Friday, March 16, 2012

Offseason Review: Atlanta Braves

Young Jason Heyward hopes to bounce back after a down 2011 season
The Braves have been perennially competitive for the past several years, having not endured a losing season since 2008. Last year Atlanta missed the playoffs by a heartbreakingly small and fluke fashioned margin. The Braves have many of the pieces in place to be competitive again this season and, barring markedly slow seasons by the likes of players like Jason Heyward and Brian McCann, they are definitely in the discussion for playoff potential. Given their relatively sturdy situation, Atlanta's front office was pretty quiet this offseason. That doesn't mean that units won't be moved as the season goes on.
Atlanta is a pretty thoroughly talented team at the major league level, so much so that quality names like Jair Jurrjens Martin Prado and Mike Minor found themselves in the trade rumor mill. Nothing transpired with those two names, but Derek Lowe did find himself in a new uniform after being traded to Cleveland for left handed reliever Chris Jones. That was pretty much the only noteworthy move of the the offseason, but the names that were circulated give credence to the notion that major moves are still in the line of sight for the Braves.
Rumored trade candidate Jair Jurrjens could catch a haul for Atlanta.
Atlanta is on the smaller side of the medium market teams which means contract strategy can't be enacted recklessly. If the team wishes to succeed, it would be a good idea to retain the basic model the Braves have been working with. There is definitely a healthy and realistic optimism surrounding young players like Jason Heyward and Randall Delgado, but for a team to compete legitimately it would be reasonable to want to keep veteran presence. There are rational trade pieces on both ends of that spectrum, and if the Braves want to stay on top of an increasingly competitive division they'll have to prepare for circumstances affecting those ends. If Chipper Jones proves too old continue playing Atlanta may want to consider trading a younger player for his replacement, if Jason Heyward continues his decline, they may want to keep a vet around for his experienced bat.
Future first ballot HOFer Chipper Jones is rumored to be considering retirement.
My guess is that the Braves do well, finishing second in their division behind the Phillies and lock up one of the wild card spots. That in mind, I'd be shocked if some of the trade activity that was rumored this offseason didn't save itself until July.

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