Oh my! I must have gotten carried away when I titled this column. “Our” Braves certainly did not win the 2013 World Series. As I write this column the winner of this year’s Fall Classic has not been determined but it surely will not be the Atlanta Braves.
That poses the question as to how we can get the Braves in position to get to the World Series and to actually win it. Everybody has an opinion and since I am a part of everybody, I have an opinion. Here goes!
Of course everyone is complaining about Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton after their horrific seasons. I join that group but challenge General Manager Frank Wren to make some crafty moves to rid the team of these problems.
First, with Uggla, find a team that will take him in a trade even if the Braves have to pay a portion of his salary. Some team will surely take Uggla if he is packaged properly. The Braves can pay only a percentage of his salary and save money by putting prospect Tommy La Stella at 2nd base. La Stella hit .343 in 81 games for AA Mississippi this season and has a career minor league average of .327 over three years. He also ripped through the Arizona Fall League over the last month. According to reports that I have read this kid can really hit and is an improving fielder.
Next with Upton, try to move him and agree to pay part of his salary also. Put a mid-range prospect in the deal and and just be willing to swallow hard and go on. Jordan Schaffer can play center field if there is not a minor leaguer ready. Also there may be a decent free agent who would come at a reasonable price. This deal would be tough, but that’s what Wren gets paid to do.
Sorry but we can’t afford to re-sign Brian McCann. He wants a multi-year deal and with the moves made above, the Braves can’t afford him with his declining skills. I like McCann a lot, but all of the catching has deteriorated his skills. He is a perfect American League player who can catch some and be a designated hitter. The Yankees would be a perfect fit.
The Braves can get by with Evan Gattis, Gerald Laird, and possibly rookie Christain Bethancourt behind the plate. It would not be a perfect situation, but it will do until Bethancourt develops to be the day-to-day starter.
The infield looks solid with Freeman, Simmons, and Johnson joining La Stella. Simmons will continue to get better offensively and he and Johnson should add more power to the attack. Freeman is going to be a 30-homer guy soon. And oh yeah, Simmons just won his first Gold Glove, so his defense is as good as it gets.
In the outfield we just have to believe that Justin Upton will be better after one year in Atlanta. He has the tools and it’s too early to give up on him. Jason Heyward needs a solid kick in the behind. He has all the tools, but seems to be injury-prone and often gets confused at the plate. He needs some serious coaching.
The Braves need a real “ace” on their pitching staff. Tim Hudson has been considered to be the Braves ace but he really has never filled the bill. He is a solid guy but he is more of a #2 man on the staff. After Hudson, who may not re-sign with the Braves, there is no real ace.
Julio Teheran may one day be an ace type pitcher but he is not of that ilk now. He is ready to be a #2 or a #3 now and should only get better. He can be mighty tough! Mike Minor is a #3 or #4. He just is not an over-powering guy and his consistency is questionable. Being a left-hander is a big positive for Minor however.
Brandon Beachy is too likely to get hurt, so there’s no way to predict what he will do. Anything he adds will just be a plus. Kris Medlen is a tough little guy who can be a #2 or #3 according to the makeup of the staff. He’ll keep the team in games and give them a chance to win.
The Braves have some hard-throwing moundsmen in the minors who could make a name for themselves in Atlanta soon. Keep a eye on Shae Simmons, David Hale, and J.R. Graham. They could be in Atlanta soon and throw Alex Wood into that group too. He looked pretty good in the bigs this year.
The bullpen is very solid with Craig Kimbrel, David Carpenter. Luis Avilan, Jordan Walden and hopefully Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty returning healthy and ready to go. This is a outstanding group with championship ability.
Oh yeah, Paul Maholm. Include him in a deal, possibly with Uggla or Upton. He’ll make the deal look much better for anyone willing to deal with the Braves.
If we can get all of this done, we might have a chance to play in late October against the American League’s best.
Oh, one more thing. Hire Chipper Jones as the hitting coach and prepare him to take over as manager in about 2015. That will shake things up and put a stamp on the Braves chances of again being a World Champion.
That’s my opinion!