Transaction Analysis: 11/27
• Exercised team option on RHP Russ Ortiz for the 2004 season. (11/4)
• Announced that 1B Robert Fick cleared waivers, and granted him free agency. (11/7)
• Lost pitcher Joe Dawley to the Kansas City Royals via free agency. (10/31)
Consider this the "Calm before the storm" TA, where we wrap up the various "minor" moves the Braves have made since the playoffs ended. Things are going to get a heck of a lot more interesting in the coming weeks, with major decisions looming on Gary Sheffield, Greg Maddux, Javy Lopez, and any number of free agents from other teams. The transactions listed would probably get lost in the shuffle, so it's best to comment on them now before players with a .400 OBP start getting moved.
Snapping up the younger Gary Matthews is a pretty nifty little move by John Schuerholtz; my surprise that the Braves claimed him is only surpassed by my surprise that Matthews lasted so long on the waiver wire. A switch hitter who can hold his own on both sides of the plate with a little power and play all three outfield positions competently is a valuable commodity, and one an awful lot of teams would do well to avail themselves of. Matthews can draw a walk occasionally, which is pretty cool, and makes him a Keanu Reeves-sized anomaly on a team like the Braves.
Matthews becomes one of the best 4th outfielders the Braves have had during this run, which is roughly equivalent to being one of the best surfers in Kansas.
Losing Joe Dawley isn't a big deal to anyone save giant dorks like myself, but I still think he could prove pretty darn useful to a big league team in need of a bullpen arm. He got lit up like a joint at Tom Petty's house in his stint with the big club, but that was in a small enough sample size as to be pretty much irrelevant. He was once again pretty darn good in Richmond (the 11.7 K/9 IP is nifty), and the new, improved, Allard "Flowers for Algernon" Baird was obviously impressed. The Royals did well to bring him in, especially if Mike Macdougal continues to think that the strike zone resides somewhere around the on-deck circle.
Still, it's hard to criticize the Braves too sharply for letting Dawley go. The 40-man roster was a real mess this winter (check out Bill Shanks' for further coverage on the 40-man situation.)
Fick's waiving prompts a collective shrug from the Braves nation; he was a pretty generic hitter with an attitude and a temper far beyond the boundaries of his natural talent; getting out slugged by a man old enough to have been the one who first called Charles Nichols "Kid" is not a good career development. He'll catch on somewhere, I suspect. Maybe Los Angeles, whose lineup features more suck than your standard issue black hole. Adam LaRoche will likely fill the first base position for Atlanta, and with more grace than Robert Fick would ever muster.
The stathead in me wants to say something sarcastic about the Braves picking up the option on a guy with a 1.4/1 K/BB ratio, but my heart's not really in it. He's not a great bet for future success, what with all the innings he's racked up, his poor control, and his surprisingly low strikeout rates. But the Braves need arms, and 212 above average innings aren't real easy to replace. (Remember this for those of you who are so anxious to get Greg Maddux out of town) Hopefully Ortiz can have a solid year in 2004 and then move on to break down for another team.