Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
Is Michael Bourn still a semi-realistic option for Atlanta? Who is the leader in the clubhouse for the fifth spot in the rotation? Atlanta Braves General Manager Frank Wren joined Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio's "Front Office" show Sunday to answer these questions and more.
On if there's a chance that Michael Bourn returns to Atlanta:
Wren: "We've never closed the door on that. I think, from our perspective, we wanted to get a little more balanced with our lineup, and we felt B.J. Upton was a better fit in that regard, but it didn't mean that we didn't like Michael. We love what Michael gave us, and so we haven't closed the door on that. We are still open to putting our club together with him being a part of it."
On if Bourn would play center and move Upton to left if he came back to Atlanta. Also discusses fielding metrics:
Wren: "No, not necessarily. Not necessarily. We think they're a toss-up defensively. There are people that think B.J. is a better center fielder, and (some) people think Bourn is the better center fielder. I know the metrics will tell you that Bourn is, but we don't believe in the metrics...we don't think they're infallible, let's put it that way. We think they have some value, but also, there's some problems when you have metrics that give guys additional value depending on who is playing beside them in the outfield. If fewer balls drop in, and it may not necessarily be because of your ability, and you get bonuses for that, that tells me there is a flaw in that system. Our guys that do a lot with sabermetrics; that's the one area where they really haven't come a long way. Long story short, we like both of them a lot in center field."
Wren: "I think based on what we saw towards the end of the year in winter ball, if there's a leader, it's probably Teheran. It just happened that Fredi Gonzalez, myself, Bruce Manno, and John Coppolella; we were all in the Dominican in the middle of December and Teheran was outstanding. He was the Teheran we've seen over the course of his rise through our system. He dominated. I think he threw a one-hit shutout through six innings, which was kind of his limit. We saw (him) sit 94-95 and pop 97, we saw the crackling breaking ball and the good changeup. We saw all the things we wanted to see to make him a guy that's probably got a little leg up going into spring training."
On getting Teheran back on track after some struggles in 2012:
Wren: "I think what we have seen over the last year and a half is a young kid that is 21 years old and dominating Triple-A in 2011. He came back in 2012 and I think he fell in love with lighting up a radar gun, and got away from being a pitcher for half a season. It's just one of those things where you never know what's going through a young guys head, but he was arguably one of the best pitchers in minor league baseball in 2011, and we didn't have a spot for him in 2012. So, he goes back to Triple-A, and I think he tried to get our attention with the radar gun vs. getting hitters out.
That was really our focus in the second half last year, and we saw him make that transition back in August, and then carry it on into winter ball. Even the first part of winter ball, he wasn't as consistent as we would have liked, but the last month of winter ball, he was the best pitcher in the Dominican by far."
On if Atlanta doesn't add a left fielder or a third baseman before spring training:
Wren: "We always have things in spring training that you really look forward to, and in the case of the Atlanta Braves, we've got some battles. The way third base shakes up with Juan Francisco and Martin Prado, and the way left field, whether it's a combination of Reed Johnson, even the young guy Evan Gattis, who just led the Venezuelan League in home runs before he went home. Jordan Schafer, Jose Constanza, who is hitting .360 in the Dominican, so we've got a lot of interesting story lines and competitions going into spring training for that one last spot. If that were the way it were to go, I wouldn't be upset with that. I think It would give us some interesting competition, and we have financial flexibility and we haven't used our prospect pool to acquire talent this winter."
On a timetable for a Brian McCann extension:
Wren: "We've had conversations not only with Brian's representative, but with Brian, and I think from both perspectives that we've decided that we'll wait until after the season and then look at where we are and look at where he is and make that determination."
On his feelings about Braves pitchers participating in the 2013 World Baseball Classic:
Wren: "I think, generally, we're supportive but you know, it's like anything else. There's worries that go along with that because those two guys (Craig Kimbrel and Kris Medlen) are big, big parts of our team and you're always worried about speeding up their process for getting ready for the season. There's a normal rhythm and flow to spring training year in and year out, and when you ask your guys to deviate from that, it worries you a little bit."
On the pitch count for guys like Medlen and Kimbrel in the WBC:
Wren: "They gave us a basic briefing at the General Managers meetings that the pitch counts and the usage levels will be similar to what they were in in 2009, which, you know, I think we were all pretty comfortable with those levels. Off the top of my head, I can't remember exactly the pitch counts. They're same as they were in 2009, with some minor exceptions, and I felt comfortable with those."
On position players also potentially going to the WBC, and if it'd be a concern not having key players in spring training:
Wren: "I think on the surface, it is (a concern), but when you really look at the way they've condensed the dates of the WBC; I think in past WBC's, we all were a little concerned about how elongated that tournament was. Now, really, if your player leaves to go play for Team USA for example, and they make it all the way to the end, they're only away from you (for) two weeks. You get them back with about two weeks to go, so that's less concerning than it has been in the past where you would lose them for almost a month."