Braves Mailbag (12/19): What's next for Atlanta's winter shopping?
Updated: Feb 8, 2019
The Braves Mailbag is a regular feature on FromTheDiamond.com. Each week, Grant McAuley will answer your questions and discuss topics you present. You can submit your questions to Grant via Twitter. They may also be used on an episode of “Around The Big Leagues” so be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Soundcloud and Stitcher.
What’s the next move for the Braves? What would your next move be for the Braves? – Jordan (via Twitter)
That’s an excellent question for a number of reasons. I’ll get to my virtual GM move in a moment, but the interesting thing about the Braves front office has been its ability to keep pursuits largely under wraps since Alex Anthopoulos took the reins last winter. It has been impossible to know which way Atlanta will go with the next move. With a little over a year on the job, Anthopoulos and company have transformed the front office into one of the more efficient models in baseball. That does not mean they are the busiest this winter or that they're working with unlimited resources. Rather, they’ve tapped into the trends that are making a baseball club’s management operate in a much more nuanced fashion. Analytics and scouting, player development and evaluation are all key components and Anthopoulos took some time to put things in place and get to know the organization over the last year. All of that has helped him form a clear plan for both 2019 and the years to come. What many people may not have seen coming was a division title last season. The Braves have a talented young core and have already added to that with former AL MVP Josh Donaldson and longtime Braves catcher Brian McCann’s homecoming. The question now seems to be when and not if Anthopoulos will swing a trade that could provide Atlanta with a corner outfielder, an elite starting pitcher or bullpen reinforcements. With that in mind, I’d be interested in a deal that would bring Corey Kluber over from Cleveland or one that would land Mitch Haniger of the Mariners. I’m not sure the Braves would be comfortable pulling off both of those deals, but they do have the prospect capital to do so if the right trades present themselves. If Atlanta is looking for a deal that would provide a one-year fix in the power department, then Detroit’s Nick Castellanos would be the player I’d zero in on to fill right field.
Which of the Dodgers outfielders would you be willing to trade for? And who would you be willing to trade for them? – Richard (via Twitter)
It will be interesting to see how the Dodgers address a potential overflow in the outfield, particularly if they come up big in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes. For the moment, there does not seem to be a clear field that is vying for Harper’s services, but Los Angeles seems destined to trade Yasiel Puig this winter regardless. We discussed him at some length on the most recent episode of the show and I think there would be some value in targeting Puig. He would make Atlanta’s outfield defense perhaps the best in baseball. Ender Inciarte and Ronald Acuña Jr. could benefit from having the rocket-armed Puig in right field. I also think Puig would provide an energy and a swagger that could be infectious. However, Puig’s production has been questionable at times during his stay with the Dodgers. He did hit 23 home runs last season, but also struggled mightily against left-handed pitching. There have been other episodes during Puig’s big league career that might make some teams leery of bringing on a player with a sometimes mercurial personality. Joc Pederson is another intriguing name and would provide some power as well. The Dodgers have figured out how to best deploy the right players in the right matchups to maximize the value of both Pederson (2.7 fWAR) and Puig (1.8 fWAR). They may not be best served as everyday players, but both men should still see 400-500 plate appearances. There are merits to acquiring either man. Ultimately, I’m not sure either is likely to land in Atlanta. I would not part with any prospect that is widely regarded as one of the Braves' Top 10. A couple of mid-level minor leaguers or a raw talent with upside seems about right in my opinion.
How likely are we to get involved with the Marlins on J.T. Realmuto come mid/late January? – Jordan (via Twitter)
Despite the signing of Brian McCann, I’ve maintained the opinion that Atlanta would circle back to their pursuit of J.T. Realmuto down the road. At the very least, I expect them to monitor the market for the All-Star catcher. Over the past year, the asking price has been rumored to include Ronald Acuña Jr., Austin Riley, Mike Soroka and a number of other names. However, the signing of McCann has in many ways lessened the need for the Braves to overextend themselves with a trade offer that could potentially do more harm than good long term. The Marlins have not gotten high marks or big results from their trade returns on Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, but seem to be determined to get the best haul of all for Realmuto. Given the lack of quality catching in Major League Baseball, perhaps they will. To answer the question, I'd say mid/late July may actually be the time I could see the Braves hotly pursuing Realmuto. Of course, he’d have to still be a Miami Marlin for that to be a possibility.
What are the chances we only bring back Nick Markakis, save remaining money, go with young pitchers and spend the money at the deadline for vets with expiring contracts?
– Jackson (via Twitter)
You bring up an interesting component of roster construction that may not be immediately top of mind for many people during the offseason. I received a couple of versions of this question, specifically in regard to the Braves reluctance to go beyond their comfort zone in terms of contract years for veteran free agents. We saw the Phillies give Andrew McCutchen a 3-year/$50 million deal while the Astros got Michael Brantley on a 2-year/$32 million pact. Those were perhaps the two best veteran outfield options on the free-agent market. A reunion with Nick Markakis has always been a possibility, but Atlanta is determined to scour the market for upgrades at the corner outfield position. Whether or not that plan could include Ronald Acuña Jr. moving to right field is another moving part that Alex Anthopoulos can consider. If Markakis were to return, I’d find it hard to believe Atlanta would go beyond a one-year deal with a team option for a second. I’d also guess it would be in the $10-11 million range for 2019. That would be in line with the 4-year/$44 million deal Markakis signed prior to 2015. The best part of the theory you laid out would be the financial flexibility Atlanta could maintain to add some high-priced help at the trade deadline. Anthopoulos mentioned last winter that he factors in the ability to improve a contender in-season when deciding what deals to do in the winter. There’s no need to spend money just because you have it. A wait-and-see approach does not have to be a bad thing. However, I still expect the Braves to address the rotation need in some way, shape, form or fashion.
Haven't heard Julio Teheran’s name floated around at all really. Do you think we actually try to shed his salary for a couple lower level guys, or does he remain a Brave on opening day? We could definitely use the money elsewhere. – Brandon (via Twitter)
The reason you have not heard much about Julio Teheran is because the Braves aren’t in a position where they are stuck with a bad contract. Since he is in the final guaranteed year of his deal, the club is not in a position where it needs to pawn Teheran off any taker in order to move the money. Soon to turn 28, he is owed just over $11 million in 2019 and has a $12 million team option for 2020 that includes a $1 million buyout. Teheran serving as the staff ace is not what fans want to hear and those days appear to be over. However, he currently serves the purpose of giving the rotation both depth and experience. Upon further review, however, Teheran's career-worst 0.7 fWAR was the lowest of any qualified starter in the National League and second lowest in MLB in 2018. He has been an effective pitcher for extended periods of time, but has seen a dip in velocity during his six full years in the big leagues. Though the team may not feel it needs to move him, Teheran could certainly be included in the return for another starter that upgrades the Atlanta rotation. My guess is unless a bigger trade to add a proven top starter to the Braves rotation occurs then Teheran will be in the Braves rotation on opening day. As of now, I’d expect Mike Foltynewicz to be Atlanta’s opening day starter.