What the Braves Should Do

by Warren Menzer

<!-- Article Starts Here --!> The Braves were a bit of a disappointment (except to Mets fans) by their early exit from the playoffs this season, and we can expect Ted Turner to invest a little extra this year to try to prevent that from happening again. The Braves have players signed at all positions except first base, although they'd certainly like to upgrade in the outfield. The Braves can certainly fill out a starting rotation and bullpen without help if they have to - that's the beauty of a wonderful farm system. Essentially, the Braves only need to fill one position (first base) - otherwise their free to find the best talent regardless of position. That must be a comforting feeling to John Schuerholz.

All signs seem to be pointing to Mark Grace at first base, but I don't like the idea. He's a solid player, but "proven veteran" money is going to jack his price up. His numbers aren't superior enough to your average AAA first baseman to warrant the millions of dollars of salary. Unfortunately, this isn't a particularly good year for free agent first baseman. So I'd go for the cheap, easy solution - use George Lombard off of their AAA club - he's 26, and while he's not going to win any Silver Slugger awards, he's basically free. The money can be better spent elsewhere.

Which brings us to our main dilemma - to A-Rod, or not to A-Rod? Let's assume $20 million to grab this year's top free agent - can the Braves do better by spending that money in other ways? They do have the reigning Rookie of the Year at that position anyway - their biggest chances to upgrade are at left and right fields. Of course, you could use most of that $20 million and sign Manny Ramirez, but that doesn't leave much to upgrade left field. I'd go after Gary Sheffield - trading Kevin Millwood and BJ Surhoff, which seems like a fair deal for the Dodgers, who would like to clear some salary in order to sign Alex Rodriguez. That adds about $5 million to the Braves payroll. Then I'd spend the rest on Mike Hampton to create yet another amazing Braves starting staff. This gives the Braves a solid lineup and a strong rotation and bullpen. And this adds little to their payroll, as they're losing $18 million to free agents like Andres Galarraga and Andy Ashby. I'd grab a couple of minor league free agents like Ernie Young, Carlos Mendoza, and Carlos Hernandez (the infielder, not the catcher) to fill out the bench. I wish my team had John Smoltz as a #4 starter.

Plan B:

Sign Manny Ramirez to play left field, move BJ Surhoff to first base, and spend the rest on Ismael Valdes.

2001 Suggested 25-man roster:

SS - Rafael Furcal
CF - Andruw Jones
3B - Chipper Jones
LF - Gary Sheffield
RF - Brian Jordan
C - Javy Lopez
1B - George Lombard
2B - Quilvio Veras

C - Eddie Perez
IN - Keith Lockhart
IN - Carlos Hernandez
UT - Wes Helms
OF - Ernie Young
OF - Carlos Mendoza

Greg Maddux
Tom Glavine
Mike Hampton
John Smoltz
Jason Marquis

John Rocker
Kerry Ligtenberg
Kevin McGlinchy
Mike Remlinger
Derrin Ebert
David Cortes <!-- Article Ends Here --!>

Send Warren your opinions, comments or verbal abuse at warren@JBaseball.

© 2000-2023 JBaseball