Some Braves fans are restless, perhaps understandably so. Watching this offseason roster construction process -- they traded Javy Vazquez for Melky Cabrera? -- can be like watching sausage being made. Not as appetizing as the end result.
Oh, and you know what they say these days about the Braves’ roster: If you don’t like it, don’t worry. It’ll change soon.
Anyway, so much for coasting into the holidays for Braves general manager Frank Wren. He stayed busy this week with two high-profile moves, trading Vazquez to the Yankees in a five-player deal, then agreeing to terms with free-agent slugger Troy Glaus on a deal that won’t be announced until the former American League home-run leader takes a physical after the holidays.
The towering erstwhile third baseman will move to first base, where Glaus has played only six games in his career, and the Braves will hope his surgically repaired shoulder holds up after he missed all but 14 games in 2009.
The Glaus development capped an eventful three weeks in which Wren drew some scrutiny over the early signings of aging relievers Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito to replace free agents Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez, and what some viewed as a hasty trade of Soriano two days after he accepted the Braves' arbitration offer.
But like so many baseball moves, it could take a while before we really know if the right call was made and several years before we determine which side "won" a trade.
One knee-jerk reaction over the Vazquez trade was this: "How does a team help itself by trading 15 wins [Vazquez] for 13 homers [Cabrera]?" But that was both an oversimplification and mischaracterization of the trade.
While an argument could certainly be made that it would’ve served the Braves’ 2010 needs better if Wren had waited to trade Vazquez for a power hitter, a key to the deal from the Braves’ perspective was what else they got in the trade: hard-throwing lefty Mike Dunn, who’ll compete for a bullpen spot right away; and more important, 19-year-old righty Arodys Vizcaino, a premium prospect the Braves compare to their own top pitching prospect, 18-year-old Julio Teheran.
The Braves now have what some scouts say are three of baseball’s highest-ceiling pitchers in the low minors: Teheran, Vizcaino and Randall Delgado, 19, who had 141 strikeouts in 124 innings at Class A Rome last season.
With that trio and 23-year-old major league standouts Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson, the Braves might have more elite young arms than most organizations ever dream of. And the potential for their 2012 or 2013 rotation is staggering.
The Braves would’ve preferred to trade Derek Lowe, but couldn’t find any team to take all or most of the $45 million he’s owed over the next three years. So they dealt Vazquez, a workhorse strikeout machine who had a career-best season (15-10, 2.87 ERA) and has a year left at $11.5 million before free agency.
For those who suggest the Braves would have been better off keeping Vazquez and not signing Tim Hudson to an three-year extension: again, it will take time to know if the right call was made. It might be a valid point. It might not.
But it’s perhaps worth noting that Vazquez has posted an ERA under 4.42 in only one other season in the past six, while Hudson has put up ERAs of 3.53 or below in eight of his 10 full seasons in the majors.
The Braves didn’t get a power hitter in the Vazquez trade, but in Cabrera they got a serviceable guy who can play all three outfield positions and is still young enough (25) to realize more of the potential the Yankees once saw in him.
They also got a raw-but-talented power lefty for the bullpen and an elite pitching prospect, all while clearing out $9 million in payroll for other needs.
The Braves used about $2 million of it to sign Glaus, a nearly 6-foot-6, 250-pound right-handed-hitting behemoth who has totaled 304 homers in 12 seasons, including five seasons with at least 30 homers and two with more than 40.
Glaus hit .270 with 27 homers and 99 RBIs in 2008 for the Cardinals, but missed all but 14 games last season after setbacks in his recovery from arthroscopic shoulder surgery in January 2009. He also missed big chunks of two other seasons (2003-04) for problems with, and surgery on, the same shoulder.
The Braves probably have at least $7 million left in their budget, maybe closer to $9 million (they won’t say exactly) and are still considering adding another hitter, possibly a left fielder (Xavier Nady?) who can also play first base. Or maybe a second baseman (slugger Dan Uggla?), if they decide Martin Prado could still be in the lineup regularly at a mix of positions. The Braves could use Cabrera or another outfielder in a trade for Uggla or another slugger.