The Waiting Game
As we wait to see how this offseason’s chess match will unfold, let’s go back to this time last year, when you were exhausting your refresh buttons with the hope of learning that the Braves had acquired Jake Peavy.
One year later, many, if not all, of you are rejoicing that fact that Peavy didn’t feel that the future was very bright in Atlanta. Had the Alabama native chosen to waive his no-trade clause to play closer to home, the Braves would have lost Yunel Escobar and likely the comfort to once again dig into their organizational depth to acquire Javier Vazquez in early December.
This topic has been debated many times and I present it only to set up the consequences of the waiting game that clubs experience during these early days and weeks of the offseason.
While waiting to see if Peavy would provide the Padres the OK to attempt to send him to Atlanta, the Braves held off on their attempt to obtain Nick Swisher from the White Sox. The Yankees acquired Swisher on Nov. 13 and 24 hours later, Braves GM Frank Wren revealed that he was no longer actively pursuing Peavy.
As the Braves saw their left fielders combine to hit .270 with 17 homers, 70 RBIs and a .725 OPS this year, Swisher was hitting .249 with 29 homers, 82 RBIs and an .869 OPS for the world champions.
(I used the left fielders as the comparative point because I would assume that Swisher would have started the season there while Jeff Francoeur maintained his position in right field).
Had the Braves been able to get Swisher in the same deal that brought Vazquez to Atlanta, there’s no guarantee that the Braves would have improved their fate. But they wouldn’t currently find themselves potentially looking for an outfielder during a second consecutive offseason.
If Swisher had joined the Braves, it’s hard to tell how the rest of the offseason might have unfolded. Along those lines, maybe his presence would have prevented the Braves from making the Nate McLouth midseason acquisition that still has a chance to prove very profitable.
While we don’t know this for sure, we certainly realize that everything that occurs in November and December has an effect on what transpires between the first weeks of April and November. And with that one sentence we’ve once again proven that instead of referring to this current period as “the offseason” it would be more appropriately be called “the non-playing season”.
We’ve long known that the Braves are going to end up trading either Derek Lowe or Javier Vazquez. Based on what happens to John Lackey, we’ll gain a better sense about where the Braves might send either of these two right-handers.
As the top available free-agent starting pitcher Lackey will command interest from those same clubs that would be financially-capable and willing to assume the $45 million cost that Lowe will bring over the course of the next three seasons.
Early indications are the Braves believe that the Yankees or Angels might be willing to deal for Lowe. Before doing this, the Yankees will make a run for the younger Lackey, whose financial demands will determine whether the Angels attempt to bring him back to continue his role as their ace.
If Lackey does exit Southern California, there is a belief that the Angels would then attempt to work a trade for the Blue Jays to acquire Roy Halladay, who will cost just $750,000 more than Lowe next year.
This obviously could further complicate things for the Braves, who are looking to move one of these starters to create the financial flexibility to take care of some of their other roster needs — first baseman, closer and outfielder.
So while the Braves would like the opportunity to keep Vazquez, they may find that they have to deal him before paying the consequences of the waiting game that will transpire as they wait to see whether there will be a team that is willing to trade for Lowe.
If the Braves are able to deal Lowe, then they are expected to begin seriously discussing the possibility of offering Vazquez an extension that would keep him in Atlanta beyond the 2010 season.
Vazquez found a comfort zone in Atlanta and he has made it known multiple times that he doesn’t want to be traded. But for now, like the rest of us, he finds himself simply playing the waiting game.
Hudson update: Speaking of waiting games, it looks like the Braves will finally be able to announce Tim Hudson’s three-year extension before Thursday concludes. Just to play it safe, let’s just assume that I meant tomorrow or any other remaining Thursday during this calendar year.
McDowell has high praise for Wallace: As you likely read yesterday, Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell is a big fan of Dave Wallace, who was recently hired as the club’s Minor League pitching coordinator. McDowell met Wallace during the early 1990s and has the highly-respected pitching guru for giving him his first shot at being a pitching coach at the professional level.
You can’t discount the fact that McDowell and Wallace share a history and more importantly many of the same beliefs about pitching. Too many young pitchers have recently arrived in Atlanta and shown that they haven’t yet received the proper development at the Minor League level.
This should change under the leadership of Wallace, who will be able to provide the Braves young pitchers with many of the same beliefs and philosophies that he’s shared and gathered during his many conversations with his close friend Sandy Koufax.
“We have a history and I think for a lack of a better word he’s ‘the best’,” McDowell said on Tuesday “He’ll make the kids better and I think he’ll make the coaches better. The body of work that he’s had under him speaks for itself. Dave is as quality as you get.”
McCann’s event: If you want to do something other than watch West Virginia beat Cincinnati on Friday night, you should head down to Georgia Tech’s Russ Chandler Stadium to see Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Tim Hudson, Kelly Johnson and Leo Mazzone participate in the inaugural Brian McCann Rally Softball Game.
With the help of Delta Air Lines, McCann has been able to organize this event which aids the Rally Foundation in its fight to find better cures and treatments for children battling cancer. First pitch is set for 7:35 p.m. ET and a home run derby will begin at 7 p.m.
Question to ponder: As I was leaving Yankee Stadium after Game 6 of the World Series last week, a Japanese reporter approached me and told me how excited they were that Hideki Matsui had just been named the World Series MVP.
In fact, he said that he and many of the other members of the Japanese felt that this honor was bigger than the accomplishment that Ichiro Suzuki achieved in 2004, when he recorded a record 262 hits.
Needless to say, I’m going to have to say I view Ichiro’s season-long accomplishment to be a bigger deal. What is your view?