Monday, November 24, 2014

Hot Stove in Hot-lanta

The Atlanta Braves have seemingly become one of the first teams to get things heated up during the Hot Stove season.

The first big blockbuster trade went down last week with the Bravo’s trading Right Fielder and Gold Glove winner Jason Heyward to the St. Louis Cardinals with relief pitcher Jordan Waldon. In exchange the Braves get Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. In addition to that the team also will save a little bit of money, get players that they can control for a few years as well as gain some added payroll flexibility. The Braves are in need of rebuilding a young, unproven starting rotation that is also filled with uncertainty  as they await finding the availability and ability of Kris Medlan and Brandon Beachy. 

The loss of Heyward is an interesting one to try to make sense of. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? How are we supposed to look at this? Are they throwing in the towel for 2015 and looking to rebuild and try to be ready for 2017 when they move into the new stadium? Is this just the first step in simply retooling? It seems that it will all depend of what shoes fall next.

John Hart and  Co. still have some big decisions to make and potentially some big deals that may or may not happen. It does seem clear that the team is looking to gain players that they are able to control for a few years that offer a little more cost certainty. What happens with Justin Upton, Evan Gattis and maybe even BJ Upton will be interesting to see. It would be interesting to see if the Braves don’t try to completely re-make their entire outfield. J-Up is set to be a free Agent and the Braves would likely be inclined to move him for a strong return. If he goes does Gattis move to left? Maybe Gattis gets moved to somewhere like KC to be a DH to take the spot that Billy Butler held. What then happens to BJ, do they hope that new hitting coach Kevin Seitzer can do something to get he to be even just a little bit productive or can he be flipped for someone else’s bad contract?

It seems that money, as much or more then anything is the motivation to do a lot of these moves. The Braves want pitching and controllable years. They have a questionable offense as it is constructed now and a thin minor league pipeline coming up. This is evident with the move that sent 2nd baseman Tommy La Stella to the Cubs for Arodys Vizcaino and $830K in international free agent money. 

Until the next shoe drops it will be hard to judge what the Heyward deal means and also what the Braves plans are for next season and what the look of the team will be heading into Spring Training.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Is Montreal on the radar?

It is interesting to think that there might yet be a day that there will be a Major League Baseball team in Montreal again. There is little chance that an expansion team would be granted to the city but re-location is a real possibility. There have been whispers that Tampa could be a prime candidate to be such a team. That would be the perfect deal for the fans in the city and still work for MLB. Montreal, is an eastern city. Tampa, an American League East team. Toronto a natural geographic and cultural rival and would fit nice and snug with other teams that are already in the area (NY, BOS, BAL, TOR).

Why did the team leave in the first place? Bad ownership, a lack of interest or inability to help from the corporate community given the economic reality at the time. There was and is also the issue that there needs to be a new stadium built, preferably downtown. Sure, there is always some talk about the 'what if' but the reality was the temperature from the Bud Seilig regime was never positive. Maybe some new blood and new set of eyes may help. As far as ownership goes, up until now there have been no real potential owners with the wherewithal to own a team. Recently, however the name Bronfman, the son of the Expos former owner has been linked with interest as well as The head of Dollaramma and Media Giant Bell.

The name Bell is an interesting one and the reason there seems to be a little more traction when you figure them as possibly in on the fold. It is well know and reported that they took a HUGE hit when they were froze out of the National NHL Broadcasting rights that Rogers bought for 12yrs and $5.2 Billion. They also look across the dial and see a chief rival with the Toronto Blue Jays. Now, add to that the fact that Bell owned TSN launched 3 additional stations and have a total of 5 channels that require programming content. Sports is the one, for lack of a better term 'PVR' Proof. People want to watch events live. With up to the second updates to tablets and phones , long are the days of  being able to go any amount of time to avoid seeing or hearing a score update of a live sporting event.
Owning a team ensures 162 games a year that you control, and any alternate programming that can be associated with it. Pre and post game. Team specials. There are all sorts of options. Then on a more basic primal level there is the satisfaction of taking away some of  the market share that your rival currently holds. The Blue Jays are regarded as Canada's team, maybe if Montreal can get in they can take advantage of some fans that just don't like Toronto because it is Toronto are just hungry for a team they can root for and support as their own.

The passion for baseball at the Major league level by fans would likely still be there. It was not a lack of fan support that drove the team out of town it was a combination of bad ownership, lack of local corporate sponsorship/ownership and most importantly the lack of a new downtown stadium. It is common knowledge that Olympic Stadium was in great need of being replaced but for whatever combination of reasons that the team, and governments could not come to terms to get something done. Maybe the ownership at the time really never had any interest or motivation in keeping the team in Montreal anyway so the effort may not have been there. MLB did nothing to help  keep the team in Montreal either. Sure, they 'owned' the team the last few years before they moved to Washington and tried having some games played in Mexico but by that time the writing was on the wall. How serious could they be about baseball in Montreal as owners when just prior taking ownership of the team from then owner Jeffrey Loria had  them up for possible contraction with the Minnesota Twins. Interestingly enough, the Twins are still in Minnesota and have a beautiful new stadium, Target Field.

Sure it is probably a long ways away from happening if it can happen at all. but maybe, just maybe we are a little closer for this impossibility to become possible.