Can the Braves Really Demote Acuna Jr.?

Can the Braves Really Demote Acuna Jr.?

Ronald Acuna Jr. has to be on the opening day roster, right?

With another three hits today while playing center field, Acuna Jr. is hitting a robust .432 with a 1.246 OPS. Along the way, he’s belted four homers, stolen four bases, and despite what some critics refer to a “long swing,” has struck out just eight times in 52 plate appearances. He’s looked solid in the field whether he was playing left or right or playing in place for Ender Inciarte in center field. While Braves fans are excited about Ozzie Albies and Sean Newcomb, both who are thriving this spring, no one is more exciting than Acuna Jr.

It’s that last fact that might be forcing the Braves’ hand. Consider what the Braves fans have been dealing with. An offseason where their former General Manager resigned in disgrace before being banned for life. Three years of watching over-the-hill veterans like A.J. Pierzynski, Alberto Callaspo, and Bartolo Colon. Three years of watching non-prospects like Jace Peterson, Williams Perez, and Ryan Weber. After all of this, don’t the Braves owe it to their fans to give us Acuna Jr. when the season opens?

Oh, I understand the financial side of it, believe me. I’ve been saying the same thing for months – losing two weeks of Acuna Jr.’s rookie season in 2018 is a small price to pay to gain his Age-26 season. It makes complete sense to believe this. It makes complete sense to follow through on it.

Until recently, I was fixated on that idea, but then…something happened. Sure, we can’t ignore that Acuna Jr. is absolutely destroying everything he sees this spring. That plays a big role in my mindset right now. But there’s something else. For the fans of this team that has stuck it out, believed in the process, kept hope alive – haven’t we earned the right to watch Acuna Jr.?

And again, I get it. It’s just two weeks.

But sending him to Triple-A ignores the excitement that is building. These Braves aren’t the 2015 Braves where promises that Christian Bethancourt would provide Gold Glove defense were detached from reality. They aren’t the 2016 Braves where Matt Wisler threw the second-most innings. And these Braves aren’t even last year’s club. That one had Dansby Swanson to fall back on as a sign of the future, but not much else. As the season progressed, the major league debuts of Newcomb, Albies, Max Fried, Johan Camargo, A.J. Minter, and Luiz Gohara ushered in a new era of excitement. The Braves of 2018 have depth, are hungry, and if some analysts are right, they could be a sneaky sleeper team if conditions allow.

Losing two weeks of watching Acuna Jr. is the right business choice. Famously, the Cubs did it with Kris Bryant and it worked out for them. But it quite literally is the wrong way to treat your fans – many of whom have grown tired of being told to wait. Rebuilds test the patience and resolve of the fan base, I know. Making knee-jerk reactions aren’t going to help. But then, is rewarding the best prospect in baseball a roster spot after a tremendous spring training truly knee-jerk?

I won’t pout if Acuna Jr. is in the minors when the season opens. I won’t cancel my subscription to MLB.TV, turn this blog into one devoted to Handmaid’s Tale (walk-off June. Walk right out!), and troll the Braves’ Twitter account. Again, I understand the decision should it happen. For a long time, I thought it would be the right one. But from a utility standpoint, I’m not sure anymore. The value of the unknown – an extra year of control – does not outweigh what we know right now. Braves fans have excitement. They have some level of hope. They see light at the end of a long trip through the dark world of tanking.

Pushing them back a few steps and telling them it’s the sensible decision? Potentially angering a franchise star in the making by not rewarding his hard work?

That’s not the way to treat your fans. That’s not the way to treat your most exciting prospect in a decade. And more…that’s just not the way a professional team should operate. Even if it makes sense.

22 Comments

If the braves extended Simba, Freddie, Kimbrel, Chris Johnson—plan on extending Acuna and it won’t matter. It makes sense to hold him back the 12 games—but I hope they start the season right and start Acuna. (Even if it doesn’t make sense 7 years from now.)

