Well, it is unfortunate that the Braves season and Bobby Cox's career had to come to an end the way it did, but that's sports. As I was once told and often tell my players, you can never blame losses on officials or injuries, because everyone has injuries...and refs suck.
Now to the off-season. There is a solid core of players that are under contract or team control for 2011 that will fill up a good portion of the roster. They are as follows:
Gonzalez (widely assumed they pick up his 2.75 million option)
That is 23 guys, with the obvious needs being a right-handed power hitting outfielder and some experience in back of the bullpen. There should be some cash to spend with Wagner retiring and a few more salaries going off the books (Glaus, Cabrera, etc), but not enough to go after Werth or Crawford.
They could, however, use some of their pitching surplus to try and acquire an outfielder. The reliever that would command the most would be Venters, and the most likely starter to be moved would be Jurrjens.
I know they would likely command a major-league ready outfielder in return, but I am very intrigued by BJ Upton. He is about to be free agency eligible and is about to enter his prime. Maybe TB is ready for a complete over-haul knowing they are losing Crawford and will be interested in Jurrjens/Venters plus some of our prospects. Any chance they are interested in Jurrjens/Delgado/Salcedo package for Upton?
It is also interesting that Georgia native Colby Rasmus also may made available after some disagreements with the Cardinals. His main downside is that he is left handed, and the Braves already have McCann, Heyward, and Freeman penciled in the order.
Upton is 26 and just entering his prime. He is eligible for arbitration this year and then will likely command a 5+ year deal at around 8-11 million per year. If he could be acquired, the Braves could buy out the last arbitration year and sign him to an extension of something like 6 years, 60 million. He has a 162 game average of .260-16-68 with 40 steals and 35 doubles. He would bring defense, speed, and right handed power to the lineup. And the upside doesn't hurt either.
Rasmus is 24 and has 162 game averages of .263-22-74. He has tremendous power and is a terrific athlete. He is pretty much everything Rick Ankiel was supposed to be.
It's certainly something to consider as the team moves forward. Trade for an outfielder and maybe sign a veteran closer to help bridge the gap to the Venters or Kimbrel era. Brian Fuentes is available and may fit that role at a reasonable price.
The nucleus is there to make a run at a title in 2011. Lets start the Fredi Gonzalez era with a bang...