Wren faced an unenviable challenge exiting the ’08 season

With Derek Lowe’s tenure in Atlanta now complete, it’s still obvious that the Braves were fortunate that Jake Peavy opted not to accept a trade that would have allowed him to play close to his family and friends in Alabama.

And some of you might be of the opinion that the Braves were fortunate that there was not a Bullet Train available to conveniently transport A.J. Burnett’s wife back and forth between Atlanta and the family’s Baltimore-area home.

Once Peavy refused to waive his no-trade clause in San Diego and once Burnett opted to take the extra millions the Yankees were offering, the Braves suddenly found an  interest in Lowe. (Yes, you’ve since heard Lowe was at the top of the wish list all along.  And over the next few weeks, you will also once again start hearing about that Santa dude)

Because it’s fresh, some of you regard the four-year, $60 million contract given to Lowe as one of the worst ever provided by the Braves.   This is  a short-sighted belief.  In fact, it wasn’t even the worst contract the organization presented a pitcher within the first two weeks of 2009.  That distinction goes to the piece of paper that made Kenshin Kawakami $23 million richer over the past three years.

Kawakami spent this past summer living the American Dream at the Minor League level and doing his part to spark the Pearl, Miss. economy with the last of the dollars the Braves provided him to go 8-20 with a 4.30 ERA in 41 starts over two Major League seasons.

The Braves  paid Kawakami $2.875 million per win, $94,391 per inning and $560,975 per start.

With the $55 million they ended up giving Lowe, the Braves paid $1.375 million per win, $95,569 per inning and $544,554 per start.

Their respective costs per inning and per start were eerily similar.  But that is where the comparisons should end.  Kawakami will be remembered as the guy who struggled to get run support, but ended up outdueling both Roy Halladay and Clayton Kershaw during the 2009 summer.

Lowe will be remembered (and cursed) for many things, including the fact that the Braves would have never made the playoffs had he not gone 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA in his final five starts of the 2010 season.  Of course they also might have made the playoffs had he not gone 0-5 with an 8.75 ERA in his final five starts this year.

But had either Tommy Hanson or Jair Jurrjens been healthy to pitch the last month of this past season, there’s a pretty good chance Lowe would not have still been a part of the rotation during what proved to be a disastrous September.

Now three years later, those who criticized Wren’s decision to give Lowe a four-year deal find themselves patting themselves on the back and saying, “Told you so.”

It’s very easy to now criticize Wren’s decision to sign both Lowe and Kawakami. But it’s much easier to understand his reasoning once you account for all of the unexpected obstacles he encountered dating back to the early days of the 2008 season.

Truth be told, Lowe exited the 2008 season with the assumption that he would not get anything more than a three-year deal.  In fact, he was not happy when his agent Scott Boras began asking clubs for at least a four-year deal.    The pitcher felt this would just scare teams away.  The agent knew the desire to win would eventually lead one team to provide a guaranteed fourth year to a 35-year-old pitcher.

Fortunately for Boras,  he brought Lowe to Atlanta when Wren found himself six weeks from the start of Spring Training and with the desire to add two more experienced pitchers to his rotation. This was a product of the disastrous 2008 season during which the pitching staff was severely damaged by injuries and disappointing developments.

Wren had no idea that John Smoltz’s shoulder was going to blow out in April of ’08.  Nor did he know that Jo-Jo Reyes and Charlie Morton would both provide less reason for confidence as the season progress.  But the crushing blow came in late July when Tim Hudson blew out his elbow and learned he would miss most of 2009 rehabbing form Tommy John surgery.

This led Wren to exit the 2008 season with Jurrjens as the only pitcher he knew would be part of his team’s rotation to start the 2009 season.   Jurrjens was coming off a 13-win rookie season.

Wren’s most valuable acquisition during that offseason was Vazquez, who along with Boone Logan was acquired from the White Sox in exchange for Brent Lillibridge, Tyler Flowers and two other prospects.  This is a trade the Braves likely could not have made had they already used Tommy Hanson, Yunel Escobar or possibly some of these same prospects to land Peavy, who had been pursued in November.

The White Sox trade is still providing potential dividends.  The Braves sent Vazquez and Logan to the Yankees the following winter to acquire Melky Cabrera, Mike Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino, who has a chance to be a productive member of the Atlanta bullpen for many years to come.  Dunn was part of last winter’s trade that brought Dan Uggla to Atlanta.

Considering he has totaled 51 starts over the past three seasons, the injury-plagued Peavy would have been a far more damaging acquisition than Lowe or even the much-cheaper Kawakami.   From a prospect standpoint, the price to get him to Atlanta would have at least initially looked a little like the package used to bring Mark Teixeira to Atlanta.

Once the potential Peavy disaster was avoided, Wren set his sights on Burnett until the Yankees gave the hurler a five-year, $82 million contract.  Burnett has posted a 4.79 ERA while making $49.5 million and totaling 98 starts over the past three years in New York

You can argue Burnett would have been far more impressive in the National League or been much more comfortable in Atlanta.  But you can’t necessarily guarantee that he would have been significantly better than Lowe was over the past three years.

