Let’s Be Frank: Looking At 2011
Posted by Kris N. on August 16, 2010
The 2010 season isn’t over, and we’re certainly not giving up on it. How could we? They are in first place! This article is merely to just look at the off season and 2011. So let’s be Frank!
Something you may not know, I certainly didn’t until I looked it up, is that The Braves cut payroll. Their published payroll in 2009 was around 95 million; the figure this year is closer to 83 million. A couple of things like Tim Hudson’s insurance money and acquiring McLouth for half of a year might lead to the payroll looking higher than what Liberty Media actually paid. Even with that, the money seems a little lower. So much for winning it for Bobby and Chipper. I’m kidding, I actually am happy for Frank Wren to improve the team while spending less money and keeping the farm system intact. What kind of magic can we expect from him over the off season?
Atlanta starts off with $62.3M before options and arbitration.
Walking Free Agents
Troy Glaus is a free agent and not likely to be a Type A or Type B one at that. Which means is The Braves won’t offer arbitration, so there really isn’t a chance he gets resigned by Atlanta. Replacing Glaus with Freddie Freeman makes you 87% cheaper and gives you 150% more production. Move #1 improves the team.
Takishi Saito was signed to be the main set up man and Kawakami’s best friend, but due to the success of Venters, an injury, and early struggles, his role with the club has since lessened. He was a nice stop gap for a guy like Kimbrel.
The Braves also have some choices in regards to which ‘options’ should be picked up and which ones shouldn’t. The Braves currently have ten players who are under contract but their salaries are not yet determined. Five of those ten have options and the other half will go through arbitration. The players with options include: Billy Wagner (Club), Kyle Farnsworth (Mutual), Alex Gonzalez (Club), Omar Infante (Club), and Rick Ankiel (Mutual). I expect Gonzalez and Infante to be picked up, Rick Ankiel to be released, but I’m not sure about Wagner and Farnsworth. Early on, Wagner said that he will be retiring at the end of this season, and he again reiterated his decision after the trend of dominate stats. I’m starting to believe he is trying to convince himself, at this point. It’s doesn’t seem like it’s easy to walk away from doing what you love for years and the payment of six million dollars. If he does want to pitch though, it will be for Atlanta. Kyle Farnsworth is a quality pitcher that is having success this year. His 2011 mutual option is for 5.25 million dollars. His agent might think he can make more than that on the market, and The Braves might think he isn’t worth that (Especially since they have a Major League ready reliever in Craig Kimbrel pitching for Gwinnett, who would make $400,000).
As I said before, Atlanta will have five players going through arbitration. They are: Jair Jurrjens, Peter Moylan, Eric O’Flarity, Matt Diaz, and Melky Cabrera. There are few things on this planet that I would love to see more than Melky Cabrera being released. He could stand to make around 3.5 million dollars, which is 3.5 million dollars and a roster spot too much. Unfortunately, Wren thinks that Melky provides value by switch hitting and having the ability to play all parts of the outfield. Oddly enough, there are hundreds of players that will provide more value at a cheaper rate. If Wren can’t find another fourth outfielder, then he’s being lazy. I believe Frank will resign him, and I believe it’s a Melky Cabrera sized mistake. I’ll just stop myself there. Last year, Matt Diaz took an offered contract that was beneath his worth, accepted a role that undermined his value, and didn’t complain. I don’t know if he will do it again or not, but they could settle for around 3.5 million (which is a bargain). As for Moylan and O’Flarity, somewhere around 1.5 million and $800,000 respectively sounds about right. For Jurrjens, your guess is as good as mine. I don’t know who he could be compared to, but Justin Verlander made 4 million in his first year into arbitration. I don’t think locking up Jurrjens is a good idea seeing as how he’s a pitcher and pitchers get hurt. Also, his agent is Scott Boras and he won’t agree to deal extending JJ past free agency.
