Found December 09, 2011 on Fox Sports South:
We didn't hear a lot from the Atlanta Braves during the recent Winter Meetings. There were a couple of names bandied about in rumors, but nothing more than a couple of wisps of smoke and not surprisingly no real fire. This apparent inaction is nothing to be concerned about. Unlike the Miami Marlins and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who spent money like a college freshman given daddy's credit card, the Braves held tight to their biggest two potential names pitcher Jair Jurrjens and left fielder Martin Prado. Turns out the Angels had a monster windfall in the offing a 20-year, 3 billion dollar deal from FOX that was confirmed today and Angels Owner Artie Moreno, one of the shrewdest in the game, took advantage, landing the big prize, St. Louis' Albert Pujols, then, a little later, swiped a big piece from his division's biggest rival, by landing pitcher C.J. Wilson. Miami, also suddenly flushed with cash some of which they could have used on a uniform design also made a big splash going on a free agent signing spree, picking up closer Heath Bell, shortstop Jose Reyes, and then, after flirting with Pujols, agreeing to terms with starter Mark Buehrle. The Braves? They come out of the Winter Meetings with reliever Robert Fish, a hard-throwing left-hander claimed in the Rule 5 Draft. who showed good stuff (a 3.23 ERA) and is improving his control issues (41 K's vs. 18 BBs) last year for the Arkansas Travelers, the Double-A affiliate of the Angels. He's 23 and has his best years ahead of him think a potential future Jonny Venters. Better things ahead is what's basically the theme for the Braves coming out of the Winter Meetings. It's a familiar song and has been a catchy one for the Braves. General Manager Frank Wren did what the Braves do. They explored and started dialogue. Now that the meetings are over, Braves' hot stove will stasrt to get warm. "We're in that phase where we're checking back with clubs," said Wren to MLB.com's Mark Bowman. "I think there are a lot of people leaving here with somewhat unfinished business. They've still got discussions going that people are trying to evaluate. I do think the free-agent market not breaking loose has stalled some things." Atlanta has done this before. Take, for example, 2004, when the Braves didn't make any moves at the Winter Meetings, but started a dialogue with then-Oakland GM Billy Beane and shortly thereafter, acquired Tim Hudson for outfielder Charles Thomas, reliever Juan Cruz and minor league pitcher Dan Meyer. So keep an eye out and simply be patient. And don't sweat the rest of the division. The Mets' lone move at the meetings was watching Reyes slip on that atrocious new Marlins uniform. The Nationals also were bystanders, save a couple of Rule 5 pick-ups. The Phillies selected a pitcher in the Rule 5 Draft and lost three prospects, but their biggest priority was keeping shortstop Jimmy Rollins in the fold, which wasn't completed but saw progress. Besides, they already made their moves, signing closer Jonathan Papelbon, Jim Thome, who will take some of the sting out of not having Ryan Howard and will be a nice piece off the bench when Howard does return, they re-signed catcher Brian Schneider, signed versatile infielder Ty Wigginton and outfielder Laynce Nix. That leaves the Marlins. They doled out the 191 million dollars to three guys and, on paper, made improvements. Bell gives the Marlins the closer they haven't had since Robb Nen (132 saves over the last three years), which should help a team that blew 19 saves last season interestingly only one more than Bell's Padres blew. Bell is 34, however, and has been in 354 games over the last five years. Buehrle, 32, is a horse who has pitched 200 innings in all 11 of his full Major League seasons. He gives the Marlins an ace as they wait for Josh Johnson to get healthy. But may make his biggest impact as a mentor for young Marlins arms like Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anabal Sanchez and Chris Volstad. Reyes' impact is still to be seen. He's a premier leadoff hitter and will steal more bases than Ramirez but doesn't generate nearly as much power as Ramirez and is about the same in the field (Ramirez has a slightly higher fielding percentage). What's in question is what happens with Ramirez. If he relents and moves to third base, as the Marlins have asked, there could be a dynamic improvement in the Marlins' offense that scored the sixth-fewest runs in the N.L., although there might still be some hard feelings bubbling underneath the surface and there will still be plenty of holes in the lineup especially in the outfield. Should they trade him, what they'll net should fill some holes and have some clubhouse peace, but will take one of the best all-around offensive talents in the game out of their lineup. While Miami threw a ton of money around they are still very much a work in progress and, even with those moves, still likely are behind the Braves. In a way, the Winter Meetings are a lot like a big series during the season. It's not so much what you do, but what you do after. That after starts now.
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