Why do the Braves continue to make certain decisions that ensure they will never contend for a championship?
-- Jerry D., Atlanta
Braves fans should be happy to know that Major League Baseball has confirmed that the 2010 World Series champion will be determined without factoring in the current public approval ratings being drawn by each of the game's current general managers.
Since learning that Javier Vazquez had been traded to the Yankees in exchange for Melky Cabrera and two Minor League prospects -- highly touted Arodys Vizcaino and left-handed reliever Mike Dunn -- Braves fans have been firing jabs in the direction of a prepared Frank Wren, who just last year drew some criticism for actually giving up Minor League catcher Tyler Flowers in a package that brought Vazquez and a 15-win season to Atlanta.
Once Wren decided to provide Tim Hudson with a three-year contract extension, he committed himself to having to trade either Vazquez or Derek Lowe.
The Braves made every attempt to deal Lowe and were surprised to learn there were no suitors, even when they made it known that they'd eat $9 million of the $45 million he's owed over the next three years.
The Red Sox seemed like a possible fit. But instead of bringing Lowe back to Boston for $36 million over three years, they instead provided John Lackey with a five-year, $82.5 million contract.
While Red Sox fans could certainly argue that they could have gained more certainty at a cheaper price with Lowe and then had the opportunity to have more money to keep Jason Bay, many Braves fans will continue to argue that they would rather have Vazquez than Lowe.
Others will argue that they would have rather said goodbye to Hudson, creating the possibility to keep both Vazquez and Lowe.
The success of this trade will be based on the kind of progress realized by Vizcaino, who was undoubtedly the centerpiece of the trade from the Braves' angle. The right-hander from the Dominican Republic has been described as being every bit as impressive as fellow 19-year-old right-hander Julio Teheran, who signed with the Braves two years ago.
In defense of those still upset about the Vazquez trade, it's hard to get excited about dealing a 15-game winner when the most significant portion of the return won't truly begin providing dividends for another two or three years.
But Wren doesn't participate in a business that provides certainty. Instead, he finds himself as a decision-maker whose decisions will be often questioned unless they equate to championships.
With the newly acquired Cabrera and prospects, do you see Atlanta making a huge move that would stockpile these prospects in a trade for Adrian Gonzalez or Dan Uggla? What should be the Braves' next move this offseason?
-- Ryan B., Richmond, Va.
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The Braves do still have some money to play with and may draw even more interest in Uggla if the Marlins get in a position where they are forced to essentially just dump the All-Star second baseman.
Gonzalez's name has been batted around throughout the offseason, and still, there is little indication that the Padres are definitely going to deal him. But I think it's pretty safe to say that he isn't going to have to make the move from San Diego to Atlanta.
As you mentioned in the question, the Braves have acquired depth this offseason at some important positions. While few are excited about the acquisition of Cabrera, there's no doubt that versatile switch-hitting 25-year-old at least improves the outfield depth.
Troy Glaus, whose deal could be announced on Tuesday, will supply the needed power in the middle of the lineup. Cabrera's value will come via the versatility that will allow him to limit the number of bad matchups that Matt Diaz or Jason Heyward could face at the plate.
I always hear Heyward being compared to older players such as Dave Winfield and Willie McCovey, but I never hear any comparisons to any active players. What modern-day player do you compare Heyward to and why?
-- Evan S., Louisville, Ky.
I think that Winfield, Dave Parker and Andre Dawson are the best examples to explain his physical build. But if you're looking for a current player, I'd have to say that Ryan Howard is the first one who comes to mind.
Like Howard, Heyward is an impressive physical specimen with power in his left-handed swing. But he is more athletic than the Phillies first baseman, and his swing isn't one that is going to lead to the production of maddening strikeout totals.
Heyward is something special, and you have to guard against getting overly optimistic about the level of success that he could enjoy in the Majors. So instead of saying something ridiculous like Albert Pujols, I'll just say he's the left-handed version of Matt Kemp.
Now that it's obvious we'll be keeping Lowe, which isn't a bad thing, how do the Braves go about repairing his psyche?
-- Blaine H., Columbus, Ga.
There's little reason to worry about Lowe's psyche. Yeah, he was upset, because the Braves were willing to give up on him after just one year of a four-year contract. Yeah, he'll still remember all of this offseason's trade talks when he reports to Spring Training and glad-hands all of his teammates and the club's managerial staff.
But when it comes time for Lowe to step on the mound and compete during this upcoming season, I think it's pretty safe to assume he'll be focused on making sure he doesn't have to revisit the mental struggles that consumed him during the final months of this past season.
Do you think Craig Kimbrel has a good shot at earning a spot in the bullpen out of Spring Training? Also, what kind of time frame do you see for Teheran making it to the Major League level?
-- Colin C., Lawrence, Kan.
It will be interesting to see how Teheran and Vizcaino push each other as they progress through the Minor League levels. Both of these highly touted 19-year-old hurlers are considered among the game's top prospects. Realistically, the earliest you'll see either of these two pitchers would be the 2012 season.
As for Kimbrel, it seems pretty safe to assume you'll see him at the Major League level at some point this year. Wren describes this young flamethrower as the right-handed version of Billy Wagner.
Control has been an issue of Kimbrel, and I would think he'll start the 2010 season with Triple-A Gwinnett. But if he throws strikes during the Grapefruit League season, you can bet there will come a time before the All-Star break when manager Bobby Cox will lobby to add the hard-throwing right-hander to his big league bullpen mix.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.