Monday’s news that Frank Wren was fired as general manager of the Atlanta Braves came as a bit of a surprise. I wasn’t really shocked that Wren was let go, but the fact he was let go and manager Fredi Gonzalez was not is perplexing.
Wren has had his share of bad signings with B.J. Upton, Dan Uggla and Derek Lowe, but he’s been great at picking up under-the-radar free agents and making small moves, such as trading Tommy Hanson for Jordan Walden. But no doubt, Wren was judged for the big moves that hampered the Braves, and rightfully so.
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However, I believe this is the tip of the iceberg for the Braves’ offseason moves. The way this team has played with a lack of motivation for more than a month suggests a revamping of the lineup and coaching staff is necessary.
Here are five moves the Atlanta Braves should consider making this offseason:
Hire an aggressive GM
This is pretty obvious after yesterday’s news, but the Atlanta Braves need an aggressive general manager, one who will be bold and go for it when the team has a chance to win. For years, it seems like the Braves stood pat when they had the opportunity to be World Series contenders. They need someone willing to give up part of the future in order to win championships. Braves fans are tired of being a good team, it’s time to do what it takes to be a great team.
Also, they need someone willing to rebuild a farm system that is currently one of the worst in baseball. Under John Schuerholz, the Braves consistently had one of the best systems in baseball, but that has changed the past couple of year.
Fire Fredi Gonzalez
As I said already, I can’t believe Gonzalez wasn’t fired at the same time as Wren, but maybe they want to leave that up to the new general manager. It sounds like Bobby Cox, who is on the committee that will choose the new general manager, is a big supporter of Gonzalez, and that’s the only reason he’s still around. I love Bobby Cox as much as the next guy, but that old man is crazy if he thinks Gonzalez is a good manager. In four years as head coach, he’s lost a wild card play-in game and won a division title, but he’s also been part of the two biggest September collapses in the history of baseball. He’s a horrible manager of the bullpen, and he clearly doesn’t have what it takes to motivate a struggling team.
This 2014 Atlanta Braves team started giving up over a month ago, and from a fan’s perspective, it seems like the manager just watched it happen without making adjustments to get them going. I hate to be this critical and say that someone should lose a job, but Gonzalez absolutely has to be part of this change, and anyone who watches him manage a game on a nightly basis must know this to be true.
Get rid of the Uptons
Not just B.J., his brother Justin has to go, too.
I think it’s clear the Atlanta Braves are going to do whatever it takes to get rid of B.J. this offseason. He’s been the worst player in baseball since the Braves signed him two years ago, and more than that, I think he’s a bad seed in that clubhouse. More than likely, the Braves will have to pair a young pitcher like Mike Minor or David Hale with B.J. in a trade, and they’ll still have to eat a good portion of the $46+ million he’s owed over the next three years. Whatever they have to do to get rid of him will be totally worth the cost.
While Justin Upton has been great for the Atlanta Braves offense the past two seasons — although his productivity has been frustratingly inconsistent — his defense is atrocious. I’m not good with defensive metrics, but he has to be one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball. He has one more year on his current deal and there is zero chance the Braves resign him after the 2015 season. I also believe Justin’s lazy play on defense and lack of hustle on the base paths has infected the Braves, all the more reason for them to move him this offseason.
Trade Evan Gattis
Everyone loves Evan Gattis, especially American League teams. This guy was made to be a designated hitter as he doesn’t belong anywhere near a baseball field other than to swing a bat. He’s adequate behind the plate and he’s even worse than Justin as an outfielder. The Atlanta Braves should be able to get a nice return for Gattis, a player who has hit 20+ home runs the past two seasons and is under team control for four more years.
New offensive philosophy
During the height of the steroid era, the Atlanta Braves tried to play small ball and win with pitching and defense. Now that the steroid era is over, they’re trying to win with the long ball. Makes absolutely no sense. With the moves mentioned above, the Atlanta Braves need to target high-contact players. The Braves were awful — I’m using that word a lot in this article — at putting the ball in play in crucial situations this year, and they were terrible at moving runners over. Whether or not they need to fire the hitting coaches, I don’t know. I think hitting coaches have very little impact in the game, but I do know the entire lineup needs to be revamped with players who put the ball in play.
The firing of Frank Wren was just the start of what should be a very eventful and exciting offseason for Atlanta Braves fans — the complete opposite of what Braves fans endured during the regular season.