All about the Braves and baseball events.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I'm Running Out Of Good Titles For Bisher's Stuff

You have to say this about the old man: he can still churn those articles out. It doesn't mean those articles are good, but he can churn them out. His latest foray into the blogdom of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's website: Brace yourselves, but Braves should put Chipper on market.

Wow, a controversial subject. Not bad for a start. Let's see where Mr. Bisher goes with this:

OK, now it’s the Braves’ turn. After all those seasons of shoring up their roster with blockbuster trades in mid-season, at the expense of raiding the farm system, consider this: (Are you sitting down?) Tell the world they’re putting Chipper Jones on the open market. Anybody out there in need of a third baseman, or, on the American League side, a designated hitter?
Actually, I'm not sure what "blockbuster" deals he's talking about that came at the expense of "raiding the farm system" at the trading deadline. Let's take a look at the Braves' past deadline deals (deals made in July) that involved a significant amount of prospects (two or three):

  • July 31, 1991: Traded Matt Turner (AAA Richmond) and a PTBNL (Earl Sanders, AA Greenville) to the Houston Astros for Jim Clancy
  • July 18, 1993: Traded Melvin Nieves (AAA Richmond), Donnie Elliott (AAA Richmond) and Vince Moore (A+ Durham) to the Padres for Fred McGriff

  • July 30, 1998: Traded David Cortes (AAA Richmond) and Mike Porzio (A+ Danville) to the Rockies for Greg Colbrunn

  • July 31, 1999: Traded Micah Bowie (AAA Richmond), Ruben Quevedo (AAA Richmond) and Joey Nation (A+ Myrtle Beach) to the Cubs for Jose Hernandez and Terry Mulholland

  • July 12, 2000: Traded Bruce Chen (AAA Richmond + MLB Atlanta) and Jimmy Osting (AA Greenville + AAA Richmond) to the Phillies for Andy Ashby

  • July 31, 2000: Traded Trenidad Hubbard (MLB Braves), Fernando Lunar (MLB Braves + AAA Richmond) and Luis Rivera (AAA Richmond) to Baltimore for Gabe Molina and B. J. Surhoff

  • July 31, 2005: Traded Roman Colon (MLB, AA and AAA) and Zach Miner (AA Mississippi) to the Tigers for Kyle Farnsworth

  • July 31, 2007: Traded Elvis Andrus (A+ Myrtle Beach), Matt Harrison (AA Mississippi), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (AA Mississippi and MLB Braves), Beau Jones (A+ Myrtle Beach) and Neftali Feliz (Rookie) to the Rangers for Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay.
There are many other trades that the Braves did using their prospects. Some of them may even be considered "raiding the farm system", like obtaining Denny Neagle from the Pirates in August of 1997 for four prospects, including Jason Schmidt. Also, there's Bisher's much-maligned trade in the 2003-04 off-season, where the Braves sent Adam Wainwright and Jason Marquis, along with Ray King, to St. Louis for J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero. However, according to the parameters that I've set, the list above contains the only trades since 1991 where the Braves traded away two or more prospects when dealing in July. Most of them aren't particularly franchise-shattering, so I guess my ultimate point is that Bisher's painting with a broad brush when it comes to deadline deals.

As for there being teams needing third basemen or designated hitters, I'm not quite sure about that. A more accurate question would be: what contending team would need a third baseman or a designated hitter AND be willing to give up two or three top prospects to take on Chipper's below-market, but very high contract?

I can hear all the gulps, and the screeches, and calls for my scalp.
People have called for your scalp for lesser offenses, like implying that the Braves' farm system is dry because there is no immediate help in Lawrenceville (AAA Gwinnett County Braves), and saying that the Braves need to show more patience with Jeff Francoeur because John Smoltz and Tom Glavine were shown that courtesy (or so he says).