Wren definitely  hoped to get more from the $78 million he used to sign Lowe and Kawakami.  But based on the options that were available during that eventful winter, it can be said he did all that he could once he chose to navigate the always-dangerous free agent market for starting pitchers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

18 Comments

I like the idea of just going to any potential free agent pitcher and saying, “Listen, buddy, we’ll pay you $1.375 million per win. If you lose, you get the league minimum.” Now that’s what I’d call being “incentivized” (that’s some new word people created when they couldn’t remember the word “motivated”).

Can’t use any kind of performance-related stat for incentives. Just usage stats like games, starts, and games finished for pitchers and PAs/ABs for hitters.

I was wondering if the Braves make a go at signing Maggilo or Gomes to play LF and maybe signing Ramon Santiago to play SS?

Because Maggilo doesn’t exist and Gomes sucks.

Yes he does I just misspelled his name. So let me rephrase the question. What bout the Braves getting Magglio to play left field and maybe getting Santiago to play SS?
The other thing i was talking bout I heard that in 08 or 09 that the Braves were thinking bout trading Freeman to the D’backs for Upton or Chris Young?

that guy talking about trading Freeman was YOU Nc…that will not happen.

NC–how about this:

Trade Hanson to the Yanks for CC Sab.
Trade Chipper for A-Rod
Trade Freeman for Adrian Gonzalez
Trade Kimbrel for Mariano Riveria
Trade Uggla for Robinson Cano
Trade Venters for three Prospects
Trade Jurrjens for Roy Halladay
Trade Beachy for Cliff Lee
Trade Chipper for David Wright
Trade Heyward for Jayson Werth
Trade Hinske for David Ortiz

What? you think those ideas are stupid? That they will never happen? I was an idiot for posting those utterly ridiculuous trades?

hmm….now you know how it feels to read a NCbravesfan82 post….oh, but WITH punctuation.

Don’t be silly, you traded Chipper twice. Now i get that he’s a legend and all but you might be pushing it. And Kimbrel > Rivera.

Nomad, ….that was intentional. I was merely provin a point.

I know, I was just being an ass. I would never use the word silly and be serious at the same time.

Terdo should be taking balls at 3B and no one, I repeat NO ONE on the ML club should be even walking up to the batting cage while he is hitting. For gods sake our ML system has ruined more talented young hitters than I can count. I am willing to give Walker the benefit of the doubt up to a point, But Qtip has delivered TP and LP consecutively. Add that to the fact that Fredo was inviting LP back and I am not sure how you better diagram disaster than that. And seriously, WE ARE CONSIDERING BRINGING GONZO BACK!!!??? The worst situational hitter in the majors. That guy couldn’t hit behind a runner 1st to 2nd if you lit his ass on fire with gasoline. WTF are we thinking? We should have kept Escobar, we should have traded for Furky last year(notice that shiny thing on his finger)? I don’t care if we have to hire a shortstop from someone else’s farm system that doesn’t look all that good, please, oh god, please don’t bring back Swing at Every 1st Pitch Gonzalez

I really honestly don’t see a better realistic option.

Wouldn’t Magglio in LF if he comes cheap! Signing him as a 4th of’er and pitch hitter wouldn’t be a bad idea.2 mil?

Pingback: NL East Links: Wright, Phillies, Braves | Forex News

Not just worst situational hitting, he was a horrible hitter all around. He guessed every pitch, and it showed. We can find plenty of guys just for defense, if that’s why they want to keep him around. Those other options would also be younger and cheaper….

Sometimes you need to know when to hold them or when to fold them as the song goes. Wren didn’t and decided to spend his money in 2008 even when the FA market was crap.

Yes the Braves pitching staff was suspect at best but so was the offense. He threw good money after bad and we are still making excuses for him. Similar to JS doing the Tex trade when he lacked the pitching to go anywhere in the post season never mind get there.

Wren is making the same kind of mistakes JS made especially near the end of his reign. Adding a piece here and there but never completing the whole puzzle. Always trying to scrape together a team that could if everything breaks right sneak into the WC. Never blowing the team up and starting down a new path they continue to put veneer on a broken piece of furniture.

The Braves have wasted 10s of millions on Lowe, KK, McClouth and to be harsh Chipper’s contract.

Lowe – 15mm
Chipper – 14mm
KK – ~7.7 mm
McClouth – ~7mm (or thereabouts)

$44mm dollars on four players none of which have performed exceptionally or more importantly were instrumental in getting to and succeed in the post season.

Over the past three years that is $132mm on four guys the best of which played hurt and or missed 30-40 games a year. The worst of which sat in MO.

That is not prudent mgt of scare resources and it is all on Wren & the FO.

In NYC Wren and JS would be canned for pissing away 130mm over three years on guys who didnt accomplish much.

What i was trying to say was I heard that in 07 or 08 that the Braves and Diamondbacks were discussing a trade involving either Upton or Young i can’t remember who but the deal would have involved Freeman.

Does it matter even slightly. It didn’t happen and thank god for that. Freeman is beast and we would have highly regretted it had we made that move.

It should count for something that the signing of Lowe meant that the Mets had to sign Perez. Personally, I think Lowe would’ve been decent in NY.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 41,587 other followers

%d bloggers like this: