Thursday, June 22, 2006

Braves Need to Sell, Eventually

Well, I just couldn't resist, so I had to pull the point-counterpoint on Ross here...

The Braves are toast. You don't rise from the dead, make up 15.5 games, AND pass four teams in a half-season, with a pitching staff as bad as the Braves have. It's just not realistic. Trust me, I saw this bullpen first hand on Sunday. After taking the lead on a dramatic two-run homer from Jeff Francour, McBride came in, easily dispatched Ortiz and Ramirez, and then tag-teamed with Chad Paronto to allow six immediate two-out runs. Tonight, they blew another late lead against Toronto, dropping their losing streak to double digits.

Even if they want to shoot for the Wild Card, they're 9 games out of that, and they have the third worst record in the entire National League (ahead of only the brutal "we got swept by the Royals!" Pirates and "what's OBP?" Cubs). They've lost their pitching coach and now their assistant GM to needy AL teams, and it seems like they need a little time to regroup and start again in 2007.

Yes, big comebacks like this have been made, but it's been by teams with good pitching, most recently the Astros last year and the A's a few times this century. The Braves even made a little comeback last year to reclaim the division from the Nationals, but everyone knew the roof would cave in on the Nationals eventually. These Mets are not those Nationals. And these Braves can't pitch.

The thing is, the Braves don't really have much to trade; at least not a lot that will bring them much in return. I don't see suitors lining up for the likes of John Thomson and Brian Jordan. Young-ish pitchers like Sosa and Ramirez might bring back some talent for teams desperate for pitching, but not much. Marcus Giles, maybe, but he may be dealing with a steroids stigma after his terrible start, fair or not.

They have one big chip: John Smoltz. He's only signed through this year at a reasonable salary ($8 million), he's got a proven track record (playoffs included), and he would be, by far, the best pitcher available in a very weak market (I don't buy these Dontrelle rumors). They could hold him up in front of the contenders, demand the best prospect each one has, and just wait for one of them to panic and do something stupid (and in this situation, my money would be on Texas or LA).

How many teams could use John Smoltz? Well, only the Tigers, Red Sox, Yankees, Rangers, Blue Jays, Mets, Phillies, Cardinals, Reds, Dodgers, Padres, and Giants. The Angels may even still think they're in it, even though they're not, but they have boatloads of prospects to trade. You're telling me they couldn't turn him into Zumaya, Hughes, Danks, Diamond, Billingsley, Kendrick, Wood, or some other blue chipper? I think that's worth it, especially since the Braves can probably re-sign him next year if they wanted to.

Now, if they can't get a good offer, they might as well hang onto what they have and hope that Giles heats up, Francour starts taking pitches, Larry stays healthy, and the pitching gets its collective house in order. But I think the chances of all of that happening is quite slim, which is why it's time to re-tool.


Ross said...

If they buy now, they can still sell whatever they bought on July 31st if they are not making a run.

Sully said...

Yeah, but at what cost? They need pitching. Badly. Do they want to mortgage whatever young talent they have that could help them next year for a band-aid like Jeff Weaver?

The Expos did this "buy now and sell later if it doesn't work" thing once, and they turned Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Carl Pavano into Sun-Woo Kim, Seung Song, and later on Rocky Biddle and Jeff Liefer.

Now, John Schuerholz is no Omar Minaya, but I still think it's a risky proposition, especailly when it's clear that they're just not very good.