Braves and Cubs what’s going on? Contenders or pretenders? Sit down at the round table as Archie, Earl, Steve and Joe talk about where they think those two teams are headed and more…
1) Not to belabor a question, or, a point, but, just last month the Braves traded away right fielder Jason Heyward, and, now, they sign right fielder Nick Markakis to a four year contract.
What are the Braves doing? Rebuilding, or, tooling up for a playoff run?
Archie: Good frigging question. In fact, nothing the Braves have done of late makes much sense. They traded away Jason Heyward in which they KNEW was coming upon his FA years AFTER signing both Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton to stupid contracts. They used the excuse when they traded Heyward that they “knew” they would not be able to retain his services after next year. However, they signed Markakis to a four year deal for just a little less than JH would have been offered. AND, they introduced N. Markakis as a “two time gold glove” recipient in the outfield. JH was a two recipient as well; plus, he was the Defensive Player of the Year. AND, now, they have Non-Tendered Kris Medlen as well as Brandon Beachy. AND, They are still shopping Gattis and J. Upton.
So, someone, please, tell me, what the hell they are doing?
Earl: I’m not really sure what the Braves are doing. The Orioles apparently had enough concerns about Markakis that they didn’t even approach the years or numbers the Braves gave him. The approach should be that the Braves are tooling up ,but, I’m not sure they did that with the Nick Markakis signing.
Joe: First things first… here is how I understand the why of the Braves getting rid of Heyward and signing Markakis…the Braves company line seemed to be that when Heyward was eligible to go free agent next winter that with his speed, superlative defense, arguable still there offense upside some team would offer him a 9 figure multiyear contract that would exceed anything the Braves could or would do. Sooo… they traded him for pitcher Shelby Miller. Then, once they dumped Heyward they signed Markakis, a durable (155 or more games i n7 of the past 8 years) and gold glover for 4years @ 44 mil.
Poppycock… unless Heyward suddenly explodes into the great offensive player everyone seems to predict for him every year, he isn’t gonna get anything beyond 7 years @ $105 70 125 mil. And, that’s only if he has a better than decent year in 2015. Yeah, there are those who say he could get 10 years and beyond 200 mil… But, I don’t see it unless he has a 30 HR year with a 100 plus RBIs and a slash line of at least .285/.400/.400. And, I don’t see that happening. I think he’s pretty much what you see number-wise is what you’re gonna get, with a slight spike every other year or so. But if he were to be signed for a 7 year deal? He would only be 32 at the end of it.
As good a glove as Markakis is, he is not, nor will he ever be, as good as Heyward is as far as range and overall defensive ability and he is already 31 years old compared to Heyward’s 25. By trading Heyward the Braves got a possible front of the rotation starter, but, in all likelihood, I think, at best, a middle rotation guy, in Shelby Miller.
I said in an earlier roundtable discussion, and I say it now, the Braves got snookered when they traded Heyward… either that, or, they are just plain stupid.
As far as non-tendering Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen… I am so-so on that… Medlen was paid 5.8 mil during 2014 in what was his 2nd season of arbitration eligibility; Beachy got 1.45 mil in his 1st arb season. Both would be expected to get about the same salaries in 2015 through the arbitration process… that’s the usually the way arbitration goes. At worst… the CBA, between the players and the owners, says that teams can’t offer such players who are under team control a salary of less than 80% of their previous year’s salary. I’m not sure what the Braves payroll and budget is, but, neither of those price tags seems overly excessive to me. They may be damaged goods, but, both their upsides are worth a gamble. I would have at least retained Beachy.
Justin Upton is aright-handed power hitter… which these days makes him a valuable commodity. Rumors say the Braves want a better pitcher for him than what they got for Heyward. sounds reasonable. Problem is… a lot of teams seem to think Shelby Miller was an overpay for Heyward (not me… I think it wasn’t enough). So, a Miller type pitcher is about all they are willing to give for JUp. And, if the rumors are true that the Braves want BJ Upton to go with JUp in a package deal… FOR GET ABOUT IT… that is never gonna happen.
