Posts Tagged ‘New York Yankees

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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08
Dec
09

Soriano stuns Braves, accepts arbitration offer

Rafael Soriano

The Braves thought free agent reliever Rafael Soriano’s agent Peter Greenberg was bluffing over the weekend when he claimed his client was seriously considering accepting Atlanta’s arbitration offer by Monday’s midnight deadline.

Turns out he wasn’t.

Soriano chose to take arbitration and return to the Braves on a one-year deal that could net him between $7 and $8 million in 2010.

The decision to accept a one-year, non-guaranteed arbitration offer over exploring free agent offers that could have landed Soriano a multi-year deal came as quite the surprise to Atlanta.

The Braves were almost certain that Soriano, along with Mike Gonzalez, two of the highest ranked free agent relievers, would decline the team’s arbitration offers, and as a result the Braves would receive two compensatory draft picks for each when they departed.

Gonzalez, a Scott Boras client, declined as expected but Soriano’s decision to take the Braves’ offer shows he wasn’t garnering the type of attention on the free agent market that he had hoped for.

His agent spoke with the New York Yankees and Houston Astros before announcing Soriano’s decision late Monday night, but didn’t receive indication that his client would be better off declining arbitration and continuing talks with these clubs about a suitable multi-year offer.

The Braves, who with the off-season additions of Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito, had already replaced Soriano at the back end of their bullpen and seemingly do not have the money in their budget to afford to keep him as a high priced middle reliever next season.

Even though retaining Soriano would give the Braves arguably one of the deepest bullpen’s in all of baseball, the club will now look to deal the right-hander, once they receive permission from him to do so.

Atlanta believes Soriano will give them the go-ahead to trade him by the June 15 deadline once he receives word of his diminished role with the club if he were to remain with the Braves in 2010.

GM Frank Wren hadn’t anticipated having to deal with this headache, but has said that Soriano’s decision to accept arbitration will not deter the Braves from following through with the rest of their offseason plans.

Wren will continue to be aggressive in his pursuit of a right-handed bat and believes having a new bargaining chip in Soriano only enhances the team’s options and ability to make trades this winter.

While Soriano’s surprising decision to return to the Braves was the biggest news for the club from the first day of the Major League Baseball winter meetings in Indianapolis, other developments have the team actively shopping 2B Kelly Johnson and RHP Derek Lowe.

The Braves have reported heavy interest in Kelly Johnson from multiple other clubs and also now have reason to believe they will be able to move Lowe and the majority of his high-priced contract this winter.

Atlanta has let it be known they may be willing to eat a portion of Lowe’s salary, which has made him more attractive to potential suitors, but have been led to believe that once John Lackey signs, interest in Lowe will only heat up.

The club looks to continue talks about both of those players, as well as continuing its search for a power bat, as the meetings continue this week.

04
Aug
09

Frank Wren… good for the Braves?

Braves General Manager Frank Wren

Braves General Manager Frank Wren

If there’s one thing for certain that Frank Wren has done for the Braves, it is he has gotten fans talking again.

Braves fans have often gained the reputation, fairly or unfairly, of being indifferent and not vocal.

Chalk it up to the unprecedented success that the team enjoyed in the 1990’s, or to the fact that the fans had grown accustomed to former General Manager John Schuerholz’s operations over the years.

Saavy. Professional. Tight-lipped.

Brilliant.

So, whether you are pro or anti-Wren and his personnel decisions, there is no question that the man had impossible shoes to fill.

Legendary shoes.

John Schuerholz was a visionary. A true architect who knew exactly the type of team he wanted to assemble.

He originated and then solidified the Atlanta Braves blueprint that turned a fumbling franchise into an iconic one.

Schuerholz targeted the same type of personalities and looked for a certain make-up in every player. He would never sign or trade for a player who he didn’t feel could fit into Bobby Cox’s clubhouse.

No egos. No attitudes. No drama.

The Atlanta Braves became a well-oiled machine, run with the utmost class and professionalism

Schuerholz’s model worked with precision. Under him, the Braves won fourteen consecutive division titles and a World Championship.

He stressed the importance of developing a strong farm system and as a result the Braves saw many homegrown products come up within the organization and become superstars.

So, the day Schuerholz announced he was leaving his duties as Braves General Manager and taking the reigns as president of the club, many were worried about who would be his successor, and how he would fare.

Enter Frank Wren.

Wren served as Assistant General Manager to John Schuerholz for almost eight years.

Fans had hoped for a seamless transition, assuming Schuerholz’s style and technique would carry over to Wren.

However, Wren’s early tenure as Braves GM has been met with very mixed reviews, and often a great deal of criticism.

Wren lost out on some prominent free agents this past off-season.

He failed to complete a trade for then-Padres ace Jake Peavy and then let A.J. Burnett slip through his fingers and sign with the New York Yankees.

Shortly thereafter, it was reported that Wren had come to terms with former Brave and fan favorite, Rafael Furcal. It turned ugly fast when Furcal apparently reneged on the deal and ended up re-signing with Los Angeles.

