Friday, December 12, 2014

Baseball's Winter Wonderland

Although still early, the Winter Meetings wrapping up in San Diego, there has already been some big Domino’s that have fallen. The Oakland A’s have been one of the busiest teams in terms of  trades. They have already made a blockbuster move with Toronto involving their 3rd baseman Josh Donaldson and another with The White sox involving starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija.. They have also made some Free Agent moves in picking up Billy Butler formerly of the KC Royals.

The Atlanta Braves have been fairly active as well in their pursuit to revamp a roster that is need of a face-lift and also in need of some added depth both at the major league and minor league level. The Braves have already done one Blockbuster deal when they Jason Heyward and Jordan the Cardinals for Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. They also moved Tommy La Stella for Arodys Vizcaino and International Free Agent money. The Braves also dipped into the free agent market already with the signing of relief pitcher Jim Johnson and right fielder Nick Markakis.

It looks like new GM John Hart is not done his transformation of the Braves just yet. There is the looming issue of both Uptons (B.J. and Justin) and Evan Gattis. Justin and Evan are the most likely to be dealt but if Hart can mange somehow to ‘mind trick’ another GM into taking BJ and his contract off his hands (like JP did for the Jays with Vernon Wells and Alex Rios) he would probably be praised by Braves nation. It will be interesting to see what Hart is able to do regarding these players. Justin Upton would likely fetch the best package in return, it is just a matter of what Hart is looking for and what other GM’s are willing to part with. It is no secret that the Braves are looking for young controllable arms as well as shore up a currently depleted farm system starved for high end talent.

The Braves were looking at a possible power replacing outfielder in Cuban, Yasmani Tomas but he chose to sign with Arizona so the Braves elected to take a look at Dian Toscano, a lesser known Cuban that sounds like more of a contact hitter then a big power threat like the most recent Cubans who have come over of late. It is looking like one of John Hart’s objectives is to move the identity of the team to a more contact oriented lineup. Power is a great thing and can prove to be imposing but if you are striking out more often then not it can’t help but hurt the teams ability to manufacture runs. Good pitching can stifle big power and when that is not there you need to be able to put the ball in play and that is something the Braves struggled with down the stretch last season The team has also obtained the services of former A’s infielder Alberto Callaspo as a 2nd base option.

The Braves are still thin on a starting rotation that has only 4 members thus far. Depending on what other trades or other moves are made, pitching will be a major point of focus for the team. When you think of The Braves, people still tend to remember the good ol’ days of Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz being the backbone of the team. With the quality of arms that are in the NL East already the Braves will need to bolster their arms and offence if they hope to compete.

All eyes will still be on Atlanta and GM John Hart as there are still a number of moving pieces that need to be resolved, either via Free Agency or by trade. And the waiting game continues...