Give the Braves a chance, OK?

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Like I said yesterday, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that the Braves did a good job in the Vazquez trade. There are many potential sliver linings to what some are unfairly calling the blackest of clouds, but Atlanta clearly didn’t get anything approaching equal value for a pitcher of Vazquez’s caliber. Melky Cabrera is clearly not going to make the difference in Atlanta. The Yankees won this trade, no doubt.

But while it’s one thing to call the Braves the loser of yesterday’s trade, it’s another thing altogether to use that trade as a blanket indictment of the Braves, their ownership and their desire to win baseball games.  That’s what Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus did in his column yesterday (sorry; most of it is registration-only), and he said so in no uncertain terms:

The Braves made themselves worse entirely so that Liberty Media
wouldn’t possibly have to use the red font in its spreadsheets. Vazquez makes
$11.5 million in 2010, Cabrera will make about $4 million, maybe a little less
(I’m guessing here, because of Cabrera’s arbitration eligibility). That’s $7.5
million in Liberty’s pockets, on top of the $7.5 million they saved on Soriano,
for $15 million saved in two trades that make the team worse by maybe four
games, maybe more, in 2010. Not that four wins is pretty much the difference in
making the playoffs and not in the NL just about every season, and not that
Liberty Media cares. They care that the Braves have positive cashflow, and
everything else is irrelevant.

I’ve been reading Joe Sheehan for years, and I gotta tell ya, I was pretty sure before yesterday that he knew that the rosters didn’t freeze and the season didn’t start on December 23rd. I was pretty sure he knew that when a team frees up salary in a trade, they have more than eight hours to spend it on other players before they can be accused of pocketing the money and pissing on the hopes of the fans. I was pretty sure that he knew that it was prudent for a team that has a surplus in one area to trade some of it away in order to get players (or money to acquire players) that addressed a deficit in another area.

Which, by the way, is what the Braves have shown every intention of doing. As Braves GM Frank Wren said yesterday, the team is going to use the $8 million or so that they have freed up as a result of dealing Vazquez to pursue a bat. I don’t know whose bat. And heck, maybe Wren will make a bad choice in the bat he gets. But the fact is that they had six starters and no first baseman or left fielder when we all woke up yesterday. If they
break camp with five starters and a first basemen and/or a left
fielder, they will have made the team better, even if the team they have is sub-optimal.

Look, I am just as frustrated at Liberty Media’s ownership of the Braves as the next guy. And I think Sheehan makes many excellent, general points about the drawbacks of corporate ownership in baseball in the course of his article.  But to say, mere hours after the Vazquez trade that the deal stands as a shining example of corporate neglect of a baseball team is outrageously premature.

Let’s see where the team
is in April. If the Braves have done nothing to improve their offense by then, great, I’ll buy what Sheehan is selling. Until then, give them a chance, OK?

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.