The Atlanta Braves are not what they once were. The team that previously won 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005 has made just three appearances in the postseason since 2006. Braves fans have endured some rough times since 2005, and results may not improve in 2018. With a young, prospect-heavy team, Atlanta could fall below the .500 mark for a fifth straight year. The Braves have not gone through a stretch like that since 1986-90.
While the immediate future may not be friendly, the Braves should soon be a team on the rise. A loaded farm system headlined by OF Ronald Acuna and a number of pitchers, including LHP Luiz Gohara, will soon make an impact in the big leagues. However, there have been a number of bad contracts, trades, and decisions in Atlanta’s recent history. Still, the five decisions dissected in this two-part story, all since 2010, have made or will make a positive impact on the franchise.
Atlanta Braves Best Decisions of the Decade – Part One
Not re-signing Brian McCann following the 2013 season
If you are a fan of the television show The Office, then you know all too well that goodbyes can be rough. That was certainly the case with many fans when it became clear that Atlanta was not going to bid heavily for McCann’s services heading into 2014. The frustration and sadness of most Braves fans at the news was understandable. After all, he was the hometown kid from Duluth High School who was selected one round after fellow hometown kid Jeff Francoeur. While both debuted in 2005, McCann developed into the superstar that Francoeur simply could not. Still, the Braves were not going to offer McCann enough money to stay.
McCann would sign a five-year, $85 million contract with the New York Yankees, and it is now safe to say that Atlanta made the right decision in letting him walk. Simply put, McCann has not been the same player since turning 30 with the exception of his home run output and one bounce-back year with the Yankees. He is certainly still a good player, but the money he is earning is simply not feasible at this point in his career.
Overpaying for their All-Star catcher and fan-favorite would have been understandable, but the Braves made the correct decision in not falling into the nostalgia trap. Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki played well in 2017, and Atlanta boasts a rich farm system at the catching position. Alex Jackson, Lucas Herbert, Brett Cumberland, and William Contreras are all players fans should keep an eye on.
Deciding to rebuild after the 2014 season
The 2014 season will likely go down as one of the most frustrating for Braves fans everywhere. The team was coming off a heartbreaking defeat in the NLDS after taking the division, and a number of star players returned from that team. Unfortunately, the season appeared doomed from the start. Pitchers Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy both went down with elbow injuries in spring training and missed the entire season. Plugging in Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana provided a decent boost to a depleted pitching staff and honestly kept the team relevant all summer long. It was the offense that proved to be frustrating.
Dan Uggla, one of Atlanta’s key acquisitions a few seasons earlier, was coming off a year where he hit .179. He was not able to bounce back, posting a .149 batting average in 48 games before the Braves cut ties with him. Melvin Upton Jr. also continued to underperform with a .208 average, and Chris Johnson, one year removed from competing for a batting title, regressed heavily and hit .263. Still, the team had weapons and star power in Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Evan Gattis. Unfortunately, they were not enough to get the job done.
What compounded the MLB struggles was the fact that Atlanta’s farm system had become incredibly barren. This was even more apparent when two of Atlanta’s best position prospects, Tommy La Stella and Christian Bethancourt, debuted and struggled. When the MLB team needed a boost, there was no top prospect to provide it and no depth of which to use as trade bait. Nevertheless, the team could have tried to sign a big-time free agent and try to make another run. Doing so would have been unwise as the Washington Nationals were preparing for a run of their own. Rebuilding was the right call.
Be sure to check back in tomorrow for part two!
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