Atlanta Braves Blog

The Atlanta Braves blog by David O'Brien, baseball writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Braves front office has been astute and creative in deals



The Braves got to July 4 with a 40-41 record including a 24-20 mark since losing their best player, Freddie Freeman, to a fractured wrist. That’s something that no one in baseball could have predicted, in fact pretty much the opposite of what most anticipated when Freeman went down.

To take this a little further, the Braves are 81-81 in their past 162 games after going 55-107 in their previous 162. They are two games over .500 (90-88) since their 18-46 start to the 2016 season.

Granted those brutal stretches were largely self-inflicted -- the result of the Braves’ decision to take a couple of steps back to begin moving forward, to undertake the first rebuild for the organization in more than a quarter century since the Braves started an unprecedented run of 14 straight division titles at the beginning of the  ‘90s.

For so long the Braves had simply retooled, which worked well when they had both a terrific farm system and one of baseball’s top payrolls, the latter allowing the Braves to take on big salaries through trades or free agents when necessary to help put them over the top. But retooling led only to mediocrity and out-of the-postseason finishes after the Braves’ payroll was slashed following ownership changes and once the minor league system’s was weakened due to spotty drafts and trades of multiple prospects.

So the Braves went in a new direction.

They replaced Frank Wren, top assistant Bruce Manno and some others, put John Hart and John Coppolella in charge of baseball operations, and traded most of their big-salaried players or ones who were about to become big-salaried players, with the notable exceptions of Freeman, who has become one of the premier hitters in baseball, and Julio Teheran, who’s a two-time All-Star if not the ace the Braves hoped he’d be by now.

Sure, there have been some unforced errors, some bad deals along the way, most notably the lousy trade for toxic Hector Olivera that cost the Braves left-hander Alex Wood (he’s 26 and 9-0 with a 1.83 ERA this season for the Dodgers) and infield prospect Jose Peraza (.279 average, 39 stolen bases in first 156 MLB games).

But a glance at the Braves’ current roster, the roster that has enabled them to play four games over .500 in 44 games with Freeman on the DL, reveals just how shrewd and astute that GM Coppolella has been, particularly with under-the-table moves that are also a reflection of some outstanding work by Braves scouts.

A brief rundown:

-- Newly minted All-Star center fielder Ender Inciarte, who won his first Gold Glove in 2016, and shortstop Dansby Swanson came from Arizona in a trade for Shelby Miller, who is 5-14 with a 5.78 ERA in 24 major league starts for the Diamondbacks over two seasons since the deal.

-- Catchers Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki: Braves catchers lead the majors in OBP (.380), rank second in batting average (.286) and OPS (.832) and are tied for the lead in game-winning RBIs (seven). The two of them are making a combined salary of $4.5 million this season, Suzuki on a one-year deal and Flowers in the second season of a two-year deal that also includes a $4 million team option for 2018.

-- First baseman Matt Adams: The Braves scrambled after the Freeman injury and got Adams from the Cardinals two days later in a trade for minor league infielder Juan Yepez, who was nowhere among Atlanta’s top prospects and has hit .260 with a .301 OBP this season in Single-A ball. Adams has hit .285 with 12 homers, 32 RBIs and a .923 OPS in 39 games for the Braves, who will either keep him at first base for the rest of the season, make him a power bat off their bench, or trade him now or during the offseason for a significant return. Again, they got him in exchange for Juan Yepez.

-- Lefty reliever Sam Freeman: The Braves signed him as a minor league free agent. He has a 2.73 ERA in 21 relief appearances with 27 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings.

-- Outfielder/infielder Danny Santana: The Braves got the versatile switch-hitter from the Twins in a May trade for Triple-A reliever Kevin Chapman. Santana has 10 extra-base hits in 91 plate appearances for the Braves and had a huge impact during their weekend three-game sweep at Oakland with his bat, his legs (he stole three bases in one game) and his defense while starting all three games in left field while Matt Kemp served as designated hitter. Chapman was released June 14 by the Twins after posting a 6.65 ERA in 23 innings this season in Triple-A.

-- Reliever Jason Motte: The Braves signed the former Cardinal closer to a minor league deal April 9 after the Rockies released him at the end of spring training. Motte has a 1.78 ERA and 0.947 WHIP in 29 relief appearances for the Braves with 16 hits and five runs allowed in 25 1/3 innings.

-- Lefty reliver Rex Brothers: The Braves signed the former Rockies closer to a minor league deal in February. Brothers joined the Atlanta bullpen last week after posting a 1.93 ERA in 14 appearances in Double-A and Triple-A with 22 strikeouts and five walks in 14 innings.

-- Reliever Jose Ramirez: Acquired by the Braves from the Mariners in a December 2015 trade for cash or a player to be named later, after Ramirez had posted an 11.57 ERA in five appearances for Seattle in 2015. He’s become a bullpen fixture for the Braves, posting a 3.58 ERA in 33 appearances in 2016 and a 2.94 ERA in 37 appearances this season, with 62 strikeouts in a combined 66 1/3 innings over that two-year span. Won’t be eligible for arbitration until 2019. The Mariners ended up getting 28-year-old Triple-A pitcher Ryan Harper and $15,000 from the Braves in the deal.

-- Reliever Luke Jackson: Braves got him from the Rangers a December trade for Tyrell Jackson. Jackson is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA and 1.083 ERA in 19 appearances for the Braves as a short and long reliever and won’t be arb eligible until at least 2020. Jenkins is 4-8 with a 7.86 ERA in 16 starts for the Rangers’ Triple-A El Paso affiliate, allowing 110 hits (16 homers) in 81 1/3 innings with almost as many walks (52) as strikeouts (55).

-- Lefty reliever Jacob Lindgren: The Braves swooped in to sign the power-armed Lindgren after the Yankees non-tendered him in hopes of re-signing him to a minor league deal in December while he rehabbed from Tommy John elbow surgery. He won't be ready until 2018, but the former Yankees second-round draft pick (out of Mississippi State in 2014) is a potential big-impact reliever who piled up 77 strikeouts with 23 walks in just 46 2/3 minor league innings before the Yankees brought him to the big leagues, whereupon he struck out eight in his seven major league innings in 2015. He hurt his elbow early in 2016 and is out for the 2017 season.

-- We haven't even mentioned pitcher Kris Medlen, the former Braves fan favorite who came back from two Tommy John surgeries and signed a minor league deal in January while rehabbing his shoulder. He has worked his way up to Triple-A, waiting in the wings. And then there's hard-throwing lefty Jesse Biddle, the former Phillies first-rounder the Braves claimed on waivers while he was rehabbing over a year ago and is now has 47 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings at Double-A Mississippi. He's still just 25.

• Let's close with this, the mighty L.A. band X's version of the Dave Alvin-penned classic, "Fourth of July."

"FOURTH OF JULY" by Dave Alvin

She's waiting for me when I get home from work 

But things just ain't the same 

She turns out the light and cries in the dark 

Won't answer when I call her name 

On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone 

The Mexican kids are shooting fireworks below 

Hey, baby, it's the Fourth of July 

Hey, baby, it's the Fourth of July 

She gives me her cheek when I want her lips 

And I don't have the strength to go 

On the lost side of town in a dark apartment 

We gave up trying so long ago 

On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone 

The Mexican kids are shooting fireworks below 

Hey, baby, it's the Fourth of July 

Hey, baby, it's the Fourth of July 

Whatever happened, I apologize 

So dry your tears and baby, walk outside 

It's the Fourth of July 



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About the Author

David O'Brien has covered the Atlanta Braves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2002.