The San Diego Padres were one of the most active teams over the off-season and they finished with a flourish on Sunday night by acquiring star closer Craig Kimbrel from the Atlanta Braves. Outfielder Melvin (formerly known as B.J.) Upton moved that way as well in the trade as a booby prize, whilst the Braves gained a mix of established Major Leaguers (Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin) and some minor league talent.
It creates even more excitement around the Padres heading into the season, but we’ve seen in the past that teams who ‘win’ the off-season don’t necessarily convert that into wins during the regular season.
Kimbrel is as consistent as closers come, yet even then he has only averaged 64 innings pitched over the past three regular seasons. Although adding such a quality pitcher will improve the Padres’ roster, over the regular season there’s only so much benefit that can be gained by adding a closer based on the innings they contribute.
However, Kimbrel is a weapon and manager Bud Black would be forgiven for wearing a devilish grin every time he calls him into a game from the bullpen.
As for the Braves, their fans have been put through the wringer this off-season. Those of us who don’t follow the team can dispassionately assess the major rebuilding work as a job well done, but when that team is a big part of your life it’s never easy to look ahead at a 162-game season that will bring little in the way of things to celebrate. That’s especially the case when your team’s Front Office has basically chosen to make the team worse in the near term.
All fans in desperate times cling to the thought that however bad their situation is, a rival may be having an even worse time. In that sense the Braves are lucky to have the Philadelphia Phillies around.
I’m still not completely sold on the idea that the Braves had to do this rebuild right now, but it’s better to rebuild too early than too late and if you’re taking that route you have to commit to it and follow it through.
Braves fans have loved watching Kimbrel dominating their opponents and so seeing him in a Padres’ uniform will be a blow at first, yet it should be even more painful for Phillies fans to see Jonathan Papelbon still wearing their colours. Philadelphia wasted $13m last year paying Papelbon to collect 39 saves on a team that finished rock bottom in the NL East, 23 games behind the division-winning Washington Nationals, and they’re currently on the hook to pay him another $13m this year too.
The Phillies’ General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr doesn’t need any help to highlight his team’s glaring mistakes over the past two or three seasons, but the Braves’ decisiveness this off-season has really shown up how badly wrong Amaro and his colleagues have got things.
So whilst Braves fans may suffer through 2015, their crumb of comfort is that the Phillies will be just as bad this year and don’t seem to have any plan to improve any time in the next few years either.