Posts Tagged ‘Arodys Vizcaino

18
Nov
11

Braves’ offseason full of questions… what’s next?

Will Prado return to the Braves in 2012?

The Braves franchise is known as an illustrious one — rich with accolades, adornment and achievement.

Surely, adding a colossal, historic collapse to their resume of excellence wasn’t part of their master plan. Before the 2011 season, a team who had an eight-game lead for a postseason berth in early September has never missed the playoffs. Luckily for Atlanta, Boston suffered the same unfortunate fate this year and shared a good portion of the criticism and ridicule by fans and media alike.

Needless to say, the Braves’ failure to secure a playoff spot left a black mark on their legacy and a sour, bitter taste in the mouths of management, players, coaches and fans.

So, what’s next for Atlanta?

How does this team respond after such a traumatic, abrupt end to their 2011 season?

They fire their hitting coach, of course.

But all joking aside, that was 100% the right move — the only move — for the Braves to make whether the team made the playoffs or not.

Larry Parrish was not the right voice for these Braves hitters. While widely respected around the league for being a great baseball man, Parrish and his players suffered from a disconnect and lack of communication that couldn’t be bridged.

The popular sentiment around the league was that the Braves would turn to Triple-A Gwinnett hitting coach Jamie Dismuke to take over the reigns next season.

The majority of Braves sluggers, including Chipper Jones, endorsed Dismuke but the organization went an unconventional route.

Frank Wren hired not one but two men to tackle the job that Parrish had failed to master.

Wren tapped former White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker, as well as a former Colorado Rockies infield coordinator Scott Fletcher, in a newly created hybrid role of assistant hitting coach. The Braves believe this tandem will compliment each other well in an effort to improve the overall hitting philosophy within the team.

Walker comes highly recommend by slugger Paul Konerko for helping him to evolve into the hitter he is today.

Fletcher, meanwhile, will provide another set of eyes for Walker and is expected to work closely with Jason Heyward. While searching for their new hitting coach, the Braves emphasized the importance of finding a voice that could reach the struggling Heyward.

The “J-Hey Kid” is coming off a brutal sophomore slump of a season, but has surprising ties to his new assistant hitting coach. Fletcher has watched Heyward play since he was 12 years old — his son Brian, now in the Royals system, played youth ball with the Braves’ right fielder.

If Walker and Fletcher can serve as mentors to Heyward and help the fallen young star rediscover his stroke, the Braves’ offense will be substantially better in 2012.

Despite the team’s decision to fire Larry Parrish, the powers-that-be have made it clear that they are not panicking. There will be no fire sale this offseason. Management firmly believes they have the key pieces in place already to compete for a playoff spot next year.

It is important to remember that a big part of Atlanta’s struggles came down the stretch when the team’s exceptional pitching staff became unhinged. Officials are confident that Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens will return healthy next season.

The questions surrounding Jurrjens are not related to his health, however, but rather whether he will return to the Braves or not?

Speculation around the league and media fodder suggest that Jurrjens could be traded this offseason in an effort to improve Atlanta’s shoddy offense — they are seeking a power-hitting outfielder in any deal.

But, it would surely take an enticing package for the Braves to pull the trigger on a deal for Jurrjens because despite his injury-laden past, the right-hander is still young at age 25 and two years away from free agency. He would be quite valuable to many pitching hungry clubs.

While I’m sure the Braves would love to keep an arm like Jurrjens’ in the fold for the long-term, the reality of that is unlikely. Super agent Scott Boras, whose relationship with the Braves is acrimonious, represents Jurrjens and he will demand a hefty salary that the Braves will not pay.

And why should they?

Atlanta has never had a shortage of arms and this upcoming year is no different. The Braves tout a new crop of young, prized pitchers who could easily fill Jurrjens’ shoes, if the club does deem him expendable.

Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, Randall Delgado and Mike Minor have all gained experience at the Big League level due to the team’s rash of injuries last season — the lone upside during the Braves’ September slide. Kris Medlen also returned from Tommy John surgery late in the year and was effective in some high pressure situations.

The Braves felt so confident those guys will figure into the mix in 2012 that they dealt 38-year-old veteran hurler Derek Lowe to the Cleveland Indians.

This move was also a pure salary dump for Atlanta, who many believed would be stuck with Lowe’s entire contract in 2012. The Tribe absorbed $5 million of Lowe’s exorbitant $15 million dollar contract, giving the Braves some financial relief to sign a shortstop and pursue an outfielder.

For the second year in a row, Frank Wren entered the trade market early by dealing Derek Lowe. Last year, he acquired second baseman Dan Uggla from the Florida Marlins before the hot stove was even boiling.

The question that remains now is will the Braves stay relatively quiet for the duration of the offseason, like they did after trading for Uggla last year. Or, will they make a splash and deal Jurrjens and/or infielder turned left fielder Martin Prado?

