Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

I don’t want them forget Ruth; I just want them to remember me. -Hank Aaron

20 Jan

What If The Braves Didn’t Rebuild? (Part 1)

In October 2014, the decision was either already made or being made that the Braves would sell off most players with value and enter a rebuild. They were coming off a 79-win season, and they had determined that the farm system was barren, they had bad contracts dragging down the payroll (BJ Upton, Chris Johnson), and if they were going to do it, they had better do it now since Jason Heyward and Justin Upton would undoubtedly leave in free agency the following winter.

At the time, they had a solid core of players. Andrelton Simmons was the best defensive shortstop in baseball and signed to a long extension. Freddie Freeman was 24, also signed to an extension but a more favorable one, and after contributing 4.1 fWAR that year, he was on his way to becoming one of the more valuable players in baseball. Julio Teheran was only 23, and he contributed a 3.2 fWAR season. Alex Wood was 23, and Craig Kimbrel was the best closer in baseball and signed to a team-friendly deal for an elite closer. So you had a lot of pieces in place.

I mentioned the issues of impending free agency for its top players and the bad contracts, and the farm system looked bleak as well. If you looked at a prospect list at any point of the last few years, you’d see a depressing contrast if you look at the 2014 lists. The top prospects were Sean Gilmartin, Lucas Sims, Christian Bethancourt, Jason Hursh, and Jose Peraza. That’s a depressing list, but if you squint really hard, you saw some pieces who ended up being very interesting down the road. Baseball America listed the best defensive infielder as Johan Camargo. Best fastball was Shae Simmons. And it’s extremely important to remember that there were two players signed by the previous administration that would play a significant role in the future of the team: Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies. Acuna was only 16 years old at the time, and he had not played an inning of professional baseball. Ozzie Albies was 17, and he had already had a very good season in Rookie ball for his age. By the next year, Ozzie Albies was the #3 prospect on many lists, and was only #3 because the Braves would eventually trade for Dansby Swanson and Sean Newcomb. Ronald Acuna would not be on even a top 30 prospect list until 2016.

The purpose of this post to examine whether or not they should have, based on the information and resources the Braves had at the time, rebuild the club. There are a few presuppositions in place:

• Frank Wren is still fired, and John Coppolella would still become the GM.
• Payroll would stay the same, but draft position would have diminished had the Braves not rebuilt
• All players would have continued their development track.
• Sun Trust Park would have still been build (it was already in development when the rebuild started)
• The economics of baseball would be the same

So we’re picking back up at the end of the 2014. You have your farm, you have your roster, and you have a team coming off a 79-83 season. There were some expiring contracts at the end of 2014: Ervin Santana’s $14M, Aaron Harang’s $1M, and Gavin Floyd’s $4M. But arb raises and escalating contracts would also cost the Braves $12M or so from 2014 to 2015. So you would only have an additional $5M or so to add to a roster that would have looked like this:

C – Evan Gattis
1B – Freddie Freeman
2B – Tommy La Stella
SS – Andrelton Simmons
3B – Chris Johnson
LF – Justin Upton
CF – BJ Upton
RF – Jason Heyward
SP – Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Mike Minor (they expected him to be back for 2015 before they decided to rebuild), Question Mark, Question Mark
RP – Craig Kimbrel, Shae Simmons, David Carpenter, Jordan Walden, Anthony Varvaro, David Hale, and Luis Avilan

So, you have a 79-win team that loses 2/5 of its starting rotation, and they will later find out Mike Minor wouldn’t be ready to start the season, and then they find out in May he’ll need his second Tommy John surgery. They didn’t know that definitively at the time, but that’s what ultimately happened. And as it plays out, the only prospect from their list to make a positive contribution to a team is the eventually traded Sean Gilmartin with the Mets. I assume they would have tried Gilmartin in the rotation. So they probably sign another journeyman for the rotation, and they max out that $5M on another starting pitcher. I have to throw a caveat in here that inevitably there will be improvements to the roster through flyers, Spring Training invites, etc. In reality, they signed AJ Pierzynski for $2M, and there’s probably room in my potentially incorrect budget to do something like that. They traded a pile of slop for Juan Uribe and Chris Withrow. Because they’re contending, you have to think they’re more willing to part with parts to improve the 2015 roster.

And so continues my speculation for what happens next. They’re trying to contend, so they trade some of their top prospects to potentially get another starting pitching. We’re coming off offense being down league wide, so they probably are able to trade from their prospects to get another starting pitcher.

So they set tail for 2015. Jason Heyward and Justin Upton have the contract years they end up having. Andrelton’s bat continues to develop and he has his 3.2 fWAR year. The rotation holds together, the bullpen pitches how it ultimately pitches, the Braves actually win 92 games, and whatever happens in the playoffs happens.

Now the bloodbath starts. Jason Heyward and Justin Upton leave for free agency. Mike Minor is done forever as far as Braves purposes are concerned. But you didn’t sign Nick Markakis, you didn’t trade for Hector Olivera and thus trade away Alex Wood and Jose Peraza (though you may have traded Peraza and others to get a SP in the previous offseason, so I’m going to say he’s gone). But you still signed Kolby Allard because the draft position didn’t change, and you still drafted Mike Soroka because Ervin Santana had left the previous offseason. Oh, and you signed Kevin Maitan during the year.

