Braves have one eye on present, two on future
Flurry of roster moves indicates desire to compete
ATLANTA -- Though the Braves have spent this season's first three months living up to John Hart's description of not being "the prettiest girl at the dance," the countless acquisitions and roster moves the club's front office has made indicates that it is not willing to simply settle for routine disappointment this year, despite admittedly placing a greater focus on the future.
"I think we'll dance as hard as anybody and we won't sit out any songs," Braves assistant general manager John Coppolella said, playing off the analogy provided by Hart, who became the club's president of baseball operations in October.
In an attempt to overcome injuries, a weak bullpen and some lineup holes, the Braves have already used 44 players (23 pitchers and 21 position players). This doesn't even account for the recent promotions of Jake Brigham and Ryan Kelly -- a pair of 27-year-old right-handed relievers who joined Atlanta's roster last weekend, each of whom is eagerly awaiting the chance to make his Major League debut.
To put this in context, less than halfway through this season, the Braves have already used more players than they did all of last year (39) and in 2012 (41). This year's total matches the number of players used in 2013 and stands one shy of the mark totaled in 2011 (45).
Atlanta might exceed that 2011 total by the end of this week. Manny Banuelos is expected to make his Major League debut by starting in place of the injured Williams Perez on Thursday. Right-handed reliever Arodys Vizcaino -- currently serving an 80-game suspension for PED use -- could be activated as early as Saturday.
"I think [the many different roster moves] show that we're trying," Coppolella said. "We could have sat back and just said we're going to try to finish with a .500 record or finish in third or fourth place. That isn't good enough for us. We're trying to win every game and we're trying everything we can within the rules and our power to give the Braves a chance to win ballgames every time they take the field."
Through the flurry of significant trades made this past offseason, Atlanta created the financial flexibility that allowed them to recently bolster their impressive pitching prospect stable by acquiring highly-regarded Touki Toussaint at the cost of assuming Bronson Arroyo's contract ($9.5 million) from Arizona.
The Braves will attempt to further enrich their farm system by trying to complete trades to increase their international bonus pool for this season. If they are able to gain more flexibility in this market, they could be positioned to make significant signings this year and beyond.
"We don't want to lose 100 games or put our fan base through any type of extended suffering," Coppolella said. "We are trying to walk two parallel roads: making this team better and building for the future. So, it's one eye on the present and two eyes on the future."
If the Braves continue falling out of contention over the next few weeks, they might opt to move Kelly Johnson, A.J. Pierzynski, Jim Johnson or Jason Grilli before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. They will likely have to wait until the offseason to use a significant piece like Julio Teheran to fill their need for a power bat.
"When we get to the Trade Deadline, we won't look to ship out everyone who is on a free-agent contract or everybody who is over the age of 30," Coppolella said. "We're going to look to make good solid baseball trades that will be made in the best interest of this franchise. I don't know if we'll be as active as we have been previously. We'll see what comes up at the Deadline, but by no means will we totally gut this team."