November 2, 2012 at 1:45 am by David Lee under Atlanta Braves, Transactions
Center field seems to be coming full circle in Atlanta, although maybe it’s not a complete circle.
The Braves claimed Jordan Schafer off waivers from the Astros on Thursday, giving Atlanta an option for fourth/fifth outfielder or Triple-A depth.
After getting sent to Houston in the Michael Bourn deal, Schafer returns to the Atlanta organization during the same offseason as Bourn’s projected departure for the free agent market.
If bringing back Schafer means nothing more than minor league depth, I don’t care about this move and it’s probably not even worth this post. However, if Schafer is signed as a fourth or fifth outfielder (depending on whether the Braves platoon left field), it does make a difference, if just a slight one.
Fourth outfielders do play defense from time to time, and Schafer isn’t very good at it. He makes bad breaks on line drives and takes bad routes to the gaps at times, and he relies heavily on speed. Schafer’s one advantage defensively – and perhaps his entire game – is his strong arm.
Defensive metrics back up my claims, as well. For his career, Schafer has been worth -24 defensive runs saved and -10.2 UZR. Someone will be quick to say he’s good defensively based on speed, but speed doesn’t equal good defense, and I’d like to think we’re beyond that line of thinking by now.
Schafer’s offensive struggles are well-documented. He owns a career line of .221/.305/.301 with a .274 wOBA and 68 wRC+. He’s also had injury issues, including separating the AC joint in both shoulders, fracturing a middle finger and left wrist surgery. At 26 years old, his potential is pretty much tapped out.
As I said, if the Braves are bringing Schafer back as minor league depth, this move means little to nothing. If they expect him to play defense in a pinch, or more if he has to fill in for an injured starter, his below-average fielding does not make this a worthwhile move. A lot of this depends on how the outfield will shake out by spring.
July 1, 2012 at 5:52 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves, Transaction Analysis, Transactions
As reported prior to the game Sunday, the Braves signed Ben Sheets to a minor league deal. He will make his first start Wednesday for Double-A Mississippi.
Frank Wren said Sheets could potentially be a rotation member within a few weeks. This is a bold statement for someone who hasn’t been on a mound since 2010. Sheets underwent Tommy John surgery after 119 innings for the Athletics that year, and the right-hander has been on the disabled list seven times in his nine-year career.
However, the move comes with no risk. As a minor league deal, the Braves are not guaranteeing Sheets anything, and if he doesn’t return to form, they can cut bait with no loss.
And if he does return to form, the Braves get a 33-year-old that once posted a 28.2% strikeout rate over 237 innings. Sheets has recorded a strikeout rate over 20% three times while earning a career 3.65 FIP and 20.1% K-rate. He has always displayed great control with solid strikeout stuff, working off a low-90s fastball and a curveball that profiles as a true out pitch. Sheets also ramped up his changeup usage at 16.3% while in Oakland, so we’ll see whether he goes back to the fastball more or remains changeup-heavy in his return.
In the meantime, Sheets will work in the minor leagues as he attempts to regain his stamina and feel. Look for him to make several starts between Double-A and Triple-A, and monitor his progress, because his walk and strikeout totals could tell a story on how he responds to the elbow surgery.
If all goes well in the minors, Sheets could take a spot occupied by Mike Minor or Randall Delgado. If Sheets blows the Braves away in his return, the younger pitchers could even find themselves involved in trade rumors. We’ll see how it goes.
May 31, 2012 at 1:15 am by David Lee under Atlanta Braves, Transactions
Andrelton Simmons has been called up to the majors and will make his major league debut Friday in Washington.
Tyler Pastoricky has been optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett. The Simmons era begins this weekend.
Frank Wren acknowledged Pastornicky’s defense needs to improve, and while his offense has been about as expected – .248/.281/.324 with a .270 wOBA and 3.8 BB% – his defense just wasn’t good enough for him to stick. Looking beyond the errors and fielding percentage, Pastornicky’s range and arm limited his abilities and hindered an already weak infield defense. With below average defenders at every other position on the infield, the Braves need a plus defensive shortstop to survive, and Pastornicky can’t provide that.
