I’m creating a new category, “Trade Winds”. I see these entries as kind of a collaborative effort; I’ll open the subject with a post and ask for comment. (How this differs from anything else around here is all in my feeble little mind.) This first entry is kind of long.
Anyway, it’s about the time of year when the teams that are out of it start dealing off veterans. We’ve seen a couple — the White Sox’s acquisitions of Alomar and Everett. But who cares about them? What are the Braves going to do? As I see it, there are four areas the Braves could be looking to make an addition:
1. The bullpen
2. The bench
3. The rotation
4. Third base
The Braves haven’t normally tried to shore up the bullpen during the season. They got Pena in 1991 and Reardon in 1992, of course, but since then the only year they made trades was 2001, when they dealt Rocker for Reed and Karsay, and also got Rudy Seanez. On the other hand, they’ve normally been able to build bullpens from within. For whatever reason, they haven’t been able to do that this year. I think they’ll trade for a reliever or two.
By bench, I mostly mean a reserve outfielder. They don’t really need a pinch-hitter with the Franco Brothers around, and though he hasn’t played well DeRosa should be okay as a utility infielder. I’d like to dump the Personal Catcher, but I doubt there’s any chance of that. So the best possibility of improving the bench is replacing Darren Bragg. I personally feel that there are useful players in the organization who could do that, but I’m guessing that Scheurholz or Cox feels they want someone with significant major league experience. If you look at the rosters from the last dozen years, the Braves have almost always had a veteran outfielder as their top reserve. (The exception is 1997, when Andruw was the “fourth outfielder” but played about as much as starters Klesko, Lofton, and Tucker, and 1993, when they had Deion.) I figure there’s a good possibility they’ll look to add someone of the Mike Deveraux/Luis Polonia class, someone who’s been a regular but isn’t anymore, with the added qualification that he can handle center at least for a few innings.
Nobody’s happy with the rotation, but making a move here is (in my opinion) unlikely. For one thing, Horacio Ramirez would be demoted to fifth starter, and he’s been the Braves’ second best starter. (And Bobby seems to have confidence in him.) Replacing Shane Reynolds would be nice, but Reynolds wouldn’t pitch in postseason anyway, and the in-season value of replacing his starts and half of Ramirez’s with a middling starter isn’t that great even when you’re not 8 1/2 up. The way I see it, the Braves would likely make a move only if that means getting a good starter, at least a borderline ace. Most of the pitchers they’ve been mentioned in connection with simply aren’t of that caliber, though some could rise to that level. Someone like Brad Penny, for example, is roughly where Jason Schmidt was two years ago, and look at Jason now.
While we’d all like to be rid of Vinny, I just don’t see it happening. He’s the only hole in the lineup, and quickly becoming one from which no rallies can escape, but I just don’t think that the Braves will make a commitment to a third baseman with Andy Marte on the way up. And while we can dream about getting an outfielder and moving Chipper back to third, he hasn’t played an inning there in a year and a half. You might as well talk about moving Sheffield back to third.