I support keeping him down. I was hoping the team would bring in enough other assets (e.g. Dickerson or Cave or a lockdown reliever) that keeping Acuna down for a couple of weeks would make zero difference. Another option would be to put him on the OD roster and then play him until the Braves seem out of contention and then send him down for a couple of weeks – same result, right? In fact, they could do the same next year or at the end of September. Wouldn’t that be similar to shutting down Strasburg in the middle of a pennant race? I would think the 14 games could come any time in the next 4-5 years. He has three options right? That means you could send him down for five games over the next three years and accomplish the same result. Isn’t there more than one way to skin a cat? Any of these options might have less impact on the team overall and still give the fans a chance to see him right out of the gate.

While we’re talking about it, why not take the idea to the logical extreme. Is Acuna really the only player we’d like to get an extra year out of? How about Gohara? He’s so young that he shouldn’t be pitching 200 innings a year anyway – wouldn’t want to turn him into the second coming of Steve Avery. He spent 26 games on the active roster last year. If he needs additional time to get in shape, why not send him to Gwinnett, put him on the DL there and then wait for 40 games to call him back up. The Braves don’t need 5 starters until mid-April anyway. If you wait until Memorial Day to call up Gohara, wouldn’t you gain an extra year of control? Then there’s Soroka, Allard, Wright, Riley, et al. If they get a cup of coffee this year, wouldn’t it be best to delay their arrival next year until Memorial Day to gain an extra year of control?

I guess the sarcasm involved in the second paragraph above is sort of the flip side of the “business argument”. What is the threshold for manipulating service time? How do you really know which players you should manipulate in this way? How good do they need to be? Is that by prediction or by initial performance in the majors? If by performance then how do you justify using their options especially if they begin to have a proven winning track record. How many wins do you sacrifice this year (or next or the one after that) to get a few more wins five years from now?

Don’t you use this kind of thinking in your personal life? I acquired a low mileage car at the end of 2014 but still had an older car that was still running. I drove that older car for another two years to save mileage on the newer car. Worked out great for me as that car has about 35K less miles on it now than it would have. As long as there was not too much maintenance cost on the old car, I win. I’m very ambivalent on this subject. I really believe the Braves should be trying to win this year and should put the best team possible on the field (not that I think they should be going after needlessly expensive FAs – definitely not). But I think they should be making smart additions (like Dickerson or Cave would have been) to win this year. Anibal Sanchez might be a semi-adequate replacement for Gohara for a few starts and then could go into middle relief (either him or Kazmir but not both). Better to make Gohara more resistant to injury, if possible.

You know, if all teams act the same way then very few would likely sacrifice any significant wins because no team would be fielding their best teams at the beginning of the season.

In fact, if the Braves don’t plan on competing aggressively this year, why not wait until April 2019 to call up Acuna? Then you get two extra years of control specifically during the “win window”.

I know your joking about Gohara—but as far as his highest innings pitched before last year was 78 innings—then he pitched almost 160 (I think) last year. A huge jump like that can really ‘Steve Avery’ like you said. I’m fine if we take it real slow with him. I’m glad they brought him up—but I hope they hold him back—not for service reasons. It seems like Gohara could keep getting better and it would be a ‘win win’ if we can take it easy with him and get the extra year of control. As far as Acuna in mid 2019–they would sell out Gwinnett ever night!

Wouldn’t it be ironical if all the Braves fans preferred to go to Gwinnett where they could see Acuna, Soroka, Allard, maybe Gohara for a few games, and Riley? Anyone wanna take odds on who might win a 3-game series between Gwinnett and Atlanta? Sends AJ down to close and Gwinnett might actually be better.

Sorry, but the big team has a viable product if the front office would treat it that way. AA is a big liar that the focus is on the big league team.

