Frank Wren Likes Lottery Tickets

Frank Wren’s modus operandi to the 2010 offseason: Replace younger, healthier players with older, more injury prone players. He’s not a doctor, but he plays one in real life. Actually, I’m not here to pick on Wren. You can make arguments for all of his acquisitions this offseason. But seriously, this is getting weird.

Last week Wren traded Javier Vazquez and essentially replaced him with Tim Hudson. Hudson threw a grand total of 42 innings last season for the Braves, and it was enough to convince him to re-sign him to a 3-year/$28 million deal. That pretty much sealed Vazquez’s fate as a Brave, as no one was interested in picking up Derek Lowe’s ugly contract. Vazquez has thrown over 200 innings the past four seasons, averaging 5.3 WAR per season during that span. Hudson has been a 5+ WAR pitcher four different times over his career, and the success rate of Tommy John surgery is pretty good. This might work out just fine, and at least the Braves got a decent return for Vazquez.

The Braves also replaced 30-year-old Rafael Soriano with 38-year-old Billy Wagner, who is also is coming off of Tommy John surgery. Soriano was a 2 WAR reliever in 2009 but has a checkered injury history of his own. Still, he showed us last season what he is capable of. Soriano surprisingly accepted arbitration, but the Braves had no trouble finding a taker for his services, swapping him to Tampa Bay for Jesse Chavez.

Now the Braves are replacing Adam LaRoche with Troy Glaus. Glaus is reported to have signed for a $2 million deal, with incentives. The deal is pending a physical, but the well-respected Dr. Lewis Yocum has already given the thumbs up on Glaus’ surgically repaired shoulder to interested parties. It’s worth noting that it was more than just Troy’s shoulder that limited him to just 14 games last season; he also experienced troubles with his back.

Glaus will play first base with the Braves, which should help health-wise. When he’s right, he is plenty productive. Over his career, his wRC+ is 123, and in his last healthy season Glaus posted a 131 wRC+ with the Cardinals in 2008. For the money, this is a nice upside play in an iffy 1B market for Wren and Co. On the flip-side, they’re obviously showing that they are not counting on a whole lot from Glaus.

I’m seeing a lot of roster-churning going on, but I’m not sure I’m seeing a lot of progress. If anything, it looks like they’ve taken a step back. Jason Heyward could go Cameron Maybin on the Braves, Matt Diaz may not be able to handle regular duty, and Glaus, Wagner and Hudson are all too familiar with the disabled list.

The Braves were in shouting distance of the wild card last year. If they want to send Bobby Cox out a winner, filling their needs with a bunch of injury-risks in hopes of improving seems like an “interesting” way to go about accomplishing that task. Considering some of the alternatives, it might have been the best, but definitely not the safest approach. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

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Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.

33 Responses to “Frank Wren Likes Lottery Tickets”

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  1. chuckb says:

    I’d add 1 thing, Erik. They’ve traded Vazquez, Soriano, and LaRoche for Hudson, Wagner, Glaus, and probably $6 million or so. I think that last part is the key to the deal. Perhaps they can get another valuable piece for that money and make a run at it. It’s probably wishcasting considering the fact that all their new guys are so injury prone, however.

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  2. alskor says:

    Half thought I was going to open this and find he had been fired for spending all that money he saved on Vazquez on scratch tickets.

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  3. Chris says:

    A couple of comments:

    You kind of gloss over the process of trading Vazquez – trading for Derek Lowe and his terrible contract would not have been productive at all.

    They replaced Soriano and Gonzales with Wagner and to a lesser extent Saito, while picking gaining draft picks and Chavez.

    Lastly, the Braves have enough depth now to let Heyward and Freeman come along at their own pace so that they can avoid a Maybin situation (if you can even call it that, he will be fine).

    Not ideal, but certainly not as bad as you have been saying since they have been doing recently.

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  4. gorillagogo says:


    While I agree that the cost savings were integral to the Braves strategy, nobody was holding a gun to their heads when they signed Hudson to a $27M extension. The Braves also preemptively signed Wagner before the arbitration deadline, so when Soriano accepted the team had to move him. In short, the Braves needed to move salary largely because of some of the moves they made this offseason. Erik has it exactly right, IMO, when he says there’s lots of churn but not necessarily any improvement.

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  5. Pachoo says:

    You forget to mention that the Braves also got a premium pitching prospect with ace potential in Vizcaino from the Yankees (their best pitching prospect) as well as a young relief pitcher ranked as the Yankee’s #11 prospect in Dunn, who will immediately go into the Brave’s pen this year.

