Atlanta Braves: 5 Biggest Offseason Moves Heading Into 2014 MLB Season
Atlanta Braves' Biggest Offseason Moves
This offseason has been a memorable one for the Atlanta Braves. It has seen the departure of stalwart veteran leaders Tim Hudson and Brian McCann, multiple long-term signings, several new acquisitions and a plethora of questions, new and old. An already young team seems to have somehow gotten younger, and yet optimism and expectation (or perhaps it would be better to say potential) may have never been higher.
It can be argued who the Braves’ MVP was last season. The case can be made for Freddie Freeman with his excellent numbers and unparalleled consistency. The argument can be made for Craig Kimbrel and his utter dominance at the back of the bullpen. I’d even listen to someone make a case for Andrelton Simmons and his impeccable defense. That said, Atlanta’s offseason MVP is an obvious choice; a unanimous decision among the Braves’ faithful. And it isn’t a player, or even a coach.
It’s Frank Wren.
The Atlanta GM has had an offseason for the ages, time and again making the right move to ensure the longevity of his team. The Braves have spent more money this year than any in recent memory, extending the contracts of key young players and making acquisitions to bolster an already strong squad. Wren has been aggressive this offseason, using his pocketbook to his advantage and not allowing important arbitration-eligible players to make it all the way to their hearings.
These are the five most important moves that Wren has made leading up to the 2014 season.
5. Ryan Doumit Gives Braves Versatility
The acquisition of Ryan Doumit was by no means a glamorous move, and was perplexing to some. The Braves traded Sean Gilmartin to the Minnesota Twins for the 32-year old veteran backstop. Doumit not only gives the Braves more depth at catcher, but his versatility (he can also play the corner outfield positions and first base) will allow the team to experiment more with Evan Gattis, moving him around and allowing the second-year power hitter to get more at-bats.
4. Letting Hudson, McCann Go Frees Up Salary
The losses of both Brian McCann and Tim Hudson were cause for lament among Braves fans far and wide, but the decision to let both players go was a wise one. Hudson, who will be 38-years old at the start of the 2014 season, is certainly past his prime. McCann, meanwhile, likely only had one more productive year behind the plate in his legs. By allowing both players to leave, Wren freed up the necessary salary to extend the contracts of core players, solidifying the team's future.
3. Jason Heyward Given Chance to Prove Himself
Jason Heyward is a five-tool player with huge upside, but he has yet to realize his potential (if for no other reason than injury). It remains to be seen if the Braves’ right fielder will live up to his billing, but the two-year, $13.5 million contract extension will give the team time to see how he develops, and give Heyward time to prove himself. If he never does, the organization won’t be out a huge sum of money. A smart move all the way around.
2. Signing Kimbrel Solidifies Dominant Bullpen
Craig Kimbrel is the game’s most dominant closer, the Braves simply couldn’t let the 25-year old slip away. Wren did well to hammer out a four-year, $42 million contract with the flamethrower and avoid arbitration. An average of more than $10 million per year is a steep price to pay for a closer, especially considering the volatility of the position, but Kimbrel shows every sign of being worth every penny.
1. Extending Freddie Freeman
The importance of signing Freddie Freeman to a long-term extension cannot be overstated. At eight years, $135 million, the contract signed by the 24-year old first baseman is the largest in franchise history. Freeman is truly the future of the Braves organization, and locking down the MVP-caliber star was surely on the top of the front office’s to-do list.