A New Era of Braves Baseball

The Atlanta Braves new manager, Fredi Gonzalez

Fredi Gonzalez was introduced as the new Braves manager today and in turn began a new era of Braves baseball.

For all the sadness of seeing Bobby coach his last game and break down during the post game press conference, today offered glimpse of excitement.

Gonzalez is a perfect fit in my opinion. He’s personable and is familiar with the Braves organization. General Manager Frank Wren had Gonzalez in mind for a long time and I think he was going to be the Braves manager regardless of whether or not he was fired in Florida. Gonzalez is a bit underrated. He’s already won a NL Manager of the Year award and did pretty well considering what he had to work with (and deal with) in Florida.

Now all we have to do is wait about four or so months for Spring Training to roll around again. Ah, the long wait.

Rogers Hornsby said it best:

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

This will be one of the more interesting off seasons for the Braves in quite some time. Most of the staff was named today. Brian Snitker will stay on as 3rd base coach. Eddie Perez and Roger McDowell will retain their positions as well. Hitting instructor, Terry Pendleton, will take over as 1st base coach and fielding instructor. Wren said this was a move to give Terry more say in what happens during the game as opposed to being holed up as a hitting instructor.

That leaves a void at hitting coach. Your guess is as good as mine on who will get that job. Phillip Wellman, who is probably most known for his “grenade” tossing antics, is probably on the short list. He managed the Mississippi Braves for four years, but his contract was not renewed after this season.

One of the new faces will be Carlos Tosca. Tosca was Fredi’s bench manager while he was with the Marlins and he will maintain that position with the Braves.

The Braves most glaring needs are probably going to exist in the bullpen and in needing a solid, reliable bat for the lineup.

Whose going? In my opinion, I feel like I can say with 100% certainty that we won’t be seeing these guys next year.

  • Kyle Farnsworth, RP
  • Takashi Saito, RP
  • Scott Proctor, RP
  • Billy Wagner, CP (retirement)
  • Derrek Lee, 1B
  • Troy Glaus, 1B
  • Rick Ankiel, OF
  • Melky Cabrera

The Braves will have to make tough choices on who to keep on their bench. Eric Hinske, Alex Gonzalez, Matt Diaz and Omar Infante are among those who have expiring contracts (along with others of course). You’d have to think the Braves will be willing to pick up options on Infante and Gonzalez. Scoff if you want, but Gonzalez does bring power and solid defense to the shortstop position. He’s a team player and he’s affordable at $2.75 million. It’s better to stick with Gonzalez and spend the money elsewhere.

Do the Braves have a shot at landing a big name free agent? If you’re thinking Carl Crawford, then you’re reaching for the stars. Crawford in Atlanta isn’t going to happen. He’s a 28-year old five tool outfielder who is coming off one of his best seasons. He’s going to get a huge contract.

One guy that I think is a possibility is Adam Dunn, but I’m pretty sure the Braves intentions are to let Freddie Freeman take over the reigns as the Braves first baseman. Freeman saw a little bit of action at the end of this season and he’s more of a gap hitter than a pure power hitter right now. The Braves really need to place a big bat in the middle of the lineup to take the pressure off Brian McCann and some of the other guys. While I think Dunn is a possibility, I’m afraid he may be too expensive and the Braves would lose out in a bidding war. Several teams are interested in signing the slugging first baseman.

The Braves also must think about a “Plan B” if Chipper Jones isn’t able to make a successful recovery from knee surgery. It’s something no one really wants to think about, especially after Bobby’s retirement — but it’s something that must be on the table.

Here’s a detailed list of upcoming free agents for 2011.

Braves pitching outlook for 2011:
Jair Jurrjens will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery to repair torn ligaments in his knee and turn his sights on being healthy for 2011. The Braves will also return Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson. At this point, I don’t think Kawakami is an option for the rotation anymore and I’m not even sure what the Braves plan to do with him. He still has one year left in his contract in which he will be making $6.67 million. Unless something else happens, I see Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor competing for the 5th spot next spring. A guy to look out for is 19-year old Julio Teheran. I imagine that the Braves will want him to get more seasoning in the minors, though. Depending on how quickly he develops, we could see Teheran advance to the AAA level next season with the possibility of a September call up.

The bullpen will receive a bit of a shakeup. I expect to see Farnsworth and Saito gone. Billy Wagner is retiring. Peter Moylan has an expiring contract, but I think that will get renewed. Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel will likely compete for the closer role, but I think Kimbrel is going to be the guy there. Venters will still be an excellent set up man for Kimbrel and I think Venters provides more a situational type approach with his hard sinker. Kimbrel possesses that intimidation factor that a closer needs. I think LHP’s Eric O’Flaherty and Mike Dunn could also be in the mix for making the bullpen for 2011.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment box below. You can e-mail me suggestions or questions at jtmcadams@aol.com. Follow me on Twitter @JoeSportswriter.

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