So, right now here’s where the Braves stand… Evan Gattis, another trade chip, is catching, BJ Up I in center, JUp in left and Markakis in right. pitching look so-so. The team is set at first, Freddie Freeman, and at short, Andrelton Simmons. Could use an upgrade at third and second… definitely at second , any way. Nothing seems to be in the works at either position, however.
So, at this point… if they are gonna scrap the entire offense by trading both JUp and Gattis, as rumored, for pitching and defense, then, they better get some damn good chips in return for either guy that they give up, or, they will be destined to flounder at the bottom of the heap when playoff time rolls around in October.
So… the short answer is: I have no freaking idea what the Braves are doing. And, so far, if, I were a Braves fan nothing that I have seen would make me feel all tingly inside as I looked towards opening day.
Steve: You know, just when I thought the Braves are going to rebuild mode, they go out and sign a guy like Nick Markakis. This adds a ton of much needed offense to a team who has struggled offensively. They have a couple of young arms, that could be great for the future.
So if you look at the lineup right now. They have Freddie Freeman, who is an All-Star. Andrelton Simmons, who some say is the best Shortstop in the National League. Chris Johnson, who is a proven top hitter, Justin Upton, who has a ton of power. BJ Upton, who….well we won’t go there. Now insert Markakis, who I think is actually a better player than Heyward. I think this all depends on what they do with Justin Upton. If they can keep him, and really no one will take him because from the reports I am hearing, they want to package BJ with him, and no team in their right mind would take on that contract. If they keep Upton, maybe add another hitter, I actually like the Braves chances to possibly compete next year for at the very least one of the wild-cards.
What “look” is your preference, or, does it matter?
Archie: I hate the extreme either way. I don’t like the Hunter Pence above the knee look NOR do I like the Manny Ramirez pant leg dragging the ground
look. Give me the traditional high shin visible sock. No higher tho.
Earl: I have no preference, nor, do I think it matters, but, I will say times are a changing. If, the new wave is to wear no visible socks, then, that’s what it is. Got to get hip with the time traditionalists!
But, if, the look of today’s player is with the pant leg down over the shoe… well… so be it. I’m sorta a traditionalist… but, if that’s how the players want to wear their socks, then fine. But, the one thing I wanna see is that no matter which way a team goes, just make a decision, and, then have the entire team wear their socks in the same manner.
I will admit that I am a traditionalist, and love the modern days of baseball. The only thing that I would say that needs to change, is that no matter what the players do, it should be uniform at least for the team. So if they all want to wear high socks, they all do it, if not they all don’t. One thing I really can’t stand is the bottom of the pants over the back of the cleats.
3) Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says, “I think we’ve proved we can be very competitive in this division, and, when you have a chance to compete, you should set your sights high, and, that means our goal is the (National League) Central title (in 2015).”
Is Epstein being realistic, or, are his words about the Cubs chances in 2015, just a pipe dream?
I believe they got their man in Joe Maddon.
Earl: It’s a huge pipe dream if Theo strikes out on landing a pitcher or two to carry that staff. No doubt the Cubs have some intriguing young talent, but without a pitching staff worth it’s salt, that team will go nowhere. If Epstein already had Lester or Scherzer in his back pocket, then this comment would be a bit more palpable to me. Without one, both, or another front line starter in the fold, then a statement like this comes off as bogus to me.
Joe: They are getting better, but, they still need a bundle, if, they think they are gonna be contenders in their division. Rumors suggest they are the favorites to land Jon Lester*, and, that would be a big move in the right direction, but, it’s gonna take more than one better than average pitcher to put them over the top.
Signing Joe Maddon was another good move. But, a good manager alone does not mean anything… still gotta have a team with the right combination of players to manage.
So, if they get some more pitching, and, another bat or two, then I think they can make a run for first in their division, and, therefore the playoffs. But, until that happens, Theo needs to put the pipe down or start sharing the wacky tabbacy.
Steve: As I write this, I still don’t know what Jon Lester is going to do.* Reports have Lester down to two teams, the Cubs, and Giants. I will say it right here, and you can quote me on this. The Cubs WILL contend for the playoffs next year, and for the division.
IF they do get Lester, I believe with the core of players that Chicago has, they may even be considered a favorite in the National League Central, and may even compete for a World Series championship. It has been proven time and time again, that anything can happen if you can sneak your way into the playoffs. Just ask the Royals last year. So Theo Epstein is not crazy by having goals set for a division title next year. I will predict it right now…If they get Lester. Even without him though, they can compete for a Wild Card.
