Tuesday, October 30, 2007

GM, part two

Actually, this is more about the Braves' new GM, Frank Wren, who made waves within hours of the end of the World Series by trading SS Edgar Renteria to the Tigers for two prospects with a lot of upside, RHP Jair Jurrjens and OF Gorkys Hernandez.

As a Braves fan (since the late 60s) it's a fascinating move. The deal that brought Renteria to Atlanta was a classic John Schuerholz move -- swap a minor league stud prospect (Andy Marte) for a major league veteran who didn't work out for his current team (and even better, get the other team to pay part of the vet's salary!). Renteria played All Star caliber shortstop for two seasons and was by all accounts a terrific teammate. Andy Marte wound up in Cleveland where he's going from prospect to suspect. (This is also emblematic of Schuerholz's tenure -- he ate other GMs' lunch.)

Edgar is now in Detroit, where he will rejoin Jim Leyland, his manager from the 1997 World Champion Florida Marlins, and may well play against his Atlanta mates in another World Series. Detroit gives up a 21-y.o. pitcher who could be in the rotation next year and a dazzling young OF. It's a nice story for everyone. Before the trade, the Braves had three middle infielders, not two, and a big hole in the rotation and a need to cut salary. Problem solved?

The deal also marks a big departure from the SOP under Schuerholz's tenure. I can't remember JS ever trading a veteran exclusively for minor league prospects. He treated minor leaguers as either a) potential Braves or b) trade material to be packaged to other clubs for their veteran players. The last big trade Atlanta made for another team's top prospect was in 1987, Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz (also with the Tigers) and Bobby Cox was the GM.

I have no idea if this is an indication of Wren's preferences but even if it isn't, he certainly promises to be an unpredictable successor to "homeboy."

I like it, simply because it was such a surprising move. And considering the reaction of the Detroit faithful ("No! Not Jurrjens!") to the trade, in the long run the Braves may have scored again, big time.
GM for a day

I hopped on the Rockies bandwagon fairly late, but couldn't resist -- it's great to have a young and successful team in your hometown. And unlike many clubs that reach the World Series, the Rox roster is not filled with mid-career or aging veterans who will demand a lot more money for next year or leave. Even better, the team has depth at a number of positions (making trades possible to fill gaps) and prospects who may be major league ready next year.

So here's my advice to Dan O'Dowd: Choose the young players you keep wisely. Your future includes Holliday, Tulowitzski, Corpas, Morales, Jimenez. Lock up Holliday with a deal like the Mets paid to Jose Reyes and David Wright and buy out his first few years of free agency (OK, not quite that lucrative, but certainly generous).

Garrett Atkins, Willy Taveras and Brian Fuentes? Probably not. Those three will get higher salaries in arbitration but they can be replaced with guys you now have. In fact, they need to go now while their trade value is highest, coming off a World Series season. Atkins has pop in his bat and good hands but little range. Fuentes needs a change of scenery and always looked hittable to me (though he's a two-time All-Star). Taveras? He can bunt and steal and cover lots of ground in center field. But he walked 21 times this year. That's pathetic for a leadoff man.

Here's a nice summary of the season and potential personnel moves from today's Rocky. It also suggests what the potential free agents might expect from O'Dowd et al.

I say re-sign Kaz and Affeldt -- leave Kaz in the leadoff spot and make Affeldt your 8th inning guy. Give Ian Stewart the third base job. Ryan Spilborghs and Cory Sullivan performed well as a CF platoon when Taveras was hurt -- in fact, they were in the lineup during the amazing 21 for 22 stretch, not Willy -- and they would make a fine, low-priced, full-time alternative to the speedy but otherwise offensively worthless Taveras.

Oh yeah, and Aaron Cook's performance in Game 4 of the series means that the Rockies just found their #2 starter for next season. And he's available for $4.5 million, which is peanuts in today's market.

I look for the Dodgers and Padres to shake things up a lot this winter, and the DBacks will slip, but not much. Still, the Rockies are in great shape for '08, if the front office is smart.

UPDATE: I forgot Torrealba. Yes, re-sign him. He worked well with the young pitchers, played fine offensively, and will demand much less than any FA on the market.