Let me start with this, because I believe some Braves fans view me as the "anti-rebuild" guy, which simply isn't true. It was obvious the organization needed rebuilding at the major and minor league levels after too many of Frank Wren's big-money moves failed and player development fell off significantly.
So when John Hart and John Coppolella looked at the organization and concluded, "We have a big problem," it would've been silly to dispute. My biggest issues always have been with the lack of honesty along the way about what Hart and Coppolella were doing -- the whole "travelling down parallel roads" talking points as a flailing attempt to get people to buy tickets for what obviously would be an inferior product for at least two years and likely more; their lack of taking ownership for handing former manager Fredi Gonzalez a disaster of a roster; and some individual moves along the way. (The first Hector Olivera deal , the Andrelton Simmons trade , the decision to fire pitching coach Roger McDowell immediately come to mind.)
So fast forward to this winter. Hart and Coppolella have gone the short-term fix route for baseball's worst starting rotation. The Braves signed free agents Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey and traded for Jaime Garcia. In short, they're going to rely on a 43-year-old (Colon), a 42-year-old (Dickey) and a left-hander (Garcia) who was pretty solid in St. Louis when healthy, the problem being that he often wasn't healthy.
I look at it this way: No matter what happens, it's going to be a great story.
Either this rotation, which also will include Julio Teheran and Mike Foltynewicz, barring a trade, will succeed with a collection of relative spare parts, or it will blow up. (Sports writers often get accused of rooting for one team or another. The truth is, we only root for ourselves. The criteria: a good story, afternoon starts, a fast game, late deadlines, not that I ever really pay attention to deadlines.)
Here's what Hart said Monday at the winter meetings on the subject of trading prospects/assets for a quality starting pitcher like Chicago' Chris Sale or Tampa Bay's Chris Archer, via the Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien : "Because we have the new ballpark coming and because our ballclub played so well offensively at the end of the year, and because our bullpen is showing the makings of something that can be good, we (think we) can compete. That was our take on what we’ve done, that we have a chance now to compete. But this step is one I think that deviates from (the rebuilding plan). If you go jump that one guy, does that guy take us to where we now become the team to beat? I don’t think so. Does it make us better and give us a better chance to compete? Absolutely. But at what price?"
And this, from Coppolella: “The last thing I want to do is just blow it up so we can get one guy."
UPDATE: The Boston Red Sox have traded for Chris Sale, reportedly sending four prospects to the Chicago White Sox. Read more here.
Nobody has ever suggested the Braves' should "blow it up," to use Coppolella's phrasing. Nor do I think they should deal Dansby Swanson (if that's who the White Sox are holding out for in a Sale deal, as has been reported). But I do believe this pitching rotation needs a relatively sure thing next year, and beyond Teheran they don't have one. The Braves have more than enough assets to get a deal done for someone.
Hart was correct when he said getting a pitcher like Sale doesn't make the Braves "the team to beat." But if that's true, what are they without Sale? How does he define "good"? How does he define having an ability to "compete"? Do his definitions align with a fan's definitions?
I define good as a potential playoff team. I define competing as being in the playoff race in early September.
The offseason is not complete yet. But there's little comforting about the rotation right now. My default position is to keep expectations low. At worst, I'll be wrong and pleasantly surprised.
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