The Atlanta Braves were in control of their own destiny for 130 games or so. Then, things just fell apart. Of course, sometimes when you look back at things, you realize it just wasn't meant to be. The Braves' numbers indicate that they were not as good as we thought. They traded Derek Lowe in November, but otherwise have done little to nothing so far. That's usually the best way to do things.
The Boston Red Sox, on the other hand, had a collective nervous breakdown and completely changed out their front office and dugout management. Of course, time will tell how it will play out, but something tells me the Braves are better off. Now, they can calmly go to work on filling some of those holes.
If we notice a theme throughout the infield (counting behind the plate), it is that the Braves are very good offensively at each position and very bad defensively at almost every position. Alex Gonzalez appears to be the exception, so he will likely not be re-signed. The club declined arbitration on him, which means either Brandon Hicks will take over or they will acquire a new shortstop.
Otherwise, the infield defense is a disaster. Eventually, the Braves will have to solve this problem, but it likely won't be this year. Brian McCann and Dan Uggla are there for the long term, while Freddie Freeman looks like a nice young hitter. Chipper Jones will retire soon, so third base is a possible place to improve, but that won't happen until 2013.
Player to Watch: Dan Uggla
There are rumors that the Braves are shopping Martin Prado. At least, the Rockies have expressed some interest in Prado to play third base or second base for them. Presumably, this would open the door for the Braves to acquire a more traditional corner outfielder. It is likely that they want someone that can produce some power numbers to help protect McCann in the order.
On the other hand, Michael Bourn was just what the doctor ordered for them. He gave them a legitimate leadoff hitter and a plus defensive center fielder at the same time. Jason Heyward is also a plus defender. If they can add a legit left fielder to the bunch, this could be the best outfield in the National League defensively.
Player to Watch: Jason Heyward
Do you want to talk about a bunch of changes? Everyone wants starting pitching, and the Braves and Rays have it in spades. So, look for a bunch of teams to knock on their doors during the winter meetings. Right now, Jair Jurrjens appears to be their top trading chip. Moving him will open up salary, but more importantly a spot for a truckload of top pitching prospects.
Without a deal, the Braves will have the deepest rotation in the National League. Freddie Gonzalez will need to lay off the young starters to avoid the September of discontent. Both Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens were misused. If Hanson can remain healthy he still looks like the best of them all.
Player to Watch: Tommy Hanson
The Braves' bullpen has an interesting construction. It has three of the top 10 relievers in all of baseball, but falls to below average immediately afterwards. Like the Diamondbacks, they will be looking for bullpen depth. They rolled the dice on George Sherrill and Scott Linebrink. They may turn those roles over to some of their electric young arms. If they go that route it could get downright nasty for the hitters in the NL.
Like Kevin Towers, Frank Wren must choose between trusting young pitchers in the bullpen or trading some of those young pitchers for proven commodities. It's also possible he could get a veteran arm from the Rockies for Prado. He might have to sweeten the pot though to get a reliever worth having.
Player to Watch: Jonny Venters
Winter Meetings Success
The Braves have more holes than you would think. They have a hole at shortstop that must be filled, and a potential hole in left field as well. After that, they could use another solid reliever, but that will have to wait after the shortstop and left field situations are resolved. Fortunately, they have plenty of trading chips to fill those holes.
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