Guest Writer, Andy Simms, @ChattanoogaRage
The Front Office tells us “Move along, nothing to see here..”
Being a Braves fan is challenging. After 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005, “America’s Team” has fallen on hard times, much of it self-inflicted by a GM who was just trying to sustain success at all costs. That cost ended up being our once proud farm system, and with our foundation in shambles the Braves faded into obscurity. Finally in 2015 Braves leadership found what they had been searching for: the self-destruct button. John Coppollela was hired to replace the scape-goat Frank Wren, and thus began the Great Depression of 2015, characterized by trade after trade of established Major League talent for prospects and signing of high profile International Free Agent classes. The Great Braves Depression culminated at the end of the 2017 season with “Coppy” being fired for numerous MLB infractions and being banned from baseball. Atlanta had finally found its rock bottom, plummeting from the highest heights of MLB success and landing with a resounding thud.
All of that sounds terrible, and you’re right, it’s terrible. There is no way to sugar-coat it. We lost all of those high profile IFA’s, had further sanctions preventing us from taking advantage of future IFA signing periods, and even got tagged with the loss of a draft pick. Even with all of that, somehow the Braves managed to will themselves out of the enormous pit they created. Fortunately MLB did not find any reason to empty our farm system while they were pilfering our international signees, so our minor league system, once in utter ruin, was regarded as one of the top 3 in all of baseball. Somehow they managed to lure a GM with actual MLB experience to oversee the organizational rebuild, naming Alex Anthopoulos as President of Baseball Operations. Even with all the chaos, incredibly the Braves managed to put together a team that returned hope to the masses and delivered the first Divisional Championship since 2013 and only the second since the string of 14 straight ended in 2005.
So here we are, basking in the glow of the destruction of the Nationals, the embarrassment of the Mets, and the disappointment of the Phillies, and anticipating the brilliant moves that our new GM/PBO will make to keep the Braves on top of the East. Make no mistake, Alex Anthopoulos delivered in a big way to start the season:
This was followed almost immediately by another announcement regarding our catching situation:
Brian McCann is coming home. McCann and the Braves have reached an agreement. Contract specifics have not been revealed.—
Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) November 26, 2018
Ok, here we go! Anthopoulos, affectionately known in Braves Country as “AA,” was getting serious about this rebuild thing being over. In fact, during the introduction of Josh Donaldson, AA announced exactly that:
Grant McAuley (@grantmcauley) November 27, 2018
Then the Winter Meetings happened, and fans of the Braves found themselves still on the roller coaster that they had been riding since the end of “the string” back in ’05. The events that followed the announcement of Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann were disheartening. The Nationals signed Patrick Corbin, Kurt Suzuki, Trevor Rosenthal, and traded for Yan Gomes. The Mets traded for Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz, resigned Jeurys Familia, and signed free agent catcher Wilson Ramos. The Phillies traded for Jean Segura, Juan Nicasio and Jose Alvarez while signing Andrew McCutcheon to a free agent deal. On top of all that you have rumors of the Phillies chasing after free agent blockbusters Bryce Harper and Manny Machado and possibly adding Dallas Keuchel and/or Craig Kimbrel. So what have the Braves done to answer these moves by their division rivals? Nothing. Even worse than nothing, they have gone out of their way to refute every rumored free agent connection or trade talk that has been proposed by the media.
Craig Mish, Sirius Radio host in Miami, has been linking the Braves to a blockbuster deal for star catcher J.T. Realmuto for the better part of the last week. Designated rumor killer Mark Bowman was quick to dispell that rumor this week. In fact, that has been Bowman’s favorite pasttime since the Winter Meetings began:
Nothing has changed with the Braves regarding Dallas Keuchel. They have not had any discussions regarding Keuchel.—
Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) December 10, 2018
Teams have asked, but the Braves have made it clear they will not be trading Foltynewicz—
Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) December 10, 2018
So naturally, fans would ask, what exactly IS the plan. All we’ve been told is what we aren’t doing. Heading into the Winter Meetings Anthopoulos gave us plenty of warning, stating that he rarely does actual business during that session due to the chaotic atmosphere and that he was more likely not to make a move than he was to make one. He lived up to that by going so far as to leave the meetings on Wednesday to fly to Denver for a routine budget meeting with Liberty Media instead of engaging in further talks with GM’s or agents. He left Perry Minasian, assistant GM, to handle the media session on Wednesday and the Rule 5 draft on Thursday. In that media session we were told that we had no offers out to any free agents and had no trade talks with any momentum.
This is why being a Braves fan is so frustrating right now. We have a team that just won the National League East, spent most of 2018 trying to free up money for THIS offseason, and we are returning almost all of our impact players from last year. This should be a very exciting time for us right now, but instead we know absolutely nothing about how we will compete in 2019. AA is known to be extremely tight-lipped about pending deals, which only adds to the frustration. Oh, and Spring Training starts in 8 weeks.
So if we don’t know what the plan is, what do we know? We know that our current projected rotation of Foltynewicz, Newcomb, Gausman, Teheran and Soroka are no match for the other teams in the East (excepting, of course, the Marlins). We know that we have only three outfielders on our 40 man roster right now. Typically teams carry a minimum of four plus an emergency guy on their active roster, and right now the 2017 World Series Champion Houston Astros have 8 on their 40 man. We know that our bullpen was one of the worst groupings in the National League last year and the only addition we have made is activating Darren O’Day from the disabled list. We know that the joke that was our bench last season has improved from a utility standpoint by adding Camargo to it, but from a late inning threat perspective we have seen no improvement. So what we know is that we have quite a few holes to fill in those 8 weeks between now and February 13th when pitchers and catchers report to Orlando.
Alex Anthopoulos is preaching patience. The beat writers are preaching patience. Brian Snitker is preaching patience. Braves Country, however, has a message of their own for the Atlanta Front Office: we’ve had patience the past three seasons, now we have EXPECTATIONS.
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