So Heyward, Upton, and the SP rental are gone, so you’ve cleared around $25-27M from your payroll, and your roster looks like this:

C – Gattis
1B – Freeman
2B – La Stella
SS – Simmons
3B – Johnson
LF – HOLE
CF – BJ Upton
RF – HOLE

Rotation: Teheran, Wood, SP you traded prospects for, Gilmartin (I deviate from history here because the Braves are desperate), HOLE

Bullpen: Kimbrel, Luis Avilan, Walden, Carpenter, Varvaro, HOLE, HOLE

Top Prospects: Albies, Allard, Maitan, Soroka, Sims, Acuna, Herbert, Sanchez (they still trade Kubitza for Sanchez in this; that just seems like something Coppy would have done anyway), Weigel, Pache, Cruz, Camargo

You still have a solid farm regardless of whether they rebuilt. And remember, you get two comp picks because of Upton and Heyward. But for clarity, because you either didn’t trade for them or get a pick associated with a trade, you don’t have Dansby Swanson, Sean Newcomb, Max Fried, Luiz Gohara, Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Wisler, Aaron Blair, Ender Inciarte, Alex Jackson, Rio Ruiz, Dustin Peterson, Anfernee Seymour, and AJ Minter.

The Braves then undoubtedly spend around $18M in free agency after paying for arb raises and escalating contracts (Andrelton, Kimbrel, and Teheran all tick up in salary). But your guess is as good as mine what they do. They need a left fielder, right fielder, another starter, relief help, and even with all of that, it’s a very mediocre roster. But you’re trying to compete, so you probably trade from some of your prospect surplus (not like today where the prospect vault is puckered up tight). And because you have those comp picks, the Braves know that they’ll draft something similar to Ian Anderson, Kyle Mueller, Joey Wentz, Bryse Wilson, Brett Cumberland, and Drew Harrington even if they have a much lower draft position. You have to adjust considerably there, but like I said, they still draft similar to how Coppy drafted, so you have to feel like they would be pretty confident in their draft coming up.

At this stage, the 2015-2016 offseason, it gets far off from reality where I feel it best just to highlight the condition of the time based on the payroll, roster, and prospects they have at these junctures and pause here to let you decide what they should have or should not have done. I personally think that it wasn’t a slam dunk to rebuild. I think had they made some smart trades, found some relievers here and there, and developed a reclamation project or two, they would have still been competitive in 2015, and they would use their resources to continue to keep the team competitive.

Part 2 focuses on what 2016 and beyond look like, but in the meantime, what say you?

109 Responses to “What If The Braves Didn’t Rebuild? (Part 1)”

  1. 1
    braves14 Says:

    A big reason Gattis was traded is that his body wouldn’t handle a full time load at catcher.

  2. 2
    Rusty S. Says:

    What do you estimate has been the cost of the rebuild in lost revenue?

  3. 3
    coop Says:

    I’ve never been a fan of revisionist history, but I look forward to the what ifs and pretend likes.

    Have at it, y’all.

  4. 4
    Sam Hutcheson Says:

    Back when I wrote Music crit blogs my buds and I would refer to certain mathy style lofi post rock demos we’d receive as “Slint damaged bands.”

  5. 5
    Adam R Says:

    I’m not living in a reality where we don’t have Gohara.

  6. 6
    Rob Cope Says:

    I would gladly trade a reality where we are Gohara-less but didn’t spend 3 years+ intentionally not contending.

    I’m not a fan of revisionist history, which is why I trade to give as much information that they knew at the time.

  7. 7
    Roger Says:

    I feel sure this is exactly the analysis that the Braves FO went through when deciding to rebuild. Assuming they saw this exact future, they said “no, this is not worth it”. There was talent coming in the low minors but not enough to re-tool the MLB team. Even now, the talent is just beginning to trickle up (late last year, that is). Under the scenario, you outline, the Braves would likely have been 78-85 game winners the last three years and ju-ust missed the playoffs or maybe made the wild card once. The only real difference is coming close to the playoffs and missing or knowing that you’ll miss from the beginning. Now, the farm has enough layers to be sustainable for a while (although having the Intl prospects would have helped with that).

  8. 8
    Adam R Says:

    How do we even make it to deadline and trade for a pitcher, let alone win 92 games, with this rotation?

    Teheran (we’re talking 1 WAR Teheran)
    Wood
    Journeyman #1
    Journeyman #2
    Gilmartin… who presumably becomes a pitcher we acquired at the deadline for, well, Gilmartin/Bethancourt/Sims

    Maybe worth noting that we’re not getting Hamels/Price/Cueto for that package. Maybe we win Mike Leake.

  9. 9
    td Says:

    Very good analysis. This could be very controversial, but I think you handled it well and presented a fair scenario. To me the tipping point for Wren being fired and the rebuild was signing Chris Johnson long term. I still hate the Andrelton trade more than I hate the Olivera trade.

  10. 10
    Adam R Says:

    And in 2016, the rotation is…

    – Teheran (at least this is 3 WAR Teheran)
    – Wood (unfortunately this is 60 IP Wood)
    – You listed Gilmartin, but to get a pitcher worth getting at the 2015 deadline, with the not-so-great upper minors prospects you acknowledge we had, we probably had to trade Gilmartin
    – It’s also hard to imagine trading Bethancourt/Gilmartin/Sims and getting a pitcher who is better than average with more than one year of control
    – As you put it, “HOLE”

    Which goes nicely with the holes in LF and RF.