First place, forget where you saw this. This is not my choice at all, but considering the direction the Braves have taken the past four years, the lock is running low on sentimentality.
Considering the fact that you wanted to show patience for Francoeur and seemed to support the idea of giving Smoltz and Glavine as much time as they needed to get back into form, I think you were being quite sentimental then. However, I don't blame you for changing your mind.

Sure, Chipper is the face of the Braves. And the voice. He speaks for the team when anyone is looking for an opinion, or reaction to a news event. All of us seek him out, and he responds in his even baritone voice. He never lets you down. So to offer him for trade, hang him out there like a piece of meat for swap. A dreadful thought.
So why spend all those words describing how great Chipper is to the franchise, then say the Braves need to trade him? Get to the point!

But think again.
I'm already thinking of stopping this blog post right now, but I have an obligation to keep going.

He deserves one more chance at a World Series, or postseason play, and he’s not going to get it here.
No, he's not, and he has been vocal about how he has been frustrated with the Braves' inconsistent offense. He's really echoing most of the Braves' fans. It's more of a "I want this team better" frustration, rather than a "I want to get out of here!" frustration.

Also, I don't deny that it would be good feelings-wise to see Chipper get a shot at a World Series with Contending Team X. However, that's not what matters to me as a Braves fan. What I want, if Chipper Jones is traded, is to get two, maybe even three, prospects that can help the Atlanta Braves immediately or as soon as 2010 without compromising or blocking any of our young prospects (Tommy Hanson, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, etc.).
He just signed a fresh contract, so that much is done, but the front office was rather slow getting around to that. This front office hasn’t been distinguishing itself, anyway.
A little slow in getting around to a contract extension? I'm sure there are a lot of things to do when it comes to that, and you know it. I could care less if the front office is "rather slow" when it comes to those things. The only thing that matters is getting it done, regardless of when it happens.

From that last sentence, I sense the start of one of one of Bisher's patented diatribes. Get your armor on and shields ready. You might need them.
It has been making trades for Gary Sheffield, Mike Hampton, J. D. Drew and Mark Teixeira and shredding the farm system in the process.
It's hard to believe that this one sentence has so many errors in it, but when looked it in context with the last paragraph's sentence, it does.

The Braves have a different front office than the one who made those trades. John Schuerholz made the decisions to import those players; Frank Wren had nothing to do with any of them. I consider him as a different "front office", even with Schuerholz as the president of the team.

Now, as for the players mentioned, two of them didn't cost the Braves much in terms of prospects, which is what Bisher has been complaining about in the first place. Gary Sheffield was obtained from the Dodgers for Brian Jordan, a young pitcher named Odalis Perez who was, I believe, out of prospectdom at the time, and a prospect named Andrew Brown. Sheffield gave the Braves two superb seasons before leaving to sign with the Yankees. In turn, the Braves traded away a league-average outfielder in Jordan, an inconsistent and oft-injured starter who turned in just two above-average seasons since the trade (Perez), and a pitcher who is now retired from baseball after playing two years with the Oakland A's (Brown). That's not a deal that fits Bisher's template.

Mike Hampton was obtained for a remarkably cheap price: reliever Tim Spooneybarger and minor league pitcher Ryan Baker (who never reached the majors) and the Marlins and Rockies pick up the tab for Hampton's astronomical salary for a few years. Hampton did his job for the Braves in the 2 1/2 years that he pitched for them. Now, everyone remembers him for the 2 1/2 years that he DIDN'T pitch for Atlanta, AND the Braves were on the hook for his salary. I think that's why his name is mentioned here.
The Teixeira deal was the most destructive of all, literally re-stocking the Texas Rangers’ roster. Check the standings of the American League West.
I beg to differ. The Rangers don't owe the majority of their resurgence in the AL West to Saltalamacchia, Harrison or Andrus. In fact, only Andrus is producing as expected (.265/.328/.381, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 87 OPS+). Harrison (currently on the DL, 10 games, 4-4, 5.43 ERA, 82 ERA+, 1.559 WHIP) and Saltalamacchia (.247/.297/.388, 6 HR, 25 RBI, 79 OPS+) have little to do with it. Quite frankly, Jarrod's just lucky that Taylor Teagarden stinks; otherwise, he'd be out of a job.

