COMMENTARY | The good vibes that fans of the Atlanta Braves were feeling after completing an East division championship have quickly given way to speculation about what sort of roster moves need to be done to improve next year's squad.
There is an unfortunate narrative in professional sports that, somehow, a season that doesn't result in a championship is a failure. Every team in Major League Baseball had a three-game losing streak at some point during the 2013 season. But when a team loses three games out of four against one of the league's best teams in October, fans try to pick apart what went wrong or what could have been done differently.
For the Braves, the weakness illustrated against the Los Angeles Dodgers was the absence of a true ace starting pitcher. Building a rotation of solid, healthy and dependable arms like the Braves showcased in 2013 is a formula for sustained regular-season success. But it does not translate to any 1-0 shutouts. And if you've been watching the postseason this year, that seems to be the only way to win a game.
Tampa Bay has demonstrated a willingness to make major moves recently. The trade with the Kansas City Royals that brought Wil Myers to the Rays in exchange for James Shields showed that no player on their roster, save maybe Evan Longoria, was untouchable. They could be looking to move Price in a similar deal.
The Rays have to deal with a harsh economic reality when they construct rosters. They simply don't have money available to retain high-priced free agents, which is what David Price will become after 2014. Price, as a Cy Young winner with the reputation of an ace and a workhorse, will command an enormous contract after the 2014 season.
He will likely haul in something between the five years for $80 million that the Detroit Tigers gave Anibal Sanchez and the seven years for $180 million that the Tigers gave Justin Verlander. Any contract in that range is simply going to be too big of a commitment for the Rays to make.
The Atlanta Braves have constructed a roster full of young, cheap talent. The organizational depth is most impressive in terms of starting pitching, but they also possess Christian Betancourt, one of the most attractive catching prospects in all of baseball. A package of young, cost-controlled pitching and an elite catching prospect could be enough to bring Price to Atlanta.
Again, I sincerely hope that Atlanta does not do anything rash this offseason. Too many things fell in to place this year to expect to be able to blow up a roster and win 96 games again. Further, the Braves are likely going to be trying to replace free-agent catcher Brian McCann, and sending away a top catching prospect for a year of starting pitching is the kind of gamble that the Braves tend to avoid.
But it is fun to speculate, isn't it? The Braves might still be playing if they had David Price available to shut down the Dodgers at least once. What else are we supposed to do for the next few weeks, root for the Cardinals?
Patrick Richardson is a longtime follower of the Atlanta Braves who started playing t-ball right as Atlanta's record-setting run of division titles began. He is an amateur but enthusiastic sabermetrician.
- Sports & Recreation
- Atlanta Braves
- Tampa Bay Rays