If you’re a TRUE Braves fan…then you would have NO PROBLEM with sacrificing seeing 2 weeks of Acuna in a Braves uniform at the beginning of The 2018 Season….IF you knew that you’d be seeing Acuna in a Braves uniform during the 2024 Season (when he is in his age 26 season. Imagine how good Acuna will be when he’s 26 years old?).

The Braves will no doubt try to offer Acuna a long term contract sometime during this summer (assuming Acuna comes out the gate hitting like he has since the beginning of 2017 in The Minors). However, it’s simply A NO BRAINER: Call Acuna up to Atlanta mid-April.

Why should The Cubs (who have FAR MORE MONEY than The Braves) only benefit from playing ‘service time’ games..YET people expect The Braves to ‘do the so-called right thing’ and start Acuna on The Opening Day Roster?

Acuna is still going to get paid. He’ll be eligible for arbitration after The 2020 Season NO MATTER WHAT! He’ll just have to wait one more year to become a Free Agent (he’s still going to make A LOT OF MONEY come 2024….IF he pans out like we all expect him to, lol). As a Braves fan, it will be VERY NICE to know that he’ll be getting paid A LOT OF MONEY in 2024….while wearing A BRAVES UNIFORM! How hard is that to comprehend…PEOPLE?

If there is one thing I won’t stand for at this blog I started, it’s…well, a lot of other things are probably first, but somewhere on that list is none of this “If you’re a TRUE Braves fan” BS. None. Not going to have it here – not for one second. You can assume we are all TRUE Braves fans here.

Seriously, that kind of rubbish is the kind of half-brained comments I expect at Facebook, not here.

You are welcomed to disagree with my contention. And maybe this is just a pet peeve, but I cannot stand it when people tell others how they should be a fan. It’s condescending as hell.

Tommy….I WAS NOT trying to ‘imply’ that you SPECIFICALLY was not a ‘real Braves fan’, lol!

I was making A General Statement (which is my opinion that I try to back up with facts)…that ANYONE who considers themselves to be A LEGIT/DIEHARD Braves Fan….would take the NO BRAINER POSITION (meaning..that it being A GUARANTEE that Acuna is in A Braves Uniform during The 2024 Season, at the cost of NOT being able to watch him in a Braves Uniform UNTIL mid-April)…VS….(being able to watch Acuna in a Braves Uniform on Opening Day 2018….HOWEVER risk Acuna leaving as a Free Agent at the end of The 2023 Season).

Tommy…I just dont have it in me…to even COME CLOSE to comprehending….how any SANE Braves Fan…would be so STARVED to see Acuna in a Braves Uniform..that they ‘cannot’ wait until Mid-April, lol….GIVEN what The Braves GET in return for having to ‘wait’, lol!

I’m at a loss for words here (that arent profane in nature, lol) when it comes to trying to describe the type of person who simply would rather see The Braves Organization GIVE UP having Acuna in a Braves Uniform come 2024 (when he’ll be 26 years old and in his ABSOLUTE PRIME)…vs…..seeing him make his MLB debut 2 weeks early as a 20 year old (in a year where The Braves ARE NOT expected to be ‘World Series Contenders’).

Tommy…my PASSION for The Braves…runs HELLA DEEP. I’ve been A DIEHARD Braves fan since 1982….been with them through the SHITTY 1980’s….the Wild Ride of the 90’s-mid-2000’s…..and the SHITTY post 2013 MLB product that The Braves have put on the field.

What’s kept me ‘sane’/’harboring hope’….was Coppy! Dude HUSTLED/BUSTLED/OUT Manuevered/Scavenged/etc. for whatever TRADE/DRAFT/nugget he could find via The Latin Market/The Waiver Wire/The Rule 5 Draft…….Coppy is what The Braves NEEDED! I could care less about how many rules he broke back then. That’s my reality!

MLB came down on The Braves…we’re paying that penalty. Still, once all is said and done…The Braves are still WAY AHEAD of where we were BEFORE Coppy beging The Rebuild!