I'd have to say that Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Nelson Cruz, Hank Blalock and even Andruw Jones have more to do with the Rangers occupying first place in the AL West for now.
By bartering Chipper, what the Braves might be able to do is re-stock its own roster with fresh talent.
And we only base that on his name. Chipper still has an injury history and that makes me question what kind of value the Braves could get for him. The Braves won't get any quality major league players for him, that's for certain. They could get two, or even three quality prospects for him, as I mentioned before. The problem here is that the Braves would take a major PR hit if they traded the face of their franchise. Considering the way the FO has been perceived in treating John Smoltz and Tom Glavine by people who aren't even Braves fans, a Chipper Jones trade could be catastrophic.
True, Chipper is 37 years old, but so is Raul Ibanez, the fresh personality who has brought so much to the Phillies’ lineup.
I'm not sure I'd call his personality "fresh". For what it's worth, Ibanez is riding an extremely flukish year (an ungodly 20.6% HR/FB rate that's pretty much impossible to maintain). I'd like to see what he can bring when he has more "normal" stats. Congrats to Ibanez for being so productive right now, though.
And Chipper is a young 37, keeps himself young hunting and ranching on his acreage in Texas. He was the leading hitter in the National League last season, so the years haven’t been weighing heavily on him.
Yes, he has been able to keep up, but if I'm a team that wants to trade for Chipper, my first question would be about his durability. I know that he wants to stay healthy and be out there to play, but sometimes, he just can't be. For years, Chipper's goal has been to play in 150 games. He hasn't played in that many games in five seasons (153 games in 2003). The good thing is that Jones is on pace to play in at least 150 games (He has played in 58 of 67 games so far, so he can play in 153 games maximum).
I don’t know what his contract arrangement may be, whether it includes a non-trade agreement or not. I doubt that he would stand in the way, with the right deal, with the right team.
The right deal is what the Braves want, and what is the right team? What contender needs a DH or third baseman? At this point, it's all conjecture.
He only has to take a look around at what has happened to some of his old Braves pals. John Smoltz, for instance, tired of hemming and hawing and went his own way.
Smoltz went to the Red Sox, who gave him the chance to earn more money. I still contend that the Braves are better off not taking the chance on him.
And Tom Glavine’s rejection has been heavy on the minds of Braves fans lately.
But Tommy Hanson, with each start, has made the pain of Tom Glavine being "mistreated" go away. It's a wonderful feeling to see Hanson do what we think he's capable of doing. He almost makes me say, "Who's Tom Glavine again?"
A deal for Chipper might go a long way toward re-stocking the roster, but it would have to be more productive than a lot of swaps that have been made lately.
A deal for Chipper would only ease Bisher's mind about the "barren" minor league system. The fact remains that even if the Braves obtain quality prospects, the possibility remains that they won't be able to contend.

And what about those recent swaps?

Except for Jair Jurrjens, and to a degree, Omar Infante, those transactions have not been richly productive, including such as Royce Ring, Josh Anderson, Mark Kotsay, Will Ohman, Jeff Ridgway and Mike Gonzalez, and a lot of them are history. Not a pennant-building haul, you might say.


I've had to stare at this paragraph and discuss it with others, but I think I understand what Bisher's trying to say here. He says these are ill-advised trades because, for the most part, they didn't work out, or these players aren't with the team anymore.

What I find very peculiar is the nature of why some of these players are on the list. It's funny how Josh Anderson is mentioned in this list; in an earlier blog post of his, Bisher thought that Anderson was the top leadoff prospect of the Braves due to his penchant for hitting a .300 average . I mentioned in that post that because Anderson can't walk, his production will disappear if he can't hit .300. That's exactly what happened: as of the time I wrote this post, Anderson has a .254/.288/.325 line with just six walks in 133 PAs.

