Some can say that October is the most pivotal part of the baseball season. Others will argue that the July 31st Trade Deadline is the most important time in the MLB calender year. Whatever you believe in, it's hard to argue with the statement that the offseason has an incredible impact on how teams will look come the regular season. Whether it's the Winter Meetings where the high-profile deals go down, or that awkward time before Spring Training where teams will scoop up veterans on cheap contracts, the moves made during this period can vastly affect any MLB squad.
Looking back to the offseason of 2013-14, the Braves didn't make any incredibly high profile moves. They didn't trade their farm away for superstar, and they didn't bring in any free agents with a $175 million dollar contract. That being said, they did make some moves that are affecting now and in the future. With a little over a month left in the regular season, I take a look back at the moves made and grade them up.
NOTE: I didn't go into any analysis on any minor-league signings.
(all stats accurate as of August 26th)
12/18/13: Braves trade LHP Sean Gilmartin to the Minnesota Twins for C Ryan Doumit
2013: .247 AVG, .314 OBP, 14 HR, 55 RBI, 0.1 WAR
2014: .194 AVG, .235 OBP, 3 HR, 14 RBI, -0.8 WAR
2013 (AAA): 3-8, 5.74 ERA, 4.61 FIP, 1.59 WHIP
2014 (AAA): 2-4, 4.36 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 1.31 WHIP
The Breakdown: When the Braves let Brian McCann go to the Yankees, they lost a huge part of their lineup offensively. While bringing Ryan Doumit sure didn't seem like the answer, grabbing decent bat off the bench would certainly be a step in the right direction. in In terms of the trade, the Braves basically sent a struggling 23-year-old minor leaguer to the Twins for a decent player who could catch and play the outfield. At the time of the deal, the Braves rotation looked pretty solid, so it was unlikely that Gilmartin could have cracked the major league squad in 2014. That being said, Gilmartin was still a former first-round pick, who despite a down year, was a top prospect in the system. The Braves filled a need on the bench at the time, but it seemed like the Twins got the better end of the deal moving forward.
Grade at the Time: C+
Grade Now: C-
Well, Doumit has been one of the least productive players on the Braves active roster this season. While he's played a role in the outfield as well, it's hard to see the 33-year-old with a sub-.200 batting average be brought back for another season. The only thing keeping this trade from being too terrible is the fact that Gilmartin has faced his fair of struggles in the minors this year as well. At 24, he's still young, but two back-to-back lost seasons won't help Sean's case in the future.
12/16/13: Braves Sign RHP Gavin Floyd to one-year, $4 million dollar contract
2013: 0-4, 5.18 ERA, 4.61 FIP, 1.60 WHIP
2014: 2-2, 2.65 ERA, 3.80 FIP, 1.25 WHIP
The Breakdown: Some will argue that pitching is what wins you championships. It's hard to argue with that statement, and having a deep starting staff is invaluable as the regular season grinds along. At the time of the signing, Floyd was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Being a one-year deal with no options, it was really a "low-risk, potentially decent reward" given the fact that Floyd has had a relatively successful career. Floyd hadn't posted an ERA under four since 2008, but he could always be counted on to eat up innings at the end of the rotation when healthy.
Grade at the Time: C-
Grade Now: D+
Despite the lack of risks Atlanta took in the signing, it's still signing an under-performing aging veteran coming off of a serious injury. Hard to get very excited at all, even if it is just for depth. In the early stages of 2014, Floyd looked like a pretty solid signing, posting a decent ERA. Unfortunately for Floyd, he broke a bone in he elbow in June, and was sent to the DL and hasn't pitched since. It's hard to believe that Floyd will see any more time with the Braves this year, and it's even harder to see him coming back next year. For the most part, it was a lost year for Floyd, and a lost signing for Atlanta, who could've used the $4 million dollars elsewhere in free agency.
2/4/14: Braves give 1B Fredddie Freeman eight-year, $135 million dollar contract extension
2013: .319 AVG, .396 OBP, 23 HR, 109 RBI, 4.7 WAR
2014: .292 AVG, .387 OBP, 17 HR, 68 RBI, 3.9 WAR
The Breakdown: There really isn't a whole lot to "break down" here. Freeman is one of the best first-baseman in the game, and just at the age of 24, the sky is the limit for the former second round pick. He's arguably the cornerstone for this Braves' franchise, and locking him up was a necessity. He had a monster 2013, leading the team in RBI, and finishing second in both average and home-runs.
Grade at the Time: A
Grade Now: A
$135 million isn't too bad for Freeman, given the money that other first-baseman like Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols have gotten over the past few years. The Braves will have Freeman locked up through his prime, and it's hard to argue that that isn't a great thing. The two-time All-Star will only improve as he ages, and the Braves are lucky enough to have man first-base through this period. Paying out $16.8 million per year does put a dent in the wallet, but it's hard to argue that the money could be used better elsewhere.
