Last week, the Braves rid themselves of Derek Lowe and $5 million of his salary to the Indians for a minor league pitching prospect. Then on Friday, we heard that the Braves have had discussions with the Kansas City Royals to deal starter Jair Jurrjens and outfielder Martin Prado for prospects, presumably Wil Myers and/or Lorenzo Cain.
What follows is speculation on my part: The Braves appear to be making moves to free up salary to make a splash in the free agent market. The Braves already have Freddie Freeman manning first base, and for years to come, so they won't be targeting Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols or Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder. But what the Braves do need is a shortstop and leadoff hitter, and there is one name in the free agent market that can fill both needs. Jose Reyes would be a perfect addition to the Braves lineup.
Talkingchop, SB Nation's Braves site, also thinks the team is ready to make a splash in either the free agent of trade market this offseason. This is what gondee wrote after reading Foxsports' Ken Rosenthal's article over the weekend that indicated the Braves would increase payroll in 2012:
Creating salary space by trading Lowe, and possibly Jurrjens, while also being allowed to raise their overall salary total could give the Braves significantly more money to spend this off-season than what was previously thought. The beat writers and bloggers presumed that the Braves had about $10 million of additional money to spend after trading Lowe, and after all estimated arbitration raises were accounted for.
Now consider that if they are able to trade Jurrjens, that's another $5 million. We won't know how much Liberty will allow the team to expand their salary total, but I'll venture a guess that it's somewhere between $5 and $10 million. Add all that together and the Braves could possibly have somewhere between $20 to $30 million to spend this off-season. That's enough money to make a significant splash in the free agent market if they choose, but more likely it's enough money to greatly expand the possibility of players that the team could trade for this winter.
More on Reyes to the Braves after the jump:
Why would the Braves want to make a splash in the free agent market? Well, one reason is that the move will quickly give the team and their fans something to talk about this offseason, enabling them to quickly forget their historic September collapse. Another reason is that they need a shortstop and leadof hitter to provide a spark a lineup that was just 10th in the National League in runs scored in 2011, after ranking 11th in the NL in runs scored in 2010.
You say the Braves already have a leadoff hitter in Michael Bourn. Well, yes, they do, but Bourn could move down to the 2 spot in the lineup if they sign Reyes, or they can move Bourn down to the 7 or 8 spot as well. Reyes is the 2011 NL Batting Average champ, and has more power than Bourn. Reyes hit .337-.384-.493 with 7 HRs, 44 RBI, 101 runs, 31 doubles, 16 triples and 39 stolen bases in 2011. In his career, has hit 30 or more doubles and doubled digit triples four times, and hit double digit homers four times as well. Since stealing 56 bases in 2008, Reyes season high for stolen bases is 39 in 2011, so he isn't running as much as in the past, and for good reason.
Finally, Braves GM Frank Wren has seen Phillies GM Ruben Amaro make headlines the past few offseasons, signing Cliff Lee last year and trading for Roy Halladay two years ago. Signing Reyes would be a headline making move and possibly push the Braves as favorites in the NL East in 2012. The Braves have the pitching, rotation and bullpen, and have two young hitters who have yet to reach their potential in Freeman and outfielder Jason Heyward. Heyward had a bust of a season in 2011, but had a nagging shoulder injury that could have impacted his performance at the plate.
A bounce back season from Heyward, a more balanced season from second baseman Dan Uggla, and the addition of Jose Reyes could push the Braves back into the NL playoffs in 2012, and it is not crazy to think they could win the NL East.