With Tim Hudson out for the season and possibly beyond, Chipper Jones out for the foreseeable future, and Brian McCann nursing a concussion, the Braves’ hand was forced into dealing slugger Mark Texiera. Tuesday evening, the Angels emerged as the high bidders, offering a solid first baseman replacement in Casey Kotchman and a middling AA pitching prospect.
And so ends a whirlwind year for Texiera that saw him arrive for a bevy of highly touted prospects and leave for a guy owned in just 32% of ESPN.com fantasy leagues. While getting Kevin Youkilis or Conor Jackson was probably a pipe dream all along, the Braves leverage in any deal diminished considerably following the placement of Hudson/Chipper on the disabled list. That the Braves were able to snag a 25-year-old major league caliber first baseman that, by all accounts, is a competent hitter and excellent fielder (and signed through 2011!) speaks to the organization’s ability to maximize any potential deal, no matter the extenuating circumstances. That being said, I am hoping the Braves are getting the Kotchman with a near .400 OBP through seven professional seasons and not this year's .327 edition.
Thus, the rebuilding of this franchise has begun. Assuming a handful of John Smoltz or Tom Glavine starts remain, the only tie to those uber-successful Braves teams of the 90s and early 00s is a 36-year-old Chipper Jones. There are some solid pieces to build around…McCann, Kotchman, Jair Jurrjens and Yunel Escobar to name a few…and yet, that’s not a nucleus of a World Series contender. (Hell, the biggest draw to the ballpark is still probably a certain right-fielder with a .280 OBP) The farm system is stocked with solid hitters, but not much by way of pitching. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the year plays out…most Braves fans under the age of 30 have hardly experienced a season where the Bravos were out of the race by August 1st.
The situation being what it is, I’d like to see the Braves use this time to play some of the younger players on the team in different situations; specifically to learn if and where Kelly Johnson and Brent Lillibridge’s futures lie within the roster. Let’s find out if the Chuck Jameses and Jo-Jo Reyeses of the world are ever going to be worth giving a rotation spot to. See if Charlie Morton can begin to learn how to pitch to major league hitters the second time through a lineup. And finally, Francoeur can even get some at-bats in minor-league atmospheric situations without actually being sent down to the minor leagues, so as to assuage his fragile ego, apparantly of high importance to the Braves.
Anyways, the big winners in all of this are fantasy league owners of Vladimir Guerrero, who will benefit greatly from the switch-hitting Texiera protecting him in a now stacked (if healthy…always a problem with the Angles) lineup. I don’t necessarily think that acquiring Texiera puts them significantly ahead of the Yankees or Sawx in the