Results tagged ‘ Ryan Church ’

Braves may have made all their significant moves

Braves general manager Frank Wren has never been accused of being a procrastinator and with the trade deadline resting a little more than a week away, there’s a chance that he’s already made all of his significant deals.
 
This line of thinking could be altered if the Braves were to struggle during this week’s four-game series against the Giants.  But at the same time, this belief could be strengthened if they were to claim at least three of these four games against the National League Wild Card leaders.
 
Having won 12 of their past 18 games, the Braves entered Monday night’s series opener trailing the Giants by 4 games.   Seeing how the Phillies have become immune to losing since they were swept out of Turner Field earlier this month, the Wild Card race has become much more intriguing from a Braves perspective.
 
There’s no doubt that the Braves could benefit from another power bat and another veteran reliever.  But as the season’s second half enters its first full week, it’s apparent that the makeup of their roster is much stronger than it was a month ago.

“We like our club the way that we’re situated right now,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “We like the balance we have in our lineup.  We’ve liked our pitching really from the beginning.  I think we’re observing and if there are ways to improve, I think we’ll at least look at them.  But right now we like our club.” 

Wren improved two of his three outfield spots with the trades that brought Nate McLouth and Ryan Church to Atlanta.  The left field position has been improved as Garret Anderson has provided the offensive consistency that negates some of the defensive deficiencies that come courtesy of his suspect range.

This month, the Braves lead the National League with a .292 batting average and rank second in both on-base percentage (.366) and runs (84). 

Yes, the Braves are just five of 16 NL teams to have played 16 games so far. But the 5.25 runs they’ve score per game this month, look a whole lot better than the 3.57 runs per game that they scored in June.   In April they scored an average of 4.04 runs per game and in May they improved that mark to 4.66. 

“Up and down our lineup, I think we’re getting more quality at-bats, which we think will translate into more runs and more wins,” Wren said. “(Offense)  has been the area that has held us back.”

If the Braves truly believe they are in the thick of the postseason race, they’ll likely look to keep Javier Vazquez, Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez.  As Type A free agents, Soriano and Gonzalez will only be moved for a significant return. 

Of course if they were to fall out of the race, the Braves could utilize each of these hurlers to help them begin building for the 2010 season and beyond. 

While Vazquez could be moved to provide the financial flexibility to gain another bat for the season’s final two months, the Braves are providing more indication that they’d like to keep the impressive right-hander around throughout the remainder of this season and possibly beyond. 

But  it doesn’t appear that they will have the financial resources that would allow them to keep both Vazquez and Tim Hudson around for the 2010 season.  Coming back from Tommy John surgery, Hudson won’t rejoin the Atlanta rotation before Aug. 25.  

If the Braves continue to win, the most likely candidate that they’d move before the trade deadline would be Kelly Johnson.  But as they found while attempting to deal Jeff Francoeur, there aren’t a lot of clubs lining up to acquire Johnson’s services.  

Johnson’s Minor League rehab assignment expires on Saturday.  So sometime within the next week, the Braves will have to trade him, place him back on the big league roster, or activate him from the disabled list with the intention of optioning him back to Triple-A Gwinnett’s roster. 

With Martin Prado manning the everyday role at second base and Omar Infante just a couple weeks away from being activated from the disabled list, there is limited need for Johnson in Atlanta.
  
Since becoming an everyday member of the lineup on June 30, Prado has hit .400 with two homers, a .458 on-base percentage and a .759 slugging percentage.  The Braves have won 11 of the 17 games played during that span.

“There’s a certain chemistry and feeling that every team has and when you feel like you’ve reached that right balance, you are a little hesitant to make a change,” Wren said.  “I know the guys on this club feel good about this team right now and that’s a positive.  That doesn’t stop you from inquiring and seeing if there are other things that you can do.  But we’ve done quite a bit already.”  

Mets answered Braves prayers with Church

When I get to the ballpark today, I’m going to have to do a lot of explaining to Chipper Jones.  
Somewhere over the course of the past couple weeks or even within the past 24 hours, I’m pretty sure that I bet his ranch on the belief that the Braves wouldn’t be able to trade Jeff Francoeur for anything more than a mid-level prospect.
 
Given what I’d gathered from the Braves over the previous few weeks, they shared this same thought up until Wednesday, when Mets general manager Omar Minaya provided an offer that immediately made him a candidate for a playoff share if the Braves turn things around and compete in this year’s postseason.
  
Seriously when I first heard that the Braves had acquired Ryan Church in exchange for Francoeur, I think I squinted like Arnold Drummond used to do before uttering, “What you talking about Willis?”

I had essentially resigned myself to the belief that December would arrive and the Braves would gain nothing in return when they non-tendered Francoeur.  

