July 16, 2010

Goodbye Yunel, Hello Gonzo!

Well, it looks like Frank Wren read my last blog, specifically the part where I said the Braves needed to do something about Yunel Escobar sooner than later, and then he made a fantastic trade with the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday. The Braves sent Escobar and pitcher Jo Jo Reyes to the Blue Jays in exchange for SS Alex Gonzalez and minor league LHP Tim Collins and SS Tyler Pastornicky. Another sign the Braves are going for it this year.

You may have never heard of the two minor leaguers the Braves received along with Gonzalez, but they are quality players. There was an AL executive that commented on this trade with awe for what Frank Wren pulled off. The Braves dumped a guy they desperately needed to get rid of (well make that 2 guys) and they got in return a veteran SS that is having a career year, a solid defender and an all-around good clubhouse guy AND got two good prospects on top of that. Now, I don’t expect Gonzalez to keep up the HR pace he is on right now (with 17) but as long as he is steady, this will be a win for the Braves. This could be Wren’s best deal yet.

Gonzalez was an All-Star in 1999 and won a World Series with the Florida Marlins in 2003, so this guy has all the experience needed to help the Braves get to the Promised Land. He is under contract for this year with a club option for 2011. At just $2.5 Million, Gonzalez is a very affordable option for the Braves this year and next if they don’t come up with a better plan—remember they may be in the market for a third basemen in the off-season.

In reality I was not the only one calling for Yunel’s head. In fact it seems as if many people high up in the Braves organization and many players were right with me—especially after the lazy throw that almost cost Troy Glaus a broken in the New York series. I don’t think anyone questions Escobar’s ability on the field. He is one of the most talented SS I have seen in my 30 years with the best arm at SS by far I have ever seen (better than Furcal’s). But the attitude and mental mistakes ultimately led to his demise in Atlanta. I think his talent and upside will be missed but in terms of his behavior on the field and his overall mind-set, I don’t think anyone is going to miss that. Plus after seeing Gonzalez on the Marlins (and other teams; as long as he plays like he always has, Braves fans are going to be very happy with this upgrade, that’s right, an upgrade.

*****

Brian McCann had the rest of the baseball world asking “Mauer who?” Tuesday night as he delivered the game-winning hit in the All-Star Game to give the National League a much needed (and long awaited) win. More importantly, it gives the Braves..errr..the National League Champ home-field advantage in this year’s World Series. You could really see the players and coaches into this year’s game for that very reason.

Since I have been sitting in my recliner for the past two weeks with nothing to do but watch the MLB Network and I have seen the replay 20 times, but it is sweet to see Braves’ solidarity in the ASG win as this year continues to point in the Braves direction.  Fate will deliver this I am going to have to win the lottery and since I don’t gamble, it’s going to be the Braves.

I was disappointed Omar Infante and Tim Hudson didn’t get in the game but it was sure nice to see Martin Prado hit between Hanley Ramirez and Albert Pujols, batting second in the lineup. Prado deserves to be honored among baseball’s best for the year he is having and the way he plays the game. He may not be a household name yet, but I have a strong feeling Chase Utley is in for a battle for All-Star votes at 2B for the nest few years.

Mike Minor and Julio Teheran both pitched a scoreless inning in this year’s Future’s Game—I told you I was bored. I watched the whole game! Both players looked good on the mound; Minor more so since Teheran was sporadic with his control, but I expect both guys (you can add Randall Delgado in this too) will figure largely into the Braves future plans either as a starting pitcher or a trade chip for a big-time player (Ryan Braun anyone?). Hey, we all can dream can’t we?

*****

The Braves will begin the second half of their season against Brauny and the Brewers with a four-game set at Turner Field starting tonight. Kris Medlen is going to get some rest to start this series because he is on pace to pitch way more innings this year than he is accustomed to. I like this strategy a lot because if the Braves are going to contend this year, they need a healthy Medlen.

The Braves have been winning series since I took the trip to Atlanta at the end of April (yes, I still take some credit) and if they continue to do so, I see no problem being there at the end of the year. The Phils will be getting Polanco and Utley back at some point and The Mets get Beltran back tonight, but the Braves have one thing those two teams don’t…a 4 game lead.

Follow me on Twitter @ BRAVEinNY.

Until Next time…Go Braves!

 

 

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