    Also, all the older players the Braves aquired are on 1 or 2 year contracts. This was on purpose as Wren and the Braves expect them be replaced by prospects in the Brave’s minor system currently.

    So, no, the Braves aren’t going old at the expense of youth. The moves were all very youth friendly IMO.

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  6. Robert says:

    I think saying that they traded Vazquez, LaRoche, Soriano, and Gonzalez for Hudson, Glaus, Wagner, and Saito is a gross oversimplification. I’ll address each position on it’s own:

    SP – While Hudson is making essentially the same as Vazquez this year, the advange the Braves get was an extra 2 years at that salary, while Vazquez would have certainly not been retainable at his 2010 salary for future years. They also go a couple of really good pitching prospects for Vazquez, while letting Hudson go would have gotten them nothing.

    1b – Glaus is more injury prone than LaRoche, but he is also a LOT cheaper. There was no way that the Braves were going to pay the asking price for LaRoche’s services, and by getting Glaus on a one-year, incentive laden deal they can bridge the gap to Freedie Freeman without a lot of risk.

    RP – Wagner and Saito are making about what Soriano and Gonzalez made last year, but much less than each will be making THIS year. And even though Wagner and Saito are both older and coming off of recent injuries, Soriano has a VERY checkered injury past, much more so than Wagner or Saito. Plus, the Braves were able to get a controlable power arm in Chavez, and a couple of high round draft picks in Gonzalez.

    Based on the finances available and compensation that would have been received by allowing certain players to leave, it’s easy to see why the Braves have made the roster decisions they have. Now as to why they wanted Melky Cabrera….

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  7. PWH says:

    The Braves seem to think they’ve upgraded. Whether or not they have is a bit more difficult to put your finger on. However, I think all their moves make a lot of sense. They’ve made a few tough decisions and they’re probably a better organization for it.

    Getting prospects and a 4th OF for Javier Vazquez is certainly more favorable than getting nothing for Tim Hudson. And even if the proposition was getting nothing for Javier Vazquez or getting nothing for Tim Hudson, is it that crazy to choose keeping Tim Hudson around? To use a BPro statistic (I know that’s a no-no around here, but statistics do exist elsewhere), Hudson has the most SNLVAR this decade. Keeping Hudson around long-term for his career-long track-record rather than keeping Vazquez around long-term for his career-year, well, that seems to be the more level-headed decision.

    Getting Jesse Chavez for Rafael Soriano and replacing him with Billy Wagner (who I believe has the far better bill of health than Rafael Soriano) probably makes more sense than just re-signing Soriano, even at the expense of the #20 overall draft pick. It probably wasn’t realistic for the Braves to keep two elite arms in their like they had last year, anyway, so I don’t have many complaints netting two draft picks and a few million dollars for the difference in Takashi Saito and Mike Gonzalez.

    I disagree with this:

    “On the flip-side, they’re obviously showing that they are not counting on a whole lot from Glaus.”

    Glaus reportedly took less money to play in Atlanta. It’s entirely possible that handing him a small base salary represents exploiting a market inefficiency.

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  8. MBD says:

    From what I’ve heard, Heyward is not the free swinger that Maybin seems to be. Maybin strikes out about 30% of the time, even in the minors, while Heyward’s number ranges from 16%-18%. After seeing him with the Marlins, I was surprised to find out that Maybin’s OBP in the minors was very good, and maybe he’ll snap back. But everyone seems to think that Heyward’s greater plate discipline will help him sustain his high OBP from the start.

    I do have some fear regarding injuries, especially if they ride Chipper too hard, but I’m more concerned that they don’t have enough power in the outfield even with Heyward. At least the addition of Glaus gives the Braves another hitter with power who knows how to take a walk. The rotation is a durable bunch overall, and there’s Medlen lurking in the bullpen if he’s needed.

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  9. Ewan says:

    They should sign Matt Holliday. They have saved enough money this offseason to be able to give him $17m and still be around the payroll figure of the last 2 seasons, and would virtually guarantee them a playoff spot

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    • PWH says:

      A point:

      The observed (by fans) payroll the past two seasons has been a good bit higher than the actual payroll, due to insurance picking up a great deal of Hudson and Hampton’s contracts.

