Atlanta general managers can make moves

sports@macon.comApril 20, 2013 

There is no word more important in the dictionary for a general manager in sports than “options.”

It’s what he must have in order to maintain the leverage necessary to build a winning team, or to keep a good team at a high level.

Take Braves general manager Frank Wren.

He’s probably the luckiest of the three team leaders in Atlanta right now. The Braves are playing great to start the season, and he has more depth than he can shake a stick at.

The emergence of Evan Gattis gives Atlanta tremendous options. When Brian McCann gets back from shoulder surgery, the Braves can only hope he’ll be healthy enough to play so he can rebuild his value. McCann’s contract is up after this season, and since he’ll be 30 years old to start next season, it’s unlikely the Braves are going to invest in him for the long-term.

With Gattis doing well at the plate, leading all major league rookies in almost every major offensive category, and also showing he’s no slouch behind the plate either, the Braves have their likely replacement. So if Wren believes Gattis can be the catcher for the next few years, he can perhaps shop McCann later this summer after McCann shows he’s healthy.

It’s amazing we’d ever be talking about the Braves trading McCann, who in many ways has been the heart of the team for the past few years. But the facts don’t paint a good picture for him to stick around long-term in Atlanta.

What if Wren can spin McCann into a top-flight prospect -- maybe at third base -- for the Braves? Maybe a team that would be interested in re-signing McCann past this year would give up a couple of top young players. If Wren could pull that off, it would only add to the depth the team currently has.

But McCann might not be the only catcher Wren could trade in the near future. With Gattis doing so well, Wren might feel confident enough to put phenom Christian Bethancourt in a trade. There’s not much more valuable than a young catcher with great potential like Bethancourt, and he could perhaps be the centerpiece of a deal that could get Atlanta a top starting pitcher like a David Price.

The solid play of Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson gives Wren leverage, in case he wants to use one in a trade. Plus, the depth of the pitching staff, along with the young prospects in Triple-A and Double-A, give Wren the advantage of including arms in deals that could make the Braves even stronger.

Now take Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who has the NFL draft this week. Dimitroff has 11 draft picks, and he pretty much admitted last week it’s very unlikely he’ll keep all 11 picks, and Dimitroff acted like a man ready to be active in moving up or down the draft.

The Falcons have the 30th pick in the first round, and even if Dimitroff stays put it’s likely he’s going to get a player that can contribute to this team. Atlanta needs help at cornerback, defensive end and linebacker, so he needs to address those pressing needs on defense first.

But with those extra picks, Dimitroff could move up to get a player he might really target. Or he could move down and get additional picks that could also give the Falcons depth on the offensive line, running back, or maybe even a potential replacement for Tony Gonzalez at tight end.

Dimitroff has made at least one trade in all five drafts he has led for the Falcons, and with four additional picks you can bet he’ll be active this week.

Even Danny Ferry of the Hawks has options this summer as he looks to rebuild the team. Only Al Horford, Lou Williams and John Jenkins have guaranteed contracts for next season, so there will be plenty of room under the NBA salary cap for Ferry to bring in new and better talent.

All three of Atlanta’s professional teams are pretty good right now, but the options are there to give the GMs the ability to make them even better. There are a lot of teams that aren’t so lucky.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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