2/4/14: Braves give RF Jason Heyward two-year, $13.3 million dollar contract extension
2013: .254 AVG, .349 OBP, 14 HR, 38 RBI, 3.4 WAR
2014: .272 AVG, .355 OBP, 10 HR, 52 RBI, 4.7 WAR
The Brakdown: Ever since his rookie season in 2010, Jason Heyward has been a huge part of Atlanta's lineup, and one of the better right-fielders in the game. Incredible defense, above-average power, and a great ability to get on base all make Jason the talented player that he is, and a part of a lineup that you wouldn't want to lose. Coming off of an injury plagued season may have helped the Braves sign Heyward at a cheaper cost, but only for two-years.
Grade at the Time: B+
Grade Now: B
Heyward is having a great season, so why would the grade go down? Because, when he hits free agency again after 2015, the contract demand will be even higher. While getting Heyward for two-years at a rather cheap price isn't terrible, signing him to a longer deal at the end of 2013 may have been a better idea. Nonetheless, $6.65 million for two-years of one of the best defensive right-fielders in the game and an offensive spark-plug in the lineup is a considerable bargain.
2/16/14: Braves give CP Craig Kimbrel four-year, $42 million dollar contract extension
2013: 1.21 ERA, 1.93 FIP, 13.16 K/9, 50 SV, 0.88 WHIP
2014: 1.76 ERA, 1.56 FIP, 14.82 K/9, 38 SV, 0.92 WHIP
The Breakdown: Since his first full season inn 2011, there hasn't really been a better closer in the MLB than Craig Kimbrel. His sub-two era over the past three seasons has been simply dominant, while he racks up strikeouts and saves coming out of the Braves bullpen. Having a strong closer at the end of the bullpen can make all the difference for a contending team, and the Braves certainly have one in Kimbrel.
Grade at the Time: A
Grade Now: A+
Kimbrel is just 26-years-old, and entering his prime. He's shown no signs of regression, or reason not to feel safe about a long term deal. If he could stay at this level for an extended amount of time, he could go down as one of the best relievers of all time. There has yet to be a problem with Kimbrel. He's stayed incredibly healthy, and only managed to get better year after year. If anything, the Braves are only getting a steal here with a $10.5 million AAV.
3/12/14: Braves sign RHP Ervin Santana to a $14.1 million dollar contract
2013: 9-10, 3.24 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 1.14 WHIP
2014: 13-7, 3.60 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 1.26 WHIP
The Breakdown: Although it was a bit of an emergency signing at the time, with looming injuries to Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, and Brandon Beachy, they snagged a pretty solid stater considering how late into the offseason it was. With Kansas City in 2013, Santana posted an impressive 3.24 ERA, which was good for ninth in the American League. The 31-year-old righty had a big chance to step into an injured rotation and become a savior for the Braves.
Grade at the Time: B-
Grade Now: B+
Coming in to a injured rotation, Santana has so far done a great job of holding down the ship behind Julio Teheran. His ERA is third best in the rotation, behind Teheran and Alex Wood. He's keeping the ball in the yard with just 0.72 HR/9, and an 8.21 K/9 as well. While $14.1 million is a lot to pay, without Santana, the Braves would be in an even worse position given the injuries. You could easily make a case in saying that Santana was the best offseason pickup for the Braves.
3/24/14: Braves sign Aaron Harang to a one-year, $1 million dollar contract
2013: 5-12, 5.40 ERA, 4.79 ERA, 1.35 WHIP
2014: 10-8, 2.60 ERA, 3.62 FIP, 1.41 WHIP
The Breakdown: While spending 2013 with the Mariners and the Mets, Harang simply looked abysmal (in case you couldn't pick that up by his 5.40 ERA). As a 35-year-old posting an ERA above five, it's hard to generate any excitement regarding him coming to your team. Like Santana, he was another Spring Training signing, brought in due to injuries to the rotation. With his age, and coming off of a disappointing season, the Braves were able to land Harang for just $1 million dollars.
Grade at the Time: D
Grade Now: C+
It appears as if Aaron Has put his 2013 season behind him, as he's turned 2014 into a pretty impressive year. His 3.60 ERA is tied for third best in the rotation, and his 2.0 WAR has been solid as well. At just $1 million dollars, this signing has been a good "bang-for-your-buck" deal, especially given Atlanta's dire need for a starter this year. Not many expected the 36-year-old coming off of a five-plus ERA season to be a key part of a contending team's rotation, but here we are.