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Atlanta Braves: A most interesting offseason

Will Braves move Justin Upton, sign Jon Lester?

by Jamie Shoemaker | Posted on Monday, November 24th, 2014
| 8952 baseball fanatics read this article

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Justin Upton BJ Upton

Are both Uptons on their way out?

As a lifelong Braves fan, it took me a day or two to get over the Jason Heyward trade. How can an organization that has profusely said it loves this player, trade him away for just two players? A lot of fans have the thought process of “quantity over quality” (like the Rangers trade for Mark Teixeira, except they got both quantity and quality), and they think “how can Jason Heyward, and one of our most dependent relievers over the past two years in Jordan Walden, be traded for just two pitchers?”

Because of all the rumors on Jon Lester, Yasmani Tomas and the Uptons, I’ve been constantly refreshing my Twitter feed to get everything related to the Braves. Then I read a bunch of tweets like “I’m not a Braves fan anymore, how can they trade everyone?” and “If Justin is traded and not B.J., I’m changing teams”.

Please, people. Have Braves fans really been that spoiled for the last 20 years or so? Get over it. It’s a business, and if you are truly a fan, you would know that John Hart and Company know exactly what they are doing. Is he going to gut the franchise and not be competitive? No, not even close. For fans who can’t handle the rumors and what-ifs, how about you take a four-month nap from baseball and let’s revisit a conversation during spring training when the Braves have a competitive team.

Do I think the Braves will be very good? No. Do I think they’ll be like a few of the teams in the ’90s? Yes. They’ll be more consistent with hitting, not the huge power guys, and rely on pitching to win. It’s the Braves’ philosophy. For too many years now, they’ve relied on “home run or nothing” type of guys, guys who strikeout at an alarming pace. They need more Billy Beane type guys, guys who put the ball in play.

Yes, they are reverting back to an image they used to look like, with Freddie Freeman being the new Chipper Jones, the face of the franchise. Freddie will need to step it up and, yes, carry the team during stretches. It’s the old Braves’ philosophy.

So, let’s take a look at what they’ve done and can do moving forward:

Traded Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden for Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. Heyward hurts, no doubt about it, but he hasn’t produced offensively as they would have hoped. I liked the guy, too, and he’s a class act. For those optimists out there, the Braves could resign him after the year when he’s a free agent; ever think of that? Perhaps the Braves knew they could get a good haul now for him and potentially re-sign him again in the offseason. Yes, it can happen. I’d give it a 50-50 chance.

Shelby Miller is a good piece and he’s controllable for the next few years. Some analyst think he can be a consistent #3 in a rotation with some years that are equivalent to a #1. I’ll take that over the next few years. The Jenkins kid already catapulted to a top 10 Braves prospect, which tells you how weak our prospects are. So, this is needed to help replenish the Braves farm system that has always been so strong. Hence, going back to the old Braves. Walden was good, but is replaceable. There are tons of free agent, middle relievers on the market and the Braves do have two decent prospects who can fill that role if needed.

They’ve also traded away Tommy La Stella and other smaller DFA moves. Stop crying about La Stella being gone and all the cries of “who is going to man second base now?” Tomorrow isn’t opening day. They have plenty of time to work on a replacement, and I’m fine with Jose Peraza and Phil Gosselin manning the position to be honest. If you can platoon a position, I’d rather it be second base, where most teams don’t expect a lot of production, just solid glove work.

Now, the future, here’s my thoughts on what I’ve observed:

  • The Braves are fine with B.J. Upton being the center fielder. Well, maybe not fine with it, but have accepted it. The only way B.J. is gone is if he is packaged with his brother Justin Upton or Evan Gattis (more likely). That’s the only way. I would hope the Braves wouldn’t package a good prospect with him to go elsewhere. Just know, including B.J. Upton with Evan Gattis or Justin Upton will severely diminish the return value. I’d say just get the maximum return for Gattis or/and Justin Upton, and deal with B.J. as appropriate.
  • Justin Upton is gone. Just accept it now guys. I’m sorry. (Do you feel better now?) I’m OK with it as long as the Braves get a decent haul in return. They will have tons of suiters lined up for Justin Upton, NL and AL, so let’s get the maximum talent we can get. Perhaps a young starting pitcher and a good prospect; maybe a major league ready outfielder in return. This seems reasonable for a team to do for one year of Upton.
  • Evan Gattis may or may not be gone. If the Braves can get an outfielder in a trade (like Upton’s) or sign one, then look for the “For Sale” sign on Gattis. Gattis can net the most in return from an AL team, my guess is a team that missed out on Justin Upton and will have to pay a larger price for that power. If he’s not traded along with B.J. Upton, he can net a very very good prospect, potentially a top 25 prospect. I’d rather see him traded than in left field. I’m sorry folks, but he’s bad out there. Gattis could net a second basemen/SS from the Rangers. I’m sure Jon Lester has already asked that same question, which leads me to …
  • Jon Lester. Jon Lester. Jon Lester. Sounds good to me. Word on the rumor mill is the Braves are having lunch with him again today (Monday). This is pretty serious folks, and I’d venture to say that we may see a Justin Upton or Evan Gattis trade and then the signing of Jon Lester type of transaction day. A blow to fans and then a yay for fans in Jon Lester. He lives in the area and is very good friends with … David Ross.
  • David Ross will follow Lester more than likely. I’d venture to say that if the Braves sign Lester, meet David Ross … again. And I’m very happy about that. The Braves know they can knock out two birds with one stone here. With only Bethancourt behind the dish, Ross would be an excellent mentor to him.
  • Yasmani Tomas. I’m not sold on the guy, but I have to trust what management is doing here. I just don’t want to overpay for the guy but know that the Braves will probably have to in order to get him. If he’s signed, say goodbye to Justin Upton and Evan Gattis! Which, again, I’m fine with.

Relax Braves fans. If you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen, and stop reading the rumors. Hart and Co. are building this franchise to be successful now and in the future. I’m excited. I’m glad the Braves are cleaning house. Deepen the prospects and make this team young and energetic again.

The next month will be exciting!

Post By Jamie Shoemaker (119 Posts)

Jamie founded Through The Fence Baseball and is the President & CEO of Through The Fence Sports Corp. He also covers the Atlanta Braves with his column, Braves' March. In addition, Jamie also covers fantasy baseball and baseball rumors. Any questions, email him at throughthefencebaseball@gmail.com

Website: → Through The Fence Baseball

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