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  10. nick says:

    The Braves haven’t improved? Okay let’s break it down
    LF-The Braves at this point in time have Matt Diaz penciled in for this spot and that is a huge improvement over Garret Anderson. Anderson brought nothing to the table, whereas Diaz is a solid hitter and average to above-average defensive LF. He’s basically a league average outfielder out there and GA was worse than replacement level, big time upgrade
    CF-Nate McLouth is a Brave for the full season this year and replacing the time Schafer spent with the club last year with Nate improves the outlook for ’10.
    RF-Francouer was scary bad with Atlanta, just downright pathetic. Melky represents an upgrade as a slightly below average OF and then Heyward should be up after Super 2 deadline passes. Ignores the possibility of adding a FA OF as well
    2B and 1B-No Kelly Johnson and Casey Kotchman is all I can say. Yes LaRoche was awesome in the second half but the Braves also suffered through Kotchman in the first half. There should be improvement in both these areas with Prado and Glaus in place now
    Pitching-Hudson isn’t quite Vazquez so there might be a slight drop-off in the starting pitching but a full year of Hanson should alleviate the loss of Javy. And the bullpen is way stronger than last year. The Braves have a ton of quality arms and depth this year that they didn’t last year

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  11. castle says:

    “Glaus, Wagner and Hudson are all too familiar with the disabled list.”

    I don’t believe Wagner or Hudson spent much time on the DL before needing TJ surgery. Given the fairly high success rate of the surgery and their lack of past injury history, neither of them seem that much of a risk, especially given how well they pitched at the conclusion of 2009.

    And Glaus is only getting 2mil base salary, so he’s not an enormous gamble (although I guess you could liken his case to the lottery…). Given that the braves still have 6-8mil to work with, I think you’re overstating the risks Wren is taking here.

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  12. Bronnt says:

    Unfortunately for Frank Wren, money has played more of a factor in his decisions than performance. At least, money paired with a desire not to mortgage the future. That Derek Lowe contract was fairly questionable when it happened, and after one season, it’s a looming albatross. That overspending blunder last year really hurt. But I think he’s doing all right this year.

    Tim Hudson gets signed to a deal that keeps him in Atlanta for less money than he was previously making, while Vazquez pitched himself into a pay raise when his contract ends. So the Braves’ rotation looks very good all the way out to 2012. And the Braves managed to add both outfield help and a very nice pitching prospect by moving Vazquez.

    Troy Glaus, if healthy, is a clear upgrade over LaRoche, at significantly less cost. And he didn’t require a long-term deal to sign, which is important for a team with a big-time 1B prospect.

    I suspect the whole Soriano/Wagner deal was just greed; expecting Soriano to sign a long-term deal, not wanting to sign him long term due to his injury history, and expecting to get draft pick compensation out of him.

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    • MBD says:

      I agree with most of what you’ve said but would just point out that LaRoche and Glaus aren’t *that* far apart. Their career wRC+ numbers are 116 and 123, so Glaus does have a slight advantage. And Glaus’s WAR numbers are closer to 3 on average, while LaRoche looks like a 2-win player, but some of that value difference is due to Glaus’s postional adjustment, which he’ll lose in 2010.

      Given the money and contract length, Glaus is definitely a better move than LaRoche, but he may not be a huge upgrade.

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  13. AxDxMx says:

    Wow. Looks like exactly what Dayton Moore would do with the Royals if he had any money. Thank god we don’t!!

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  14. Joe R says:

    Outside of the Hudson deal, Wren doesn’t seem all that crazy, imo. He knew his roster was good, but not good enough, and now is putting together a team that, if healthy, can be a serious contender, emphasis on the if.

    Glaus is a cheap one year. Wagner’s kind of interesting, but 11.8 K/9 over a career is pretty damn attractive (and looked pretty good in that month spent in Beantown). Hudson’s a risk, but if he’s healthy, he’ll blow his contract value out of the water. He probably should’ve nabbed an OF, though, but other than that, I do think the Braves have a chance to take on the supremecy of the Phillies in the NL East.

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    • nick says:

      and if not he’s put this team in a position to take the reigns from philly in a few years with the young nucleus of McCann, Heyward, Hanson, Jurrjens, etc and while he has kept them in playoff contention for the upcoming season or two he’s really built this team to be at its peak strength in a few seasons when all the young talent is ready. The young pitching they have at A ball is enviable

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    • jfish26101 says:

      No way the Braves unseat the Phillies this year, I’m not sure the team is any better than it was last year.

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    • Joe R says:

      They upgraded their offense, an OF of Diaz-McLouth-Cabrera sure beats what they threw out there in 2009. And Heyward’s on the way, too.

      Glaus has potential to be a very good pickup.

