What’s the Atlanta Braves' Next Move?

Kevin MarkumCorrespondent IDecember 19, 2008

No one has had more disappointments this offseason than the Atlanta Braves.  After failed attempts to bring in an ace pitcher in the form of Jake Peavy or A.J. Burnett, the Braves made an attempt to bring home their former All-Star shortstop Rafael Furcal.

At this point, Braves fans are wondering if the front office can keep to their promise of two top starters and a power-hitting left fielder this offseason.

One point to note was Frank Wren’s move to the Chicago White Sox in a deal that brought the Braves veteran pitcher Javier Vazquez.  This move was considered questionable by some, considering the top catching prospect in the Braves' minor league system was dealt to the White Sox in the form of power-hitting Tyler Flowers.

Personally, I think this move was a potential risk that is worth the benefit the Braves will receive this season.  Flowers would never blossom past AAA given Brian McCann’s strong hold of the Braves' starting catching role for years to come.

Some fans wondered if Flowers could be moved to first, but it seemed obvious the Braves wanted to keep him at the premium position of catcher, where good hitters are few and far between.  This was the time to trade the prospect, and the value in return was fairly solid.

Vazquez will be an excellent two or three guy in the rotation.  He will eat innings up and save a bullpen that has been overworked for a few years now.  He has pitched over 200 innings in each of the last four years and is certainly an upgrade to a rotation with several holes right now.

The question is, where do the Braves look now?  I’m going to take a look at a few free agents that could have the potential to fit with the Braves.  Obviously, speculation is not considered factual in this instance, but it is interesting to consider.  Some of the players mentioned are being discussed by teams all around the league as we speak.

Bobby Abreu (OF) is a name that no one has considered for the Braves' plans this offseason.  More than likely, you won’t even hear anything about him in connection with the Braves.  However, a move back to the NL and away from the pressure in New York could be the ticket for Abreu.  He would certainly be worth a one-year deal for Atlanta.

Adam Dunn (OF) is a name we have heard numerous times in conjunction with the Braves.  He is a power-hitting outfielder that drives in a lot of runs.  The downside to this guy, of course, is high strikeout numbers and low batting average.  If the Braves want a decent power hitter to place between Chipper and McCann, he is worth a look.

Rocco Baldelli (OF) is another name you haven’t heard in any Braves rumors.  However, considering the low demand for this guy, he might be worth a look as well.  While he is getting older, he could definitely be worth considering in a platoon with Matt Diaz in left field.  However, with a new diagnosis, he might be a steal to play every day.

Ken Griffey Jr. (OF) is obviously a very long shot for Frank Wren.  There have been no signs of interest from either side.  It likely that Griffey will go back to Seattle.  However, history shows that Griffey once had a lot of interest to play for Bobby Cox.  He could be worth a gamble considering his potential and the depth of the Braves OFs on the farm.

Derek Lowe (SP) is a guy many are looking at hard with the other top starting pitchers off the market.  I can’t see the Braves pushing for this guy given his age, but he would be a great placeholder for Tommy Hanson in 2009.  With a guy like Lowe, the Braves could contend for the NL East crown this summer.

Jon Garland (SP) would be a safe move for the Braves.  With a guy that could hold a spot in the rotation while the Braves' prospects develop, you can’t go wrong with Garland.  The struggle for the Braves would be competition from other teams willing to overpay for his services.

Randy Wolf (SP) was a guy the Braves were probably taking a hard look at until the recent drama with Wolf’s agents and Rafael Furcal.  If Frank Wren can get over the bad blood, Wolf might be sought at a discount.  He would be good for a one-year deal with an option for a second year.  More than likely, it won’t be a consideration for the Braves.

January should hold much better for the Braves than December did.  Maybe the Braves will just have to celebrate Christmas a little later this holiday season.  I see it very unlikely that anything gets done before the ball drops to ring in the New Year.

My prediction for the Braves' 2009 roster includes a return of former Brave Jermaine Dye and a pitcher that has yet to be decided.  Frank Wren’s main concern needs to be assuring that John Smoltz is not pitching for the Red Sox this coming season.

Here is my prediction for the Braves in 2009.  I noticed there is a possibility that every Braves starting pitcher could have a “J” starting their first name.

I predict this lineup:

CF: Gregor Blanco/Josh Anderson

SS: Yunel Escobar

3B: Chipper Jones

LF: Jermaine Dye

C: Brian McCann

1B: Casey Kotchman

RF: Jeff Francoeur

2B: Kelly Johnson

And this rotation:

John Smoltz

Jair Jurrjens

Javier Vazquez

Jorge Campillo

Jo-Jo Reyes/Tommy Hanson

The great optimism I have for the Braves in 2009 has questions such as, “What if Jeff Francoeur hits well again?”, “What if Jurrjens improves again?”, and “What if Tommy Hanson is truly the second coming of Greg Maddux?”  If any of those things are true, the Braves could be very competitive in 2009.


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