But Simmons can. He’s rated as one of the best defensive shortstops in the minors and projects as plus now. He has a cannon, shows great range and gets to balls that Pastornicky never can. It’s simply a matter of Simmons saving the team runs on defense.
Offensively, nothing should change. Simmons has seemingly taken a step forward at the plate in Double-A, hitting .299/.380/.431 with a .383 wOBA and 10.2 BB%, so he is proving his bat is more than just an empty batting average at one of the toughest levels to do so. But he will again face a different level now, and expecting anything more than what Pastornicky provided at the plate right now might be too much to ask.
But that’s the point of the move. The Braves probably won’t sacrifice anything at the plate while upgrading their shortstop defense from a Pinto to a Bugatti. I see no reason why the move should not have been made.
May 29, 2012 at 4:41 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves, Transactions
Mark Bowman knew what he was talking about. As he predicted this morning, Kris Medlen has been demoted to Triple-A Gwinnett in order to stretch his arm to return to the Atlanta rotation. He should make two to three starts at Gwinnett before entering the Braves rotation.
Medlen currently has a 3.49 ERA and 3.69 xFIP in 28.1 relief innings. His strikeout rate is down at 15 percent, but he’s getting more balls on the ground and his line drive rate has remained steady. Part of the lack of strikeouts could be the increase in fastballs thrown as a reliever, as he doesn’t have the fastball or deception to earn a high whiff rate on the pitch. Medlen will likely up his changeup and curveball usage as he returns to the rotation.
This could still mean my theory of skipping Mike Minor on Thursday may happen in order to take advantage of missing Minor’s struggles and allowing Medlen the extra time to prepare in the minors. But optioning Minor as the corresponding move when Medlen is promoted may not be 100 percent certain, as there is also the possibility of Randall Delgado being the odd man out. However, if I had to bank on it right now, Minor would get my vote based on how he has looked over his past couple starts.
In a corresponding move for demoting Medlen right now, outfielder Jose Constanza was promoted to Atlanta and is in the lineup in left field batting ninth tonight. This is meant to spell the bench some, as Freddie Freeman still remains sidelined, Eric Hinske is being forced to play everyday, and Matt Diaz shouldn’t start against right-handed pitchers. On the other hand, Constanza should never start, so it’s basically giving everyone else a breather.
Ben approved of Medlen getting a shot in the rotation. I also mentioned a possible Medlen promotion in today’s news post. The other move Bowman predicted could happen is the promotion of Andrelton Simmons, but there has been no indication of a move yet.
May 20, 2012 at 7:51 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves, Transactions
According to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Braves have traded infielder Drew Sutton to the Pirates for cash.
The amount of cash has not been reported.
Sutton was hitting .270/.374/.372 with 10 doubles and two triples in 164 plate appearances for Triple-A Gwinnett, including 20 walks and 24 strikeouts. Sutton has proven his worth as a solid hitting infielder who could play all over the infield well, especially in his lengthy showing during spring training this year, where he was a candidate for a backup infielder job.
Selling Sutton shows the Braves’ thinking that they had no use for him. It could also show their reliance on Andrelton Simmons as the first infielder in the minor leagues to get a call up. I believe if anything called for an infield promotion, Simmons would get the call.
However, this still doesn’t answer why Sutton would get sold. He was a good hitter who got on base and could play several positions well. Twitter had hopes of him being the next Ben Zobrist. Apparently the Braves needed cash.
Biertempfel further said he didn’t know where Sutton would be sent, as Triple-A Indianapolis is not in need of another infielder. A corresponding move may be coming for the Pirates.
December 1, 2011 at 10:58 am by Franklin Rabon under Atlanta Braves, Economic Analysis, Farm System, Player Analysis, Transactions
So David O’Brien stoked up the fires of Braves fans everywhere with his most recent blog discussing the prospects for a Brian McCann extension. It was actually a very good article, though it more reported the facts than went into analysis of what will happen (DO’B is actually excellent at these kinds of articles). However, many Braves fans were highly perturbed that O’Brien would even suggest the possibility that the Braves may go with young Christian Bethancourt instead of extending McCann into the golden sunset. One Twitter follower even missed the point so badly that he tweeted O’Brien asking “you’re seriously comparing a future HOFer to a guy who has 0 MLB at bats (Bethancourt)?!”
