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does_it_matter_if_the_braves_make_the_playoffs | September | 2009 Articles

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Does It Matter If The Braves Make The Playoffs?

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OK, so the answer to the question in the title is quite obviously "yes."  We're Braves fans here, and we all want to be cheering on our team in October.  And beyond that, playoff appearances are worth something on the order of $15 million in added revenue, which any team could use, especially a mid-market franchise like our Bravos.

But here's the point I am trying to make: given the current state of the organization, the 2009 playoffs would just be icing on the proverbial cake.  Frank Wren has put his organization in a position that I think any other team would envy, and he's got his team poised to ascend back to its former status as a true perennial contender rather than a team that might sneak in to the playoffs if everything goes just right.  Consider:

1) He's got a farm system that ranks among the best in the game.  There's top-end guys like Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel, who all look like true impact players.  But there is also depth, with lots of talented guys that could fill all manner of holes for the club, from bench slots to bullpen roles to even more important jobs, depending on how things break for them.  And the quantity of these "depth" guys is so great that a few of them are going to be hits.

2) He's got lots of major-league talent under control.  Looking to next year, the only real holes are at first base and at the back end of the bullpen.  Lots of positions are already filled by competent players.  It would be nice to get a big stick for the middle of the lineup, but getting a full year out of a first baseman who can hit (i.e., not Casey Kotchman) and bringing in contributions from Heyward and perhaps Jordan Schafer will help to paper over that need.

3) He's got endless flexibility in terms of trading to fill the holes he has.  There is nothing better than the starting pitching depth that Wren has on his hands right now.  Start with six legitimate major-league starters: Javier Vazquez, Jair Jurrjens, Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami, Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson.  Add in Kris Medlen, who could still easily be converted back to a starting role, and then remember that the likes of Jo-Jo Reyes and James Parr are still kicking around in our system.  Those first six are all legitimate #3 starters or better on most teams, and while Medlen is a bit of a wild card, Reyes and Parr still have the stuff to be back-end material in a rotation to be named later.  There's positional depth as well: even if Kelly Johnson can't win back his starting job from Martin Prado, he'll still be attractive to somebody.  And on top of all that, remember the prospect depth discussed in point #1?  Those guys can be used in trade to bolster the talent level on the ML roster as well.

So, Braves fans, keep cheering hard.  The playoffs are still attainable this year (though less and less so by the day, unfortunately).  But more importantly, keep your eyes forward.  Wren has lots of decisions to make this offseason, and I'm not going to begin to speculate what he will look to do.  But if he plays his cards right (and we have no reason to believe that he won't, given his sparkling track record), he will put this franchise in a position to have one of baseball's most talented rosters in 2010, with plenty of room to grow going forward.
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