Colby Wilson’s Braves Report: The Circle of Life
Clarksville, TN – Yeah it sucks.
No matter what happens in the future, this much is irrefutable: the Atlanta Braves traded the best defensive player—not shortstop, not infielder, player—since Ozzie Smith, as he was reaching his prime, for wishes. Maybe those wishes can be granted and maybe they can’t; that’s for the genie and the Braves minor-league instructors to sort out.
Two years ago, Braves fans could say unequivocally, regardless of how good or bad the team as a whole was playing, that they could watch Andrelton Simmons play shortstop like a god and Craig Kimbrel be the best closer in the world. And we got to do that all the time. Now we don’t, and it sucks.
So be angry. Vent. Curse John Coppolella’s name. Wonder if everybody making decisions is doing so with the same long-term goals in mind, and wonder if anybody that speaks on the front office’s behalf is lying to you.
Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons (19) hits a walk off single against the Toronto Blue Jays in the ninth inning at Turner Field. The Braves defeated the Blue Jays 3-2. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)
Scratch your head over the media mouthpieces being content to trust Coppy and John Hart’s vision without asking where this arms race is ultimately heading. I did all those things several times over today.
But get out of here with this, ‘I’m not supporting the team anymore,’ nonsense. That was the chic move when #BravesTwitter went bonkers Thursday afternoon.
I’m not supporting this team anymore, they don’t care about us.
I’m finding a new team, screw the Braves.
The Braves didn’t suddenly just start making curious moves; in undoing the pieces left in the wake of the Frank Wren Error, the top brass just decided to be odd for the future instead of odd for the now.
Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons (19) tags out New York Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores (4) on a steal attempt during the second inning at Citi Field. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
Upton’s, Uggla, CJ’s extension… those were moves that looked more defensible than they were because they were made in the name of being good NOW, even if the collateral damage was that those pieces never fit quite right and were cost-prohibitive and, in three of those four instances, franchise-crippling mistakes that Coppy and Co. are paying for. The Wren Braves were (sometimes) good… the idea now is for these moves to make the Braves great.
But that’s not really the point, because you can explain that to anyone and they will either concede that your point is valid or argue that you’ve missed entirely, or possibly both. It’s possible to acknowledge that the logic is sound (getting younger, stockpiling arms, adding cheap team control and blue-printing yourself in the same way that the Cubs, Astros, Mets and Royals have done to great success) despite the fact that giving up a surefire stud for some potential great players is both alienating to a fan base and has an iffy success rate.
The point is that you can’t bail on the team because it gets rid of players. I don’t like the deal—I don’t like any deal that involves giving up a sure thing without getting one—but that’s not how fandom works. I loved Jason Heyward more than I love members of my own family, but I still watched last season, and I’ll still watch next season even though, for 2016 purposes, all this move did is give me two reasons to cry during The Lion King.
Story time: When the deal broke, I was heading home to take my wife out to a movie—specifically, the new James Bond flick, Spectre. As I was sitting through previews, seething at the thought of another lost season while shoveling popcorn into my mouth, I started thinking about the Bond franchise like a baseball team. The faces change, and sometimes not for the better. Sometimes you get Daniel Craig, who fulfills every quality you want. Sometimes you get Roger Moore, who was a bit of a joke and probably set the whole endeavor back a few years. Sometimes, you get Pierce Brosnan—a strange placeholder who’s fine to have but ultimately forgettable.
The squads Frank Wren built, obviously, were Roger Moore in this analogy. Coppy’s regime is still finding its footing and looking for all the world like another Moore, with a chance for a Brosnan. But if it all shakes out and the 2018 Braves burst into bloom like the 2015 Mets, those people who bailed on the franchise won’t be able to enjoy it like everyone else.
Scattered Thoughts on the deal
- The idea that somehow, Simmons’ escalating salary was going to look worse as time wore on is asinine. The long-time market baseline for 1.0 WAR at roughly $4 million really isn’t accurate anymore; analysts place it somewhere $5 and $7 million, meaning if Simmons maintains an average of 4.0 WAR for the life of his contract—and given his defensive prowess, staying above the Mendoza line should allow him to do that—at no point during the deal would he be considered an overpay. I’m not a huge analytics guy, but it drives me crazy when people won’t acknowledge that our most basic statistic for calculating player value has a price point on it and act accordingly.
- At some point, the Braves have to consider that someone, somewhere, is going to have to hit in 2017, right? Erick Aybar almost certainly won’t be back after next season—if the Braves can find a taker on his $8.3 million salary, I wouldn’t be stunned if he didn’t make it to spring training. Of the 30 prospects listed by MLB.com as tops in the Braves system, nine are position players, with five occupying the bottom half of that list. And of that nine, only Rio Ruiz and Mallex Smith have any experience above A-ball.
I don’t have any idea what the hell this even meant:
Braves BB Ops don’t want to move Simmons($53M, thru y ’20) or Teheran($40.6 thru ’19), but may have to do one.
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) November 12, 2015
Umm…what? Have to? Says who and since when?
- I’ve never watched a franchise closely as it prepares to move from one stadium to the next—is this always how it’s done? Because completely pissing on your fanbase, over and over again, while telling them to both trust your long-term vision and shell out their hard-earned money to watch the garbage product you put on the field in the meantime, seems like a terrible business plan.
- In Ken Rosenthal’s column this morning before the deal, he added this quote that should make all Braves fans shudder: “Coppolella seemingly has latitude under Hart, and certainly seems to love the action — he’s almost like an East Coast version of the Padres’ A.J. Preller.” You mean the A.J. Preller the Braves straight fleeced for the Upton’s and a Craig Kimbrel rental (I’m convinced he’s coming back in free agency)? Sounds great! I’m gonna go gargle bleach now.
- So Simmons signs a long-term deal—dealt. Chris Johnson—dealt. Heyward—lowballed, then dealt. Melvin… J-Up… Kimbrel… dealt… dealt… dealt. If these prospects do pan out, one has to assume their agents are keeping a weather eye on how signing a long-term deal works out around Atlanta.
- If Freddie Freeman was waist-deep in the tequila Thursday night, nobody could blame him. He’s got to carry this mess for at least two years, in his prime, with nothing in the way of talent around him.
- Fredi Gonzalez really can’t be blamed for anything that happens next season and I don’t know if a complete lack of accountability is a good or bad thing for him.
- Sean Newcomb, Touki Toussaint, Kolby Allard, Tyrell Jenkins, Manny Banuelos, Max Fried, Lucas Sims, Chris Ellis, Ricardo Sanchez, Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Wisler, Shelby Miller, Julio Teheran, Paco Rodriguez, Shae Simmons, Arodys Vizcaino… my God, the sheer volume of highly-regarded young talent on the pitching staff. What if none of it pans out? I assume everyone is fired and we start over again in four or five years. Still, dare to dream.
- It’s worth asking this question too: What if all that talent pans out? That’s 16 guys that have at one point or another been considered ‘very, very good bets to have a lasting impact on a big league roster’ and I could’ve added another seven or so fringe guys—the Mauricio Cabrera’s of the world who have the skill but may need a little luck in one area or another. That much talent is a good problem to have, but good problems are still problems. I hope we get to see Coppy’s problem-solving skills, and by that I mean I hope he packages a handful of those arms for the next Mike Trout or someone of equal value.