(UPDATED: 10 p.m.)
The Braves are selling holiday gift packs that include four game tickets and a “limited edition Turner Field Final Season ornament.” Because nothing says “I care about you this holiday season” more than tickets to watch a potential 100-loss team and an ornament commemorating a 20-year-old stadium that the team is abandoning for a taxpayer-funded boondoggle in the suburbs.
This week’s winter meetings have seen the Braves taking bids for their two best pitchers, Shelby Miller and Julio Teheran, which doesn’t seem to make sense because there aren’t many valuable and watchable commodities left on the roster — and they’re two of them. But Miller is arbitration eligible for the first time and is due a significant raise, and the Braves have this thing about spending money on players right now.
So away with him.
Yes, Coppolella traded another player. But at least this deal makes a little sense because the Braves are getting an actual major league player in return. Miller was dealt to Arizona for young outfielder Ender Inciarte, who has hit .292 over his first two major league seasons, as well as top prospect shortstop Dansby Swanson of Marietta, who was the first pick in last year’s draft, and Double-A pitcher Aaron Blair.
Inciarte hit .303 with 21 stolen bases last season. He can play all of the outfield positions. That works out well because the Braves have almost every position available.
Coppolella has a plan. I think. The problem with the plan is even if it works, which in itself is giving him a huge benefit of the doubt, success likely won’t come until the distant future. The Braves lost 95 games last season. Since then, they’ve traded Gold Glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons, possibly baseball’s best defensive player, to Los Angeles for two pitching prospects and almost 32-year-old infielder Erick Aybar, and shipped Cameron Maybin to Detroit for (wait for it) two pitching prospects.
Those two deals came after last July’s strange decision to move starter Alex Wood to the Dodgers for Hector Olivera, a 30-year-old Cuban-born third baseman who hasn’t accomplished much yet beyond benefiting greatly from capitalism ($62.5 million contract).
So there’s the potential of last year’s 95-loss club growing to a 100-loss team in 2016 — yes, even with this deal. It would be an upset if the Braves weren’t still mediocre in 2017, when the new stadium opens to screaming crowds of hundreds. (Everybody else will still be on 285.) The safe bet at this point is the Braves won’t be good again until at least 2018, by which time Hector Olivera will be 33. Nice trade.
I can’t decide if Freeman is somewhere, handcuffed to a lamppost so the Braves can’t trade him, too, or if he’s sitting at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, hoping to be traded.
Miller’s exit leaves a hole in the pitching rotation on a roster filled with holes. But at least Inciarte and Swanson’s potential makes this deal palatable. Swanson, who played at Marietta High School and Vanderbilt, played in low-A last season and won’t be major league-ready for a while.
Before you buy your Braves holiday gift pack, you might want to check out the Braves’ current 40-man roster. I did. My eyes started bleeding.
Miller was acquired in the Jason Heyward trade. He finished only 6-17 last season but largely because nobody in the lineup on the days and nights he pitched hit acted like they wanted him around. He led all Braves starters with a 3.02 ERA. His last 40 starts have resulted in an ERA of 2.86 and a .230 opponents’ average with 203 strikeouts and 82 walks. But he has potentially three years of arbitration and is going to start making a lot of money soon, which might be counter to the Braves’ business plan because, well, they’re probably not going to sell a lot of tickets next year.
But I’m sure it’s a very nice “Turner Field Final Season” ornament.
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