Clarksville, TN -I think we can agree it was a weird offseason, right Braves fans? For a team known for growing its talent from within, hoarding pitchers and never showing its hand regardless of the situation, dealing prospects and inking veterans to big contracts would seem to be change in policy. For good or ill, time will tell.
With that in mind, before next weeks season preview and the beginning of what will be a bizarre post-Chipper year for many, I wanted to run down the offseason moves and assess where we stand with Opening Day a week away.
(Where have I been, you ask? I didnt know I was still writing for this website when it came under new management. Now I am. What, you thought I didnt have an opinion on everything that happened, or that I was holding out on you people? Please; Ill discuss the Braves with winos in the street if they sit still long enough. Now that weve settled that, lets get to it.)In order, beginning with the first event after the end of the regular season
1. Chipper retires
Knew this was coming the entire season, still didnt make it any easier. Given how acrimonious the ending was, part of me hoped hed come back for one more run that didnt leave such a poor taste in his mouth (although not with the bleeping Yankees). Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, Chipper seems to be enjoying retirement, having acquired a Playboy model girlfriend, hunting and blowing past his playing weight with a smile. Good on him.
2. Mac has surgery
It doesnt take a genius to figure that unless he was completely over-the-hill, Brian McCanns sub-par 2012 performance could at least partially be blamed on his torn labrum. Mac had surgery in October, and should be ready to ride by the end of April. Macs taken a considerable amount of punishment over the years, but is optimistic hell be good to go this year. And if hes not, the Braves will have to rely on newly acquired Gerald Laird, because of the next stop on our offseason remembrance.
3. Rossy leaves
Not often the backup catcher elicits such a response, but David Ross was one of the most important players on the roster, regardless of how much or how little he played. From all accounts both before and after he left, Rossy was considered one of the best teammates in the league, a fantastic clubhouse guy (whatever that means) who could play a little bit to boot. Remember when Fredi Gonzalez got vilified for starting Rossy in the Wild Card game against the Cardinals? He went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer to give the Braves an early lead. Maybe Laird is a little more talented, maybe Rossy wanted more at-bats, but whatever the reason he left Atlanta, he will be missed.
4. No more Bourn or JJ
Ill miss both, for different reasons. Michael Bourn was a good leadoff guy. Not great (or at least as great as Scott Boras thought he was); good. Very good some days. More experienced than anyone on the current roster, and Ill leave it at that. I wouldve been fine with him returning to Atlanta.
Ill miss Jair Jurjjens just because it was nice to think of what mightve been. I hope he gets it back together, but Im thankful we wont have to watch him go to the mound with all the confidence of a nervous fifth grader who just transferred schools trying to decide where to sit in the cafeteria; good luck JJ.
5. BJ Upton becomes a Brave
Five years, $75.25 million. That is a lot of commitment for a guy who hit just .246 last season. The talent
my God, the talent is there. He runs like a gazelle, hits for power, plays phenomenal defense… for whatever reason, it hasnt all come together yet. He seemed to butt heads with Joe Maddon on occasion in Tampa Bay since Maddon is widely concerned one of the easiest coaches to play for, Im not sure what the problem was. I hope it wasnt Upton; after dumping a bunch of money into Dan Uggla only to watch him develop rigor mortis the last two seasons, the payroll cant survive another whiff on the free-agent market.
6. Traded Tommy Hanson for Jordan Walden
This one inspired a lot of backlash at the time; after all, it wasnt that long ago that Tommy was the Ace of the Future, right? The dirty little secret was that his velocity had dipped considerably from low-to-mid 90s down into the upper 80s and hed been surpassed by Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy and, by the end of last year, Mike Minor in the hierarchy of Braves pitchers. With super-prospect Julio Teheran in need of a rotation slot, Hanson was the logical person to move.
Walden was a moderate surprise in acquisition, since he was an All-Star in 2011 who lost his closers spot to Ernesto Frieri last season. Guy brings the cheddar (upper 90s on the heat) and will allow either Johnny Venters or Eric OFlaherty to shift to a middle-relief role. And if God forbid, knocking on wood, fingers crossed and all measure of other anti-jinxing methods something horrible were to befall Craig Kimbrel, Walden gives the pen an in-house replacement for as long as it takes Kimbrel to heal.
7. Fredi gets re-upped
its not all Fredis fault how the last few years have gone. The team has been competitive, and he deserves the chance to keep managing, regardless of how much fun I have second-guessing him. But I think wed all feel a lot better about the signing if Fredi would, I dunno, win something of consequence before he gets handed an extension.
8. Evan Gattis tears it up in Winter Ball
El Oso Blanco hit .303 and smoked 16 home runs in 53 games for Aguilas de Zulia in Venezuela, also playing leftfield which mightve mattered a little more before our next stop on the offseason recap. Gattis power is unrivaled; while his march toward the majors has been treacherous at best, hes a hard guy not to root for. His ability to play multiple positions makes him an intriguing guy to watch for as the season rolls on.
9. Justin Upton joins the Braves
Up, Up and a Hey outfield becomes reality, but at a steep price. Martin Prado the most consistent player, day in and day out, for the last two Atlanta teams as well as Randall Delgado and top prospects Zeke Spruill and Nick Ahmed all headed to the desert for Upton and Chris Johnson. Upton the junior was a 5.7-WAR player just two years ago and turned 25 last August; its not just conceivable but probable that his best years are ahead of him. He also showed great maturity when he agreed to move to leftfield to accommodate Jason Heywards right-fielding prowess. As well as J-Up has mashed during spring training, Im excited to watch him for the next few years at least.
Still, anybody that says the Braves wont miss Prado is lying. Prado was one-of-a-kind, a five-tool guy who could play just about every position without his productivity at the plate suffering. His versatility was one of the reasons the post-Chipper experience seemed more stable; while the upside is higher now, the stability is no longer a given.
10. Andrelton tears up the WBC
While Kimbrel (took the loss against the Dominican Republic) didnt fare too well as closer for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, Simmons hit .333 for the Netherlands, including two home runs and a team-high 19 total bases in eight games. No matter what you think about the team right now the third base quagmire, the furious rate this lineup is likely to strike out at, the continued questions that surround the whole Fredi and Frank Show watching Simba play shortstop is going to be fun this year.
About Hank Bonecutter
Hank Bonecutter is a forty-year journalist, radio personality, producer, writer and media consultant.
He is the President of Bonehead Promotions, an events and media consulting company.
He owns www.clarksvillesportsnetwork.com and www.nashvillesportsnetwork.com
Hank is the former owner of WJZM-AM radio in Clarksville, TN., having produced the longest running morning talk show in Clarksville, “The Bone Show.”
You can contact Hank at, email@example.com.
Web Site: http://www.boneheadpromotions.com/
TopicsAguilas de Zulia, Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves, B.J. Upton, Brandon Beachy, Brave, Braves, Brian McCann, Cardinals, Chipper, Chipper Jones, Colby Wilson, Craig Kimbrel, David Ross, Eric O'Flaherty, Ernesto Frieri, evan gattis, Fredi Gonzalez, Gerald Laird, Joe Maddon, Johnny Venters, Jordan Walden, Kris Medlen, Labrum, Michael Bourn, Mike Minor, Offseason, Opening Day, Surgery, Tampa Bay, Tommy Hanson, Venezuela, Wild Card, Winter BallEl Oso Blanco