Atlanta Braves Morning Chop: Walter’s New Ride

Apr 4, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; A general view of the field prior to the game between the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

He’s been a fixture in Atlanta for both Braves and Georgia Tech games for… well, forever, as far as the Braves’ tenure in the South is concerned.  He’ll be 77 years old next year, but Walter Banks is coming to SunTrust Park.

The concern was mostly the nighttime driving… that distance from his home in Atlanta out to the suburbs of Cobb County where MARTA doesn’t reach.  But a way to fix this problem had to be found. It’s just not an Atlanta Braves baseball game without Walter.

The AJC ran a special on Walter Banks last Summer… at a time when it was thought his days patrolling Section 107 might be done.  In it, they outlined both Walter’s passion … and the problem:

He’d like to continue ushering, if he can figure out transportation and if the team will have him.

“I don’t take anything for granted,” said Banks, whose job security seems as solid (maybe more so) as just about anyone’s in the Braves organization, if not all of Major League Baseball. “Just because you’ve been here a long time, that doesn’t guarantee you anything. No matter how long you’ve been with a business, you still have to earn it.”

The distance to the new stadium and the current one from his home are nearly identical in terms of miles, but Banks is unsure how he’d get to SunTrust Park, the Braves’ home starting next season. He doesn’t like to drive at night and MARTA rail lines don’t reach Cobb County.

The way has been found.  It’s called Uber.

A bit cynically, I’ll note for the record that the offer to get Walter back and forth from SunTrust Park was made for just the 2017 season… but that said, this is something that clearly will continue for as long as Walter wants it to continue.

It has to continue.  It needs to continue.  Because we expect Walter to be there.  And it’s a fine thing done for him in this announcement as the Atlanta Braves and Uber teamed up to make it happen for him.

And for us.

Well done.

Sep 27, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson (2) reacts after striking out in the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field. The Braves won 7-6. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Braves Cautious About Blockbuster Moves

MARK BOWMAN / MLB.COM

ATLANTA — There has certainly been reason for the Braves to do their due diligence by at least evaluating what it might take to acquire a controllable frontline starting pitcher like Chris Sale, Chris Archer or Sonny Gray.

At the same time, Atlanta has not lost sight of how one significant move could impact the potential value gained over the past two years via the massive rebuilding process that has transformed its farm system from one of the worst to one of the best.

“We’ve worked so hard these past two years to take our farm system from worst to first,” Braves general manager John Coppolella said. “The last thing we want to do is give away the farm to add one player. If we give up young players we like, it’s going to be for long-term value. We’re going to try to build it the right way.”


[Ed. note:  Well, I guess that means that Atlanta has gotten nowhere in their pursuit of a frontline starter.  Moreover, I believe this tells us that after a couple of weeks’ effort, no trade was even very close.

Were that not to be the case, Coppy would not be saying things like this.

Combine that with John Hart‘s visit to the MLB Network yesterday morning (a snippet of that interview is posted in Bowman’s piece linked above), and it becomes fairly evident that – barring something dramatic – the Braves are almost done with their off-season.

At this point, the remaining tasks are:  Catcher and Bench.

It’s part of the equation that the 40-man roster is now full and thus adding a Jason Castro (or whoever) and Jeff Francoeur will require someone to be dropped off that list. Such transactions may wait until after the Winter Meetings, but otherwise it now seems that we’ll be playing the hand we’ve got come April.

Now we just need to hope that the Nationals don’t go get Chris Sale for themselves. ]

Oct 20, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Tur ner (10) connects for a single in the third inning against the Chicago Cubs in game five of the 2016 NLCS playoff baseball series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Morning Chop Recoil:  If You Can’t Trade for the Pitcher You Want…

So all of that gloom and doom from the previous page aside, WHAT ELSE could the Atlanta Braves opt to do to bolster its ranks?  Here are three whacky ideaswith the disclaimer that all of this is pure speculation and based on no rumor anywhere:

JUSTIN TURNER

Justin Turner.  In recent days, the Dodgers have been discussing going after Chris Sale themselvesalong with third baseman Todd Frazier.  That would leave Justin Turner with one significantly less possible suitor for his free agent services.

Turner would still be expensive… probably at least 4 years and something around $16 million apiece for someone who is easily the best hot corner man on the market.  Despite his 32nd birthday coming up tomorrow (11/23), he’s projected at a 3.9 fWAR for 2017.  That still leaves a lot of room for regressing while still playing at a significant level.

If the Braves don’t feel that either Adonis Garcia or Rio Ruiz will quite ‘make it’, then a Turner contract would be a nice gap-filler until Kevin Maitan arrives.

Of course Turner’s contract would come with that pesky Qualifying Offer, so don’t hold your breath on this one… or the next two, for that matter.

WILSON RAMOS

Let’s face it, we don’t really like the free agent catching options out there.  If Castro opts for another club, then Ramos might make some sense if the Braves believe he can fully recover from his ACL injury…. which is no small “if” clause.

This could require a very creative contract… such as a 1 yr deal that has a vesting option which activates an additional three years if he successfully makes it through 2017.

If they don’t like that, then maybe Coppy should review Fred’s trade ideas from October.

JUSTIN VERLANDER

I’m going to beat this dead horse a little longer… and why not?  Heck, Jim Bowden somehow thinks that the Braves would be interested in Zach Greinke and his crazy player-friendly contract, so why wouldn’t Verlander be a fit?

If the White Sox wouldn’t take whatever Coppolella offered, then perhaps the Tigers would be interested.

Heck, while Chris Sale was putting up ERA+ numbers of 156, 140, 137, 173, 114, and 120 over the past 6 seasons, Verlander did 172,161, 120, 85, 118, and 136 in his past 6 seasons.

Both pitchers have 3 years of control left… Verlander a fourth year if his option vests for 2020.  But maybe the Braves might see if the Tigers would take their Sale package and knock $8-10 million off the price of Verlander… making him cost $18-20 million a year.  Maybe?  Could that no-trade clause go away, too?  Didn’t think so.

Do the Braves really have the money left to spend $16-20 million on any of these guys?  It’s not clear that they do after spending $20.5 million on Colon and Dickey, but they were apparently willing to pursue Chris Sale and his $12 million deal, so none of these would be a horrible reach beyond that.

So just call this our little way of helping out the team.  Your welcome.

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