At the beginning of the off-season, Frank Wren identified three areas the Atlanta Braves needed to improve upon to make the team more competative; starting pitching, left field, and backup catcher. We certainly solved the starting pitching side of things, adding three new starters and bringing back the veteran Tom Glavine. We also added a very solid backup catcher in David Ross. But left field remains a void unfilled.
There have been many rumored options, Ryan Ludwick, Xavier Nady, Nick Swisher, Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, Rick Ankiel, and Ken Griffey Jr. -- none of which we ended up with. We will be returning the same group of players who did not impress last season. The team has resigned itself to see what it has internally:
"I think we have a variety of guys that can add something to the equation, whether it's speed, defense, pop, all-around play," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "Each of the guys who will be out there competing adds something a little different, which is all positive for us. I think at the end of [Spring Training], it will be a decision about who adds the most in that role."
Wren hasn't ruled out the possibility that he could look to make a trade in the next few weeks if he and Cox get a sense that they need to alter their plans to internally fill their outfield voids.
While I'm not positive that what we have internally will be enough, I am also on the side of waiting to see what they can do and making a decision on how to move forward towards the end of spring training.
One of the big pieces of an improved outfield is an improved Jeff Francoeur, but his comments continue to illicit an uneasy feeling:
"As bad as an outfield as we were last year, we'll be good this year," Francoeur said. "I'd like to think I'm going to hit more than 11 homers this year."
Yes Jeff, we'd like to "think" you're going to hit more homeruns too (and beyond that do all the other things that you're not doing offensively).
It will be an interesting spring to see if Jordan Schafer is ready for the big leagues. To see if Gregor Blanco can add more value to his game. To see if Matt Diaz is ready to be more than a platoon hitter. To see if Josh Anderson gets a chance to be an everyday player. But just those four guys don't seem like enough. Even if we added Greg Norton and perhaps, as I suggested yesterday, Brooks Conrad to the mix, that still doesn't seem like enough. Now we just have to hope that the Braves don't waste half a season trying to figure out if this crew can cut it before they make a move for the right fit.