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Monday, November 06, 2006

More tidbits from Mark Bowman and the Braves Mailbag

If you were the general manager and could make only one trade, would it be to get a true leadoff hitter? Upgrade the pitching staff with a starter or reliever? Or would it be some other move?
-- Randall C., Dallas, Ga.

Being Braves GM John Schuerholz this winter would be a daunting task. Over the past few years, he's had to make tough decisions regarding whether to bring the likes of Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Gary Sheffield back to Atlanta. But with the many different decisions he has to make, I'd say this winter will be his most challenging of the past decade.

No question about that. There are three factions of the Braves that need to be improved desperately:

1. Bullpen
2. Starting pitching
3. Leadoff spot

There are certainly reasons to trade Andruw Jones and Tim Hudson. There are even more to cut ties with Marcus Giles and Horacio Ramirez. And at the same time, Glavine is going to continue to leverage the Braves to get the best possible contract from the Mets.

There are reasons to trade Andruw, but that doesn't mean that they're necessarily good reasons. Players like him don't grow on trees. It is quite possible that if he can't play center field anymore, we could just move Jeff Francoeur there instead.

And no one would take Tim Hudson in a million years. Not after he just had the worst season in his career; the Braves are stuck with him.

Cutting ties with Giles is a good idea. He could be easily replaced and not really be missed all that much. Horacio is expendable, and he could easily be traded because there is always a demand for left-handers.

Glavine is going to get as much money as he can from the Mets. And they're going to give it to him. Since Pedro Martinez's career is in danger of ending, the Mets need Tommy more than ever.

Fortunately, you've simplified things and asked me to make just one trade, and with little surprise, I'll tell you I'm keeping both Jones and Hudson. While doing so, I'm risking losing Jones for nothing more than draft picks and knowing that another mediocre season from Hudson will mean even less trade interest heading into the 2008 season, when his back-loaded contract starts becoming loaded.

The Braves would be foolish to let Andruw walk away. They need him. And as I've said before, the Braves are stuck with Hudson, so all of the Atlanta faithful should hope and pray that 2006 was a fluke; that Tim has something left.

Earlier this week, I was talking to a Braves representative about trading Ramirez. Last week, I indicated it was certainly something I'd explore, and I still feel that way. But at the same time, this individual reminded me that doing this would significantly cut in the staff's starting pitching depth.

Yeah, from mediocre to less than mediocre. I'd contend that the Braves really don't need Horacio and his incosistency. He hasn't even done that well in his four years in the majors. It's time to let him go.

But with Lance Cormier and Oscar Villarreal both around to provide some depth if a starter should get injured, I'm going to go ahead and trade both Ramirez and Giles. Throwing an economical defensive whiz like Ryan Langerhans in the deal may allow me to get a rather healthy return.

Not a bad idea. Someone would go for that, and it would get rid of the Braves' logjam in left field, giving the position all to Matt Diaz, despite his questionable defense (as I'm reminded of a crucial error he made on a ball that bounced off his glove and that caused the Braves to lose the game), and give the second base position to Willy Aybar, a situation that I would be comfortable with because the two have proven that they can play at the major league level.

My biggest desire is to get a leadoff hitter, but I don't know if a trade is necessary for anything more than to gain the payroll flexibility that would allow such an acquisition. Trading both Giles and Ramirez would free nearly $8 million and allow me to seek the services of a free agent like Gary Matthews Jr. or Julio Lugo, both of whom could capably fill the leadoff role.


Matthews, Jr. - .313/.371/.495 (19 HR, 79 RBI) - a career year for him, but he is 31 years old. If he stops hitting, he needs to walk some more, and he'd be fine.
Lugo - .278/.341/.421 (12 HR, 37 RBI) - 30 years old, he's not that much better than Giles. Probably costs more.

Obviously, I'd like to get Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford. But there doesn't appear a good fit with the Rays, who wouldn't be wanting to add salaries like those possessed by both Giles and Ramirez. They'd be looking to acquire more economical commodities like Kyle Davies, Chuck James and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Pffft, I say get rid of Davies. And do we really need Salty? He'll end up being traded anyway, I would guess.

Knowing there's a chance for me to fill my need for a leadoff hitter without having to give up young stars and these three aforementioned top young players would keep me from making such a deal.

Davies is looking less and less like a top young player, and that's all I can say about that.

Acquiring Matthews may be difficult. First, the Rangers would obviously like to keep him, and there is the issue that the Braves cut him in Spring Training a few years back.

The Rangers will most certainly overpay for him, that's for sure. I don't think the cutting issue would matter. Honestly. Matthews DID stink up the joint in spring training. Besides, the Braves wouldn't cut him this time if they do sign him. :p

Also if Andruw Jones is still around, Matthews may not be interested in playing left field.

That would be strange.

So maybe Lugo is the best choice to acquire as a leadoff hitter who would play second base. But in order to afford his contractual demands, which would likely be around $5.5 million a year, trading guys like Giles and Ramirez is a must.

Ew. Lugo really doesn't fill the need for a leadoff hitter at all. First off, he doesn't hit much more better than Giles. Second, he can't steal bases anymore. The Braves need a base-stealer. Lugo isn't one.

In return, I'd be looking to get top-notch prospects who could team with Davies and James to provide great hope with the starting rotation for many years to come.

I wonder if there are any that the Dodgers would be willing to give up. ;)

That's all. :)

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