More Braves Nonsense

1) The Braves gave GM Frank Wren a two-year contract extension today. I’m a fan. He hasn’t been a perfect GM in his three years at the helm, but he’s been good and hasn’t made any franchise-crippling mistakes.

There are the three main reasons I like Wren:

  1. He likes strikeouts.
  2. He is not a sentimentalist.
  3. He thinks about the future.

The Braves’ previous GM and current team president, John Schuerholz, is a Hall-of-Famer to be, and rightly so — he maintained a winning organization for nearly two decades. Most GMs are lucky if they can keep their shit together for a single season. But by the end, it was becoming very obvious how out-of-touch he was becoming with the modern game. You had to respect him, but you also had to wonder… we’re panicking because Lance Cormier isn’t ready to go? Insisting that Brian Jordan and Raul Mondesi make for capable outfield corners? Refusing to negotiate with Scott Boras, who represents so many good players that such a position is basically untenable if you want to compete? Ransoming the farm for a season of Mark Teixeira? JS was trying to do things the way he always had, but he no longer had a top-five payroll and the greatest rotation ever to cover for his mistakes. It simply was not working anymore.

Wren infused some new life into the organization. Where JS tried to build his bullpens out of castoffs and soft-tossing groundballers, Wren collected hard-throwing strikeout machines and sifted through them until he found three or four who could get hitters out. (Unsurprisingly, JS’s last few bullpens were terrible, while Wren’s have ranged from above-average to superb.) JS was big on veteran experience and name value, especially towards the end, but Wren has shown a refreshing ability to cut bait on anyone who isn’t working out, even Braves icons. JS never would have held the line on John Smoltz or released Tom Glavine or lost patience with Jeffy Francoeur, but Wren saw that giving them a victory lap wouldn’t help the team, so he disposed of each and every one of them. He took heat for doing it, too, but time has proven him correct in each case. And while JS made a cottage industry out of hyping up prospects and then trading them at peak value for major leaguers, Wren has actually been putting them to their intended use, letting them develop into major league players. He’s even traded for prospects (Jair Jurrjens, Arodys Vizcaino), something I can’t recall JS ever doing beyond the occasional throw-in. JS was always in the mindset that the Braves were competing, so he’d always take a mediocre major leaguer over a prospect with upside. Wren still wants to compete, but he seems to have one eye on a few years down the road, when the current roster isn’t going to be entirely intact, so he keeps trying to acquire as much talent as he can get, even if it’s not immediately useful to him.

Like I said, Wren’s not perfect… he seems a little generous in contract negotiations (Lowe, Uggla), and he’s got this bizarre compulsion, whenever he trades a piece of his major league roster, to always get the replacement in the same deal. I’m thinking of the second Teixeira trade and Yunel Escobar here, particularly… I think the Braves would have gotten more value in both cases if they’d shot for best available talent, then shopped around for a replacement afterwards. The universe wouldn’t have collapsed if Brandon Hicks had to play short for two days while Wren haggled over Alex Gonzalez or Reid Brignac. But even so, I’m still comfortable having him at the helm for a few more years. God knows there are many worse GMs.

2) Some nights I wake up in a cold sweat thinking about Chipper Jones’s legs. Stay healthy, big guy. This season’s going to get ugly if Matt Young is starting.

3) I was reminded today that Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine are on schedule to be elected to the Hall of Fame in the same year. Wouldn’t that be awesome?


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