November 18, 2010 at 8:00 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves
Acquiring Dan Uggla probably represents the last significant move the Braves make this winter, depending on the health of Chipper Jones and your definition of “significant”. David O’Brien says: “Having already made their big move in a trade for Dan Uggla, Wren and his assistants look to strengthen the depth of the bullpen and the bench.” Makes perfect sense to me. They’ve got their line-up and rotation set.
Acquiring Dan Uggla did open up two holes. One in the bullpen and one on the bench. They’ll need to find a replacement for Omar Infante, and I suspect they’ll look to spend a bit of coin on it rather than handing the spot to Brooks Conrad, Diory Hernandez, or Brandon Hicks. They were already in need of a pinch-hitter and 4th OF’er whose value is tied to his glove and the acquisition of Dan Uggla doesn’t change that. With Dunn gone they’re down to 5 relievers (Kimbrel, Venters, Proctor, O’Flaherty, Marek) plus the possibility of a Peter Moylan return. The proposition of Moylan returning isn’t something I’m thrilled about, but given the financial ramifications of the Uggla move I don’t know that they could do any better in the free agent market. The 7th bullpen spot seems like it’ll either be an external option or an undesirable right-hander in the organization (Christhian Martinez, Luis Valdez, etc), with Lee Hyde being a long shot. I imagine they’d like to fill that 7th spot with a 3rd lefty, but they probably won’t be looking to spend much more than the league minimum on it, so look for them to target 6-year free agent lefthanders that are capable of matching up with left-handed hitters in MLB. They could also look to acquire one in the Rule V draft, on waivers (like they acquired Eric O’Flaherty), or among the group of non-tenders. If they can’t find one, rolling with 2 lefties and 5 righties won’t be the worst thing in the world.
What the roster currently looks like:
Assuming the Braves save $3 million by trading Kenshin Kawakami and the payroll is around $88 million, the Braves will have about $7.5 million to acquire the aforementioned five role players. My guess is the 3rd lefty will cost only league minimum, giving them ~$7 million for 4 pieces. I look for about $1.5 million of that to be allocated to a pinch-hitter (preferably Eric Hinske) and $1 million for a 4th OF’er. If they could then get a guy like Cristian Guzman for $1.5 million or so, they’d have $3 million to grab a reliever. Peter Moylan wouldn’t cost that much, but saving for a potential mid-season deal isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Again, I’d prefer a reliever who hasn’t walked 4.7 batters per nine innings over the past two years, but if he’ll have to do I’m sure the Braves will be fine.
Most importantly they’ve built a good* and balanced line-up with Prado, Heyward, Chipper, McCann, Uggla, Freeman, Gonzalez, and McLouth and they didn’t have to trade a starting pitcher or a single prospect to get it. The proposition of opening the season with Nate McLouth as the starting center fielder is unappealing, but they can afford to find out if McLouth is in store for a bounce-back year or not. If he is, great. He’s been an above-average player before and he’s in the midst of his theoretical prime, so he might end up being an above-average player again in 2011. If not, the line-up should be good enough for them to be able to soldier on without getting anything from him for awhile. Since they didn’t trade any prospects this winter they’ll have ammunition to address the situation mid-season.
*Seriously, no hyperbole, that line-up is very, very good.
Frank Wren has generally excelled at building a strong bullpen and bench and this off season should be no different. With a decent defense and a well above-average offense and starting staff, Braves fans have to like the way the roster is shaping up and in turn the team’s chances in 2011. It looks like for the first time in awhile they’ll be fielding an opening day roster capable of challenging the Phillies for the division title. Keep an eye on how the organization attempts to strengthen the bench and bullpen, but with the major pieces in place and a track record for finding useful role players, there’s not a whole lot to fret over anymore. The 2011 Braves will be very good.