The 2010 MLB Winter Meetings kick off this week in sunny Lake Buena Vista, Florida and the Braves are arriving with their major work already done. All that’s left now is a utility infielder—I say this because the alternative is Diory Hernandez to back up SS Alex Gonzalez.
The Braves stole Dan Uggla from the Marlins for Omar Infante and a ball boy, or something like that. They also added a guy named Joe Mather off waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals. Now, of course Uggla is the big move of the off-season, but Mather, or “Joey Bombs” as he’s also known, is very interesting to me. At 6’4” 215 lbs, Mather is a big guy who can provide some right-handed pop off the bench, or as a back-up guy at first base, third base, or either corner OF position. In a perfect world, I see him as a right-handed Eric Hinske.
Speaking of Hinske, it was great news to hear he chose the Braves over his home-town Brewers for the 2011 season. Hinske had some big home runs last year and is a guy who can start (like Mather) at first or in LF. He’s a great guy in the clubhouse; which I feel, despite some MLB Network opinions (cough Mitch Williams) is worthwhile…and hey—he does have a 4-year playoff streak going.
Now, back to the Winter Meetings….
Unlike last season, there aren’t as many big storylines that will hog all the headlines at this year’s meetings. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jayson Werth are all signed, so the only big names out there are Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee; so the Braves aren’t going to be anywhere in the mix here. Speaking of the Jayson Werth deal—the Nationals are Bat (bleep) Crazy! They grossly over paid for a guy, who is definitely a great player, but isn’t going to do anything more than hit 30 HR for a last-place team.
I was going to get into a discussion about a veteran reliever, but before I could blink Frank Wren made a deal with the Chicago White Sox for RHP Scott Linebrink. This isn’t the same pitcher that was posting a sub-two ERA every year with the Padres, but I think it was a good deal—especially when you look at the other names out there on the market:
Jesse Crain (probably too expensive, both money and draft pick-wise), Aaron Heilman (God I hope not!), Trevor Hoffman (it would just be too sad), Mike MacDougal (If it were 2005 it would say OK), Jon Rauch (neck tattoos scare me), Kerry Wood (Really?), Chad Qualls (If you liked Kyle Farnsworth, you’ll LOVE this guy), and a couple guys from the Blue Jays—Scott Downs and Jason Frasor. These guys would be great, but they are both Type-A free-agents, so it is not very likely the Braves would go after either.
In terms of a utility guy…well, I have no clue who they’ll go after…the free agent names are really underwhelming. They include guys like, Cristian Guzman, Jerry Hairston Jr., Julio Lugo, Felipe Lopez and Nick Punto, who is the only guy that I actually like here; he’s helped the Twins a lot over the past few years.
Perhaps the Braves have someone already in their system that can fill this role who is NOT named Diory—Joe Thurston is still a possibility and what about a guy like Tyler Pastornicky? He is a scrappy player that came over from the Blue Jays on the Escobar deal and has been tearing up the Arizona Fall League. He’s just about to turn 21, so he still has a lot to learn, but it’s a thought.
Lastly, some news and notes:
The Braves got a bit of a break last week as Adam Dunn signed with the Chicago White Sox. Dunn absolutely killed the Braves last season; he must have hit at least 20 home runs against the Braves last year…Of course now Jason Werth can take over his place.
Javy Vazquez in now with the Florida Marlins, which I can’t say I am thrilled about. I expect Vazquez to do much better pitching in the NL East again, with much less pressure from the half-dozen fans there, and it won’t hurt pitching in a park that is about double the size of Yankee Stadium.
The Dodgers are hot on the services of our old pal Matt Diaz; at least someone is. Ok, so that was a little harsh; in fact the Phillies, Mariners and Yankees are also showing some interest. I kind of felt bad for him after he was non-tendered by the Braves last week, but it didn’t last long. Well, he had a good run…
The Phillies and Royals are the top two teams right now to sign OF Jeff Francoeur. He would get much more playing time in Kansas City, but I guess I would too…
Finally, Dear Santa…PLEASE MAKE SOMEONE TAKE KAWAKAMI! I know this is probably the toughest task Frank Wren will have to deal with in his career. I can’t see who would want to pay any of the $6.7 Million he is owed, but Christmas is coming and I have heard of a little thing called a ‘Christmas Miracle.’ Maybe this year Santa will bring Braves fans the perfect gift: a suitor for Kenshin Kawakami.
Until next time…Go Braves!