About Those Braves…

Watching the Mets in the Division Series is like _________________ (fill in the blank.) Please remember this is a PG-rated site. But, there is one slight silver lining: It isn’t watching the Braves.

The Braves, who had won the 2013 Division title handily turned around and basically fell apart last August/September. Typically the manager gets shown the door after such a chute job. Rather than follow the typical protocol, the Braves cleaned house starting with the General Manager. Frank Wren’s replacement was John Hart, a respected baseball veteran. Faced with an under-achieving lineup and a farm system sorely lacking in talent the choice was made to stock the farm by selling the stable. What was needed was young pitching and lots of it. The winter purge was impressive. Gone was Justin Upton, his overpaid brother Melvin, Jason Heyward, and improbably Craig Kimbrel. Giving away the arguably best closer in baseball was the price the Braves paid for an egregious contract to Melvin Upton. All of this would ostensibly, in time, produce a serious competitor in time for the 2017 season.

Enter the season and the results were predictable. The Braves were fielding a AAAA team with one standout in Freddie Freeman. Then he was hurt. Two of the more productive players were Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe. In a trade deadline week deal, Hart and his right-hand man John Copollela traded Johnson and Uribe to the Mets for middling pitching prospects John Gant and Rob Whalen. Gant may see the big club next year at some point based on the optimistic forecasts. But, there was plenty of head scratching going on in Atlanta after this deal. That wasn’t the case in New York, however, as both of those players contributed immediately to the Mets.

Then came the shocker trade: Young and talented LHP Alex Wood was packaged with relievers Luis Avilan, Jim Johnson, and Bronson Arroyo along with infield prospect Jose Peraza to the Dodgers for 30-year-old Cuban rookie 3B Hector Olivera and LHP reliever Paco Rodriguez. Whatever pretense of a Major League team the Braves were trotting out onto the field every day was long gone at this point. In a 63 game span the Braves won 15.

Olivera is a mystery. The Braves project him to be a 5 or 6-hole hitter when he gets past his hurdles. Those are physical from injuries. And, there are the ominous, but not disclosed “Off-field issues” involved as well. Wood is a career 0.500, 24-year old starting pitcher with years of team control. He would make a good #4 or 5 starter. (And yes, he is terrible out of the bullpen.) Peraza was highly regarded before a lackluster Spring Training. The Dodgers may have pulled off a heist in broad daylight. For a team looking to load up on young pitching the Braves then off-loaded a good young pitcher. The reliever they picked up, Rodriguez is now out for next season with a Tommy John procedure.

John Hart summed it up: “We ended up getting a five-, six-hole type hitter that we’re going to control affordably, and we can add other pieces. That’s the risk that you take, because there’s a level of unknown with the Cuban players that are out there. And I think if you also look at the (free agent) market this year, there’s two or three high guys that, their dollars are going to go well beyond where we wanted to go. So, those probably, those two deals, I would say if you looked at it from my perspective at the time, those were the two deals that were the toughest ones to make, for me.”

They may have been tough for him. But, they were tougher for Braves’ Nation. Looking at this from afar, 2017 might be too soon a target for them to return to true competitor status.

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