The Atlanta Braves are on their way to their first losing season since 2008. The team has looked tired, inactive, and unenergized all season, and today, they were officially mathematically eliminated from the playoffs today. Is it time for Atlanta to move on from general manager Frank Wren?
Wren hasn't done too much to make last year's Atlanta team (they lost in the NLDS) better this year. He signed starting pitcher Ervin Santana to a one-year deal in March, after finding out that Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen were both done for the year with elbow surgeries. Santana hasn't been too bad for Atlanta as he is 14-9 with a 3.74 ERA in 29 starts this season.
On July 31, the non-waiver trade deadline, and Atlanta sitting just 1.5 games back of the National League East leading Washington Nationals, Wren had a decision to make. He could have bought at the deadline to add to the club for a postseason run or he could have decided to sell players who will be free agents at the end of the year, like Santana.
The issue with that is that the Braves have locked up most of their veteran players. Of the players that were on their roster on July 30, just Santana, Ryan Doumit, Gavin Floyd, Gerald Laird, and Aaron Harang would be free agents at the end of this season. Santana was the only trade piece that could have perhaps netted a decent return for the Braves.
If Wren really wanted to sell, he could have traded some of the 2015 free agents. Those would have netted him a very good return. Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, Kris Medlen, and Jonny Venters are all free agents at the end of next season. Again, Atlanta had a 58-51 record, and sat just 1.5 games back, so trading any of those players would have made absolutely no sense.
The one subtle move that Wren did make for the Braves was an interesting one. He traded Victor Caratini, a minor league catcher/third baseman, to the Cubs, for Emilio Bonifacio and James Russell. Bonifacio is a free agent at the end of the season, so his time in Atlanta appears to be short-lived, but the Braves acquired a very interesting bullpen piece in Russell. The 28-year-old is 0-2 with a 3.33 ERA in 51.1 innings this year with the Cubs and the Braves.
The Braves rank 12th in the major leagues in payroll with around $112 million. The record that they are sporting doesn't reflect the one that is paying their players $112 million. But when you have the Phillies and Red Sox, who rank sixth and seventh in payroll, sitting at the bottom of their respective decisions, a second place finish in the National League East isn't that bad.
Frank Wren should still be the Braves general manager come 2015. I would probably make every decision he made last offseason and this trade deadline. He didn't know that Beachy and Medlen would go down with injuries in the beginning of the year. So then he went out and got Ervin Santana. He didn't deal any of his 2015 free agents to still make a run next season. He didn't deal any of his 2014 free agents, well, because none of them were desirable at all. Wren is doing his job, at least I think, pretty darn well.
Perhaps it is time to move on from manager Fredi Gonzalez. The Braves have looked sluggish over these past couple of weeks. It may be possible he's lost support in the clubhouse. But I know that one thing is for sure. And that is that Frank Wren should still be the Braves' general manager in 2015.
**Payroll data supplied by Spotrac**