One of the hot topics of debate of late in the Braves' nation has been what the Braves should do with their pitching surplus and somewhat anemic.
The near-consensus on this topic has been to trade Javier Vazquez and his all-time high value for a big-time bat.
While this would be awesome (I have been a supporter), I have really though hard about the Brave's situation going into 2010 and have put together this September 19 edition of my offseason plans for the Atlanta Braves.
We'll call this one the starting-pitching friendly scenario.
Keep in mind that I know that I have said different things in the past, this is just food for thought.
I'll break down the moves into four parts: free agent departures, trade chips, free agent acquisitions/players retained, and the whole roster.
Keep in mind that the Braves' 2009 MLB salary was $96,726,167—11th in the Majors and third in their division.
Free Agent Departures/Players Non-Tendered
If I were GM and chose to take this route, I would let the following guys hit the open market (their salary for 2009, which is coming off the books, will be included in parenthesis).
Rafael Soriano ($6.5 MM)
Mike Gonzalez ($3.5 MM)
Kelly Johnson ($2.8 MM)
Buddy Carlyle ($425 K)
Greg Norton ($800 K)
Garret Anderson ($2.5 MM)
That frees up about $16.53 MM to improve the team elsewhere.
I feel like each of these players will end up being, overpaid (Soriano, Gonzalez), become unvaluable assets to the team (Greg Norton, Buddy Carlyle, Kelly Johnson), or block some of the youthful talent coming through the organization (Garret Anderson).
The following players are players that should be put on the open market (in parenthesis, I will include their salary and return I would expect). I will also make the moves I THINK will happen in BOLD.
Kenshin Kawakami ($7 MM, plus AA arm, good INF A or AA prospect, taker takes on at least half of Kenshin's 2010 salary)
Martin Prado ($415 K, plus plus INF A or AA prospect OR arm)
Javier Vazquez ($11.5 MM, big bat, good prospects OR top 3B prospect, and other good-great prospects, taker takes on entire salary)
Derek Lowe ($15 MM, plus plus AA arm-Kris Medlen-ish, good INF prospect, full salary relief)
Nate McLouth (2.5 MM, same thing the Braves gave away for him: good OF prospect and a couple descent pitching prospects)
My predicted moves free up an additional $7.42 MM.
Prado has value for a team with a hole in the infield looking for a slap-hitting, moderately-well defending, young option.
Plus, his value as a trade chip may never be higher than after the break-out season he's had (he was never profiled to be an everyday player).
Kenshin Kawakami is, in my opinion, the second-most valuable (touchable) trade chip.
His $7 MM salary is fair for a number three or four (which he would be in a lot of rotations) starter.
I could see Kawakami being traded for OK, not great, prospects; but that's not the purpose of a Kawakmi trade.
The intent behind it would be salary and room relief for an already crowded Braves rotation.
Free Agent Acquisitions/Players Retained
This part will be a little confusing.
The following players are either players that the Braves currently have on their Major League roster that I think they should keep or players from outside of the organization that I think they should get (in parenthesis, I will put 2009 Braves' salary/2010 predicted salary/raise in salary) with the entire contract on the outside.
At this point in the piece, the Braves have saved about $23.95 MM for this part of the offseason.
Adam LaRoche ($7 MM/$8.5 MM/$1.5 MM) 2/17
Matt Diaz ($1.3 MM/$2.5 MM/$1.5 MM) arb raise
Ryan Church ($2.8 MM/$2.8 MM/0) arb raise
Chone Figgins (0 for Braves, $5.8 MM/$10.5 MM/$10.5 MM) 3/31.5
Jose Valverde (0 for Braves, $8 MM/$9.5 MM/$9.5 MM) 3/27
Peter Moylan ($410 K/$1 MM/$590 K) arb raise
**Tim Hudson's option will not be exercised, but I believe the team and Timmy will meet with a 2/16 deal**
Alternates: Orlando Hudson for Chone Figgins
Fernando Rodney for Jose Valverde
Nick Johnson or Carlos Delgado for Adam LaRoche
(and I know that I didn't not include everyone, but these are the guys I see getting the biggest raises/making the biggest impact on the team)
For this section, I will italicize new faces—be they Minor Leaguers or Free Agents—and put the player's salary/predicted salary in parenthesis.
1 S 2B Chone Figgins ($10.5 MM)
2 L CF Nate McLouth ($4.5 MM)
3 R SS Yunel Escobar ($425 K)
4 L C Brian McCann ($3.5 MM)
5 S 3B Chipper Jones ($13 MM)
6 L 1B Adam LaRoche ($8.5 MM)
7 L RF Jason Heyward ($395 K)
8 L/R LF Matt Diaz/Ryan Church ($4.3 MM combined)
UTIL Omar Infante ($2.3 MM)
INF Brooks Conrad ($390 K)
OF spare from the above platoon
C David Ross ($1.6 MM)
1 R Javier Vazquez ($11.5 MM)
2 R Tim Hudson ($8 MM)
3 R Jair Jurrjens ($450 K)
4 R Tommy Hanson ($450 K)
5 R Derek Lowe ($15 MM...ouch)
LRP Todd Redmond ($390 K)
LOOGY Boone Logan ($410 K)
RHMRP Manny Acosta ($400 K)
RHMRP Luis Valdez ($390 K)
RHSU Kris Medlen ($405 K)
RHSU Peter Moylan ($1 MM)
LHSU Eric O'Flaherty ($410 K)
CL Jose Valverde ($9.5 MM)
Total 2010 Salary: $97,350,000 ($580 K increase)
This, in my opinion, is a pretty good direction for the Braves to take.
There is a nice mixture of youth and experience, power and speed, and professionalism and aggressiveness; something the Braves need as they begin to move towards the next generation of young studs
The rotation here would be, arguably, the best in the Majors; and the depth in the line-up would be as good as, if not better than, what the Braves have now.
The 'pen would also be full of fresh, young arms for whoever's managing the Braves next year (Ned Yost?) to use without fear of a Gonzalez or Soriano elbow blow-out.
I wrote this in this was to answer questions about my thoughts (it would be hard to do so without any input).
So please, comment away.