    That 2015 team isn’t making the playoffs without a bigger budget anyway. My only issue with what actually happened was how they used their resources once they decided to rebuild.

  11. 11
    urlhix Says:

    Since we’re alternate universing, an Andrelton/Albies tandem would have been a true thing of beauty.

  12. 12
    Ethan Says:

    https://www.mlb.com/news/why-market-is-slow-moving-for-mike-moustakas/c-265050690

    I’d give him Bruce’s deal

  13. 13
    coop Says:

    Simba to Ozzie to Fred: delightful dream.

    I’d give Moose Bruce’s deal too. Get it done, AA.

  14. 14
    Rob Cope Says:

    @7-8

    The overall point of the post is to throw a counter-point to the narrative that the farm was completely bankrupt and rebuilding was the only option. If you didn’t rebuild, you still had the comp picks for Santana, Heyward, and JUpton. And at the time, Chris Johnson hadn’t proven himself to be the albatross contract he ultimately proved to be. He had a 108 OPS+ as a 27-year old with Houston/Arizona, and then a 124 OPS+ in the year that ultimately earns him a 3-year extension at what is realistically a pretty modest $23M total commitment. He then has a 84 OPS+ in 2014, and somehow it’s absolutely obvious that he can’t possibly be worth $7-8M AAV? I don’t buy that. So there’s plenty of reason to believe that a nucleus of Andrelton/Freddie/Heyward/JUpton/Gattis, especially with JUpton and Heyward in contract years could slug their way to a good season. You could trade some combination of Sims, Peraza, Bethancourt, Hursh, and Graham and put Gilmartin in the rotation. And with Albies, Acuna, 3 comp picks, and still making some “rebuild-minded” trades (like Kubitza-for-Sanchez, as an example), you could very well have continued to contend while not gutting the future.

    I’m not sure anyone can tell us why the largely unchanged 96-win 2013 team won 79 games the next year. The 2013 team’s position players produced 20.5 fWAR and the pitchers 18.3. 2014 had position players at 15.8 and pitchers 16.6. That certainly doesn’t explain the 17 win change. And almost the entire offensive nucleus was entering its prime in 2015 that it was, at the time, a pretty decent bet that they’d continue to develop (and they did). But to your point, the starting pitching would have been the biggest concern.

  15. 15
    Rob Cope Says:

    I’m so firmly on the “sign Todd Frazier” bandwagon. Ender/Ozzie/Freddie/Frazier/Markakis/Flowers/Acuna/Swanson is a symmetrical and not-terrible lineup, all things considered. Frazier is a safer bet, he’s right-handed, and he shifts everybody down a spot in the lineup. It’s almost a no-brainer. Count me out on Moose’s .305 career OBP.

  16. 16
    Rob Cope Says:

    I’m really sorry, braves14. I have no idea why they keep getting flagged. I’ll keep working on it. I guess this used to happen to blazon a lot. blazon, what did you do to fix it?

  17. 17
    roadrunner48 Says:

    The 2014 team got on base less than the 2013 one. And it hit fewer HR’s. In both years, it seemed like every third batter was striking out. They lived on 2 and 3 run bombs in ’13, and died on them ’14.

  18. 18
    Sam Hutcheson Says:

    Today’s nostalgia listen is Poster Children’s “Junior Citizen,” which leads to the obvious question of why the hell Apple Music doesn’t have “RTFM” available for streaming.

  19. 19
    krussell Says:

    We would have needed to buy 2 starters for the 2015 team. Was that realistic? I guess I’ll concede the answer is no, given what we know about our ownership.

    I just never want to tank. It doesn’t work if you have bad management, which we did at the time.

  20. 20
    Sam Hutcheson Says:

    Because Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy exploded.

  21. 21
    Sam Hutcheson Says:

    And you literally have an OF of three HOLES. Because, you know, Melvin Upton forgot how to baseball.

  22. 22
    Td Says:

    Rob, I am sincere in saying that you are much smarter in the intracacies of mlb than me. Can you explain why you want Frazier so badly? His highest single season ops was .809, and at age 32, his numbers seem to speak regression. Is there an injury or something else I’m missing? If his ops is 750, don’t you think Camargo could get close to that?

  23. 23
    blazon Says:

    Revisionists as their gist
    are too ready to persist
    while we contrarians
    include far too many latitudinarians.

  24. 24
    blazon Says:

    What if, what then?
    he’ll take his pen
    create a fait accompli
    too late for us, he’ll disappear, promptly.

  25. 25
    blazon Says:

    comme ci comme ca
    we are who we are
    in the area of ‘wise after the event’
    we still have no idea precisely what they meant.

  26. 26
    Rob Cope Says:

    @22

    I’d really interested to see what other people think, but yes, I think Camargo probably would match or get close to what Frazier or Moustakis could do, especially with their age and the mentioned regression risk. But, with that risk at 3B, and the risk at 2B and SS, I think it’s a better roster building move to have Camargo getting 250-350 PAs backing up those 3 positions and being ready to play full-time if something happened. If they open the season with Camargo at 3B, the primary backup at those three positions is Charlie Culberson, and you’re looking at Danny Santana as the second backup. I’m of the opinion that, with the right moves, the Braves would like to contend. That bench with Camargo playing 3B full-time is not even close.