This is THE LAST YEAR that we’ll probably ‘somewhat’ SUCK ASS in 2018 (only because of The INFUSION of youth that will be flooding The Braves Roster AFTER AA does his MAGIC come The July Trade Deadline! The rest of THE OLD will be GOING OUT during The July Trade Deadline! By the end of The 2018 Season….AA will have MOST of the pieces he wants to have in place (as far as what he wants from within The Braves to fill the rotation, bullpen and starting lineup. The remaining holes..will come from The 2018 Free Agent Market…which has 1. PLENTLY of high skilled players….2. The Braves have PLENTY OF MONEY to pay such players. 3. The Braves have PLENTY OF young/high upside/cheap talent who will keep the payroll down (making it more affordable to GO AFTER the high priced #3/#4 power hitters who can play 3rd and left field (or SS and Left Field).

If Machado is intent on staying at Short…then we’ll sign him as a short stop…and will have several options at 3rd. 1. Dansby Swanson…2. Austin Riley (my likely choice, if Riley develops during 2018 as expected)….3. Johan Carmago (if Swanson cant transition to 3rd).

AA’s just is to fill the #3-#4 spots of the order with POWER HITTERS…that’s his job. The rest of the lineup…was filled BEFORE he came to Atlanta! While he did arrange a trade that brought in McCarthy and Kazmir..they are only short term rentals (whose purpose is to pitch decent during 2018, while biding time for Soroka, Allard and Wright time to develop in Triple A…until they are ready to be promoted by August 2018). The pitching that will come to DOMINATE our Pitching Staff come 2019-2020-2021….were already in place (in The Minors) before AA got here.

AA’s job..is to NOT FUCK UP! Use the payroll flexibility and go after Machado and Harper..as well as Kimbrel. That’s it. Sure, he can make a few ‘steal of a deal’ type trade where Coppy got GOLD for our MILB SHIT from Seattle, lol (times two, lol). Other than that….AA really has an easy job. Coppy left him A ROAD MAP/A SHITLOAD of talent! In 2019 AA will end up winning The Executive of the Year Award…right before The Braves win The 2019 World Series.

This is a tough, tough call. I’m not optimistic about this coming baseball season, nor the Braves chances to break the 80 win barrier. So it would seem prudent to hold Acuna down, and follow the Bryant blueprint. I’m not entirely convinced that the Braves brass is in-tune, or at all concerned about the mood of their fan base either. And had Acuna had an average-ish spring, I think this is a slam dunk.

Where this gets complicated is how they plan to deal with Acuna, because there’s a very real risk they alienate him if they send him down. They’ve already had that silly fiasco with the hat. How far do you push your luck as a club? You don’t want him of the mindset that he’s going to hit FA, and he’s gone.

King…money rules. Simple as that! The one thing that The Braves have in their favor..is that Acuna ‘only’ got $100k as a signing bonus in 2014 (which after paying off his ‘buscon’/agent/taxes/’treating’ family and friends/etc…is LONG GONE). Acuna’s been making ‘peanut MILB wages’ for the past 3 seasons.

If Acuna has the kind of rookie year that many of us expect him to…perhaps Acuna would be more ‘receptive’ to signing a ‘reasonable’ long term deal.

Look, I’m all for players getting paid. As a Braves fan, I’d like to see them use whatever ‘leverage’ they have to ‘entice’ Acuna to ‘get paid’ in a Braves uniform…LONG TERM! Waiting an extra year for Free Agency…perhaps will give Braves Management INCENTIVE to make it worth it to Acuna to sign a long term deal with The Braves.

As I stated before…it isnt like holding Acuna back 2 weeks..is going to make him have an extra year of pre-arbitration wages (it wont). It’ll just give Acuna 4 years of arbitration instead of 3 (he’s still going to get PAID if he produces as expected). With the added year of arbitration….Braves Management should have no problem with opening up Liberty’s Wallet (really the money is coming from revenue that The Braves/The Battery Properties are producing) and pay Acuna a ‘SHITLOAD’ of money during his arbitration years, as well as a couple of his Free Agent years!

