Patience is a virtue: words you don’t want to hear as the calendar nears July, 31. When the Braves don’t get a hit until the 4th or 5th inning of what seems like every other game, I think to myself “How in the world are we going to compete with the Phillies?” But when I do, I find comfort in looking at our record and at the stats of our top prospects and contemplating how many of them it would take to get player X in a Braves jersey.
But a few days ago I had a change in heart. When it was reported that the Braves have little to no money to play with in the trade market I had an epiphany. Now, it isn’t any news that Braves are strapped for cash, but for me it really sunk in that as long as the Braves are owned by Liberty Media you can count out a splurge. Even if it is only a few million added to payroll. Naturally this means we would have to throw more prospects at a given team so we wouldn’t have to take on as much money. And for the first time I realized the importance of being careful with the way you spend prospects.
Let’s face it, the days of being a high payroll team passed the day Ted decided to sell the Braves. And with attendance down despite having one of the top 4 records in the bigs, this is especially true. In short, we can’t afford to buy high on guys like Matt Kemp or Hunter Pence who will inevitably leave the Braves dry in the minors and a gaping hole in the lineup because Braves won’t resign them.
Believe it or not the Braves are in a good spot right now. We have a bounty of promising prospects in the minors and a wealth of high ceiling youth in the majors. What I think the Braves need to do is begin somewhat of a cycle by trading some of our great players when they are a year or so away from free agency. By no means would we have to be bottom dwellers to do so. We already see the first wave of this phenomenon. Julio Teheran and Mike Minor among others are blocked by our older players like Tim Hudson and duh duh duuuuuuhh... Derek Lowe. And by trading either for a current and or future position of need the Braves probably wouldn’t miss a beat. Granted Hudson and Lowe wouldn’t yield high level players in return but that’s not what we need for now, just their roster spot.
For example, with a future rotation of Hanson, Teheran, Jurrjens, Vizciano, and say Beachy, I say if we aren’t going to be able to afford Jurrjens in a year or two as he approaches free agency (assuming he can consistently put up an ERA in the 2’s for the next few years) trade him. In return we will get multiple top of the line prospects at the positions of our choosing. All the while, like a snowball rolling down a hill, becoming deeper, more talented, and most importantly, cheaper. Rinse and repeat.
In no way does this mean the Braves will become what we think of as the Marlins. If they consistently follow the cycle the Braves will be able to afford to keep a Brian McCann or a Jason Heyward if they want to. As long as the Braves and the fans could just try to avoid getting emotionally attached to a player we could be on the verge of another baseball dynasty.
In short, get a guy like Coco Crisp for now and just be patient and excited about the future. Could you imagine if the Braves unloaded the farm on Corey Hart last year just for the sake of Bobby’s last year? I’m sure glad they didn’t listen to me.