      Last year the Braves pythag’d out to 91 wins. Phillies? 92. The difference between these two teams is nowhere near as pronounced as you think.

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      • jfish26101 says:

        You are saying right now, Braves win the NL East?

        We will see but I don’t think they are improved as much as you think. I think Prado regresses, at some point you know Chipper will go down with an injury, I’m still not sold on Dias as an every day player moving forward, there is no telling whether Heyward will go Upton or Bruce on us, you can’t just pencil Glaus, Wagner, and Hudson to fall in line with their career averages given their recent history…you are basically taking the optimistic view of every single change in the Braves roster. I think we have a pretty good team with a lot of questions still, if everything went right, sure the Braves could beat the Phillies but I don’t think you can just assume all of the stars will align in the Braves favor.

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      • Joe R says:

        When did I say the Braves WOULD beat the Phillies? I said they COULD beat the Phillies. They have guys with average to above average offensive production at every spot in the lineup now that Johnson’s gone, and Glaus is in. If Hudson’s healthy, then their rotation lines up as Jurrjens, Hanson, Hudson. This is a team with potential.

        Sure it’s an optimistic view. Hence I haven’t grabbed the bull by the horns and said the Braves will win the East. But if the moves work out well, they’re right in line to contend. Not all that out there, in my opinion.

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    • MBD says:

      I’m with you on the worry, jfish, but the Braves do have a good rotation and an OF that is much improved over the start of ’09. I don’t think it takes too much optimism to project that Diaz (2009 OBP of .390, career .358), McLouth (.352, .342), and Cabrera/Heyward/Shafer will be an improvement at the plate over the 2009 performances (and likely future contributions) of Anderson (.303 in ’09!, .326 in his career), Frenchy (.282 with Atlanta in ’09!, .311 in his career), and Shafer’s injury-shortened rookie year. That opening day OF from 2009 is still making outs; I think they grow them in a back room using UV lights.

      Glaus at his worst is better than Kotchman and at his best is better than LaRoche.

      Philadelphia has made some good moves this offseason, but they still have weaknesses, so I’m hopeful the Braves will put up a good fight.

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  15. Me says:

    Are we forgetting the 09 Braves were a tale of two halves? If Wren has managed to make no improvements over the end of last season in the sense that they are at about the same level as the end of the season than I am one happy fan bc that team was 20 wins over .500 in the second half. Wren and Co. made a number of good moves in season. We have Mclouth instead of shafer (who I think will still pan out), Glaus instead of Kotchman (a live person would be an improvement here), ditched kj for Prado, and have dumped Franceour and Anderson for some more promising young outfielders. Sure some moves are gambles, but all GMs are at the table at this point…some just are playing with more money than others. I personally like the way Wren has used his chips so far.

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  16. R M says:

    How can anyone say the Braves did decently for Vazquez? Does anyone remember that they gave up Tyler Flowers, Brent Lillibridge, Santos Rodriguez and Jon Gilmore to get him?

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    • nick says:

      Flowers is bound for a DH role imo, he’s just not going to stick behind the plate or he’ll be ugly behind there. Vizcaino is the better prospect with legitimate ace potential. Lillbridge is garbage; Santos had a walk rate over 5.5 per 9 innings and profiles as a relief pitcher and Dunn is further along so advantage Dunn. Gilmore looks like minor league depth at best as well. Melky is worth more to the braves than lillbridge and gilmore combined so I don’t see how you can possibly say they gave up more at this point in time

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      • jfish26101 says:

        Many recent reports have Flowers making huge strides defensively with some believing he has a chance to be an average C. It doesn’t really matter if he is “ugly” behind the plate if he gets the job done. The fact that Vizcaino is so far away and probably has a 5% chance of reaching that “ace” potential (while Flowers is essentially MLB ready) should be an advantage in favor of Flowers if you are comparing them. If they both come relatively close to their ceilings, I’d give the edge to Vizcaino but not for now.

        I’ll agree with Dunn over Santos for now. I really liked Santos but he is 21 and hasn’t really pitched above R ball so you have to question whether he will ever reach his potential. If he does though, I think he will be much better than Dunn.

        I don’t get the love for Cabrera. I’ll agree he is definitely better than Lillibridge/Gilmore but he is still basically an average player. I think he is a good 4th OF with the ability to fill in as needed on a good, expecting him to step in and be a key contributor really makes me worry to be honest.

        I think overall we ended up OK from the Vazquez deals but I don’t think either were great moves.

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