The Furcal saga humiliated the organization and Wren felt the brunt of the heat.

But, it didn’t end there.

Wren was then vilified in the media for his decision to let Braves icon John Smoltz leave the organization and sign with Boston and for releasing 300-game winner and 1995 World Series MVP Tom Glavine.

Two Braves legends were shown the door and both accused the Braves of handling the situation poorly and for being unprofessional.

Unprofessional and the Braves? These were two words that were never synonymous with each other.

So, the whispers began… John Schuerholz would never let this happen on his watch.

The witch hunt for Wren began to gain steam.

The Braves were all over the media, and getting negative publicity. Even Braves players, specifically Chipper Jones, were also critical of the organization’s handling of these personnel matters.

Wren appeared to be a marked man.

Yet, despite the controversy that surrounded these moves, Wren had quietly assembled a contending team on the field.

After losing out on Peavy and Burnett, he spent the off-season feverishly rebuilding a starting rotation that was plagued with injuries in 2008.

And, his acquisitions of Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez and Kenshin Kawakami have thus far paid dividends.

Wren addressed the team’s offensive woes by aggressively pursuing a bat –Nate McLouth– and acquiring him earlier then many expected this season.

He wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a Jeff Francoeur trade, signaling the end of the underachieving but talented right fielder’s time with Atlanta.

Then, on deadline day, he added another bat in Adam LaRoche, attempting to improve the team’s power at first base heading into the stretch drive.

As a result, Wren has rebuilt a team that had lost 90 games last season and has put them back on the map and in a position to make a run at a playoff berth.

How can one not be impressed by his tireless effort, dedication and desire to make the Braves relevant again — and to bring them back on top?

Right or wrong, the debate about Frank Wren will surely rage on as the season winds down.

Regardless of what side of the fence you stand on, I think there’s one thing about Wren all Braves fans have to learn to accept.

He is not John Schuerholz.

He never will be.

And, it is not fair to compare him to a man that has done and could do no wrong in the eyes of Braves Nation.

Wren is a different personality.

Fiery. Risky. Vocal.

And, not quite nostalgic.

The team has a different leader now, with a different voice and a different style.

Whether he’s the popular choice or not, and more importantly, his longevity with the team, will ultimately be determined by how his team fares in the end.

If the Braves become winners again… Wren will become the toast of the town.

01
Jul
09

Escobar the Enigma

Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar

Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar

What in the world is going on with Yunel Escobar?

That is the burning question and water cooler talk surrounding BravesNation these days.

Escobar, while infinitely talented, needs an attitude adjustment. And, fast.

The Braves young shortstop, who has displayed immature behavior and has often ruffled feathers within the organization, has most recently infuriated team brass and manager Bobby Cox for an unprofessional antic that occurred during the team’s interleague series with the New York Yankees.

After being charged by the official scorer with one of his two errors in a game against the Bronx Bombers, Escobar pointed to the press box and was caught by cameras mouthing an obscenity. After the scoring decision, Escobar looked lackadaisical in the field and appeared out of position for the rest of the inning.

Not surprisingly, Escobar was benched in the series that followed against the Boston Red Sox.

What’s most disconcerning is this is not the first time Cox has had to sit his talented shortshop. Escobar was benched after committing not one but two careless plays that proved costly in a Braves 11-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles in mid-June.

As Braves fans know, Bobby Cox does not tolerate such behavior. No one player, no matter how much potential he possesses, is bigger than the team. Bobby may be a player’s manager but he has one rule in which he stresses and always strictly enforces and that is the art of professionalism.

While Cox stated Escobar’s most recent benching was due to “injury,” and Escobar was sidelined early his season with a strained hip flexor, many believe the manager was also sending a message to his shortstop, similarly to the way he handled a young Andruw Jones’ cocky behavior during the former center fielder’s early tenure with the Braves.

However, no lesson appears to be learned as the Escobar saga is only escalating.

Bobby Cox had his enigmatic shortstop penciled in Tuesday’s series opening line-up against the first place Philadelphia Phillies before Escobar told a trainer during batting practice that his hip was still sore and he was not ready to play. While Escobar did tweak his hip again in mid-June, this latest bout of soreness has kept him out of four consecutive games.

Suspicious timing, to say the least.

I’m not claiming Escobar is faking his injury, by any means. I do believe the Braves shortstop when he says his hip is bothering him. However, I do feel by milking the injury the way he has and causing a media firestorm as a result, that he is trying to even the score with his manager. Escobar is very hard-headed and strong-willed and there is an obvious bitterness that remains between himself and Cox.

So the question that needs answering is this: Do the Braves remain patient with Escobar in hopes that he eventually learns the brutal lesson that Andruw Jones once learned? Or, is it time for the team to wash their hands of this headache, knowing they would also be giving away a great talent?

It’s not an easy answer and there are sure to be consequences either way.

The only thing I know is this: The Braves don’t stand for distractions or egos. And, if I had to put my money on it, whether it is now or down the line, I don’t think Yunel Escobar has a long-term future with the Bravos.




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