    @17

    They lost Brian McCann’s 20 HRs. Andrelton regressed offensively overall, but he also hit 10 less HRs (17 to 10). While OPS’ were similar, Uggla hit 22 HR at 2B and La Stella hit 1. The outfield largely stayed the same. The biggest thing is catcher regressed from an offensive standpoint, and so did Andrelton (though he, of course, has recovered nicely). The 2015 team ultimately signed AJP for $2M and worked out the catcher position even when they couldn’t be bothered to compete. Interestingly, there was more of a regression of power from 2013 to 2014 with a similar roster (181 to 123 HRs) than from 2014 to 2015 after the teardown (123 to 100).

    Had they stuck with the roster, BUpton recovered (or had a dead cat bounce?) to a .757 OPS in 228 2015 PAs. Heyward had the aforementioned career year (117 OPS+ and 6.1 fWAR), and JUpton contributed a 120 OPS+. As much as the 2014 team regressed from the similar 2013, a lot of the players improved or recovered in 2015. Probably because… they were entering their prime.

  27. 27
    Ethan Says:

    @26 – Agree on Camargo. I also think there’s a greater than zero percent chance Dansby flops again, and you’ll need him up the middle.

    Regarding Frazier and Moose, all things being equal, it’s a no brainer to me. Streamer has Moose better than Frazier next year and he’s 3 years younger.

    I get the handedness argument, but Suntrust was built for left handed, pull happy, power hitters and I think that supersedes lineup symmetry.

    The biggest argument for Frazier was that he wouldn’t require the contract most were projecting for Moustakas, but if Moose’s market drops enough for him to be viable, Frazier becomes irrelevant.

  28. 28
    Dusty Says:

    Fun baseball week. Top 100 prospect lists coming out from Klaw, BA and MLB, and HOF announcement on Wednesday.

    Klaw has 6 Braves in the back half of his top 100 and has yet to rank Anderson, Wright, Gohara, Allard and Acuna (not positive he has Anderson and Wright in his top 50 but the other 3 are certain).

    BA has 8 Braves in top 100 including Acuna at #1.

  29. 29
    allstarmatches Says:

    I think we could have been pretty good in 2015 provided we had invested wisely in a few SPs. We would have needed to get lucky on a few reclamation projects, but we had a decent track record of doing just that. Still, I think that team tops out around 85-86 wins, maybe enough for WC contention, maybe, and then exits quickly in the playoffs.

    Whether we could have continued to piece things together after 2015 is anyone’s guess – no question it would have gotten harder with Heyward and JUpton gone.

  30. 30
    Rob Cope Says:

    @27

    The biggest argument for Frazier was that he wouldn’t require the contract most were projecting for Moustakas, but if Moose’s market drops enough for him to be viable, Frazier becomes irrelevant.

    That’s the big reason for my interest in Frazier. I don’t think we can afford Moose. But it’s been a long offseason, and who knows if prices will indeed come down. Crazy to think we’re at the end of January and so much is still out there.

  31. 31
    Adam R Says:

    Again, it’s noteworthy that Pittsburgh also opted to blow it up a year early, and their fans are pissed off.

  32. 32
    Rob Cope Says:

    By my count, there are about 10 teams that are actively trying to not compete. That’s not good for baseball.

  33. 33
    allstarmatches Says:

    @31 I’ve got a buddy who is a Pirates fan and I’d characterize him more as “resigned” than pissed. That fanbase really got kicked in the head by winning 98 games a few years back and then losing in the WC game. He’s just one guy, of course, but still….

  34. 34
    csg Says:

    Brewers are apparently close to trading an OF. Send us Domingo as his trade costs would be much cheaper than Yelich. Sign Frazier to play 3B

    Adding Acuna, Domingo, and Frazier would be wonders for this offense.

  35. 35
    Rob Cope Says:

    If you need to settle the SP issue, you can just do the two deals they ended up doing anyway: trade Heyward for Shelby and sign Markakis. My scenario presents the complete reverse to tanking (don’t trade anyone), but considering the Heyward deal was first, there could have been a time where tanking wasn’t the absolute strategy, and those were just good deals to make. The second half of the Heyward deal (Walden for Jenkins) maybe doesn’t happen if you’re trying to contend, and admittedly, that assumes Heyward for Shelby straight up could have gotten done. Frankly, would you rather have Markakis and Shelby than Heyward? The money for 2015 was similar; Markakis made $11M, Heyward made $7.8M and Shelby made $550K. But you had $5M to spend anyway, so you could have ridden with Teheran, Wood, Shelby, Minor (once again, at the time they thought he’d be healthy), and Gilmartin. Or as mentioned, a reclamation project a la Harang in 2014 ($1M).

  36. 36
    Rob Cope Says:

    Braves prospect in BA’s top 100:

    Acuna- 1
    Gohara- 23
    Soroka- 27
    Wright- 34
    Ian A- 42
    Riley- 54
    Allard- 65
    Fried- 72

    And that doesn’t include Joey Wentz, Kyle Muller, Bryce Wilson, Patrick Weigel, Tucker Davidson, and Touki Toussaint. That’s just incredible.

  37. 37
    gaz Says:

    If they don’t tank 2015 then who do they miss out on that’s so essential it would hinder the ability to contend long term? By my calculation it’s Gohara, Fried and Riley that are the only guys still around from the string of trades made before the 2015 season, that hardly seems like something irreplaceable and the idea was that trading those guys then and not waiting was going to jump start the rebuild (which it hasn’t).

    I always contended they could have played out 2015, if it wasn’t going well trade Heyward and Upton midseason, trade Kimbrel for something other than BJ Upton salary relief and gone from there (while not trading Simmons at all). I don’t think we’d be in a demonstrably different position at all.

