Braves Re-Acquire Jeff Francoeur... in the form of Melky Cabrera

This is going to be a trade that's talked about for some time, along with the moves the Braves have made over the past year. If there is one constant in the moves the Braves have made in the past year, it is all about trimming money from the payroll.

In today's deal the Braves sent Javier Vazquez and his one-year $11.5 million salary to the Yankees along with Boone Logan and his $1.5 million likely arbitration figure. In return they get a rookie left-handed pitcher in Mike Dunn, an A-ball prospect in Arodys Vizcaino (two no-cost players), and outfielder Melky Cabrera, who will likely make around $3 million in arbitration. Ryan Church was scheduled to make around $4 million in arbitration, but by most accounts he's a better player than Cabrera. He's certainly not as highly thought of, but when healthy he hits for much more power than Cabrera likely ever will.

This begs the question, "did we trade away Jeff Francoeur (.743 career OPS) last year to acquire the better Ryan Church (.787 career OPS), only to release Church, and trade for Melky Cabrera (.716 career OPS), who is likely not as good as Francoeur?" Seems to me that the Braves end up on the short end of that outcome. Of course Cabrera is probably still "projectable" as a major leaguer, but how long did we say that about Francoeur?

There are two ways in which this trade will look good. First is in the money we will save and have available to potentially get a free agent bat that we've been needing. A rough total of the Braves salaries for next season currently comes to around $80 million (we only have one arbitration eligible player left, that's Peter Moylan). That would leave us with around $15 million to spend on a big bat... a nice sum, which should get us a good bat. The second way this trade will look good is if Arodys Vizcaino pulls his own version of Neftali Feliz in two or three years. We could also use him to acquire that big bat via trade, that would be an alternate way in which the trade would look good.

As it stands now, the Braves pattern the past year has been to strip salary. Kelly Johnson and Ryan Church were non-tendered, instead of being paid around $4 million a piece. Boone Logan was swapped for the cheaper Mike Dunn. Tim Hudson was re-signed at a more affordable salary than the now-traded Javier Vazquez. Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito will make less than Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez.

All of this salary conservation has led up to this final purge from the books, and now the team must make a move that brings a big bat here, and they should have the salary room to do so. Perhaps with $15 million to spend, they can aim higher than Johnny Damon or Xavier Nady, and zero in on Jason Bay or Matt Holliday. For some fans, that's the only way the team will win them back after another tumultuous off-season of questionable moves.

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