Passing Judgment: A Brave New World

As a die-hard Mets fan, I have an innate dislike of the Atlanta Braves.  This stems back to their bitter rivalry in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s where the Braves dominated the NL East and got the upper-hand on the Mets at every occasion.  But despite not liking the Braves, I have a genuine respect for them as a organization.  They have been a model of consistency for over 20 years and have managed to adapt no matter what changes are made to their roster or personnel.

With both Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine being elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year, it was interesting to see how Atlanta had started developing its next nucleus of pitching studs in this generation.  Pitchers like Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran form an impressive young core of pitchers with extraordinary talent and potential.  But, injuries have put those plans on hold for at least half of that core.  Medlen and Beachy have already undergone Tommy John  surgery in their young careers, and unfortunately it appears as though they may both need it again.  In addition, Mike Minor looks like he will begin the season on the disabled list.  These developments didn’t leave gaping holes in the Braves’ pitching rotation – they left meteoric craters.

During this past off-season, the Braves also had to make some tough decisions regarding their position players.  Brian McCann, arguably the heart and soul of the team after Chipper Jones retired, was let go as a free agent and subsequently signed a five-year contract with the Yankees.  It wasn’t a surprise that he was let go because he commanded too much money at a position where the Braves were not going to maximize the value towards the end of the deal.  Instead, they decided to allocate their resources and lock up other core players like Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward and Craig Kimbrel.  In my estimation, these were three team-friendly deals for players who should have long and productive careers.

Ervin SantanaGetting back to the issue with the  injuries, the Braves hadn’t planned on needing to allocate money for starting pitching since they had depth and surplus (even after losing Tim Hudson to free agency).  But with Medlen and Beachy likely gone for the year and Minor being out until mid-April, the Braves had to do something.  All they did was scoop up free agent Ervin Santana who was still available because of draft pick compensation being attached to him.  Santana signed a one-year deal worth $14,100,000 which is the exact amount of the qualifying offer he turned down from Kansas City.

This was a huge coup for the Braves for many reasons.  Santana is a durable and dependable pitcher who will at least eat up innings that will be missed by Atlanta’s incumbent starters.  He has pitched over 200 innings in four of the past six seasons.  Santana also will be motivated to perform by the fact he signed a one-year deal and could test out free agency against next season.  It doesn’t hurt that he will be pitching in the offensively challenged National League East and have the benefit of the best closer in baseball protecting leads for him.

The Braves have never been known to give out lucrative contracts to free agents outside their own organization.  Irrespective of whatever their payroll situation was, they had a desperate need to ensure they stay competitive despite the terrible news about their young starters.  Rather than sitting back and waiting, they went out and got the best remaining available pitcher on the market and paid top dollar for his services.  Good for them.  That is what an organization should do when portraying itself as a playoff contender and proving to its fan base that it wants to win.

So why am I writing this?  Because I am a jealous Mets’ fan who will end up watching Stephen Drew get scooped up by the Tigers now that Jose Iglesias will be out for at least half the season.  Hmmm, I wonder how many times Ervin Santana will strike out Ruben Tejada this season?

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