The offseason for the Atlanta Braves certainly has not gone as planned. Making headlines more for controversy surrounding departures, trade rumors and pending agreements than actual acquisitions, GM Frank Wren has had his hands very full. After missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season, the Braves had hoped to enter the 2009 campaign with, at the very least, a retooled starting rotation. The team has also been linked to a few hitters but, as of right now, they are either off the table or not yet donning the Atlanta uniform.
With Tim Hudson out for at least half of the 2009 season, the contracts of Tom Glavine and John Smoltz expired, and Mike Hampton taking his medical history to Houston, the only pitchers assured of returning were Jorge Campillo and Jair Jurrjens. Wren then acquired Javier Vazquez from the White Sox to bolster the rotation. The Braves were believed to be big players in the Jake Peavy sweepstakes, but things seemingly went haywire with regards to that potential deal.
The Padres expressed interest in Yunel Escobar as part of the return, but the Braves were hesitant to add him to the mix. The Peavy talks then escalated with the Cubs, as Escobar’s supposed backup, Brent Lillibridge, was shipped to the South Siders as part of the Vazquez deal. When the Padres came back to the Braves, Wren became even more hesitant to include Escobar given that Lillibridge no longer belonged to the organization. And this isn’t even including the rumored Escobar-for-Ryan Ludwick deal that surfaced back in November.
Things would get even more peculiar, though Wren did start off nicely by inking David Ross to a 2-yr/$3 mil deal to backup Brian McCann.
Perhaps the team felt that Escobar actually was expendable as they heavily pursued free agent shortstop Rafael Furcal. Forgive me for not delving deep into all of that drama, but the reports that circulated involved stories of gentleman’s handshakes and agreements to sign. In fact, according to several websites, the signing had all but taken place. I remember because several of the writers here, myself included, discussed who would pen the analysis.
Before long, Furcal had returned to the Dodgers and the Braves had reportedly cut ties with his agency group. The “disrespectful actions” soon turned into a he said/she said match of which Furcal took no part.
Then, the unthinkable happened, as John Smoltz inked a one year deal with the Red Sox. Both the Braves and Red Sox offered Smoltz incentive laden contracts, but the Sox must have had provided a higher base salary. Regardless, Chipper Jones became furious that the team allowed Smoltz to leave, and the Braves ownership seemed incredulous that Smoltz could leave.
From there, things began to turn around. Kenshin Kawakami, a 33-yr old right-handed pitcher from Japan, signed a 3-yr deal to join the rotation. The Braves also became the apparent frontrunners in the Derek Lowe sweepstakes, potentially forging together a rotation of: Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, Jair Jurrjens, Jorge Campillo, and Kenshin Kawakami.
The Braves are also considered to be among the few realistic suitors for Adam Dunn and have even been linked to Andruw Jones. Whether or not anything happens remains to be seen, but this has definitely been anything but an ordinary offseason for Frank Wren.
It is not likely that he will acquire Ryan Ludwick or Jake Peavy. And regardless of how the Furcal and Smoltz situations played out, neither will play for Atlanta next year. Don’t let what has not happened sour the entire offseason, however, as they did look aggressive in quickly snatching up Ross, going after Vazquez, signing Kawakami, pursuing Lowe, and emerging as a potential destination for Dunn. A picture-perfect offseason? Heck, no. A successful one, nonetheless? Let’s revisit that come March, but signing Lowe and Dunn may help fans in Atlanta forget the Smoltz and Furcal tabloid-like drama.