The Braves will have a lot of holes to fill as they’ve lost a TON of guys to free agency. Sure, they could fill most spots internally with young guys, but I can’t fathom that they will depend on guys like Austin Riley and Alex Jackson out of the gate. Instead, I feel like we are going to see guys receiving extra development time at AAA and Anthopoulos will grab 3-4 veteran pieces for the 2020 season.
It is with that in mind that we start looking at positions of need. Brian McCann has retired and right now, there is no catching tandem. Whether it be through trade or free agency, a catcher will be added.
The Braves also received remarkable production from Matt Joyce and Adeiny Hechavarria, both now free agents. Whether they bring those 2 back remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt the Braves need depth on the bench.
The Great Hunt begins. Sound the horn.
*Theory in action. The move toward 8-man bullpens and 4 man benches handicapped the NL in a way that the AL never felt. However, with the structure of the roster going forward being 13 pitchers/13 position players, that struggle will come to an end and every team will have a 5 man bench and an 8-man bullpen. With the 26th man to be added in 2020, I think more teams, especially NL teams, will employ a 3rd catcher or a speedster to run in late innings. It is with that working theory that I dream…
Alex Avila (33)- If Avila was asked to catch 50-60ish games/year, I think he could thrive. Historically, Avila has been decent with the stick and does a decent job holding runners.
Jason Castro (33)- Castro has been a good framer and above average defensive catcher for years, but merely average at holding runners. Like Avila, Castro seems like a good fit if the Braves utilize the 26th man as a 3rd catcher and have all 3 share the load.
Francisco Cervelli (34)- Cervelli seemed a good fit on the roster, and while we didn’t get to see his impact behind the dish all that much, his stick was remarkable. I think his regular catching days are done, but, once again, he’d make a great uno to a trio of catchers.
Robinson Chirinos (36)- At 35 y/o, Chirinos broke out offensively. Let’s not read too much into that as MANY broke out offensively in 2019. Still, he can hold his own with the stick and the mitt and like the above 3, would be great as a trio.
Travis d’Arnaud (31)- GET ME OUT OF HERE! I’m sure, at some point in the last 3 years, these words were yelled from the cavernous hell that is the New York Mets locker room. d’Arnaud had a bounceback season with the Rays and could’ve bought himself a couple million bucks. Defensive metrics were sound and he can swing it a bit, but I’d be willing to bet that d’Arnaud wouldn’t dig a gig that carries 3.
Yan Gomes (32) – $9MM club option with a $1MM buyout-Gomes has merely been serviceable for the Nationals and at 9MM, he’ll likely be one of their backstops again in 2020.
Yasmani Grandal (31) – Grandal is the prize catcher in this lot as he’s one of the best receivers, framers, and hitters behind the dish. I’ve already seen Braves fans clamoring for him, and I get it. But, let’s not forget the story of Jonathan Lucroy (and many others), and that catchers are volatile. Still, he’d go a long way in solidifying a weak offensive position.
Martin Maldonado (33)- Was a backup until 2017 and now he’s catching 100+ games/year. Has been going in the wrong direction in the last few years. Doesn’t really fit to me.
Russell Martin (37)- Dude’s getting up there in age and still pushing positive results with his defense and framing. Was known to control the running game pretty well, but that skill is leaving. Still, people see him as a leader of men.
Matt Adams (31) – Can still hit RHP and could benefit greatly from the new 3 batter minimum rule.
Brad Miller (30)- Until 2016, Miller was a good glove and a good stick then his production fell off a cliff in 2017 and it seemed like everyone forgot he was actually pretty good ballplayer. He put together a great 2019 as a backup to numerous positions boasting a .938 OPS against RHP.
Mitch Moreland (34)- Moreland might get a full-time gig somewhere, but more than likely, he’ll be a 1B/DH/PH type. Hits RHP very well, but I cannot imagine he’d sign with Atlanta knowing full well he’ll not see the field.
Justin Smoak (33)- Smoak would be the kind of versatile bat that I’d like to see the Braves grab. In the last 5-ish years, he’s been a .750ish OPS hitter from both sides of the plate. I feel like he’s destined to live out the rest of his career in PH duties.
Jedd Gyorko (31)- Had an awful 2019, but still has pop and versatility in the glove.
Brock Holt (32)- Versatility at the plate and in the field. His last 2 years nearly mirror each other and he’s likely a .700-.750 OPS guy going forward.
Eric Sogard (34)- After being worth 2 fWAR over the course of a 7 year MLB career Sogard put together a 2.6 fWAR season playing all over the diamond. Look, I won’t deny that this feels like Ryan Flaherty’s first 2 months in 2018 stretched out over a year, but Sogard has serious versatility and if he could even get close to the numbers he put up in 2019, he could be a valuable asset. At 34…it was likely the ball.
Neil Walker (34)- A slight bounceback season from Mr. Walker, but has seemingly lost a lot of the defensive versatility that made him so valuable of a commodity.
Ben Zobrist (39)- I’ve always wanted a Ben Zobrist. For his career, he’s been like the ultimate security blanket that can play anywhere AND he’s a switch hitter. He’s going to be 39 in 2019, but I can’t help but yearn for a Zobrist on the Braves.
Asdrubal Cabrera (34)- Cabrera is a guy that’s been underpaid for his entire career and I don’t really know why. According to Fangraphs, he’s been worth over 200MM, yet his cash earnings only come out out to 63MM. As much as I’d like Zobrist on this team, Asdrubal could really help solidify the bench.
Adeiny Hechavarria (31)- Look…it was likely a 100% fluke, but if Hech wants to come back to the Braves for 2ish million, I’m all in and I don’t really care that last year was his first year to ever produce an OPS over .700. I liked what I saw and he seemed like a different hitter. Seitzer magic?
Jose Iglesias (30)- Like Hech, Iglesias is a glove first guy, but also like Hech, he held his own with the stick. A good glove guy that’s not a auto-out when asked to hit is fine with me as the 26th man.