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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Season Preview: Atlanta Braves

2008 Record: 72-90  .444

Run differential: -25 (9th)

2008 payroll: $102,365,683

The 2007 offseason saw Atlanta make a couple of moves which they thought would put the finishing touches on a team expected to contend and back into the playoffs.  Edgár Rentería was traded to Detroit for a couple of prospects including Jair Jurrjens, Tom Glavine was signed, and Omar Infante was acquired from the Cubs.  In the end injuries, the league’s worst outfield, and a historically awful record in one run games doomed the Braves.

While the Braves cried, “Pity me!” the rest of the league had good reason to laugh.  Yes, the amount of injuries showed bad luck but the real problem was in the plan itself.  One cannot go into a season counting on getting significant contributions from two 40+-year-old pitchers and Mr. Glass.  The key contributors in the bullpen were also associated with injuries.  Offensive superstar Mark Teiexeira’s career performance in the first half is best reflected in the number of All-Star teams he’s made (1).  Adding insult to injury was free-swinging Jeff Francouer having the worst season by a Braves outfielder EVER.

After trading for Vazquez, the 2008 offeseason headed on a downward spiral as high profile free agents Burnett, Rafael Furcal, and Griffey Jr all spurned the Braves for other deals.  Frank Wren rallied to sign a few guys, most notably Derek Lowe, in a desperate attempt to renew the faith of the fans.  Instead of signing free agents Atlanta needs to remember how they got to the playoffs to begin with: a core built and developed via a strong farm system.  Atlanta has the prospects in place for their next run.  As it is though, the Braves appear on the cusp of contention this season but if they fail it will just be a big waste of money.

Likely opening day roster:

Pos. Name Salary How Acquired
C Brian McCann $3.5 M Drafted 2nd rd 2002. Signed extension 3/07
C David Ross $1.4 M Signed as FA 12/5/08
1b Casey Kotchman $2.89 M Acquired in trade w/ LAA 7/29/08
2b Kelly Johnson $2.83 M Drafted #38 overall 2000.
3b Chipper Jones $10 M Drafted #1 overall 1990. Signed extension 11/05
SS Yunel Escobar $.403M Drafted 2nd rd 2005
LF Garret Anderson $2.5 M Signed as FA 2/22/09
CF Gregor Blanco $.39 M Signed as amateur FA from Venezuela 2000
RF Jeff Francoeur $3.38M Drafted #23 overall 2002.
Inf Martin Prado $.39 M Signed as amateur FA from Venezuela 2001
Of Matt Diaz $1.24 M Acquired in trade w/ KC 12/05
UT Omar Infante $1.85M Acquired in trade w/ ChN 12/4/07
UT Greg Norton $.8 M Acquired in trade w/ Sea 5/08. Resigned 12/08
SP Derek Lowe $15 M Signed as FA 1/15/09
SP Javier Vazquez $11.5 M Acquired in trade w/ ChA 12/4/08
SP Jair Jurrjens $.39 M Acquired in trade w/ Det 10/29/07
SP Kenshin Kawakami $7 M Signed as FA 1/13/09
SP Tom Glavine $1 M Signed as FA 11/07. Resigned 2/09
Cl Mike Gonzalez $3.45M Acquired in trade w/ Pit 1/07
SU Rafael Soriano $6.1 M Acquired in trade w/ Sea 12/06.
RP Peter Moylan $.44M Signed as amateur FA from Australia 3/06
RP Manny Acosta $.39 M Signed as FA 2/07
RP Blaine Boyer $.39 M Drafted 15th rd 2005
RP Jorge Campillo $.39 M Signed as FA 12/17/07
RP Boone Logan $.405M Acquired in trade w/ ChA 12/4/08

Say hello to: Javier Vazquez, Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami, Boone Logan, Eric O’Flaherty, David Ross, Garret Anderson

Wave goodbye: Brent Lillibridge, Mike Hampton, John Smoltz

Rookies: Jordan Schafer, Tommy Hanson

Non-Roster Invitees to Watch: Jordan Schafer, Jason Heyward, Tommy Hanson

Potential breakout: Yunel Escobar

Welcome to Earth: Jair Jurrjens, Martin Prado, Jorge Campillo

Likely to rebound: Jeff Francoeur (he can’t be any worse, right?),

Strengths: Innings eating rotation, infield defense

Weaknesses: The offensive output from the outfield looks bleak and no RH power hitters.

Payroll obligations to former players: none

Optimal batting lineup (position, name, bats, Avg/OBP/Slg, HR, SB, EqA):

CF Blanco L  .251/.366/.309  1, 13  .259

SS Escobar R .288/.366/.401 10, 2  .275

3B Jones B  .364/.470/.574  22, 4  .363

C  McCann L  .301/.373/.523  23, 5  .311

LF Anderson L/Diaz R    .262/.202

2B Johnson L  .287/.349/.446  12, 11  .281

1B Kotchman L  .237/.331/.316  2, 0 . 235

RF Francoeur R  .239/.294/.359  11, 0  .231

Prediction: 3rd place


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