Thursday, January 25, 2007

Hey, Schuerholz woke up!

I'm piled on him plenty when he hasn't done anything, so I think it's only fair to give him credit when he does things right.

The Braves have made some moves to improve the team significantly this year and contend for the division once again after last year's dismal showing (79-83, 3rd place, no division title and a sub-.500 record for the first time since 1990.)

This offseason, the Braves let Danys Baez, Marcus Giles, and John Thomson, among other, leave. They also traded away Horacio Ramirez and Adam Laroche. Every one of these players had something wrong, be it recurring injury, underachieving, or just being screwed up in the head (yes, I'm looking at you, LaRoche.) Letting these players go saved approximately $15 million, based on what they will receive for 2007.

The Braves had one of the worst bullpens in the NL last year. With trades for Rafael Soriano (for Ramirez) and Mike Gonzalez (for LaRoche), along with the signing of Tanyon Sturtze, the Braves have definitely addressed their biggest need and gotten quality arms for next year. Total cost: $2 million.

What about filling the offensive gaps created at 1B and 2B? Well, the Braves have a couple people to try out - journeyman Chris Woodward and rookie Martin Prado - at 2B. Last week, they signed Craig Wilson to a $2 million deal. He can play anywhere, so he can fit in either at 1B or in the outfield. Between Wilson, Scott Thorman, and Ryan Langerhans, the two positions should be covered fairly well. Total cost for Wilson, Woodward, and Prado: $3 million.

Thankfully, they didn't try to spend 8.5 million getting someone like Moises Alou. They don't need to shop for an expensive bat.

Who can fill in Ramirez' spot in the rotation? Well, that's the big question. With the moves above, the Braves have saved $10 million. Unfortunately, they won't spend any of it on a free agent starter - they didn't even make an effort with Zito. Right now, if everything stays the same, the rotation is as follows:

1) John Smoltz
2) Tim Hudson
3) Chuck James
4) Kyle Davies
5) Mike Hampton

1 through 3 are OK but not spectacular as Hudson has underachieved since arriving in Atlanta. Numbers 4 and 5 are very scary. At this point, it may be a small offer to one of the remaining pitchers on the market - Jeff Weaver, Rick Helling, Jason Johnson, Mark Redman, Steve Trachsel, even a Chan Ho Park, because that is all that's left and there's no one to bring up from Richmond.

Heck, I think giving Mark Redman $2-3 million isn't too bad, considering he's done well on lousy teams and he'll have more support offensively here.

I'll be very happy when Hampton's $15 million comes off the books.


Anonymous said...

How many times do I have to remind you of this, Francase? I understand you don't like the guy b/c of the Rockies contract. I get that. BUT, the Braves are only paying less than 1/2 of that mega contract. The Rockies and Marlins are still both on the hook for Hampton's money. So let's see what he can do, especially considering Mike's only a $6-7 mill/yr guy for the Braves. Smoltzie came back stronger than ever from his Tommy John. Maybe Hampton will too and be much better than a #5 starter.

Overall, I agree with your analysis. And I'm glad to see you haven't totally abandoned baseball as previously threatened! Schuerholz did a good job with very limited resources this offseason. I don't expect much, but they should be a fun team. And maybe Liberty Media will even pony up some money. Paging Mr. Malone? Hello? Anyone there?

Francase said...

The cash received in the Marlins deal was accounted for in the first year the Braves had him, so his payroll figure for 2007 is listed as the full, eye-popping 15 million.

Therefore, I get to complain about said 15 million. Hell the rate of return would still be lousy if he only made 1.5 million.

Any of the other pitchers mentioned have a good chance of posting better numbers and being more of a veteran leader than Hampton has been.

Anonymous said...

Ok. I did a little research on it. And we're both kinda right.

Hampton has 2 years left on his deal, not 1. And he's owed $29.5 million. So there's your $15 million dollar figure. That is correct.

However, the cash from the Marlins and Rockies did greatly reduce the contract up till this point. When you consider that, the Braves commitment to Hampton ends up being 6 years, $54 million.

Sure, that's a lot of money for a guy who has gone 32-20 with an average of 3.90 in 4 years, though he's only pitched in 3. But there are also many bigger busts out there. Remember Darren Dreifort? Chan Ho Park? Carl Pavano? Jarrod Washburn? And Gil Meche - your name goes here too very soon.

However, in this market, the Hampton deal still looks ok to me. And it's suddenly a lot better than the mega-contract the Rockies gave him back in 2001.

Bottom line, I'm expecting good things from Hampton. He's only 34. Got a rebuilt arm from Dr. Andrews. And he's a Florida kid too!

paul zummo said...

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think the Braves have a better rotation than the ridiculously overrated Phillies. Hudson has been inconsistent, but I'd take him over Freddy Garcia, and Smoltz is better than anybody the Phils have. The bottom is a little iffy, though.

Francase said...

Very iffy, agreed. Going for one of the remaining available pitchers is worth a shot to try to contend, since they've done plugging the other holes.

I'm partial to Redman myself. I'd say he's worth 2 years, $6M. Do that deal and the Braves still have savings of $7M from last year.