The Braves are definitely going to be scouring free agency and the trade market to try to fill some holes for the 2020 season. It’s with that in mind that I’d like to get a little bit of a head start and lay out the players that could be on the market.
Firstly, I chose teams that will likely be dealing. Some of these teams are 2,3, hell, maybe a lifetime away from competing again, and some are just teams with trigger-heavy GMs (nods Dipoto). Then, In setting parameters, I kept it quite simple:
Most players on the list are under controls 2 year or less.
On teams that are truly awful and have no chance of competing for the next 2 years, I stretched the limit.
Let’s get our hands dirty.
SP: Dylan Bundy Control: 2 years, through arbitration Stats: 4.79 ERA, 161.2 IP, 2.5 fWAR Thoughts: I’ve always wondered what Bundy would do outside of the nightmare that is the Baltimore Orioles. He’s still throwing his fastball 50% of the time even though it’s dropped in velo and his other pitches show better. He’s got pedigree on his side.
RP: Mychal Givens Control: 2 years, through arbitration Stats: 63 IP, 4.57 ERA, 0.5 fWAR Thoughts: Givens is still striking out a ton (12.8 K/9) and keeping a reasonable BB/9 (3.7), but had a difficult time keeping the ball in the park this year. Is still able to pump the velo.
SP: Matt Shoemaker Control:1 year through arb Stats: 28.2 IP, 1.52 ERA, 0.6 fWAR Thoughts: Not sure what the Blue Jays squeezed out of Shoemaker that other teams could not, but he had a big GB% spike and that likely helped his numbers as K and BB rates are pedestrian. His FIP and xFIP suggest the ERA was very fluky.
RP: Ken Giles Control: 1 year through arb Stats: 53 IP, 1.97 ERA, 1.8 fWAR Thoughts: Ken Giles likes to punch himself but he’s a heckuva reliever. Struck out over 14/9 and walked under 3/9. Had an elbow scare that kept him off the trade market, but he’s going to be dealt in the offseason or mid-season, and I expect the Jays don’t want to take a chance on that elbow holding out. FB/SL guy and both are good pitches.
OF: Mookie Betts Control: 1 year through arb Stats: .915 OPS, 6.6 fWAR Thoughts: There’s a rumor out there that the Red Sox are likely to trade Betts this year because his arb-price is going to land him in a “we can’t afford you” place. There’s also a rumor going ‘round Twitter and the Braves blogosphere that Mookie really wants to play in Atlanta. I can’t find the rumor anywhere, but if that’s true, 2021 could be a fun year to speculate on the 2nd best player in MLB coming to the Braves. Betts is a superstar that would make any team better, but would truly put Atlanta into a new tier in 2020.
OF: Jackie Bradley, Jr. Control: 1 year through arb Stats: .738 OPS, 1.4 fWAR Thoughts: JBJ had that one year where he was a 5+ fWAR player, but every other year he’s been for the Red Sox what Ender Inciarte has been for the Braves.
RP: Kelvin Herrera Control: 1 year w/option Stats: 51. 1 IP, 6.14 ERA, 0.4 fWAR Thoughts: Relievers are volatile and Herrera is no exception. Numbers were spiked due to an inflated BABIP, but if one has to look back to 2016 to find something positive, maybe there’s just not much left.
RP: Alex Colome Control: 1 year through arb Stats: 61 IP, 2.80 ERA, 0.6 fWAR Thoughts: So..teammate Carlos Rodon pitches 34.2 innings of 5.19 ERA baseball and grabs a 0.9 fWAR, yet Colome has the above stat-line and only gets 0.6? Go home, Fangraphs. You’re drunk. Fastball/Cutter guy that went to his cutter much more in 2019 while his FB velo dropped quite a bit. Hmmm…
C: James McCann Control: 1 year, through arb Stats: .768 OPS, 2.3 fWAR Thoughts: If the Braves want a stopgap to replace McCann, McCann might be a good option. Historically not great with the stick, but who knows? Something might have…oh, who am I kidding. It was likely the ball.
