Football season is officially over and now many turn their attention to baseball. Pitchers and Catchers report in just 18 days for Spring Training. The look of the Atlanta Braves will be very different this year. I will explain why Braves fans can have faith in this upcoming season, even based on the transactions of this off season that have puzzled so many.
Over the last few days and even couple of months, the Atlanta Braves fan base has been left scratching their heads at the moves the front office has been making. The president of baseball operations for the Braves, John Hart, has said that he has been focused on improving the Braves farm system while also maintaining a competitive team to put on the field in 2015. Most Braves fans do not feel this way and believe the front office has made deals that leave the shelves empty, with little chance of winning. All of those feelings reached a feverish peak when the Braves announced they had traded Evan Gattis to the Houston Astros.
Fans took to social media to voice their displeasure in the Braves front office. Some have even asked if the Braves should go ahead dump their All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel. Some have even wondered if the Braves are dumping the current roster in an attempt to build for the future when they open their new stadium in 2017.
So what has happened and what is the season looking like for Braves fans?
The Braves are obviously looking to the future in these trades but for an organization that has experienced success after success over the last 20 years, the fans are just not buying in. Hart tried to quell those emotions by coming out with a statement that the Braves were not in talks with any other organization or had even entertained those thoughts. Still many in the Southeast are not happy with the front office.
The frenzy of trading off the Braves stars started in November as the Braves entered an agreement with the St. Louis Cardinals. Jason Heyward was gone and the Braves received two right handed pitchers in return. A little over month later, the Braves traded another outfielder and another homerun producing player in Justin Upton to the San Diego Padres in return for four players. When the Braves sent Evan Gattis to the Astros, many people felt the Braves intentions for this coming year were being spoken loudly. Twitter and Facebook blew up with fans displeasure some though, saw the silver lining of the trade.
So what does the 2015 outlook for the Braves look like after a very busy off season? Well, as many people know, the negative always gets more attention than the positive. The Braves front office did trade some pretty big stars away but also made some key acquisitions in free agent signings. Hart is quoted as saying, “We’ve added (Nick) Markakis, (Jason) Grilli, (Jim) Johnson, A.J. (Pierzynski) and others to help us compete this year.
Markakis batted .276 with 14 homeruns and 50 RBI’s for Baltimore last year in 155 games. Pierzynski has been in the league since 1994 and his career is coming to end. Maybe he can squeak out a few more quality years and produce after being with the Red Sox and Cardinals in 2014.
The Braves may also find some help on the free agent market as they continue to make deals. Jonny Gomes was just signed to a 1 year contract on January 30th. Gomes is a seasoned veteran who played for Boston and Oakland last year and could help the Braves weather the loss of Heyward and Upton in the outfield. However, the Braves missed out on Nori Aoki who signed with the San Francisco Giants. He is a young talent who played for the Royals last season, batting .285 and could’ve been used in the outfield as well.
Time will only tell what the season holds for the Braves. Growing pains and team chemistry will certainly be issues for the 2015 season. How Freddie Gonzalez handles the clubhouse will be very crucial not only for this season, but the ones to come in the very near future as well. If the Braves are going to have success on the diamond in 2015, they will have to rely very heavily on the shoulders of Freddie Freeman. Chris Johnson and Andrelton Simmons will need to bounce back and have great seasons along with Justin Upton. The mound will feature Kimbrel in the closer role of course but must also see success from the plethora of arms they have received in these off season deals.
Braves fans, don’t worry and please support your team. Keep the chop going and maybe, just maybe, that chop will inspire the mixture of young and veteran players to some victories in 2015. After all if Jake Taylor, Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn, Roger Dorn and Willie Mays Hayes can take the Indians to the playoffs, you gotta believe your beloved Braves can make it to the playoffs!!
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