*Jon Lester was just signed by the Cubs as this article was being edited for publication.
4) Mets pitcher Matt Harvey insists he is “completely on board” with the team’s plan to limit his innings with a soft cap during the regular season. (Harvey is coming back from after having missed all of 2014 because of having Tommy John surgery.) The team’s reasoning is that, if, the Mets make it into the playoffs, he can pitch deep into October without reaching any imposed innings cap during the season, and, therefore, the team could avoid a Steven Strasburg type debacle where he would be shut down, and, be unable to pitch. (Strasburg spent the 2012 postseason on the physically unable to perform list as the Nationals lost the NLDS to the Cardinals).
What do you think of inning caps for pitchers coming back from serious injuries? And, what do you think about inning limitations for young pitchers regardless of the circumstances?
Archie: You can’t win the division or anything else in March through June. You can lose everything in that time frame, however. But, what do you gain from a great start as a team, if, your big guns go down, and, are not available for the September stretch? IF, I were to place a pitcher on a cap, It would be in the latter stage of the season. I would not start them out and then shut them down.
Earl: It’s smart. Coming off of a major injury, and being one of the few Mets you want to watch. Limiting Harvey and therefore protecting his future is one of the smarter decisions this organization has made lately.
Let ’em pitch is my feeling.
Steve: I have no problem with innings limitations on players in the event that the team is not going to be competitive. Look what happened in 2012 with Stephen Strasburg. He was not even injured, but they set an innings limit on him and he was not permitted to pitch in the playoffs. This may have very well contributed the Nationals from not advancing in the playoffs, as their best pitcher was sidelined, not by injury, but by the team. And what happened? He was injured the very next year. So it did not prove anything. Pitchers are going to get hurt. Your arm is not built to throw 95 plus MPH, and only a very small percentage have the capability to do that. After injury though, yes you need to slowly bring them back, and that is what rehab starts are for. Teams need to start letting their pitchers do their jobs.
5) Seems there is a lot of talk that MLB should dump the “home field advantage in the World Series” aspect of the All-Star game. The most common reasoning seems to be that it’s an exhibition game, so, it should be accepted as that with no other contingencies attached. Be that as it may… then how should World Series home field advantage be assigned or decided?
Archie: What is wrong with the old format; alternate every year? It worked for years, no reason to think it can’t work again. I hate the home field
advantage thing being decided by the All Star game. When you have players voted onto the roster, and, then drop out because they have a hangnail they
want to recover from, or, whatever other ailment, the game becomes diluted.
When, you have fans voting in starters that have not been productive for years but they are fan favorites, the game’s talent becomes diluted.
It IS an exhibition game. It should count for nothing more.
Earl: I’ve always thought basing home field advantage off of the result of an exhibition was just stupid. I get that it was implemented in order to draw in more fans, but casual fans aren’t going to be drawn into the game just because it sets the precedent for which league gets Game 1 at their place. Traditionalists will watch the game no matter what, but if you’re going to draw in fans such as myself, making it for “home field advantage” is just dumb. It doesn’t add any real incentive to watch as far as I am concerned.
Joe: The All-Star game has not been managed like a real game since I don’t know when. So, unless MLB goes back to the style that was employed when the starters played the entire games, and, managers managed as if it were a regular season game, then, it is nothing but an exhibition game and should be tied to absolutely nothing at all. Just play it for what it is… a showcase of the players that the fans want to see play. End of story.
Wanna chose how home field advantage is decided? Which ever of the two finalists has the best record in the regular season … they get home field.
Steve: Polish a turd, it’s still a turd. The MLB All Star Game is a joke. It will be a joke until they can figure out an appropriate way to actually have the two best lineups in baseball on the field. Until they do that, it should simply be an exhibition game and it should mean absolutely nothing. The goal was to spark interest for players to attend, but still you see so many stars backing out and will not participate. Truth be told, the Futures Game is typically more exciting that the MLB game. So no, the World Series home field advantage should go to the best record of the two teams. I have always said it, and I will stick to it. The ASG should have nothing to do with it.
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