If you've read this website regularly, you know that I'll occasionally harp on certain subjects. Yeah, I admit my guilt in that regard. There are just several things in baseball regarding roster construction that I think are very, very important.
One thing I've repeated over and over again is the two functions of the farm system. The first is to provide enough depth and talent so that when your team needs to make a trade it can make a trade. But the second function is the one that we are seeing the Braves do to perfection.
The farm system must provide talent directly to the big league club when needed. If it's during the season, when one of the regulars go down with an injury, or to completely replace a veteran, the farm system must be well-stocked so that when there is a need, options are provided.
You know, not all clubs have this luxury; a farm system actually doing its job, providing talent to the big league club when needed. But the Braves seem to have this down to an art. They have a well-oiled machine that runs as well as any in the game.
And it's funny, isn't it, when the rankings of farm systems came out this winter we saw the Braves anywhere from 15th to 25th. But here we are seeing the club turn to its farm system to replace two veterans. Isn't that a farm system's purpose?
In past years the other function seemed more important. The Braves repeatedly turned to its system for trades. Whether it was Adam Wainwright, or Dan Meyer, or Jose Capellan, or Andy Marte, the system did its job time and time again. When the Braves needed to make a deal, they had the parts to entice other clubs into working a trade.
But now it's the other function that is coming into play. The Braves had an expensive second baseman in Marcus Giles, one they believed could be replaced. If not for the internal options they had available, there's no way they could have non-tendered Giles, which saved money on the tight payroll.
And then when the club looked to improve the bullpen, they found that the player club after club wanted was first baseman Adam LaRoche. They didn't set out to trade LaRoche, but when teams started calling for him the Braves had to listen. And if not for the presence of young Scott Thorman, there's absolutely no way the Braves would have traded LaRoche to Pittsburgh in January.
What other team can do this as easily? The Braves didn't have to go sign Ronnie Belliard to replace Giles. They didn't have to go sign Travis Lee to a minor league contract to replace LaRoche. They had the options internally.
That's exactly what you want your farm system to do. But yet the so-called experts are questioning the talent in the farm system?
The Braves knew they had Kelly Johnson and Martin Prado as candidates for second base. Plus, Willy Aybar and Yunel Escobar are secondary options. Those are four internal candidates. So they didn't have to turn to a D'Angelo Jimenez or Damian Jackson.
Johnson and Thorman are probably going to be the replacements. They are both early draft picks from the famed 2000 Braves' draft. It was Roy Clark's first as the Scouting Director, which also produced LaRoche, Adam Wainwright, Charles Thomas, Trey Hodges, and Blaine Boyer.
I'm sure there are some of you that wish we could have kept Giles and simply gone out and signed someone to replace LaRoche. But be thankful for the options the Braves' farm system provides the front office. That's what you want in an organization.
Hey, our bullpen needed help. No one wanted to trade LaRoche. But the addition of Mike Gonzalez is going to make this team better. And if not for the depth the farm system has provided with the big Canadian nicknamed ‘Thor,' there's no way that trade could have been made.
This is why teams draft players every single June, to have the farm system as deep as possible so those two functions can be fulfilled. And the Braves are once again proving they do it better than anybody else.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. Email Bill at email@example.com.
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