I Solved the Braves.

Most
of the folks who read this site couldn’t care less about baseball, but
some do and I’d like to think that a select few are the kind of people
who I’d love to have a drink with and bullshit about the sport all
night long. I’m thrilled this time of year, because all of the big
magazines and books come out for the upcoming season, whether it be the
new Athlon Sports, Lindy’s, or the tome of all goodness… the Baseball
Prospectus. I am ravenous for the stuff and have paid almost fanatical
daily attention to the trade market, the free agency market, and
whatever else is out there for fans of the best sport ever.

The
Braves have gone from having a truly terrible offseason to positioning
themselves to once again be a formidable playoff threat. They aren’t
there yet, but they’re close.

And I have the solution.

But first, my take on what has happened thus far:

John Smoltz.
I love John Smoltz. Extremely much so, as he’s been a horse and a
champion player for so long it’s weird to consider a time when his
beard isn’t on the mound here in Atlanta. This year I think Mr. Smoltz
dropped the ball twice. Once, when he acquired the Barnacles restaurant
and closed the location I had been frequenting (very frequently) since
the day it opened four years ago. It was a tragic bit of news. Then,
when he left the Braves for the Red Sox. I don’t mind that he left. I’m
glad he did. Actually, I wish he’d have retired but that’s simply a
matter of wanting him to finish his career in the only town he’s played
in. He’s still got a chance to be great so I’m proud for him, but the
Braves needed to get younger and healthier, and nothing against the
man, he didn’t represent that. In a perfect world he’d have stayed and
been the fifth cog in the Braves’ rotation but it wasn’t realistic. I
love him, will miss him, and at the same time look forward to the new
look Braves.

A.J. Burnett. I
wanted him here. He has “stuff” nearly as good as Smoltz. He has better
stuff than most of the pitchers out there, but there are concerns about
his ability to stay healthy and his headspace when it comes to
competing and winning. He probably would have become a four-letter word
here due to his numerous DL stints… but there’s no denying what a
strikeout maven he’d have been here and how electric it’d be to see him
mowing down batters at Turner Field. It wasn’t meant to be and it’s
obvious that he played the Braves like a piano. He never wanted to come
here. Luckily, I get my cake and eat it too since my two teams are the
Braves and the Yankees, the team that paid his exhorbitant fee.

Jake Peavy.
I hate this guy now. Here’s a guy who, aside from the many injury fears
there are due to his violent delivery and track record, has the stuff
to be a Cy Young candidate every year. Yeah, he pitches half his games
in the ball-squashing confines of Petco Park, but he’s no slouch
anywhere. This guy has a no-trade clause and was only willing to waive
it for a few teams. The Braves got real close, closer than anyone to
getting him and he nixed it. Or the Braves gave up trying. Or something
else. Chipper Jones has been very vocal this offseason, saying that if
Peavy truly wanted to be a Brave, he’d be a Brave. He was concerned
that by trading Yunel Escobar and others for him, the team wouldn’t be
competetive enough to win. Bullshit. You add Jake Peavy to a staff that
is being rebuilt to win on a team that needs a rebound from its right
fielder and a few more little pieces to be a contender and you have a
potential juggernaut. His will to win? I question it.
Peavy/Jurrjens/Vasquez/Kawakami/WHOEVER would be dangerous. He flaked
and I personally hope he never gets a ring with his deep passion for
winning and all.

Rafael Furcal.
Doesn’t bother me at all, though the WAY IT HAPPENED was asinine. The
player’s union in baseball already has too much power, it’s horrible to
see agents playing both sides against each other to the point where bad
business is being conducted. A team like the Braves would never move
forward on an offer sheet with the terms agreed upon without an
understanding in place, so I truly think that the slimy agents of the
shortstop broke a rule of baseball policy here. That said, I don’t much
care because I think Yunel Escobar will probably be a better play to
have over the next 3-4 years, and if they trade him for a slugger or
ace pitcher, I’ll take Omar Infante as my stopgap, provided the person
they trade Yunel for is as much a game changer as a Jermaine Dye or
Jake Peavy type could possibly be. But not Jermaine Dye please. No
Jermaine Dye. NO!

