2:33 pm ET: Well, I'd envisioned posting much earlier this morning but the late night dealing for the Braves changed those plans.
Turns out, that's a good place for us to lead off the Day 1 post.
Atlanta swung a late-night trade with the Seattle Mariners that netted former mega-prospect Jarred Kelenic, who could end up being the answer in left field for the Braves in 2024 and beyond.
Kelenic, still just 24, has tantalizing skills and potential at the plate, runs the bases well and is a solid defender, all things Alex Anthopoulos praised in the media call after the deal.
Despite all of that talent and torching his way through the minor leagues, he has yet to find sustained success at the big league level. A hot start in 2023 gave way to a slump and an unfortunate injury suffered when he kicked a water cooler just after the All-Star break.
That fractured left foot not only cost Kelenic playing time last season, but it may have brought his frustrating run in Seattle to a bit of a tipping point. Sometimes a change of scenery can do wonders for a player. Not often are those players as young and talented as Kelenic, who was once a Top 10 prospect in all of baseball according to multiple outlets.
The Braves will give him an opportunity to play left field and continue to establish himself as a major leaguer. While the expectations were understably high in Seattle, Kelenic won't be looked upon as a centerpiece for the Braves' linup. They've got plenty of established bats to carry the freight. For the first time in his young career, Kelenic can be more of a supporting cast member rather than being billed as "The Next Big Thing."
All of that being said, putting a hitter with Kelenic's profile on a Braves team with so much talent and success in helping hitters maximize their talents could be the best thing that ever happens to him. Atlanta's hitting gurus, led by Kevin Seitzer and Bobby Magallanes and supported by Hall of Famers Chipper Jones, has seen some impressive results. Kelenic may be the next in line to unlock his considerable potential.
As for the rest of the five-player deal, Atlanta clearly thought enough of Kelenic to take on a pair of contracts Seattle wanted off its books. Marco Gonzales (due $12 million) and Evan White (owed $17 million in 2024 and 2025 along with a buyout for 2026) don't appear to fit into the Braves' plans and could be flipped in future trades. The Mariners sent along $4.5 million in cash consideration to help facilitate the trade.
3:37 pm ET: The Hall of Fame held a press conference for newly elected Jim Leyland. His candor in accepting the honor and putting his career in perspective were really fun to listen to. Among the Hall of Famers present for the event were Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, Jim Thome, and Ted Simmons. All served on the special eras committee that voted to elect Leyland.
I caught up with Hall of Fame President Josh Rawitch for a few minutes and you'll hear that conversation on the upcoming From The Diamond. While celebrating Leyland, he also mentioned he would like to see a greater focus on stars of the 70s and 80s gaining election. That is a particularly good thing to hear given the case for Dale Murphy, which will hopefully send one of baseball's all-time great people to Cooperstown one day.
4:14 pm ET: While it does not necessarily relate directly to the Braves, it was interesting to hear some buzz about what the Cleveland Guardians may do this winter when it comes to trading away prizes pieces of their pitching staff.
Shane Bieber trade rumors have been circulating for a while, but if Cleveland pairs him with top reliever Emmauel Clase, that could create quite a ripple on the trade market.
Cleveland is, of course, open to trading any of a number of their players. That part is not surprising, but Clase has perhaps the best contract of any proven closer in baseball. The two-time All-Star is scheduled to make $2.5 million in 2024, $4.5 million in 2025, $6 million in 2026 and then has a pair of $10 million club options for 2027 and 2028 with a $2 million buyout.
This doesn't mean that Bieber and Clase will be packaged together, but that could help a contending team to fill multiple needs with one deal and up Cleveland's overall return in the process.
5:30 pm ET: New Angels manager Ron Washington is holding court with the media, answering questions about his outloook for his new club. It may not all turn around in one year -- as things rarely do -- but the passion and commitment of Washington is something that could go a long way for a team as listless as the L.A. Angels have been.
The longtime Braves third base coach and infield guru was a very popular figure, stopping to do a lengthy interview with the Oakland Athletics radio crew. It's hard to find a more beloved and respected manager, whether it be from dugout, to the front office, to the stands. If such a thing can exist, the love for Wash is universal.
One player who seemed almost synonymous with Washington over the past seven seasons is Atlanta second baseman Ozzie Albies. During the media session on Monday, Washington was asked about his conversation with Albies after accepting the Angels' managerial job.
In typical Washington fashion, the answer did not disappoint.
"The main conversation that I had with Ozzie was one guy don't run any show. I don't care how good he is. One guy can't do it.
Okay. I'm gone, but the winner in those guys is still there. That's why you teach and you help people to be self-sufficient, and you never stop teaching them so they can be self-sufficient. The umbilical cord has been cut.
Now, all of the wisdom and all the time we spent together, they have to use it on each other and not let anybody come there and uproot their winning ways. Not let anyone come up in there and change the work ethic and the preparation that it took for them to sustain the way they've sustained in the last seven or eight years.
That's the type of conversations we had, and I was on the other end trying to make them understand. They don't need me. I'm here available if they have questions, but they know how to win. And they don't let one person stop them from being what they are and who they are, just like one person cannot control the game of baseball. It will continue to move no matter who it is. That's the conversation I had."
As for his legacy and how he will be remembered for his time with the Braves, it was a more succint but no less Washingtonesque answer:
"That I made a difference. That's all. That I made a difference. Every single day that I was there I made a difference.
I didn't cheat anyone every single day that I was there, and I didn't let the players that I was around cheat each other every day that I was there.
So that's what I want them to remember me by. I made a difference. I made a difference. It was the players that did it, but I made a difference."
5:51 pm ET: Had a chance to catch up with Stefan and Chris Caray, the twin sons of longtime Braves and current Cardinals play-by-play voice, Chip Caray. The 24-year-old duo began their broadcast careers in Amarillo (Double-A affiliate of the Diamondbacks) this past season and ended up calling a Texas League title for the Sod Poodles in Year 1.
As fourth generation broadcasters, the future is obviously out there in front of them. Whether it be together on individual journeys, they are excited about the possibilities and looking forward to calling baseball for years to come. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to have them on the podcast soon.