A quick break from football to focus on the Hawks and Braves. First, I was really pleased to see the Hawks go out to Portland and get a good road win early in the season. Good teams win on the road, and that has been an issue for the Hawks for quite some time. However, the Joe Johnson statements last night are a bit troubling. The main concern when Jamal Crawford was acquired had to do with shots. Where would Crawford's come from and who would lose shots? Would the team become selfish with a "I'm a get mine" attitude? Well, I am afraid those concerns are all too apparent very early in the year. Hopefully, they can get this worked out soon...
The Braves giving Tim Hudson an extension all but locks up the top 4 in the rotation for 2010, and it should be one of the games best (Jurrjens, Hanson, Vazquez, Hudson). With 4 top-tier starters, what will Frank Wren do with Lowe and Kawakami? Lowe's contract incentives are based off starts made, so I doubt he would want to go back to closing (that would be scary). Kawakami played the role of long relief pretty well in September, but with his contract and success as a starter, he seems like a solid #5 starter.
Will some team that misses out on the free agent pitchers like Lackey, Wolf, Marquis, and Garland be interested in trading for Lowe? We don't even need much in return, just pay the contract and give us a few prospects. Wren would then need to address 1B and OF via free agency with a few more dollars to work with.
The other option would be to trade one of the Big 4 for the needed bat. Maybe Vazquez for a 1B/OF? I am sure Wren will focus on these decisions and figure out which is the better option. For now, lets say we trade Lowe for prospects - here is how the team would shape up...
SP - Hudson - 9
SP - Vazquez - 11.5
SP - Jurrjens - .75 (extend him soon!)
SP - Hanson - .5
SP - Kawakami - 6.66
RP - Logan - .5
RP - Moylan - .75
RP - Medlen - .4
RP - O'Flaherty - .4
RP - Acosta - .5
C - McCann - 5.5
C - Ross - 1.6
2B - Prado - .5
SS - Escobar - .75 (look for 4+ yr contract in spring)
3B - Jones - 13
OF - Diaz - 4.5 (arb. guess)
OF - McLouth - 4.5
UI - Infante - 2.25
UI - Johnson - 3 (arb. guess)
UO - Church - 3 (arb. guess)
UO - Blanco - .5
That takes up about 70 million for the payroll that started last season at 96 million. Lets assume we fill these four spots with free agents and have 25 million to spend.
Brandon Lyon - 2 yrs 8.5 million (4 million in 2010)
Mike Gonzalez - 2 yrs 12 million (5.5 million in 2010)
Adam LaRoche - 3 yrs 26 million (8.5 million in 2010)
Marlon Byrd - 3 yrs 21 million (7 million in 2010)
That would give the Braves an opening day lineup of:
McLouth - CF
Prado - 2B
Jones - 3B
McCann - C
Escobar - SS
LaRoche - 1B
Byrd - LF
Diaz - RF
Infante would give some solid Chipper insurance, and Church could play against right-handers if Diaz struggles. Lyon is a more consistent version of Soriano and Gonzalez can close or be an 8th inning guy again. Another option I like is trading Kelly Johnson/Schafer for a reliever. That would allow us to get rid of some of the garbage at the back end of the bullpen.
Hot stove season will be here soon! Should be fun.