After making the first big move of the offseason with the trading of Derek Lowe to Cleveland, rumors have swirled around the Atlanta Braves in recent weeks. While most have proven to be false, the team is indeed actively feeling out what may be on the table for players such as Martin Prado and Jair Jurrjens, among others.
General Manager Frank Wren recently talked with the AJC and gave a little bit of insight into what has transpired thus far. Here's a look at the highlights, with some reaction afterwards.
On the Jurrjens and Prado rumors:
No trade even came close to happening, despite leaked reports that the Braves were talking to the Rockies about a possible Prado deal, to the Tigers about a possible Prado trade, to the Red about a potential Jurrjens swap....
"I think it's interesting that our name came up, a lot of talk about us and our players," said Braves GM Frank Wren, "But the reality is that we did have a lot of discussions, primarily feeling clubs out - we had calls and this gave us a chance to delve a little deeper into what their thoughts are and how we might match up. But I didn't feel like there was a lot of momentum to get things done at these meetings."
With the exception of the Dan Uggla acquisition last November, seldom does a team make a franchise-altering move in the month of November. As Wren mentioned, it is typically a period when GM's around the league feel how the market is shaping up as they prepare to improve their club in any way possible.
With the GM Meetings taking place in Dallas this past week, Braves fans now should look ahead to December 5th through the 8th. The Winter Meetings, which are always crazy with rumors flying left and right, would likely be the first time Atlanta makes any kind of move, should they make one at all.
"I think that [Prado and Jurrjens trade possibility] was wrongly characterized from the very beginning," Wren said. "What we said and what we stand by is that we're looking to get better, and however we can get better we will. We're open minded. We'll listen if somebody calls."
Prado to the Rockies may make sense:
One of the first rumors of the offseason was that Colorado was very interested in Martin Prado. They have an immediate need and potentially match up very well with the Braves in terms of what they have available in the farm system. David O'Brien weighs in here...
However, I still think they'll consider a deal with the Rockies if they could get Seth Smith along with a solid center-field prospect. So far Colorado has so far refused to include 23-year-old Tim Wheeler, who hit .287 with 33 homers and a .900 OPS last season in 138 games for Double-A Tulsa.
With Michael Bourn's contract expiring after the 2012 season, it'll be tough to re-sign the Scott Boras client. The Rockies have a deep farm system with plenty of outfield talent and Atlanta could become very interested should Colorado make some of their top-prospects available.
Seth Smith is an interesting guy because of his right-left splits at the plate and his price tag. Smith, a left-handed batter who is about to hit arbitration for the first time, struggles against lefties on the mound, but absolutely pounds righties. With Matt Diaz on the bench, the Braves may choose to go the cheap route and create a left field platoon of Smith and Diaz for a combined cost of $4 million or so.
I'm not saying it's the best option, but if the organization is set on finding an eventual replacement for Michael Bourn, the Rockies will probably be one of Wren's first calls.
What to do at shortstop?
While most of the attention has been turned to left field this offseason, the Braves still have a glaring hole on their roster: shortstop. Alex Gonzalez is a free agent and his asking price is unknown. The Braves have prospects Tyler Pastornicky and Andrelton Simmons waiting in the wings, though Pastornicky is the only one capable of playing in 2012. O'Brien weighs in again...
If the Braves can't get a veteran to be an affordable season (or half-season) bridge to Pastornicky, they could go to spring training with him penciled in for the Opening Day shortstop job and then scramble to find a replacement in the spring if it became apparent Pastrornicky might not be ready. That's not the ideal scenario, but Pastornicky showed enough in Double-A and briefly in Triple-A (before hurting an ankle) to give the Braves enough confidence that he could keep his head above water if thrust into the starting role right away.
Gonzalez could be that player, but the 35-year old may be looking for a multi-year contract to end his career on. If Atlanta does indeed decide to head into Spring Training with Pastornicky as the starting shortstop, they will do so with eyes wide -- and I mean WIDE -- open. A team can crumble without a stabilizing shortstop up the middle and the Braves will be very cautious with the young-yet-promising Pastornicky.
It would be a risky move, but the money the club would save by not acquiring a shortstop could go a long way in potentially bringing in a corner outfield bat.
That's about it for this week. Here are a few tidbits from Braves Country:
- As was speculated earlier this week, Jason Heyward will not play Winter Ball and will begin working with new hitting coach Greg Walker in the next few weeks. Heyward will be Walker's special project as the team desperately tries to re-work his swing into what it was during his rookie season.
- Peter Moylan got married in Hawaii this week. A big congratulations to him and Mrs. Moylan. He was joined by Craig Kimbrel, Kris Medlen, and Tommy Hanson, among others.
- Catching prospect Christian Bethancourt had an incredible Arizona Fall League, hitting .305 with five homers, 13 RBI and .880 OPS. The 20-year old even stole three bases for the Surprise Saguaros.
- And finally, while many of you have heard of "Tebowing", we give you "Kimbrel-ing".