  38. 38
    Rob Cope Says:

    You don’t have Touki, and you don’t have as strong of a draft class in 2016 if you don’t have the draft position that came from tanking, but you also would have had 2 comp picks for Heyward and JUpton had you really let it play out. Fried, Gohara, Touki and Riley are the only ones you wouldn’t have. Even Minter would still be here since I think he was drafted with Ervin Santana’s comp pick.

    I think your overall point is exactly right that we don’t have this treasure trove of prospects because we tanked. We have it because we drafted well.

  39. 39
    Rob Cope Says:

    Law’s bottom 50 has the following Braves:

    57. Pache
    60. Soroka
    68. Bryse Wilson
    77. Fried
    90. Touki
    96. Wentz

    So one would assume he’s got Acuna, Gohara, Wright, and Allard since he said he has 10 Braves in his list.

  40. 40
    cliff Says:

    I will throw out an alternate theory.

    That is, once the FO started the rebuild, everything that they have done to keep the tanking from being so bad has turned out to be useless (and sometimes counterproductive). Olivera deal. Signing Markakis (although that MAY have helped the trade on JUpton). Kemp. Blair and Wisler. Those were all related to “let’s not mess up and loose 100 games in a year, let’s only lose 90 to 85.”

  41. 41
    cliff Says:

    These prospect lists also give confirmation that the 4th, 5th, etc. prospects of the Braves are plenty good to headline for Yellich.

  42. 42
    Dusty Says:

    Or put it this way, the Marlins traded Ozuna and Stanton and the best prospect they got was #70 Alcantara. ATL could offer 8 guys that good or better (7 if you don’t count Acuna). I know Yelich is more valuable but take 2 or 3 of those guys and you should have a deal that no one else can/will beat. I’d do Riley, Anderson and Fried in a heartbeat and I love Fried.

  43. 43
    Ethan Says:

    @ 41 & 42 – Agreed. Teams will value players differently, but these types of lists get around. Can do nothing but strengthen our negotiating position relative to trades.

  44. 44
    Game, Blauser Says:

    @40 Certainly, the moves the Braves made to retain a marginally viable major league product during the rebuild were, by and large, poorly done and the ripple effects of those decisions continue to negatively affect the Braves’ outlook going forward.

    I’d add to that, though, that the Braves’ insistence on dumping their old bad contracts (eg Melvin Upton) rather than eating those sunk costs and taking on better prospect returns looms as another very big factor when you look at “ideal rebuild result” vs. “where are we now”.

    I’ve always been on the side of a total teardown and rebuild rather than the middle-ground version attempted by Liberty, primarily because if Liberty is going to run the Braves like a bottom-half payroll team then we need to load up on every possible prospect and cost-controlled team asset possible before the team hits their window of contention. However, total teardown didn’t mesh with ownership’s timeline for moving the team to Cobb, so from a business standpoint I suppose they judged it necessary to moderate the tanking.

  45. 45
    Adam R Says:

    @40/44, Yup.

    If they don’t tank 2015 then who do they miss out on that’s so essential it would hinder the ability to contend long term? By my calculation it’s Gohara, Fried and Riley that are the only guys still around from the string of trades made before the 2015 season, that hardly seems like something irreplaceable and the idea was that trading those guys then and not waiting was going to jump start the rebuild (which it hasn’t).

    You’re confusing strategy and tactics. Or maybe more accurately, process and results. Trading for Sean Newcomb specifically may not have been the best idea, even regardless of who/the contract we traded for him and even taking into account the risk that comes with trading for any prospects at all.

    It didn’t work out that rebuild trades built the next Braves contender. But it could have, if it were done differently. Perhaps the idea was right, and the execution of it was flawed, partly for reasons stated @40/44.

  46. 46
    krussell Says:

    We were going to suck in 2016 no matter what, so I think even in the revisionist histories we would still get to draft high and build some farm depth (plus the 2 comp picks would have been high picks).

    We may not have had a winning record in 2015 in the alternate reality scenario either, but at least there was a shot. A much better shot than the “competitive” hogwash they’ve been spewing lately.

    We ended up drafting a bunch of HS pitchers – nobody knows where that will lead, but the odds are very much against us. The irony of ironies here is that the young talent they want to showcase in 2018 – Albies and Acuna – comes from the non-hyped drafts of the Wren regime.

  47. 47
    gaz Says:

    I guess my point is if the front office was not going to actually go after one or the other strategy but try and toe a middle line and fuck it up as 40/44 say then what was the point of it all? They may as well have just gone for 2015 and tried to make the playoffs and if it didn’t work then deal with the consequences and rebuild from there. The two best guys to come out of the rebuild were Acuna and Albies who were here before they started it all…

    Only thing I’ll say is that the confluence of events that led to getting Inciarte would be lost but that was just luck and it’s not like you can build a team around him. Getting a quality center fielder would have still been possible even if you don’t pick one off for basically nothing like they did.

  48. 48
    Adam R Says:

    Guys, it’s way past time to let 2015 go. There was no shot. We had no rotation. We had Bad Teheran and Wood and that was it. Let it go.

    Trading Heyward for Shelby Miller and then signing Markakis at best rearranges the deck chairs on the Titanic, and then we’d have had Miller’s putrid 2016 on our hands if we hadn’t traded him too.