Prado is the epitome of a super utility star. When the Braves gave him a chance to play everyday at second base in 2010, he thrived. But last season when the team moved him to left field to accommodate the Uggla trade, Prado and his production suffered.

At season’s end, a lot was made of Prado’s staph infection affecting his stroke and also rigorous Spring Training and early season pre-game workouts that might have burnt him out before the stretch run.

Will he get a chance to rebound in Atlanta or will it be elsewhere?

I think there’s a fairly good chance that Prado will get moved — a far greater likelihood than the team dealing Jurrjens, in my opinion.

However, I wouldn’t put too much stock into the Prado-for-Delmon Young rumors. The Braves don’t appear interested in Detroit’s Young and I don’t see Wren pulling the trigger on that deal straight-up. The Colorado Rockies are the newest team to express interest in Prado, but surely won’t be the last.

Still, Wren has expressed a willingness to listen to all offers this offseason — and who can blame him.

After last season’s heartbreaking conclusion, the Braves’ GM is exploring any and all ways he can ensure his team is never on the wrong side of history again.

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22
Dec
09

Braves deal Vazquez to Yanks for Melky Cabrera

New Brave Melky Cabrera

The Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees agreed on a deal sending SP Javier Vazquez and left-handed reliever Boone Logan to NYY for OF Melky Cabrera, rookie left-hander Mike Dunn and right-handed pitching prospect Arodys Vizcaino.

The Braves, who had an abundance of starting pitching, had hoped to retain Vazquez’s services and instead tried unsuccessfully for the past month to move veteran Derek Lowe.

But, in the end, they found no teams willing to take on Lowe’s hefty contract, which still had three years and $45 million remaining on the original four-year deal he signed with Atlanta last offseason.

The Yankees will pick up all of Vazquez’s $11.5 million salary for the 2010 season.

Vazquez, who will be eligible for free agency next winter, enjoyed a career year for Atlanta last season, going 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA and 238 strikeouts in 219 1/3 innings pitched.

While Vazquez proved to be a valuable asset to Atlanta’s rotation last year, the Braves felt comfortable enough with their depth at starting pitching to make this move in an effort to improve other areas of their club while also receiving increased financial flexibility.

The Braves rotation stood atop the National League last season with a 3.52 ERA.

Vazquez also had a no-trade clause to West Division teams which limited the pool of suitors Atlanta could engage in trade talks with about the right-hander.

Throughout his career, Vazquez has struggled in the American League, often proving to be much more effective with National League clubs.

This will be Vazquez’s second stint with the Yankees.

It comes as somewhat of a surprise that the Bronx Bombers would pursue Vazquez again.

He spent the 2004 season in pinstripes but posted an unimpressive 4.91 ERA in 32 starts with the club and was dropped from the postseason rotation.

In Cabrera, the Braves added a bat to their line-up but not the power hitter many had expected them to acquire.

In 2009, the 25-year-old switch-hitter posted a .274 average with 13 HR and 68 RBI in 154 games for the Yankees.

Cabrera, who primarily played center field for New York last season, has the versatility to play all three outfield spots and possesses a strong arm and provides solid defense.

With Nate McLouth expected to start in center for Atlanta next year, Cabrera is likely to begin spring training in right field for the Braves, barring another move.

The highlight of the deal for Atlanta comes in prospect Arodys Vizcaino.

Vizcaino, 19, was recently rated by Baseball America as the #3 prospect in the Yankees organization.

Last season, Vizcaino went 2-4 with a 2.13 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 10 starts at short-season Class A Staten Island.

The third player coming over to Atlanta in the deal for Vazquez is left-handed rookie reliever Mike Dunn.

In four appearances with the Yankees last season, Dunn posted an inflated 6.75 ERA.

However, the 24-year-old lefty went 4-3 with a 3.31 ERA while racking up 99 strikeouts in 73 1-3 innings in the minor leagues in 2009.

He also had two saves in 38 appearances in AA and AAA last season.

This move appears to be a pre-cursor for other moves for Atlanta.

ESPN.com reports that the Braves have freed up approximately $9 million dollars with this trade after subtracting Vazquez’s $11.5 million and adding on the estimated $3 million Cabrera will receive in arbitration this year plus figuring in the $500,000 the Braves will receive from the Yankees once this transaction is complete.

With the money saved in this deal, the Braves look to continue their pursuit of a power-hitting outfielder, first baseman or perhaps both.

Johnny Damon and Jason Bay were linked to Atlanta recently but both still figure to cost more than Atlanta is willing to spend.

The Braves may still opt to pursue free agent Xavier Nady, who could play the outfield or first base, and should come cheaply as he is recovering from his second Tommy John surgery.

Atlanta could also decide to make a trade involving an outfielder, maybe even the newly acquired Cabrera, for a better upgrade.

Dan Uggla remains a possibility for the Braves, who could shift him to first base, if needed.




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