This is one of a series of posts in which we grade each team’s wily hot stove maneuvers and tragic offseason blunders.
Did Atlanta improve over the offseason? Yes. And no.
Atlanta’s biggest need entering the offseason was starting pitching. So GM Frank Wren went back to the future and signed Tom Glavine. Good move? No. Glavine is washed up. But at the very least, he should be an (overpaid) innings eater. Wren also traded all-star SS Edgar Renteria to Detroit for SP Jair Jurrjens. The Jurrjens acquisition could be a real long-term steal. But for 2008, Atlanta’s starting staff will depend on the continued strength of an aging John Smoltz and the hope that Mike Hampton will return to form after multiple arm surgeries. Some things never change.
But enough about pitching. Who needs pitching when you have offense? And the Braves do have offense. Atlanta scored more runs than every NL team but Philly and Colorado, two teams that play in hitter-friendly parks. That’s pretty impressive considering the Braves’ best hitter, Mark Teixeira, didn’t get to town until August.The 2008 Braves should benefit from a full season of Teixeira. The team lost power when Andruw Jones signed with the Dodgers, but they gained OBP when they signed Mark Kotsay.
In other Braves news, the Renteria-Jurrjens trade freed up a starting spot for SS Yunel Escobar, who represents a possible defensive upgrade, but a probable offensive step back.
Atlanta’s bullpen will suffer from the loss of Ron Mahay, but should be bolstered by the mid-season return of Mike Gonzalez.
Additions: Brandon Jones, Mark Kotsay (and Jamie Kotsay), Tom Glavine, Jair Jurrjens.
Losses: Edgar Renteria, Andruw Jones, Ron Mahay.
Projected Starters, Rotation, and Bullpen:
C – Brian McCann
1B – Mark Teixeira
2B – Kelly Johnson
SS – Yunel Escobar
3B – Chipper Jones
LF – Matt Diaz/Brandon Jones
CF – Mark Kotsay
RF – Jeff Francoeur
SP – John Smoltz
SP – Tim Hudson
SP – Tom Glavine
SP – Mike Hampton
SP – Jair Jurrjens/Jo-Jo Reyes/Chuck James/Jeff Bennett
Setup – Peter Moylan
Closer – Rafael Soriano
Offseason Grade: B
Atlanta has some exciting young players (Escobar, Jurrjens, Kelly Johnson) and some others who are entering their prime years (Brian McCann, Jeff Francoeur, Teixeira), but as usual the team’s success will hinge on the contributions of some oft-injured players (Chipper, Hampton) and old timers (Smoltz, Glavine).