10 ERA.
Melky Cabrera had a less than dominant season in Atlanta and was traded to the Kansas City Royals, where he has rejuvenated his career. Michael Dunn pitched only 19 innings for the Braves, and was dealt to the Florida Marlins along with Omar Infante for second baseman Dan Uggla.
This move again shows Wren's knack for evaluating players at their peak and getting value for them in the trade market. The Braves dumped Vazquez's $11.5 million salary while receiving a starting center fielder and a man who has become the No. 2 prospect in their organization. This move nets Wren a solid B.
Trading Jeff Francoeur
While analysts praised Frank Wren's business savvy in this trade, local Braves loyalists vilified him. In 2009, the Braves traded right fielder Jeff Francoeur and some cash to division rival New York Mets in exchange for Ryan Church.
Church was cut by the Braves in 2010 and played for both the Pittsburgh Pirates and Arizona Diamondbacks before hanging up his spikes for good due to injury. Since both players were struggling mightily at the time of this trade, Wren was more concerned with shedding salary at this point.
Looking back, this was a wash for the Braves. Wren didn't use the money he saved wisely, signing Troy Glaus as a free agent in the offseason. Church wound up hurting the Braves more than helping them. Francoeur had a less than impressive stint with the Mets before landing in Kansas City and revitalizing his career.
Ultimately, trading Francoeur and cutting Church paved the way for Jason Heyward in 2010, so there are some positives here. At the time of the trade, give Wren a C+ for business savvy.
Trading for Derrek Lee
When solidly in the hunt, Frank Wren finally gave up some prospects for a bat. In August of 2010, the Braves traded minor league pitchers Robinson Lopez, Tyrelle Harris, and Jeffery Lorick to the Chicago Cubs for veteran first baseman Derrek Lee.
Lee's offensive numbers were skewed somewhat given that the Cubs were one of baseball's worst offensive teams in 2010. His acquisition relieved Troy Glaus's ailing knees of first base duties, and gave the Braves some desperately needed punch in their lineup. He performed adequately in his role for the remainder of the season, and ended up with the Baltimore Orioles for 2011.
This trade deserves more weight than all others given that Wren lost some prospects to push the Braves through the playoff run. Lee was acquired strictly on a rental basis since Freddie Freeman was poised to take over first base in the 2011 season. It was a solid trade given the Braves' needs, and so this trade gets a solid B from Wren.
Trading Yunel Escobar
Fellow writer Tyler McAdams has already covered this trade in depth with a recent article, so rather than re-hash what he has covered so thoroughly, I'll simply provide the link to his article here.
When analyzing this trade, it seems like Wren's hand was forced here. It is worth noting, however, that Wren once again chose to trade young talent for a veteran. He also chose to upgrade defensively rather than focus on offensive assistance.
Frank Wren gets a B- for this trade due to Escobar's offensive explosion in 2011, compared with Gonzalez's struggles at the plate.
What Does History Tell Us the Next Move Will Be?
One word comes to mind when I look at Frank Wren's history at the deadline.
I seriously doubt that Carlos Quentin is a serious option at this point.
Hunter Pence is a quandary, and the late news Thursday night is that the Braves have made an offer to the Astros for Pence, according to Jayson Stark. It is troubling that Astros GM Ed Wade wants four "ready to play" prospects in exchange for the face of the franchise.
This means that Wren must gamble a bit, and while he has gambled on signing free agents, he has remained shrewd at trade time.
Ryan Ludwick is the safe bet for the Braves, since he fits with all of their needs right now. We should know more by Saturday, so at this point our future outfielder is anyone's guess.
Given Wren's history with the Cubs, Marlon Byrd and Aramis Ramirez are outside shots if a deal for Pence falls through. Stay tuned for more details, and go Braves!