King..dont worry, next year’s Braves team will be THE BEGINNING of another LONG TERM run of success!

Trad…..Years ago, I learned an economics term in high school called ‘deferred gratification’…which means ‘put off right now, for a greater gain LATER ON’! In other words….’sacrificing’ 2 weeks in 2018 EQUALS ‘gaining’ one year in 2024! That amounts to A HELL OF AN INTEREST PAYMENT, lol!

By the way, starting Acuna at Triple A to open The 2018 Season WOULD NOT be ‘a demotion’ (because he ended The 2017 Season at Triple A). Acuna is not even on The 40 man roster!

Exactly. Its not about fairness, good will, yada yada. It’s about maximizing Acuna’s value for Braves. 2024 >> April 2018. It’s not even close.

You can’t deny that there’s a human element to this decision, though. Whatever choice the Braves make, Acuna’s also going to have a reaction. Kris Bryant did. Yes, it makes sense to gain the extra control. Acuna may also say, fine, and put that in the back of his head. When it comes extension time, maybe he’s not interested then? Or most likely, he’d still be willing, but that price goes up?

If I were Acuna, I know how I’d feel, and the club would pay a monetary price for cheating me, in a way.

King….you are SO WRONG! Acuna is not ‘getting cheated’. He’s STILL going to get paid! He’s still going to get arbitration after The 2020 Season. He’s STILL going to get paid in 2024 (perhaps a little bit less, because another team wont OVERBID on him potentially until after 2024 is over with).

How is that ‘being cheated’? The Braves WANT to pay Acuna IF he’s worth it. They just want to keep him in a Braves uniform for as long as they can (it isnt like they are going to keep him in Triple A until mid-June..which would DEFINITELY be cheating him, because that would push his arbitration back until AFTER The 2021 Season).

Besides…look at what happened with Jason Heyward! Heyward made it clear that he wanted to exercise his right to Free Agency (which is his right). The Braves ended up trading Heyward away with one year left…for ‘only’ Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. At the time, Heyward was more HIGHLY REGARDED. If they had waited to call up Heyward in 2010..they could have gotten more for Heyward when they traded him before The 2015 Season began.

Hopefully, The Braves putting forth a winning product on the field that has a chance for long term success (along with that added extra year of waiting for Free Agency. Remember, Acuna never got PAID like other more highly touted Latin Prospects did)..will factor in when The Braves come to Acuna with a long term contract.

@King

What are you suggesting is this:

Braves should resign from controlling Acuna in 2024 and hope he would THEN sign with them free agent contract below market value.

Seriously?

Good will, no good will, 99,9% players choose more money*. Always.

Now if Acuna’s camp could start talking about insta extension – say 7 seasons of his control plus 3 FA seasons – another story. But Acuna’s 2024 season belongs to Braves and shouldn’t be given up for hypothetical good will.Good will would give you a coffee – if you have $4 do spare.

Braves have shown good will to Heyward – what good was it to them?

* technically speaking they maximize utility – that’s why sometimes they choose lesser money to get bigger safety

TRad…agreed! Just like The Cubs benefited by having Kris Bryant an extra GUARANTEED year in a Cubs uniform (if Bryant became a Free Agent a year early, teams like The Yankees or Dodgers could outbid/force The Cubs to make more of an offer to keep Bryant)…The Braves will benefit by having Acuna that extra year in 2024.

If Acuna is as good as I expect him to be….it’s going to be TOUGH to keep him in a Braves uniform after 2024 (UNLESS some combo of The Braves ‘opening up the vault/Acuna being ok with ‘getting hella paid’ VS. ‘getting as much money as he can via Free Agency’, which would be his right).