    Only thing I’ll say is that the confluence of events that led to getting Inciarte would be lost but that was just luck

    Fleecing the Diamondbacks wasn’t luck. This trade was so lopsided that there’s an actual public accounting of it. We knew that the Marlins’ demands for Fernandez inflated the Diamondbacks’ sense of what the price for Shelby Miller would be. We knew that the Diamondbacks were likelier than any other team in the majors to have trouble figuring out how to value their own players in any case. And so we struck. We fleeced them for Touki as well. Twice isn’t luck. Credit where due.

    and it’s not like you can build a team around him.

    You can’t build a team around Mike Trout either, apparently. What does this even mean?

    I guess my point is if the front office was not going to actually go after one or the other strategy but try and toe a middle line and fuck it up as 40/44 say then what was the point of it all?

    The point was to get where we are now, which is something like a season away from contending, without any more major long-term encumbrances. Coppy didn’t hit the mark by messing up a few times (Olivera/Kemp, trading Andrelton, Maitan et al).

    But still, all in all, not bad/almost there. A lot will now hinge on the players you all are trying to write away: Gohara, Wright, Swanson, Allard.

  49. 49
    krussell Says:

    I don’t think we’re writing those players away, we’re just saying that we would have other prospects with different names that we’d be as overly optimistic about as the current ones.

    In the end it boils down to being steaming mad that we refused to eat the BUpton and Uggla contracts. I’ve been shaking fists at the clouds ever since.

  50. 50
    allstarmatches Says:

    Didn’t we eat the Uggla contract?

  51. 51
    Adam R Says:

    You all are like, “At least we could have tried in 2015 with Teheran…Wood…*trails off*”

    If that’s not setting yourself up for certain failure, it’s very close. We’re talking about Aaron Harang or probably someone like Aaron Harang repeating what Harang did. I’d rather not watch that team.

    I would rather have done what we did and given Folty and Newcomb (and to a lesser extent, Wisler…and Blair, I never believed in) a shot to develop and be better than they have turned out. If they had established themselves closer to their ceilings, we could keep them for longer and they’d have been cheap enough to be able to add to the team. Obviously, there’s still time, especially for Newcomb or Fried.

  52. 52
    Rob Cope Says:

    Guys, it’s way past time to let 2015 go.

    No.

  53. 53
    Adam R Says:

    Dramatic reenactment of Braves Journal’s utter inability to let go of 2015, using a song from 2015

  54. 54
    Smitty Says:

    I think it is more than fair to say, “What if” at this point. The front office was making this out to be a 2-3 year rebuild and we did let go of a few cost controlled young players.

    Now, many people will say, “Everyone knew it would be 5-6 years to rebuild.” Doesn’t matter. It was being pitched as a quick deal and we would see results quick.

    Trading Simmons and Wood was dumb. We were patient, but so far the results have been blah. I think the team is a fringe contender with Wood and Simmons.

    Swanson isn’t going to be as good as Simmons. Maybe Newcomb will be as good as Wood.

    I think it is time and beyond fair to start questioning this rebuild some.

  55. 55
    Chief Nocahoma Says:

    I agree with some others above in that IMO the one toe in/one toe out approach complicated by the opening of the stadium was an issue. Do fans really think there’s that much difference in their long term fandom if their favorite team loses 100 games vs. 90? If they are that fickle, are they really fans anyway?

  56. 56
    Jay Says:

    We’re 3 years in, and what have we accomplished?

    Completely restock a bad farm system so it’s ready to graduate MLB contributors — check.

    Payroll flexibility to build around youth going forward — check.

    I’m optimistic we start to see the benefits this year.

  57. 57
    Askia Says:

    Count me as one who would rather have seen us play out 2015 rather than give up. I think there is an intangible there of the fans losing hope and no longer having anyone to root for that really hurt the team.

  58. 58
    Sam Hutcheson Says:

    There is no reason to rehash this again. This is not a useful use of time.

  59. 59
    krussell Says:

    It’s either this or corner OF defense. We’re not very deep.

    Braves hot stove is not best hot stove.

  60. 60
    Rob Cope Says:

    I haven’t seen anyone take a concerted effort at the alternative to rebuilding. So sit down and shut up, Sam. Or write for us.

  61. 61
    Sam Hutcheson Says:

    A lineup where the second best hitter was the desiccated remains of Chris Johnson’s outlier career year.

  62. 62
    Rob Cope Says:

    What are you talking about? The hypothetical 2015 team?

  63. 63
    csg Says:

    Anyone ever recall an off-season this slow? I’m not talking about just the Braves either. Owners refusing to make decent offer to FA’s.

  64. 64
    Grst Says:

    @63 That’s an interesting description. More likely, it seems to me, is that the last remaining teams holding out against analytics have given in and have a much better sense of what constitutes a decent offer (as opposed to a massive overpay for a player’s declining years).

    Even though most teams have been here for a number of years, even a few holdouts were able to drive the market for a time. That’s no longer the case. Players and their agents, however, have not adjusted their expectations accordingly. A correction has occurred, while they are expecting a continuation of prior trends. We’ll see which side gets more desperate first. Probably will be both, to some degree or another.

    Ultimately, I suspect wiser teams will force substantial changes to the team control/free agency system. It’s a lot harder to ask players to forgo earnings in their early and most productive years if teams are no longer willing to overpay during their declines.

  65. 65
    roadrunner48 Says:

    @54 Swanson is a lesser version of Jeff Blauser. That’s being optimistic.