But now instead of going through this season’s second half waiting for a man once recognized as “Their Future” to regain the promise he’d shown in The Past, they’ve actually traded him for somebody who will strengthen their right field position. 

Like most every other Major League outfielder, Church doesn’t possess Francoeur’s arm.  But now that we have that out of the way, it’s pretty hard to find any other aspect of the game where Francoeur proves to be superior to Church.  

What concerns me the most about Church is the fact that he’s hit just .264 with five homers and  a .686 OPS in the 115 games that he’s played since being concussed by Yunel Escobar’s knee last year.  

But those numbers look pretty similar to the ones produced by Francoeur,  who has hit .259 with six homers and a .661 OPS over the course of his past 115 games.

Just two days ago, we were baffled by Bobby Cox’s decision to once again start Francoeur instead of Matt Diaz.   Now with the left-handed Church, the Braves have the perfect platoon compliment for Diaz in right field.
 
Dating back to the beginning of the 2007 season, Church has hit .291 with 25 homers and an .831 OPS against right-handed pitchers.   In 272 at-bats against left-handers during this span, he has hit .232 with five homers and a .640 OPS. 

With Diaz hitting .365 and a .935 OPS against left-handed pitchers this year, the Braves don’t have to worry about the fact that Church struggles against southpaws.
 
While Church’s numbers against lefties might be alarming, they don’t look much different than the ones compiled on an everyday basis this year by Francoeur, who in his past 272 at-bats has hit .246 with four homers and a .614 OPS.  
The Mets didn’t do Church any favors by quickly rushing him back to the lineup on two separate occasions after he suffered the concussion last year and they didn’t provide any of their hitters an advantage with the dimensions that are present at Citi Field. 
 
During the 32 games he’s played at Citi Field this year, Church has hit .216 with a .576 OPS.  In 35 road games, he has hit .326 with an .804 OPS.

Throw in the fact that Mets manager Jerry Manuel didn’t seem to like him and it was obvious that it was in Church’s best interests to escape New York. 
 
And there was no doubt that it was time for Francoeur to realize a change of scenery.   While he’s  still the same likeable kid that we’ve known since he debuted in 2005, the  past two years have proven that he’s not the quality player some might have envisioned when he hit .276 with 53 homers and a .777 OPS through the first 321`games of his career.

In the 310 games that have followed, he has hit .256, with 25 homers and a .685 OPS.

With the pressures of living up to the expectations of being the hometown hero that he was during his high school days, Francoeur constantly tried to change his approach and in the process, he seemingly lost his identity.
 
Whether Francoeur is able to turn things around in New York remains to be seen.  But there’s no doubt the Braves made themselves better yesterday when they were miraculously found somebody willing to provide the piece that significantly upgrades their right field position.   
 

Francoeur trade reaction

After posting that original blog entry with tonight’s lineup, I went to the dugout to talk to Bobby Cox, who quickly explained the Tommy Hanson situation and then got the call from Frank Wren. 

Moments later, Cox grabbed Chino Cadahia and both immediately headed toward the clubhouse to inform Jeff Francoeur that he’d been traded.  

Just like that, Francoeur went from being one of the most scrutinized players on this blog to being a member of the Mets outfield. 

To recap the trade, the Braves sent Francoeur and cash considerations to the Mets in exchange for Ryan Church.  The specifics of the cash consideration weren’t revealed.  But it was probably something in the neighborhood of $250,000  —  which would account for the differences in their salaries.

I’ve got to add to the main story on the site.  But in short, I think this is a trade that has the potential to benefit both players. 

Church seemed to fall out of favor with the Mets and while Francoeur was one of the most likable players in the Braves clubhouse, his performance had put him in a position where he was likely going to be non-tendered if he remained in Atlanta until the conclusion of this season.

I would have to say that Jeff Francoeur was one of the better human beings that I’ve ever come across in this business.  Obviously, there have been times that he’s been furious with things that I’ve written and consequently chosen to give me the silent treatment for a while. 

But over the past six weeks, I saw the 25-year-old outfielder truly mature and accept the fact that baseball is a tough business.  I wish him nothing but the best and when the Mets visit Turner Field next week, I hope the fans show him how much they appreciated the dedication and determination he displayed throughout his 4 1/2 seasons in Atlanta.

There was certainly reason to criticize his game.  But in the midst of all of his struggles, Francoeur never lost his desire to give everything he had every day that he came to work. 

Tonight’s New Lineup
Nate McLouth 8
Martin Prado 3
Chipper Jones 5
Brian McCann 2
Garret Anderson 7
Matt Diaz 9
Brooks Conrad 4
Diory Hernandez 6
Derek Lowe 1

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