Trades and Signings
With the added expense of the players, the payroll sits at about 75 million. Now unless Liberty Media adds some spending money (don’t hold your breath), Wren has around 8 million dollars to spend. (If Chipper’s return proves unsuccessful, you have 21 million to spend, but another spot to fill.) You can save 3 million dollars by releasing Melky Cabrera. Some more players who I think need to go are Derek Lowe and eventually Kenshin Kawakami. I still don’t think the Lowe and Kawakami signings were all bad, and if we weren’t contending, they wouldn’t be. At the time, the rotation was:
- Jair Jurrjens
- Jorge Campillo
- Charlie Morton
- Jo Jo Reyes
- James Parr
It was seriously that bad.
Lowe has had his time though, and Wren should look to move him again this off season. Try offering him for peanuts, and when I say peanuts, I mean peanuts. Start with salted, and then if they refuse, move to unsalted. If that fails, trade him for a some 35 year old Single A player. Just move that contract! Even if The Braves eat half, they still have 7.5 million dollars more to spend. Medlen will most likely miss the entire 2011 year, or barring a speedy recovery, most of it. I would keep Kawakami as the 5th starter and move him at the deadline if Brandon Beachy or Julio Teheran has a Hanson esque minor league season in Gwinnett, ala Heyward, Medlen and Minor. (Hehe)
Eric Hinske should be resigned for the versatility of playing 1B, 3B, LF, and RF alone. Throw in the left handed, veteran, win driven, off-the-bench pop, and forget about it! I think Hinske would sign a 1 year, 1.5 million deal.
I like Johnny Venters, not as much as Bobby Cox does, but still a lot. He appears to be ready for a closing job though, and as Billy Wagner moves on and Venters takes the role, The Braves should look into finding another set up man. There are some interesting options on the Free Agent market including Frank Francisco, J.J. Putz, and Jesse Crain; they all have a 113, 165, 144 ERA+ and 3.47, 5.20, and 2.53 K/BB rate, respectively. Putz is the the clearly the better option, but I think after proving he’s healthy and dominate, he will look for a multi-year deal and closing role. (Whether or not he gets it remains to be seen.) Keeping O’Flaherty, Moylan, and Kimbrel in 7th inning situations makes the bullpen deeper, rather than moving them up and calling up someone from Gwinnett to fill some roles. (Interesting note: The main difference between the 2008 Mets and the 2008 Phillies was the bullpen.)
When will the Braves have a decent Left Fielder? It’s been forever! Not since 2004 have the Braves left fielders posted a OPS above .790. Big name outfield agents include Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth, however I wouldn’t waste my time bidding against the Yankees, Mets, Phillies, and possibly Red Soxs and Giants. The free agent market for outfielders is fairly thin. After Crawford and Werth, the next 3 best outfielders are Austin Kearns, Reed Johnson, and Mark Kotsay. This could mean that an upgrade in left field would come by trade. The first name that pops into my head is Shin-S0o Cho. He has a career line of .290/.385/.470/.855 and is under control through 2013. This winter will mark his first year in arbitration, which decreases his return, and his agent is Scott Boras, which slightly decreases value. The Indians like Choo, claimed they have money for him, and attempted to resign him, but to no avail. I think a couple of top 20 prospects ought to get a deal done as the Indians are nowhere near competing in the next 2 years.
Although the chances of the Braves having their 4th outfielder not have the ability to play center is very low, it’s a move I would make. Infante can play center field, albeit not very well, when McLouth needs a break. Adding someone like Shin Soo Choo to start in left field can also allow resting McLouth, shifting Choo to center, and placing Diaz/Infante/Hinske to play LF.
There’s one bullpen spot left, and I’d fill that out with the last remaining piece of the Mark Texiera trade, Stephen Marek. He’s rebounded from early Atlanta trouble to post the best season of his career since the Kotchman trade in Triple A; 1.32 ERA in 41 innings with a 1.12 WHIP and 3.38 K/BB rate. Not bad.
So here is what the 2011 roster would like like:
It’s a nice roster, and can probably score 700 runs and give up only around 600. That’s a definite 90+ win team.
The future may seem uncertain, but let’s be frank, it’s a bright one. In Wren we trust!