  66. 66
    Ethan Says:

    @64 – Where’s Reuben Amaro when you need him?

  67. 67
    blazon Says:

    @65

    Original, certainly. Package him with an arm or two while he still has value. No cornerstone he, sadly. Let Camargo have the first 3 months.

  68. 68
    Chief Nocahoma Says:

    It’s doubtful that Swanson has a career approaching Jefferson Blauser.

  69. 69
    roadrunner48 Says:

    But Swanson’s makeup is “off the charts”.

  70. 70
    Rob Cope Says:

    Totally kidding, by the way, Sam.

  71. 71
    Braves14 Says:

    Yeah, let’s all give up on Swanson after one bad year. That would be really smart.

  72. 72
    Adam R Says:

    After this season, we’ll need a Bizarro Braves where we rebuilt but didn’t trade Wood/Simmons/Kimbrel. How much do you want to bet the 2018 Bizarro Braves would’ve made the playoffs?

  73. 73
    Ethan Says:

    I believe the real Kimbrel is a free agent after this year. I would not be upset if we brought him back.

  74. 74
    coop Says:

    @71: His defense is substandard; his offense, suspect. Maybe he can be a capable second baseman defensively. He won’t be Altuve or Murphy with the bat. What do you foresee him becoming that makes him a keeper? Really, I’d like to know. I need to understand your position.

    I agree with blazon. Get what you can while you can. He’ll never be Simba with the glove. Right now, he’s not Jeter, Altuve or Murphy with the bat. Do you believe this is what he’ll become? Why?

  75. 75
    Rob Cope Says:

    Is there any other prospect we expect to perform to the level of the elites at their position like Murphy, Altuve, Andrelton, Jeter, etc.? That’s a tall order for anyone.

  76. 76
    coop Says:

    Acuna, Albies, perhaps; and we’d be delighted if Swanson became a good — not great– defender and a contributor –not a detriment — offensively. And by we, I mean the royal coop.

  77. 77
    Remy Says:

    Per Bob Nightengale:

    The #Dbacks sign veteran pitcher Kris Medlen to Minor league contract with spring training invite. He will earn $1.1 million if he returns to the big leagues and can opt out if not on 40-man roster by March 27

  78. 78
    Smitty Says:

    Alan Carpenter over at Tomahawk Take says Eddie Mathews is better than Chipper.

    I disagree.

  79. 79
    Rob Cope Says:

    To be fair, wouldn’t it be helpful to think of the BJ/Kimbrel trade as Kimbrel was packaged with BJ’s salary so that the Braves could then trade for Arroyo/Touki and sign more guys on the IFA? That’s essentially what happened. So at the very least, would the Kimbrel trade look better if it was Kimbrel for Maybin, Quentin, Wisler, Touki, Paroubeck and BJ was released? Paroubeck was then traded for IFA money that was used in the 2015 IFA draft that led to Cristian Pache and Derian Cruz.

  80. 80
    krussell Says:

    @75, do you think we can win with a team that doesn’t have any elites at their position? I don’t. But I’m jaded by the 90’s Braves that sported 5 hall of famers (yes I count Andruw) and a few others just on the cusp. We all are. But still, the bar has to be set a good deal higher than trying to field a lineup of league-average players.

  81. 81
    cliff Says:

    Smitty,

    There are many who say 3B is (1) Schmidt, (2) Matthews, (3) Brett and then Chipper is 4th to 6th, depending on how you put them.

    Matthews had a better offensive peak, but peaked young. Chipper sustained pretty damn good for a long damn time. He could have easily DH’d 2 to 3 years if he had wanted to.

  82. 82
    Rob Cope Says:

    @80

    We’ve designed the rebuild around getting an elite starting rotation. So, maybe you have a couple elite pitchers in there. AJ Minter certainly looks like he can be an elite closer. Freeman is already elite. Albies and Acuna look like they’re there. Defensively, Ender is. At the end of 2018, you may be willing to predict that based on their rookie seasons we have a few elite players. Right now, we- what’s the word- suck.

  83. 83
    coop Says:

    Matthews made himself a better fielder, and he had more thump. Either in their prime could play for me. Comparing players across eras is an inexact science, but Chipper could flat out hit.

  84. 84
    Dusty Says:

    Curious that Law lists 10 Braves in his top 100 but no Allard. He has always been higher on him than most and even had him at #26 in his mid-season update in July.

    1 Acuna
    26 Wright
    48 Anderson
    50 Gohara
    57 Pache
    60 Soroka
    68 Wilson
    77 Fried
    90 Touki
    96 Wentz

    He had always been a bit down on Riley so no surprise he is missing.

  85. 85
    mikemc Says:

    Agreed. To say Touki and Wentz are better prospects than Allard at this point is a bit puzzling.

  86. 86
    Braves14 Says:

    Can you guys imagine what the Braves would be like if blazon or coop had been the GM of the Braves in the late ‘80s?

    “Man, that Glavine kid sure sucks. We should flip him while he still has value.”

    “That Gant kid can’t hit or play second base. Let him go.”

    “That Smoltz kid has no control. Trade him.”

  87. 87
    Adam R Says:

    @85, A few of us seem to have forgotten that most players take a while to develop.

    It’s funny how it tends to the same few of us who fall in love with small-sample-size fluke-success players.

  88. 88
    krussell Says:

    Ron Gant hit 26 HRs in A ball at age 21. The patience was earned.

