Braves general manager Frank Wren could face a very complicated decision within the next two years.
When Frank Wren signed center fielder B.J. Upton to a 5-year $75 million deal last off-season, he not only made a huge financial commitment to Upton. He also committed the Braves to giving Upton absolutely every opportunity to play center field.
The Dan Uggla situation has shown us what happens when the Braves sign a player to a huge, long-term contract. No matter how unproductive the big-money player may be, the Braves feel obligated to play him (at least until the playoffs). The 2014 season marks the fourth year of Uggla’s five-year deal, and despite his disappointing numbers at the plate and dwindling range in the field, he remains the Braves starter at second base heading into this season.
If B.J. Upton doesn’t get his production turned around, it could present one of the strangest situations that Braves fans have witnessed in many a year.
Wren’s son, Kyle, was drafted by the Braves last spring. Unlike Braves President John Schuerholz’s son Jonathan, who was also drafted by the Braves, Kyle Wren can really play. I covered Georgia Tech baseball when Kyle was a freshman and watched as he earned All-ACC honors.
Kyle Wren has a smooth swing, plays solid center field, runs well and can steal bases. He also has excellent baseball instincts, which isn’t surprising considering his lineage. Wren hit .409 in 25 at bats in the Rookie League and followed that up by hitting .328 with a .382 on-base percentage .456 slugging percentage and 32 stolen bases in 38 attempts at Single-A Rome.
If he keeps developing, it wouldn’t surprise me if Kyle Wren is promoted to Double-A Mississippi by mid-season. Once a player hits Mississippi and is productive, he is literally a phone call away from the Big Show. The Braves often bypass Triple-A and call up players straight from Mississippi.
It may be a major stretch for Kyle Wren to be called up to the majors by this season. But he could be in the Braves camp next spring. And what if the kid really develops and becomes a top prospect, how ironic would it be if his road to playing as a regular in the major leagues is blocked by a guy who his dad signed to a big money contract? A guy who may be making big money, but is not very productive.
Frank Wren could face the ultimate decision for a general manager and a father. Do you keep the guy who you as the general manager signed to a lucrative long-term contract, at the expense of your son who is a better player?
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