Posts Tagged ‘Atlanta Journal-Constitution

08
Dec
10

Frank Wren dazzles with Dan Uggla acquisition

During my hiatus on this site, the Atlanta Braves surged to their first postseason appearance in five years — winning the 2010 National League Wild Card — and endured the subsequent retirement of venerable skipper Bobby Cox. It’s safe to say the Braves were anything but idle during my absence.

While the hot stove is now burning for most Major League teams at this year’s Winter Meetings, the Braves have already settled most of their offseason business after landing Dan Uggla from the Florida Marlins. The slugging second baseman fills Atlanta’s most pressing need — a right-handed, middle-of-the-order power bat to help balance out a predominantly left-handed lineup.

Braves General Manager Frank Wren set the tone for this offseason’s inevitable flurry of deals, pulling off one of the shrewdest moves so far this winter on Nov. 16. Wren coerced Uggla — a free agent at the end of the 2011 season — away from the division rival Marlins by only relinquishing super utilityman Omar Infante and left-handed reliever Mike Dunn in return. The Fish balked at Uggla’s demands of a five-year, $71-million dollar contract extension thus sparking the trade.

Uggla, 30, is a two-time All-Star and the 2010 National League Silver Slugger recipient at second base. He hit .287 with 33 HRs and 105 RBI last season.

To put into context what Uggla’s bat means to Atlanta’s restructured lineup: After entering the league in 2006, Uggla’s 154 home runs are second to only Albert Pujols’ 207 among National League right-handed hitters during that span.

More impressively, Wren was creative in his approach of finding the Braves’ new masher.

Seemingly entrenched at second base for Atlanta was All-Star Martin Prado, who is recovering from a hip pointer injury this offseason. With the exception of Jason Heyward, the NL’s Rookie of the Year runner-up, the 2010 Braves sported a rather inferior, patchwork outfield consisting of Matt Diaz, Eric Hinske, Nate McLouth, Melky Cabrera and Rick Ankiel. With Cabrera, Ankiel and Diaz all gone and Hinske re-signed as the team’s primary pinch-hitter, it was assumed a bat would be acquired to bolster the outfield corps.

Instead, Wren found the best available right-handed bat — in the form of Uggla — and traded for him, before announcing Prado would move to the outfield. A rather savvy move indeed, considering Prado’s past history playing left field in winter ball leagues.

Now, with Wren’s move being lauded among fellow GM’s and baseball personnel, the only question remaining is: When will the Braves begin talking contact extension with their new slugger?

According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, chatter emerging from the Winter Meetings yesterday suggest that the Braves anticipate opening such dialogue with Uggla and agent Terry Bross soon.

While Uggla stands to earn in the neighborhood of $10 million in arbitration in 2011 before becoming a free agent, Atlanta hopes to ink the Columbia, Tenn. native to a multi-year deal sooner rather than later.

With familiar ties to new manager Fredi Gonzalez — having played under him in Florida — and growing up a Braves fan with his family and friends now able to travel a shorter distance to watch him play, Uggla seems to have a strong desire to work out a long-term deal with Atlanta, too.

It appears to be a perfect match for both sides, but only time will tell if and when Uggla decides to sign.

In the meantime, for the Atlanta Braves and their gritty second baseman, the future is now.

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29
Apr
10

A call for action to Frank Wren…is he the problem?

Frank Wren is preaching patience…but is anyone listening?

The Atlanta Braves have missed the playoffs for four consecutive seasons.

In his reign at the helm of the Braves, Wren is 0-3 for his efforts.

So, in effect, he’s batting .000 as general manager.

That number looks comparable to the number of wins the Braves have mustered in the past eight days…a bunch of zeroes.

Maybe that’s why Wren has some sympathy for his punchless offense and underachieving team that now has the second-worst record in baseball—a far cry from the preseason playoff predictions many had for this club.

Wren offers this analogy to Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Braves have only completed one-eighth of the season. He contends that if this were football, the Braves losing streak would be equivalent to the Falcons dropping two in a row.

Wren argues the Braves have the luxury of time.

Truth is, however, they don’t.

While every team suffers through slumps and hitting droughts over the course of the year, the difference here is this Braves team as constructed has crippling issues that need to be addressed now by their general manager.

This is a call of action to Frank Wren.

But, instead, Wren has turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to the Braves’ woes.

As Schultz pointed out in his article, unlike Wren, his predecessor John Schuerholz earned his team, city and entire fan base’s unwavering confidence and support.

Schuerholz never panicked, but he also knew when his team needed fixing.

Oh, and he also built winners.

While Wren has yet to lead Atlanta to the promise land, Schuerholz was the brilliant constructor of fourteen consecutive division championship squads.

Those are the kind of results that illicit patience.

In contrast, Wren continues to ignore the glaring hole in the leadoff spot and the lack of production from first base and the outfield.

These are the same issues he chose to ignore in the offseason.

With that being said, what warrants giving Wren the benefit of the doubt?

In the last eight games, the Braves have scored 13 runs and have been shut out three times.

Wren contests he has the payroll flexibility to make a move but isn’t looking to do so now.

He claims general managers start assessing the construction of their team around the “quarter poll.”

He targets Mid-May as the time that GM’s begin to get a sense of where there club is and June 1 as the time when decisions start getting made.

The Braves are 8-13 and mired in an eight-game losing streak that stands as the team’s longest since 2006.

If that doesn’t signal the need for immediate action, I don’t know what does.

For Wren’s sake, come June 1, let’s hope his patience was truly a virtue.

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10
Feb
10

Braves offer Damon one-year deferred contract

Will Johnny Damon sign with Atlanta?

It seems the Braves interest in Johnny Damon has increased.

According to an updated post on his blog, Atlanta Braves beat writer David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Braves have made the free agent outfielder an initial one-year offer in recent days.

Reports have varied on how much the Braves offer is believed to be worth.

O’Brien writes the team offered approximately $4.5 million with a portion of money deferred while Mark Bowman of MLB.com’s sources tell him the contract’s total value is under $4 million, including the deferred money.

This development comes the day after Damon sent a text message to the AJC telling them of his hope that the Braves would make a competitive offer for his services and that they are a team that is on the top of his list.

Damon enjoyed one of his best seasons for the Yankees last year, when he posted a .282 batting average, .365 on-base percentage, and matched a career high 24 home runs.

The club apparently is bringing out the big guns in their last ditch effort to land Damon.

The Braves recruited Chipper Jones to contact Damon to sell him on coming to Atlanta.

Chipper wouldn’t confirm that to O’Brien but did list the benefits of acquiring a player of Damon’s caliber.

It is Chipper’s belief that Damon deepens the Braves roster from top and bottom and would give the team invaluable experience in the clubhouse.

If the Braves sign Damon, he would likely play left field for Atlanta and bat first or possibly second in their lineup.

The addition of another proven run producer like Damon would instantly improve Atlanta’s playoff chances this season while also alleviating the pressure on rookie Jason Heyward to make the club out of Spring Training.

If Heyward wins a spot, the Braves could opt to deal Melky Cabrera or Matt Diaz, or they could break camp with an extra outfielder.

While there is a mutual interest between both parties, Damon’s agent Scott Boras is still seeking a two-year contract for his client and claims one team has made such an offer but denies to name the club.

The Braves, Tigers, and Rays are the remaining teams left that have some interest in signing Damon.




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