That’s why having Acuna for that extra 2024 Season could be ESSENTIAL. Let’s say that Acuna decides to go ‘year to year’ until Free Agency. What that likely means..is that Acuna will probably be traded during The 2022 Offseason (realistically, if The Braves are going to ‘get anything of value’ for Acuna, they HAVE to trade Acuna with at least 2 years left of control). That would give The Braves a 4 year window (from 2019-2022) to compete for a championship/championships with Acuna. If AA opens up the vault for the likes of Machado, Harper and Kimbrel….that will be ‘some window’, lol!

By the end of 2022, Machado and Harper will be around 30 years old! If they are still producing at a high level….The Braves should either offer Acuna ‘as much as they can afford financially’ in a long term contract..OR…trade Acuna to a team who will be willing to part with the kind of package that is worthy of someone of Acuna’s talent (they will have 2 years to re-sign Acuna). If Acuna really is only interested in ‘getting max value’ (I have no knowledge either way of his intentions…I would not begrudge him if the wanted to get max value, it’s his right)….his market would be ‘limited’ (only a handful of teams can offer ‘max value’ that way exceeds what The Braves can potentially offer Acuna)…The Braves CANNOT afford to just let him walk away in Free Agency for a draft pick!

If The Braves revenues (especially from The Battery Park Properties) continue to rise (making The Playoffs on a yearly basis will also increase revenues) continue to impress (by 2022 they will only 5 years away from getting a new TV contract that will drastically increase revenues)….they wont be too far away from competing with other high revenue teams when it comes to being at least being able to keep their own Free Agents.

As much as I like Acuna…the key to The Braves long term success, will be PITCHING (specificially drafting/developing starting pitching). It is essential that AA HOARDS our pitching prospects for as long as possible! All one has to do is remember how in less than a 2 year period The Braves pitching rotation of Jair Jurrjens, Mike Minor, Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen was DECIMATED by career threatening/ending injuries. Or just look at what just happened to Tampa Bay with Honeywell and DeLeon going down with ACL’s within days of each other! Yet if you read on other ‘so-called Braves blogs/sites….there are CLOWNS on there advocating for ‘trading from the surplus’ RIGHT AWAY! That’s like Joe The Plumber (who didnt even have a plumber’s license) CRYING about taxes that werent even enacted at the time ‘affecting’ his imaginary business that DID NOT EVEN EXIST (nor did it ever come to exist, lol). Get the rotation built FIRST…then figure out what to do with any ‘surplus’ starting arms we have left!

I will say this though…just like UMBC beating Virginia was a HISTORIC UPSET (135-0 were #1 seeds against #16 seeds)…I feel that The Braves Collection of young starting pitching prospects…could be HISTORIC in nature. Time will tell….but I am HELLA EXCITED to see how the next 3 years play out when it comes to who ultimately becomes mainstays in our Starting Rotation by 2022! We’re going to have some TALENTED Starters get pushed aside. Starting with Julio Teheran by The July Trade Deadline (again, you have to trade someone with at least 2 years left on their deal..IF you’re going to get ANYTHING of value in return for them). I suspect that Folty will follow by The 2019 Offseason (UNLESS he develops into a Kluber-like dominant pitcher).

Just to show how Vegas Casinos RIPS OFF betters even when they pick upsets…I saw an article that showed a group of betters who bet $800 on UMBC to beat Virginia (took the moneyline..they were 22 point favorites)..and only won $16k. That’s only a 20-1 payout. Yet #1 seeds were 135-0 up to that point against #16 seeds. Paying out only 20-1 on something that had NEVER HAPPENED in the prior 33 years of the history of 1 vs 16 seeds….what a rip off, lol! I can only imagine how much money Vegas casinos took in on ‘flyer bets’ who bet on #16 seeds over the years..before they FINALLY paid off to the tune of $16k this past Friday with this upset! It’s not even close! That’s why I DO NOT bet on sports (I stick to playing poker)..the payouts are all in the favor of casinos long term.

UMBC has ruined my gambling system. Now I can’t expect to have a perfectly sure 6-8% short term investment.

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