June 04, 2009

Busy Day in Braves’ Town

What a day…

June 3, 2009 was a day that Braves fans will not soon forget. The Braves made three MAJOR roster moves Wednesday that shook up the team, the organization, the fans, etc. All of Braves nation was shocked to hear about the release of future Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine.

Glavine had just made his final minor league rehab start in Rome, informing the Braves he was ready to make his 2009 debut with the Braves as soon as this weekend when all of a sudden….I had just wanted to see what Ted Lilly’s 2009 record was, about 20 minutes pre-game time, when I looked at the headlines and saw “Braves Release Veteran Glavine.” WHAT THE HELL?!

All I could think was “WOW!” I was shocked. Not because I thought he was going to come up and pitch lights out and get the Braves into the post-season for the first time since 2005, but because it was TOM GLAVINE, a two time Cy Young Award winner (1991 & 1998)! I thought about it more and more and for some reason I was thinking clearly; I wasn’t angry or stressed or anything. Did the Prozac finally kick-in?

It used to be, when I heard the Braves had made a move, I thought, “Oh, Schuerholz knows what he is doing,” but things really haven’t been that way in 5 years or so. It’s bizarre to think the names Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine now represent former Braves.

I don’t think it was necessarily the right time to make this move. The guy has worked so hard to get himself back into pitching shape after a ‘08 surgery, rehabilitation the whole off-season and working through set-backs through the first two months of this season. Even though he left the Braves in 2003 for the METS, I still think of Glavine as a Brave. I always will. The 305-game winner has always been a true professional both on and off the mound, and there has never been a teammate who spoke ill of him. I just strongly hope that the $1 million bonus had NOTHING to do with this.

After mulling it over for a few minutes it started to make sense. Obviously if the Braves thought he could contribute to the team in any way they would have welcomed him to the roster with open arms. BUT…this meant that if Glavine wasn’t going to pitch, then who would be the 5th starter? Is Kris Medlen the guy? OR maybe it’s time for…TOMMY HANSON!

Disbelief turned into elation knowing that it was time…FINALLY!

The second major move the Braves made Wednesday was announcing that ‘Super Prospect’ Tommy Hanson had been promoted from AAA Gwinnett. Hanson (3-3) pitched well this season, posting a 1.49 ERA and 90 SO in 66.1 IP. The 6’6” 23-year-old Hanson will join his roommate Kris Medlen, who has been moved to the bullpen, and will make his major league debut Saturday against Ryan Braun, the “Hebrew Hammer,” and the Milwaukee Brewers.

After feeling mentally drained from hearing the first two bits of news, the Braves had to really test my psychological capacity by announcing they made a trade for CF Nate McLouth. Another surprise! I stopped worrying about my mental state and more about my heart. It sounded like a good move, then I heard who they gave up for McLouth…Charlie Morton (okay, I can deal with that)…Jeff Locke (damn!) …and…Gorkys Hernandez (OH NO!). Did they really just trade one of their best prospects?

But again, the more I thought about this the more I liked it. Charlie Morton, who was having a solid year in AAA Gwinnett (7-2 2.51 ERA), wasn’t high on the Braves list anymore after going with Jo Jo Reyes and Kris Medlen over Morton to start games this year. Jeff Locke, who I am still very high on, started to struggle at A Myrtle Beach (1-4 5.52 ERA) and really, he is a kid who has never pitched above A-ball and no one knows if he will turn out great or be a bust. I can deal with letting go of Locke…but GORKYS HERNANDEZ?!

This kid (I thought) was the Braves’ future CF— a kid that could hit for average, steal bases, play terrific defense and really just create havoc for opposing teams. BUT…again this may not be terrible. Hernandez was basically a throw-in with Jair Jurrjens in the Edgar Renteria trade. The Braves got him for virtually nothing. So in reality the Braves got a Gold Glove winner, a 2009 All-Star, and finally a legit lead-off guy for an AAA pitcher, a pitcher that is struggling in A-ball and a prospect that they obtained as a throw-in, who has only played two months in AA. Not Bad!

McLouth is a solid 5-tool player that will absolutely give the Braves a much-needed offensive threat. Let’s not overlook the fact McLouth is signed at a reasonable price through 2011, with a club option for 2012, so this is not a rent-a-player situation. After a great 2008 season where he posted a .276 AVG 26 HR 94 RBI 23 SB, all career highs, McLouth has struggled slightly this season hitting just .256 (only .002 higher than Kelly Johnson podcast guys), but has produced good power numbers with 9 HR 34 RBI.

The Braves seemed gun shy about making a move after trading the Rome Braves for Mark Teixeira in 2007, but it’s hard to knock a trade of prospects for an All-Start caliber player. Look at some of the past top prospects to be dealt— Wilson Betemit…Andy Marte…Matt Belisle…Jose Capellan…where are they now? It’s not always bad to trade prospects, unproven players, for solid major league talent.

After all of this, the news that Jorge Campillo was back on the DL (WBC) and Brian Barton, acquired for Blaine Boyer, had been called up to provide some depth to the bench didn’t seem so significant.

Overall, the McLouth trade looks like a winner for Frank Wren and the Braves. I will be watching intently as the talented Mr. Hanson and Nate McLouth make their Braves debuts this week, but I will never forget what Tom Glavine has done for the Braves and, more importantly, for Braves fans.

Thank you, Tom, for all you have done!

Follow me on Twitter @ BRAVEinNY

Until Next Time…Go—Tommy Hanson!



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