Friday, December 10, 2010

See Ya Scotty

Widely covered already, the Braves lost LHP Scott Diamond to the Minnesota Twins in yesterday's Rule 5 Draft. I probably wouldn't be holding true to my "Atlanta Braves fan from Upstate, NY" blog intent if I didn't specifically highlight this move.

Diamond wasn't a top-level prospect for the Braves (hence the reason why the team didn't protect him with their open 40-man roster spot), but he is a product of Upstate, NY. Despite being from Guelph, Ontario, Canada, Diamond pitched collegiately for the Division I Binghamton University Bearcats in Vestal, NY. Binghamton also happens to be in the same conference (America East), and serves as the main rival, of my alma mater, the University at Albany. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by Atlanta in 2007. While I wasn't tuned in enough to college baseball at the time Diamond pitched for the Bearcats to see him play, I enjoyed following him through the Braves minor league system over the past year or two due to his connection to Upstate, NY.

Diamond pitched well in 2010 between Double A Mississippi and Triple A Gwinnett, but he was caught in the middle of a stocked Atlanta pitching prospect group. His selection by the Twins gives him a pretty solid major league chance. Minnesota has bullpen needs that might allow him to fill a lefty specialist role and there are still some questions at the back end of their starting rotation.

But there's still a chance Diamond could return to the Braves system. As compensation for the pick, the Twins sent Atlanta $50,000. Rule 5 requires Minnesota to keep him on the team's 25-man roster for the entire 2011 season in order to guarantee his rights. If they don't, the team must offer Diamond back to the Braves for $25,000. I'd love to see him return as a Brave, but it would certainly be exciting to see him given a shot at the big leagues.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hinske, Linebrink and Sherrill...Oh My!

I can't imagine what Frank Wren's cell phone bill looks like. In the past week, the Atlanta Braves GM has added to the team's bench while addressing the few remaining bullpen needs. Let's take a look at these moves...

Last week Eric Hinske agreed to the Braves contract offer, bringing the playoff good luck charm back for the 2011 season. Hinske will earn $1.35 million next year with a $1.5 million club option for 2012 ($100k buyout). That's a pretty good deal if you ask me. Hinske turned down what was believed to be a comparable offer to join his home state Milwaukee Brewers. Assuming he performs similar to this past season, the 1B/OF will provide notable left-handed power off the Braves bench. Unfortunately, Hinske's signing sealed the departure of Matt Diaz. In addition to being a fan favorite, Diaz remains a career LHP killer. With Omar Infante and Melky Cabrera no longer on the team, the Braves didn't have the positional flexibility to keep both Hinske and Diaz. On the fortunate side, Diaz has already signed a 2yr/$4.25m contract with the Pirates. Great for him to pick up some stability. I wish him well!

With Hinske back, Wren turned his sights to the Braves bullpen. Prior to jumping down to Disney World for the MLB Winter Meetings, he swapped minor league pitcher Kyle Cofield for right reliever Scott Linebrink from the White Sox. Cofield hadn't made it past Double A after being drafted by Atlanta in 2005, so it's not much of a give up for Atlanta. The 34-year-old Linebrink has struggled a bit over the past couple years in Chicago, but has traditionally been a solid bullpen presence during his 11 career major league seasons. Should Roger McDowell be able to help him return to pre-2009 form, he will serve as a solid middle-to-late inning RHP option, replacing the Takashi Saito/Kyle Farsworth role last year. Perhaps most importantly, the Braves will also receive about $3.5m to help cover Linebrink's $5.5m 2011 salary.