January 2012

Braves might be thankful to keep both Prado and Jurrjens

There have been numerous times during this offseason when I have been convinced the Braves would eventually trade either Martin Prado or Jair Jurrjens.   Early on, there was reason to wonder if the Rockies would eventually package one of their young outfielders in a deal to acquire Prado or Jurrjens.

By the time December’s Winter Meetings concluded, there seemed to be a greater possibility of the Braves striking a deal with a pitching-hungry team that had not landed Mark Buehrle, C.J. Wilson or Yu Darvish. The belief was that once these pitchers were unavailable, there would be greater interest shown in Jurrjens.

The theory made sense.  But over the past month some of these pitching-hungry teams have shown they believe their were better options  —  Mat Latos, Gio Gonzalez and now Hiroki Kuroda  — than Jurrjens available.

So with a little more than five weeks remaining before the start of Spring Training, I’m now leaning toward believing both Prado and Jurrjens will be with the Braves at the start of the season.  Yeah, I know I jinxed it, right?  They’ll now probably both be dealt by the end of the weekend.

But seriously, I just don’t see it happening now.  The Braves entered this offseason thinking they would only trade Jurrjens or Prado if they were blown away with an offer.   As Spring Training nears, the odds of this kind of offer being made lessen.

It made sense for the Braves to at least evaluate what they might get in return for these arbitration-eligible players.  But they might have been a little optimistic to believe Prado and Jurrjens still possessed the kind of value that would warrant a significant return.

Coming off a frustrating injury-plagued season marred by a staph infection, Prado still has the potential to hit .300 with 10-15 home runs on an annual basis.  And his value increases when he once again becomes  versatile infielder who primarily plays second base or third base.

Some clubs  including the Tigers and Rockies have shown interest in Prado, but not enough to provide the Brave the kind of return they are seeking.

The same can be said in reference to Jurrjens, whose trade market value quickly diminished once his right knee became a problem after the All-Star break.   Still I think it would have made more sense for the Reds to gamble on Jurrjens’ knee than Latos’ makeup.

But it really doesn’t matter what I think.  The only thing that matters right now is that it appears both Prado and Jurrjens could be with the Braves at the start of this season.

This brings us right back to where we were in early November, when we discussed the great gamble the Braves would be taking if they traded either Jurrjens or Prado.

It’s great to have Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado and a wealth of young starting pitching.  But with Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor the Braves projected rotation already includes a pair of pitchers with less than two full seasons of experience.  This combined with health-related questions surrounding Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson seemingly only increases the need to keep Jurrjens around a little longer.

Prado will never provide the kind of power clubs often hope to receive from a corner outfielder.  But few will be surprised if he quickly regains the form that equates to consistency at the plate and the ability to produce the  kind of quality at-bats that he produced before struggling with his confidence this past summer.

Some believe Prado’s struggles were a product of fatigue and others within the Braves organization believe he struggled under the direction of former hitting coach Larry Parrish.  Either way, he was not the same guy he had been the previous few years.

After watching Prado take a number of first-pitch fastballs down the plate, a baffled Braves coach asked him what was happening.   When Prado replied that he was “looking for (the pitcher) to hang a curve”, the coach walked away even more baffled.

In more ways than one, it was obviously a lost season for Prado.

Still thinking of the Porters:  It was great to hear Braves head athletic trainer Jeff Porter returned to Turner Field this week to start preparing for the season.   It was even more encouraging to hear that his 19-year-old son David returned to Auburn University this week, just a little more than two weeks after he and his father were involved in the fatal car accident that killed his mother, Kathy Porter.

There were many occasions over the past decade when I saw Kathy Porter with Jeff.  But since learning of the New Year’s Eve accident, most of my memories of her have focused on those days when she would shag baseballs as Jeff pitched to a young David in the outfield grass,  long after most everybody else had left the stadium at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex.

As the Braves arrive for the start of Spring Training next month, I will occasionally think about those days Jeff and his wife enjoyed with their son many years ago.

When something like this happens, you wonder how you might react if forced to deal with the same tragedy.  I can only hope that I would have the same kind of strength David showed at the funeral home viewing, just three days after the accident.

As he stood next to his father that evening, young David showed that he had become the kind of young man that would make his mother proud.




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