Mark Kotsay was, naturally, part of what some Braves fans called an ill-advised deal that sent Joey Devine and Jamie Richmond to Oakland for the center fielder with back issues. He provided solid production (.289/.340/.418, 6 HR, 47 RBI, 99 OPS+ in 345 PAs), but it certainly wasn't worth giving up Joey Devine for him, even if Devine has been shelved with an elbow injury this year.

While Royce Ring and Jeff Ridgway were part of the parade of LOOGYs until Eric O'Flaherty came along, I question adding Will Ohman and Mike Gonzalez to this list. Those two players have done their jobs with Atlanta. In fact, Will Ohman was one of the Braves' best left-handed relievers since Mike Remlinger. That distinction, though, wasn't hard to obtain; the Braves have had a parade of lefty relievers since Remlinger left.

Mike Gonzalez, though he had to have Tommy John surgery, has performed as expected as Atlanta's closer. Plus, Brent Lillibridge helped net Javier Vazquez, and the 32-year old pitcher could easily be shopped at the trading deadline.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals, Rangers, Rockies and Rays enjoy the fruits of some of the Braves’ misjudgments.
The Rangers may be enjoying the Braves' misjudgements the most, but the Cardinals may not particularly care for the fact that Wainwright is somewhat injury-prone right now (I'm not denying that he's not a good pitcher; he hasn't been able to stay very healthy).

As for the Rockies, I find something wrong with including them. Jason Marquis, as I type this, is leading the National League in wins (9) and has his highest ERA+ in years (123 in 97 IP) at this point in the season. The problem with including him is that the last time Marquis had an ERA this high was in 2001, when he was a 22-year old with Atlanta (128 ERA+ in 129 1/3 innings pitched; also with the benefit of 12 unearned runs). Thus, Bisher seems to imply that to reap the benefits of Marquis' current breakthough, the Braves would have had to hold on to him for eight seasons. There's no telling what would have happened in his career had he stayed here in Atlanta that long.

Plus, what's with mentioning the Rays?... oh, that's right. Willy Aybar, the super-sub that helped the Rays win the 2008 AL pennant. It's wonderful that Aybar was able to get his head on straight and that he was able to be on a pennant-winning ballclub. It's also clear that the Braves sold low on him. The thing is, I'm not at all worried about that trade. Omar Infante was putting up similar OPS numbers to Aybar before his hand was broken (.349/.389/.430 in 97 PAs, to .268/.375/.411 in 152 PAs). Yes, the only difference is batting average, but you can find a quality backup that plays multiple positions if you look hard enough.

Time to make a move while Chipper is still a major commodity.
Why's this sentence even here, given that this follows:

They can’t close the gap left by all those absentees, so skillfully scouted and carefully nurtured. Not that dealing Chipper Jones can come close to making up for them all, but he could wipe out some of the damage, and in the long run, have a good closing run for himself.
That is only if the mystery prospects pan out. The possibility remains that the Braves can trade for the best prospects in the world, and they may not amount to squat.

And again, Chipper having a good closing run for himself is ultimately only good for Chipper Jones. Yes, we will be happy for him if he wins a World Series with another team, but it will be a fleeting happiness; one minute later after we see Chipper celebrating with the new champions of baseball, we'll turn off the TV and stew over how the Braves need to improve themselves so that they will be the ones celebrating on a cold November night.

If the thought of this offends you, let me remind you that this is the team that traded Henry Aaron and Dale Murphy, and allowed Phil Niekro to take a hike, and Smoltz and Glavine to go adrift.
Hank Aaron was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers by his own request. Dale Murphy was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for pennies on the dollar because he told the Braves he wanted to move on. Letting Phil Niekro walk was a true mistake; Pascual Perez fell apart and Craig McMurtry, Ken Dayley and Zane Smith never panned out. Refer to what I said above about Smoltz and Glavine.

There, I’ve said it. And I’m not sorry.
Well, I'm not sorry for what I've said either, Mr. Bisher, so we're even.