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Give the Braves a chance, OK?

Dec 23, 2009, 8:03 AM EDT

Like I said yesterday, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that the Braves did a good job in the Vazquez trade. There are many potential sliver linings to what some are unfairly calling the blackest of clouds, but Atlanta clearly didn’t get anything approaching equal value for a pitcher of Vazquez’s caliber. Melky Cabrera is clearly not going to make the difference in Atlanta. The Yankees won this trade, no doubt.

But while it’s one thing to call the Braves the loser of yesterday’s trade, it’s another thing altogether to use that trade as a blanket indictment of the Braves, their ownership and their desire to win baseball games.  That’s what Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus did in his column yesterday (sorry; most of it is registration-only), and he said so in no uncertain terms:

The Braves made themselves worse entirely so that Liberty Media
wouldn’t possibly have to use the red font in its spreadsheets. Vazquez makes
$11.5 million in 2010, Cabrera will make about $4 million, maybe a little less
(I’m guessing here, because of Cabrera’s arbitration eligibility). That’s $7.5
million in Liberty’s pockets, on top of the $7.5 million they saved on Soriano,
for $15 million saved in two trades that make the team worse by maybe four
games, maybe more, in 2010. Not that four wins is pretty much the difference in
making the playoffs and not in the NL just about every season, and not that
Liberty Media cares. They care that the Braves have positive cashflow, and
everything else is irrelevant.

I’ve been reading Joe Sheehan for years, and I gotta tell ya, I was pretty sure before yesterday that he knew that the rosters didn’t freeze and the season didn’t start on December 23rd. I was pretty sure he knew that when a team frees up salary in a trade, they have more than eight hours to spend it on other players before they can be accused of pocketing the money and pissing on the hopes of the fans. I was pretty sure that he knew that it was prudent for a team that has a surplus in one area to trade some of it away in order to get players (or money to acquire players) that addressed a deficit in another area.

Which, by the way, is what the Braves have shown every intention of doing. As Braves GM Frank Wren said yesterday, the team is going to use the $8 million or so that they have freed up as a result of dealing Vazquez to pursue a bat. I don’t know whose bat. And heck, maybe Wren will make a bad choice in the bat he gets. But the fact is that they had six starters and no first baseman or left fielder when we all woke up yesterday. If they
break camp with five starters and a first basemen and/or a left
fielder, they will have made the team better, even if the team they have is sub-optimal.

Look, I am just as frustrated at Liberty Media’s ownership of the Braves as the next guy. And I think Sheehan makes many excellent, general points about the drawbacks of corporate ownership in baseball in the course of his article.  But to say, mere hours after the Vazquez trade that the deal stands as a shining example of corporate neglect of a baseball team is outrageously premature.

Let’s see where the team
is in April. If the Braves have done nothing to improve their offense by then, great, I’ll buy what Sheehan is selling. Until then, give them a chance, OK?

  1. Michael - Dec 23, 2009 at 8:19 AM

    Finally some common sense…the panic here in Atlanta is ridiculous…everyone freaked last year when the braves didn’t get peavy or burnett but I think the braves pitching staff turned out ok…patience.

  2. Eat a Peach - Dec 23, 2009 at 8:41 AM

    Joe’s a Peach. You know what you’re getting with him, and occasionally he just spontaneously combusts. It’s ironic too, just last week he was refusing to analyze the Halladay trade because he would rather be right than jump the gun like everyone else on the internet. You can’t have it both ways, brother.
    Like I explained to another poor soul who was camped out underneath what was left of the Botanical Gardens bridge hoping for it to fall on him, they traded a guy with one year left on his contract for a bunch of guys under control for longer and the money to sign another player or two. Maybe Joe can explain for me the last time a team was able to get what he considers “full trade value” for a guy who is about to be a free agent.
    When he has a personal axe to grind, you just have to suspend your disbelief and enjoy the fireworks. A more logical brand of Joe will return shortly I’m sure.

  3. Eat a Peach - Dec 23, 2009 at 8:45 AM

    And as I also said yesterday, why stop there. I think they should keep shopping Derek Lowe and just use Kris Medlen as a 5th starter, then let their vaunted pitcher development artists supply whatever is necessary to combat the inevitable attrition of arms.

  4. YankeesfanLen - Dec 23, 2009 at 8:46 AM

    There’s a lot of silly consternation up here in the Universe, too. Mostly because of ALCS game 7 in’04, which wouldn’t have been a game if the Yanks didn’t entirely blow game 5.
    May the Braves still be the class of the NL East as they historically have been.
    Hope everyone has their Festivus pole up today.

  5. John Willumsen - Dec 23, 2009 at 8:54 AM

    Yeesh what a ridiculously misunderstood trade. As Len says, it’s not just Braves fans who are irked right now. Yankee fans (well those who have little understanding of advanced statistics and common sense anyway) are a bit riled up too. I guess it’s because they went to bed with a sexy question mark, and woke up with an ex who got kinda ugly-lookin’ toward the end of the last relationship. But they’re ignoring that in the interim the ex turned into a bonafide looker. Ok enough with this metaphor. Point being, the Braves happened to acquire the one Yankee prospect in the entire galaxy who is underhyped. Arodys Vizcaino is the kind of pitcher who could be front-line material in, say, 3 years. The kind of guy who would allow the Braves to trade someone like Jair Jurrjens if he’s getting to expensive, maybe trade him for a useful major leaguer and a pitching prospect who could one day allow them to trade Vizcaino for a useful major leaguer and a pitching prospect…hey wait a second, I see what they’re doing here! They’re trading an expensive surplus commodity for a decent piece, a future replace of the commodity and some financial flexibility! My goodness, it’s almost like they have a plan.

  6. MarkH - Dec 23, 2009 at 9:09 AM

    Sheehan’s opinions-as-facts are one of a few reasons why BP isn’t as much fun to read these days as it used to be. He and a few other writers there are *never* wrong, and you can expect a blistering rebuke in your chat if, for example, you suggest a silly trade.

  7. Steve Stein - Dec 23, 2009 at 9:22 AM

    C’mon Calcaterra, you know the Braves are doomed without Frenchy. You’re just not man enough to write it.

  8. dcfan - Dec 23, 2009 at 9:42 AM

    The Braves always manage to be competitive if not World Series caliber with trades like this. The press and fans do not give them enough credit. Can anyone name another team that for 20 years has been a division leader, playoff contender, and above 500 team like clockwork as the Braves have been WITHOUT overspending like say the Yankees. Vasquez was gone after next year anyways to a big free agent spender. I think they goot out nicely in this trade. So i agree, relax, the Braves will be fine. Panic next year when Bobby Cox leaves and see how that effects them…

  9. Tony A - Dec 23, 2009 at 11:10 AM

    Yeah, but… If they do that year after year, and just manage to bank that financial “flexibility”, then, their plan is to become the Marlins…

  10. TigerS Boy ToY - Dec 23, 2009 at 11:12 AM

    How does anything the Braves did this offseason make them better than the Phillies AND NO MATTER HOW MUCH IT KILLS ME TO SAY THE PHILLIES ARE THE BEST TEAM IN THE EAST, NO QUESTION ABOUT IT.

  11. Snuffy - Dec 23, 2009 at 11:47 AM

    Everyone thinks this trade was Vazquez for Cabrera. Actually it was Vazquez for Vizcaino. Melky was a throw in because the Bravados needed someone to shag flies in left.

  12. Al Boldwyn - Jan 11, 2010 at 7:33 AM

    Hi, I found this blog post while was searching for fonts related information on aol and found it very related article, thanks for sharing, keep up to good work.

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