Braves fans are just now coming to terms with the fact that Jair Jurrjens at the very least won’t be extended, and will probably be traded before he hits free agency. Then there’s the idea of also trading the gritty, scrappy, ‘just loves playing the game of baseball’ Martin Prado that’s also had some among the Braves faithful reigniting their disdain for GM Frank Wren. Not keeping McCann long term would just break their backs. Stay calm Braves fans. Brain McCann, barring a significant injury within the next year, will sign long term and here’s why.
Brian McCann likes being a Brave. This much is obvious, it’d be a great inconvenience for him to leave, personally. He’s built his whole life around this area and seems to genuinely love the area. If there was ever a candidate for a guy taking a hometown discount, it’s Brian McCann. No, he wouldn’t accept 7 years at 6 million a year or anything absurd like that. But I truly believe he’d take at least 2-3 million under what he’d get on the open market. As O’Brien also points out, he also has an agent that has taken team friendly deals in the past with Chipper Jones. Now, this isn’t so much about the agent, as it is a signal of McCann’s intentions. If McCann was fully intending to try to get the maximum he could squeeze out of the Braves, then he’d likely have changed agents by now. B.B. Abbott is the agent you choose when you want more of a ‘lifestyle deal’. While Scott Boras is excellent at what he does, he actually tends to avoid clients that aren’t seeking the maximum they can get, or at least he tries to convince them of the errors in their ways. The fact that McCann has chosen, and stuck with B.B. Abbott is a very good sign for Braves fans.
Now, the other issue is that Brian McCann may be worth more to the Braves than any other team. I know most of the SABR crowd is loathe to valuate a player on anything other than strictly on the field metrics. But the Atlanta Braves have spent a lot of money in marketing Brian McCann. While the ‘face of the franchise’ idea can often times be overplayed, some also might underplay it. The Braves marketing department has tied up a lot of the value of the Braves brand into the Brian McCann brand. In my view, they’ve in many ways put in a large long term investment in him already as a selling point both team value wise and ticket wise.
There are some counterbalancing factors here as well though. On a strictly ‘on the field’ measure McCann would likely be more valuable to an American League team, where he could transition to DH if his body wore down too much to be an effective catcher, and even if it didn’t, he’d provide additional value as a DH during his scheduled off days, much like Mauer has for the Twins.
However, it’s my firm belief that with the Braves substantial investment in marketing McCann as the selling point to fans for the franchise, and McCann’s comfort with the area, it is so far in both parties’ interest that it seems highly improbable that he won’t sign at least one more contract as a Brave. I believe the chances are high that after his next contract he would go to an AL team as his body continues to wear down from catching, but I think both sides, McCann and the Braves, will be willing to risk another 5-7 years (from this point forward, not 5-7 years from 2014) of McCann as a full time catcher.
Now, all that might not matter if the Braves just flat out cannot afford to sign him to an at least reasonable long term contract without crippling the franchise. So we have to explore what flexibility the team will have over the next 7 years and whether or not this would allow them to sign McCann.
Using Cot’s Atlanta Braves contract obligations page, we see that the Braves do indeed have substantial payroll flexibility. Not only are they only on the hook for Uggla after next year, but it appears they will be able to field an excellent pitching staff entirely based around ML minimum and arbitration players. This will likely allow them to field an entire starting staff for around the cost of C.C. Sabathia. During that time it seems likely that SS, RF and 1B will also be comprised of arbitration and ML minimum players (Pastornicky, Heyward and Freeman). It is difficult to know exactly where all these arbitration numbers will fall, and which players may or may not be non-tendered, but my estimate is that for 2014 (the first year the Braves wouldn’t control McCann), the Braves are looking at being able to fill 5 starters, Closer, Primary Set Up Man, 1B, 2B, SS and RF for around 35-40 million. There’s no reason to think the Braves budget will significantly deviate from the ~88 Million it’s been at in previous years. Leaving the team with roughly 50 million dollars to fill Catcher, 3B, CF and LF (along with bench spots and filler bullpen roles). I’ll just guess that the mix of 3B, CF, LF and bench/bullpen will cost somewhere around $30 Million, with a mix of prospects, trades and free agents filling those roles. That leaves the Braves with something like a max of $20 Million for McCann in 2014.