OF: Jorge Soler Control: 2 years, 1st at 4.7MM and 2nd through arb Stats: 3.6 fWAR, .923 OPS Thoughts: Soler was a horrible fielder in 2019, but 48 HRs has a way to make you forget about such atrocities. Played mostly RF and maybe he shouldn’t.
SP: Danny Duffy Control: 2/31MM Stats: 130.2 IP, 4.34 ERA, 1.3 fWAR Thoughts: I don’t want to think of Danny Duffy being in a Braves uniform as he’s just another Julio Teheran except he’s left-handed and more expensive. Still, would the Royals make a team take Duffy in a Soler deal? Maybe…their GM isn’t very intelligent.
RP: Ian Kennedy Control: 1/16.5MM Stats: 63.1 IP, 3.41 ERA, 1.4 fWAR Thoughts: Great season as a full-time reliever in 2019, bumping his MPH by 3. Rumor had it the Braves had a deal for him before dealing for Melancon, but Royals GM pulled deal back. Did I mention he’s not that intelligent?
C: Salvador Perez Control: 2/28.4 MM Stats: Tommy John in March, 2019 Stats N/A Thoughts: Salvador Perez was already going down as a player before needing Tommy John. Now, I can’t fathom any team taking on his money without seeing him play post-surgery. Has gotten a name more from pedigree, not from production. Prior to TJ, he put up 4 straight negative offensive years.
OF: Whit Merrifield Control: 3 years w/option Stats: .811 OPS, 2.9 fWAR Thoughts: There are exceptions I’ll make to this list and Whit is one of them. The Royals are lightyears away from being relevant again and Whit is their knight in shining armor. Whit is a plug and play guy in the field and, coming up on his 31st naming day, the Royals would be downright foolish not to trade him very soon. He’s good at a lot of things and bad at none. He’ll be light on the pocketbook, but heavy in prospects to acquire.
SP: Matt Boyd Control: 3 years through arb Stats: 185.2 IP, 4.56 ERA, 3.3 fWAR Thoughts: Matthew Boyd is the Tigers equivalent to Max Fried with exception being that Boyd’s MO is FB/SL rather than FB/CB. His splits show that he has the ability to strike out anyone but struggles with hard contact, which tells me his location comes and goes. He’s got elite K-rates and keeps his walks per 9 under 3. If the Braves could grab Boyd for a few prospects, he’d be a great candidate to lead the rotation with Mike Soroka and Max Fried.
SP: Michael Fulmer Control: 3 years through arb Stats: No 2019 stats (Tommy John surgery) Thoughts: Fulmer was heavily targeted by the Braves a few years back and it’s good that the Braves didn’t pull the trigger as his health deteriorated and put him on the shelf for the entire 2019 season. Fulmer is expected back and healthy for the 2020 season. It’s rare for a team to trade a guy coming off of surgery, but Detroit could be willing to shop him if someone believes in his stuff enough to give up a decent package. Fulmer’s FB is his MO and sits around 96. When his elbow started barking, his movement left him. When right, Fulmer is a lot like Soroka, using hard sink to keep the ball on the ground.
OF: Nomar Mazara Control: 2 years through arb Stats: 0.5 fWAR, .787 OPS Thoughts: Only 24 years old, but seemingly running out of time to prove himself, Mazara put up his 2nd disappointing season in a row. Still, his hard contact increased in 2019 and his poor stretch was isolated to 2 months (not necessarily comforting, just laying down facts). Mazara comes with pedigree and an abundance of untapped talent, but this is now year 4 of mostly potential with no breakthrough.
OF: Danny Santana Control: 2 years through arb Stats: 1.9 fWAR, .856 OPS Thoughts: I’m a Danny Santana naysayer and hated the fact that he received so much playing time during his stint with the Braves, but here I am speculating that the Braves could target him. Santana was a great fill-in for Texas last year as he played every position except catcher and pitcher (although some not very well), had near identical splits offensively, and was 21 of 27 in SB attempts. What more could one ask for a bench player?
SP: Mike Minor Control: 1 year through arb Stats: 208.1 IP, 3.59 ERA, 4.2 fWAR Thoughts: Minor broke out in 2019 with the Rangers largely due to his FB/CH combo that made up ⅔ of his pitches on the year. Minor also had a career best 80% in runners stranded which explains a lot of the difference in his fWAR and bWAR. I’m not sure he’d slot in as numero uno on the Braves depth chart, but he’d likely help a lot.
