Sports

January 29, 2013

Chris Whitfield: New look, but a more solid team

The face of the Atlanta Braves has retired, but the team that finished second in the National League East and played as a wildcard in the playoffs last season will probably be even stronger this year.

As the Braves prepare for the start of spring training and the opening of camp with pitchers and catchers in two weeks, the team has made a flurry of moves as they have sat around the hot stove this winter. General Manager Frank Wren brought in a pair of Uptons, sent off a fan favorite in Martin Prado and let lots of talent walk away on the free agent market.

“We felt like we wanted to do a few things to improve our club,” said Wren, stating the obvious goal of any Major League GM.

He was part of the 2013 Braves Country Caravan that made a stop at Dalton’s Academy Sports and Outdoors on Monday afternoon, and before the autograph session in the store, he and the players spoke with area media.

For Wren, the challenges of this season were obvious long before the 2012 season ended with the wildcard loss to the Cardinals. Chipper Jones’ retirement was going to leave a hole in the lineup that would be hard to fill. A big bat was needed on the roster, and Wren got that when Atlanta signed center fielder B.J. Upton from Tampa Bay in November. That got better recently when Upton’s brother Justin was brought in by the team to play in left and will join Jason Heyward in right.

But, Atlanta had to part with some pieces as well, and those came in the form of Prado and Tommy Hanson. The former was the proven commodity who gave you versatility as he could literally play just about anywhere. He was a good guy in the clubhouse from all accounts and the fans loved him. Justin Upton has a lot of upside, but it could be a gamble. Prado was a given. But in the world of baseball economics, Prado was eligible for arbitration and it was pretty clear his asking price for a long-term contract was going to be pretty high.

“The hard part was Martin,” Wren said. “But it is hard to turn your back on a 25-year-old player who is really coming into his prime.”

Hanson was a casualty of the Atlanta pitching depth, which is a luxury in the game. The Braves let backup catcher David Ross go as well, which might not be the biggest move of the offseason, but it could be the most costly. Even though starting catcher Brian McCann expects to surprise everyone this spring and be ready to go after surgery to repair a torn labrum, it is doubtful the Braves will let him rush back.

“I am not sure the doctors will let him surprise us,” Wren said.

Wren signed Gerald Laird as the backup, but Ross has a higher upside. If McCann takes longer to recover, the Ross move could loom huge.

But the one thing you have to say is the team overall is improved with a lot of ifs. It’s a gamble, and there are plenty of things that could go wrong. However, diversity is at the forefront of these moves. Last year, Atlanta had too many hitters on one side of the plate. Now, they have a lineup that can go back and forth. That might not matter a ton across the stretch of the year, but it means a lot in a short series or even in a one-game playoff.

That means Wren is thinking about the postseason, and he has the money to do even a little more before now and the start of the season. Thinking like that is a crowd-pleaser.

Chris Whitfield is a sports writer with The Daily Citizen. Contact him at chriswhitfield@daltoncitizen.com.

1
Text Only
Sports
  • DHS at SE soccer 4 mlh.jpg Region 7-4A championship

    If recent history is any indication, this week’s Region 7-4A championship game may not be the last time the boys soccer teams at Dalton and Southeast Whitfield stand opposed to one another this season.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • St Louis at Rampage 4 mlh.jpg No Attack for Rampage

    The Georgia Rampage’s offense didn’t do anything in the first half — evident by the scoreboard.
    By the time new quarterback Bart Gloyd stepped in, a comeback was out of reach.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Former Dalton, Auburn QB Carter passes away

    When former Dalton High School football coach Bill Chappell learned one of his former players had died Saturday, he was shocked. His second reaction was sadness, not just because of Loran Carter’s athletic legacy but also his outstanding character.

    April 19, 2014

  • Golf at NobNorth 1  mlh.jpg Prep golf: DHS, rain steady for Nob Invite

    With the Region 7-4A tournament scheduled for Tuesday at Nob North Golf Club, Dalton coach Hunter Johnston was pleased that his team finally got its first victory of the season Saturday in Cohutta at the Nob North Invitational.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Doug Hawley: Cancer will not hinder Run for John’s finish

    With the seventh annual Run for John races scheduled for Saturday in Dalton, there is a community focus this week on the family of the late John Bruner.

    April 19, 2014

  • DSC women win finalé

    The Dalton State College women’s tennis team earned a 5-0 win in a rain-shortened match at home against Snead State to conclude its season.

    April 19, 2014

  • Play ball on the Westside

    The long-awaited Westside Park opened to rave reviews on April 10, with baseball teams ranging from 6 to 12 years christening the the newest Whitfield County recreation facility.

    April 19, 2014

  • DHS at Heritage 1 mlh.jpg Generally disappointed

    Dalton High School’s baseball team started the fifth inning of Friday’s crucial Sub-region 7B-4A game against Heritage-Catoosa with four consecutive hits.
    The only problem for the Catamounts was that was where their good hitting started and stopped.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Prep roundup: Upset puts N. Murray in baseball playoffs

    Over the past few seasons, a late-season game with Sonoraville has been the deciding factor in whether the North Murray High School baseball team advanced to the state playoffs.

    April 18, 2014

  • Miller, Mariners off to NAIA title tournament

    Former Dalton High School golf standout Chase Miller is finishing his senior year at College of Coastal Georgia on a high note.

    April 18, 2014