However, the issue isn’t McCann’s first year, it’s the subsequent years as players like Jason Heyward, Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy, Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel continue to see their salaries escalate through the arbitration ranks (or possibly having their arbitration and first few years of free agency bought out in an extension).
This would be the one drawback to having such a productive farm. The Braves would either be forced to trade at least some of these players, or have serious payroll restrictions. If many of these players perform like we expect them to, they could see arbitration awards in the neighborhood of 6-10 million, especially in their final years of arbitration. Beginning in 2016, the Braves will begin to feel a substantial pinch, as many of their top flight players are scheduled to hit the free agent market. If they aren’t resigned at substantial cost, and there isn’t a rookie waiting in the wings, they’ll have to be replaced at a substantial cost.
This is the part where things become tricky. If the Braves do sign McCann to a long term deal, they’re not only taking a gamble that McCann’s body will hold up to the rigors of catching full time for several more years, they’re also gambling that their farm system will continue to be just as productive as it has been in recent years. Especially 2015-2016. If the Braves begin to see the farm system well dry up during that time span, things could get ugly, as they’d be forced to either depend on substandard rookies or cheap free agents to fill in the gaps in 2015-2016.
With Bethancourt, the Braves would be taking substantially less of a gamble. Sure, he might not, in fact almost certainly will not, be the player that McCann is. But with Bethancourt at the ML minimum for a few years and then as a lower cost arbitration player, the Braves would have substantially greater payroll flexibility to cover over potential shortcomings in other areas.
That being said, I think that’s a gamble the Braves take. Wren seems justifiably confident in his ability to build and maintain a productive farm system, and the fact that the new CBA will no longer punish the Braves draft penny pinching ways quite as much bodes well for the future of the farm system. We can also take into account that if Bethancourt continues to mature into a highly valuable prospect, he could be traded to either bring in a missing piece, or more likely substantially bolster the farm system in areas of greater immediate need.
So, finally, let’s look at the exact dollar amounts that it would likely take to get it done. First we have to set the top and bottom of the market. Those two numbers are easy enough to set: McCann won’t take a paycut from his 2013 pay and no team is going to pay him more than the Twins shelled out for Mauer. That establishes his bottom number as $13 million and his top number as $23 million. Obviously however there is a lot of room between those two numbers.
First, I think we can attack the top number somewhat. Joe Mauer was also a hometown product (Born in St. Paul Minnesota), so many of the similarities between the two are stunning. However, I think that Mauer’s injury has scared some of the more skittish GMs, who might otherwise lavish money upon McCann, at least a little. Additionally, while McCann’s career numbers compare very favorably to Mauer’s, McCann hasn’t had a year like Mauer did in 2009, which was likely also overvalued by the Twins, because they seem to organizationally care a lot about batting average. I wouldn’t think McCann would be able to find much in excess of $19 million per on the free agency market. Especially since the Yankees seem content with a young catcher, the Red Sox seem to be going forward with Salty (interesting McCann gets blocked by Salty) and the Angels seem to be really high on Ianetta’s OBP. While all of thsoe are fluid situations, it likely precludes any of those teams from being able to fully just blow away the Braves offer. So, for now, let’s estimate the top of the market at $19 million.
At the bottom, I don’t see McCann taking anything under a $3 million raise from his option year on his current contract. So, we can then say the absolute bottom will likely be $15 million.