RP: Shawn Kelley Control: 1 year (through option) Stats: 47.1 IP, 4.94 ERA, -0.2 fWAR Thoughts: 3 years of samples, 7.27 ERA, 2.95 ERA, 4.94 ERA….oh the life of a relief pitcher. Kelley lives and dies by the long ball and if he can keep it in the park, he can be successful. The problem is that he’s in an extreme hitter’s park and travels to extreme hitter’s parks regularly. He’s a FB/SL guys and is best when his slider is his number one…but it can become lazy.
OF: Kole Calhoun Control: option, 14MM Stats: 2.5 fWAR, .792 OPS Thoughts: I think the Angels are a good team to keep an eye on this offseason. As my friend Ben Chase and I discussed the other day, they’ve hired Joe Maddon and he likes his players to have positional flexibility. Right now, the Angels don’t seem built for that and I’d expect some rearranging. Calhoun ended up grading out ok in RF and cranked out 32 HRs, but only put up a .792 OPS, which tells a little bit about the rest of his offensive skill-set. Still, the Braves look like they’re going to need some LH thump and Kole is that.
SP: Andrew Heaney Control: 2 years through arb Stats: 95.1 IP, 4.91 ERA, 1.2 fWAR Thoughts: Heaney still has a great K-rate and a low-BB rate, but the dude just cannot keep the ball in the park, and it’s been a problem for 6 years. Still, there’s real potential here if he can just stay healthy.
RP: Cam Bedrosian Control: 2 years through arb Stats: 61.1 IP, 3.23 ERA, 0.8 fWAR Thoughts: Son of former Brave Steve, Cam’s FB is the get ahead pitch and the slider is the dagger, but he is by no means consistent yet and his .253 BABIP against shows he’s likely due regression. Still, he has pretty good peripherals and a near 50% GB-rate.
OF: Domingo Santana Control: 2 years through arb Stats: .770 OPS, 0.0 fWAR Thoughts: Domingo was a target of mine in 2018, so he’s got the Ryan curse of doom on him. Is a pretty horrible fielder and has been pretty mediocre the last 2 years and truthfully, I don’t know why I’m writing about him.
OF: Mitch Haniger Control: 3 years through arb Stats: .777 OPS, 1.1 fWAR Thoughts: Haniger had a most unfortunate injury that I cannot discuss without a certain part of me hurting, but even before then, he was putting up numbers that weren’t what was expected from him. Still, Haniger is a “Markakis in his prime” type player that has a good approach at the plate that should keep his BA, OBP, SLG all above league average all the while playing adequate corner OF defense.
OF: Mallex Smith Control: 3 years through arb Stats: .635 OPS, 0.0 fWAR Thoughts: Make no mistake, Mallex was bad last year. I don’t know the reason, but he was well below average offensively and defensively. However, with the idea of 2020 bringing the 26th man, 3rd catchers and speedsters might be finding their way onto rosters more frequently. I love Mallex’s demeanor. I believe in his skillset and I’d love to see him back in a Braves uniform.
3B: Kyle Seager Control: 2 years, 39MM w/option Stats: .789 OPS, 2.9 fWAR Thoughts: Seager had 6 straight years of great performance, averaging 4.3 fWAR, then 2018 happened. He didn’t hit for average, couldn’t get on base, and his slashline suffered. 2019 saw him rebound as everything upticked. Just looking at his batted ball profile, he seems like a player that would do well under Seitzer’s tutelage, and I’d be willing to bet that Dipoto is ready to pull the trigger on trading Seager.
RP: Anthony Bass Control: 1 year through arb Stats: 48 IP, 3.56 ERA, 0.6 fWAR Thoughts: Seattle unlocked something in Bass that no one else has that increased his pitching effectiveness across the board. He carries a great GB-rate that sits a hair above 50% and that would work well in a Braves uni.
That’s a Wrap!
Any on this list you find appealing? Who are you going after?