The Key is The Core Let’s Invest In It
By Fred Owens
Anyone who does any kind of personal fitness management knows about maintaining core strength/stability. For the couch potatoes amongst us, core strength/stability is developing and using the muscles in our abdomen and back to stabilize, align, and moves maintain the body mechanics necessary for avoiding serious injury and reduced physical capability. Like our body, perennially successful clubs are built around a core of players who hold the team together and keep them performing at the highest level. During the Braves our 15 year run players like Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux, Chipper, Lopez, Lemke and Justice guided by Bobby Cox and Leo Mazone were that core. In baseball as in life failure to keep the core strong means we aren’t as good as we should be. We can’t do much about the natural decline of our bodies as we get older, at least I don’t know of any muscle replacement programs. If the body of a baseball team is managed correctly however that team is has a self regenerating core known as the farm system; think Minnesota Twins. The Braves farm system is always rated one of baseball’s strongest. Based on the Cox Shuerholz philosophy that drafting great pitching is priority one because pitching is the key to winning, Along the way we’ve picked some superb position player prospects that have or will soon become part of our core. What we have done rarely in recent years is sign the core early enough to keep them Braves for more than the 6 years we have control of them after the draft.
Around the league teams have moved this year to sign their core to longer term contracts. Tulowtzcki and CarGo in Colorado, Votto, Bruce, Cueto in Cincinnati even the penny pinching Marlins have signed Josh Johnson. Hanley Ramirez and Ricky Nolasco to multi-year contracts, albeit under pressure from the league. Currently we have Chipper, Brain McCann, Tim Hudson and the newly acquired Dan Uggla through 2012 and only Uggla through 2013. (Lowe and McLouth are signed through 12 as well but I don’t think they can be seen as part of our core. ) It’s time to consider inking at least a couple of others even if like Colorado we are buying out only arbitration years plus one or two.
JJ would be a candidate but Boras never lets his players extend when he can take them to free agency so I suspect that we will see arbitration with JJ until that time unless he’s traded for a need. Hanson hasn’t been up and consistent long enough to be considered yet though he has the potential to be on the list. Jason Heyward is obviously a candidate as well but I would like to see another full season before committing to him. Not that I expect him to follow the same route but I remember Jeff Francoeur’s rise and fall too well. That we only have two candidates – Martin Prado and Brain McCann – is a little scary. We will be very young very soon or be buying/trading for veterans to hold us over; the first can be exciting, the latter costly. I digress. I’d be negotiating now with Prado and BMac to send the signal that we want our best to be Braves forever.
How much are they worth? How long’s a piece of string? As a catcher BMac’s shelf life isn’t as long as others –Javy Lopez’ was great for 10 and gone after 13 – but he is one of the top offensive catchers in the game. We have a $12million option on him for 2012 – his 7th full year – so perhaps a 3 year $42million (13,14,15) offer for him. Prado got $3.1 million in arbitration this year. To buy out his next two years of arbitration and perhaps 3 years of free agency would probably take at least $45million (5,7,9,11,13). I believe we have to pay attention to our core development to successfully challenge for titles in the next few years. Based on their performance and potential I’d make the offers to BMac and Prado. How about you?