  89. 89
    Braves14 Says:

    Peanut has a fluff piece up on Austin Riley.

    So I now expect the Braves to go get a long term free agent either this offseason or next year and flip Riley.

  90. 90
    Rob Cope Says:

    And Dansby was a #1 pick, top 100 prospect, and moved very quickly through the minor leagues. If he was crushing in AAA last year instead of being rushed by a bad team, would you feel different? It’s not his fault the Braves needed a piece of marketing meat.

  91. 91
    Rob Cope Says:

    small-sample-size fluke-success players.

    Sounds like Gohara. ::ducks::

  92. 92
    krussell Says:

    @89, if Dansby had put up eye-popping minor league numbers then I would feel differently. His numbers were good-not-great, with some stretches of really bad thrown in. Still deserves patience though. It’s not like we have tons of other options.

  93. 93
    blazon Says:

    @85

    Sweet bliss.

    braves 14, my conclusion on Swanson, stated here often, stemmed from what i saw as his lack of athleticism to play that position in the Major Leagues. His bat may or may not come round but you can’t go to war on that basis.

    My friend coop will speak for himself no doubt but we both agree that had we been joint occupants of the GM position back then we would have drafted Mike Trout. Need i say more?

  94. 94
    Adam R Says:

    In my Bizarro 2018, we kept Andrelton and traded Shelby for Inciarte, Blair, and Jake Lamb :D

  95. 95
    Braves14 Says:

    I can understand the notion that Swanson probably isn’t going to be Derek Jeter or even Edgar Renteria. But to give up on him so quickly is foolish, as there is a solid chance he will be a good MLB SS for many years.

    Also, I’ve noticed that Swanson gets hit hard here for his defense. Shortstops make errors sometimes because they get a lot of chances. But if you look deeper into his defensive analytics he really wasn’t bad. He was about average. Andrelton Simmons spoiled us all. (Yes I think he should still be a Brave but that is another discussion.)

  96. 96
    Braves14 Says:

    In retrospect those Simmons and Wood trades are unbelievably bad. Almost all of us hated those deals even when they were made.

    Sean Newcomb, you are our only hope.

  97. 97
    blazon Says:

    @86

    small sample size flukes..

    sounds like marriage to me.

  98. 98
    blazon Says:

    small sample size flukes
    we understand your logic rebukes
    this basis for action
    but marriage suggests it’s as likely as any abstraction.

  99. 99
    Adam R Says:

    @96, The bust rate speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

    Dansby is always going to look like he’s barely adequate out there defensively. Kind of like another player who happens to be an answer to your small-sample WS phenomenon question from the other day…David Eckstein.

  100. 100
    coop Says:

    Make the routine play. Catch the ball. Don’t be a sucking vortex with the bat. Do these things, and I’ll admit I was hasty. Until then, I’d prefer we package him in a deal for someone that can help.

  101. 101
    Rob Cope Says:

    If you expect Dansby Swanson to be Jeff Blauser (average defensively, 102 career OPS+), then you’re probably going to have a good day.

  102. 102
    Dusty Says:

    Tomorrow’s HOF results today:

    Chipper, Vlad and Thome sail in with over 90% of the vote and Hoffman makes it with 80% in his second year of eligibility.

    Edgar comes close, but will have to wait until next year (his final year on the ballot) missing by 15 votes.

    Schilling, Mussina and Walker post big gains, with the first two looking like legit candidates to make it eventually.

    Vizquel somehow gets 40% of the vote, while better defenders and better hitters Rolen (11%) and Andruw (5.5%) are barely hanging on the ballot.

    Johan Santana is unfairly removed from the ballot after just one year, coming up 10 votes shy of the 5% needed to stick around.

  103. 103
    Hate King Says:

    Surprised Law has Touki and Wentz’s but no Allard. Did Allard make his just missed group?

  104. 104
    Dusty Says:

    102-That list comes out Thursday

  105. 105
    snowshine Says:

    Chipper gets unfairly dinged because the Braves pitchers did not have a normal distribution of ground balls in the 90’s. Vinny went from ‘best in the league” to “bad” to “best in the league in the eyes of defensive evaluations. His 2 years of “bad” were with the Bravos. Vinny was still top drawer defensively during that part of his career, but since batters hit everything to the right side against the big 3, our 2nd basemen were always overrated and Chipper gets to be described as, “worst defensive 3rd baseman of all time” by BP and other outlets.

    Anyhow, give Chipper average numbers defensively and he is comfortably ahead of everyone other than Schmidt

  106. 106
    Dusty Says:

    Interesting point snowshine. I wonder if pitcher tendencies has skew defensive numbers dramatically.

    On another note, this has to be the worst year to buy an mlb preview or fantasy preview magazine like athlons. They publish at the end of the year I believe and there is so much uncertainty this year with free agency, the magazines will be worthless when spring training rolls around.

  107. 107
    Ethan Says:

    @ 92 – Actually, that would’ve been viable. The Angels drafted Trout with the comp pick they got from the Yankees for the latter signing Teixeira. Would that we had just kept Tex and let him walk to the Yanks vs trading him to the Halos, Trout would’ve been sitting there on silver platter.

    But hey, we got Casey Kotchman in that deal so it pretty much balances out…

  108. 108
    Adam R Says:

    Trout Braves = Best Bizarrro Braves

  109. 109
    Remy Says:

    New thread.

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