With a range of $15 million to $19 million, I’d expect that the Braves will first exercise their club option on McCann for 2013, then extend him midseason through 2018, for a total of 5 years, $80 million at $16 million per, with performance bonuses that could put him up to $18 million per.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both sides here. McCann will likely be leaving some money on the table, for stability and security. The Braves are taking a substantial risk that McCann will stay healthy and that their farm system will continue to provide the big club with several cheap younger players in future years. However, given the investments both parties have made in this relationship to this point, I don’t see any scenario (except substantial injury in the next year and a half) where both sides fail to agree to continue the relationship. I don’t even expect the dealings to be especially contentious.
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December 30, 2010 at 1:26 am by Kevin Orris under Atlanta Braves, Defense, Front Office, Transactions
Right now, there is a big misunderstanding among fans about the current Braves outfield situation. There are in fact, two major league outfielders currently on the team. Then there’s Eric Hinske and Jordan Schafer, each with his own issues.
Hinske came into the big leagues as a third baseman, and until Chipper Jones decides to retire, he’s not going to return to the hot corner. His other fit would be at first base, but Freddie Freeman is clearly going to have every opportunity to succeed this season. Therefore, he falls into the outfield by default, regardless of his limited range.
Although Schafer’s issues have been fairly well documented between suspensions and off-the-field issues, I would like to share something that I learned from a anonymous and extremely reliable source earlier this month: At one time, he was juggling four or five agents, telling each of them that they were representing him. In reality they all liked him for the potential that he had on the field, but he was too much to handle. In summary, the time that it would require to babysit him, isn’t worth what will come from him.
Even if he were an angel in the clubhouse and outside of baseball, the skill set hasn’t been there since his first Major League at-bat in 2009. Bobby Cox is known for sticking with players through thick and thin, and Schafer managed to play so poorly, that he was ultimately demoted on May 31, 2009 and has yet to return.
I would like to believe that Nate McLouth will rebound, and same goes for the front office and a majority of the fanbase. For those who would like to see someone else, well too bad!
Truth is the Braves are going to have to live with their current outfield, with Hinske receiving most of the reserve time behind Martin Prado while allowing Joe Mather and Matt Young to audition in the spring.
I understand that it’s not the best outfield, but it’s hard for Frank Wren to do much of anything at this point. While Scott Hairston is a free agent, it’s unlikely that he will out produce McLouth in 2011. McLouth posted WAR of 3.7 in 2008, 3.4 in 2009, and -1.3 last season (obviously terrible). Hairston’s WAR in 2008 was a 2.2, followed by a 1.9 in 2009 and a 0.4 last season.
I don’t view this as much of an upgrade, especially considering McLouth is 18 months younger. All that this move would do is add to the payroll in a poor attempt to patchwork the outfield.
Regardless, the issue isn’t that the Braves need a center fielder; it’s that they need a fourth outfielder. They need someone with plenty of range and a decent arm that can serve as a reliable bat off of the bench and an occasional pinch runner. If I had my pick, it would be Matt Angle, a center fielder in the Baltimore Orioles organization.
Angle was drafted in the 7th round in the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft, and has had a fairly productive minor league career. Odds are low that he’ll ever appear in an All-Star Game or make a run for the triple crown, but he’s a guy that can play all there outfield spots and can contribute in a variety of ways.
Even if the Braves did acquire Angle, the issue of attempting to patchwork the outfield still remains with just one guy who started on a regular basis last season (Heyward).
Frank Wren has a theory of waiting 40 games into the season and at that point evaluating the team. This way, players have a chance to prove themselves and the front office will have a general idea of the contenders and pretenders.
I’m all for the Braves making a move to bring in that fourth outfielder, but I say let’s wait until that 40 game mark and view our options from there. In all reality, the difference between the six outfielders currently on the 40-man roster and the gentlemen listed here, isn’t going to make a big enough difference to stress about by that point in the season.
Important Note: It was announced on Twitter today that Jason Heyward has flown to Southern California to hang out with Freddie Freeman for the week. (Side note: This is the only tweet that I have ever “favorited” on Twitter and shall remain so for the rest of time.) I would give a lot to find out exactly what these two guys do when they “hang out.” Do they go to bars? The beach? Play catch?
Please, help me solve this mystery by leaving your thoughts in the comments below.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter (@kevinorris) or e-mail me at KevinOrris@CapitolAvenueClub.com.