Derek Lowe.
A great pickup. They overpaid, but after Mike Hampton, Albie Lopez, and
countless other bad contracts, he’s a cherub on a cloud of bottomless
candy ATMs. Not a legit ace of the staff but a great horse that will
eat inning and win games. Not a sexy choice, but a good one. I think
he’ll end up being a very good anchor for a blue-collar but strong
rotation.

Kenshin Kawakami. I’ve
watched a lot of his stuff on YouTube and trust the scouts of the
Braves and the coaching staff. He’s going to be a good middle to back
of the rotation guy, exciting to watch, and someone who will have a lot
more in common with Daisuke Matsuzaka than Kei Igawa when it comes to
impact. A good pick-up and I’m anxious to see a little more global
awareness for a team that has oftentimes been a little too whitebread
for its own good.

Javier Vasquez. Color
me a jerk but I think this guy is going to excel in Atlanta. To the
point where he’s the #1 to Lowe’s #2. Either way, he’s always been a
good pitcher, though sometimes saddled with the absolute wrong teams
for his skills. And that Ozzie Guillen hates him doesn’t bother me at
all. I dig Ozzie, but he’s crazy.

My
proposal for the Braves’ massive hole in left field and their lineup in
general is simple. It’ll cost them another 10 million a year I bet,
maybe a little more but something that will reap massive dividends,
especially next year when the Jason Heywards, Tommy Hansons, and Jordan
Schafer’s of the world rise up (though I think Jordan’ll be traded).

Note: My ideal choice is Adam Dunn but it ain’t happening.

Sign
Orlando Hudson. Move Kelly Johnson to left. SOLVED. I have no doubts
that Jeff Francoeur is a better player than he was last year and if
anchored in a lineup that allows him to go .260/25/90 he’ll excel.

Orlando
Hudson makes the Braves infield nearly airtight, gives them a .290-.300
hitter who’ll hit 10 homers and steal 10 bases and provide the pitching
staff with reliability that the plays will be made behind them. Nothing
against Kelly Johnson, but he’s inconsistent at best as an infielder.
Here’s my lineup and my projections for their seasons, provided they
all stay reasonably healthy:

1. Josh Anderson/Gregor Blanco platoon (.275/5/50)
2. Orlando Hudson (.300/10/60)
3. Chipper Jones (.310/25/85)
4. Brian McCann (.320/30/100)
5. Kelly Johnson (.275/20/80)
6. Yunel Escobar (.290/18/70)
7. Jeff Francoeur (.260/20/75)
8. Casey Kotchman (.265/15/60)

With this pitching staff:

1. Derek Lowe
2. Javier Vasquez
3. Jair Jurrjens
4. Kenshin Kawakami
5. Jorge Campillo/Tom Glavine

Peter Moylan and Rafael Soriano as the 7th and 8th inning guys.
Mike Gonzalez as the closer.

That’s a 90+ win team. And yes, I am a homer.

Still,
I am really close to renewing my season tickets based on how the Braves
manage… one… more… acquisition. I’ll take Nady or Swisher, would
cream my jeans for Adam Dunn… but Orlando Hudson seems to embody what
the front office loves, what the team needs, and what’ll allow Kelly
Johnson to evolve into the kind of player that earns him a lot of love
and money in this difficult town.

We’ll see.

Today’s Moments:

  • My mom obliterated us in poker. Obliterated.

  • How do you guys feel about the name Isabella for a girl? I always thought it’d be cool to call a little chick Izzy.

  • The Alec Bradley Traditional may be my favorite cigar now.

  • I do not have a rotator cuff injury. I have an impingement,
    and have had one for almost ten years. It’s why my throwing arm went
    from legendary to asshole in one easy step. I may be back to myself by
    March, but it ain’t gonna be a fun ride…

  • Looks like I’ll be in LA the first week of February. Let us partake, locals.