Editor’s note: this is the first of three posts.
The Atlanta Braves won 96 games in 2013, a season in which the following things happened:
- BJ Upton and Dan Uggla might as well have carried a wiffle ball bat to the plate
- Jason Heyward broke his face
- Tim Hudson almost detached his foot from his leg
- Two of the best setup men in baseball had Tommy John surgery
- Brandon Beachy made no impact
- Brian McCann missed a month
- Jordan Walden missed a few months
- Elliot Johnson, a player that the Royals fired, became the starting 2nd baseman
As amazing as it seems in retrospect, the Braves were a very successful team in 2013, but there are some obvious questions going into the offseason. In the following three articles, I will provide some ideas for trade targets and free agents signings for the offseason. (I refuse to address the need for an “ace” through trade as I’m terrified that the Braves will trade away too much and I’d be left to blame. Someone else can have at that.)
Of course, the Braves could easily do nothing more than move Alex Wood to the rotation, stick Dan Uggla back at 2nd, use Pastornicky, Pena, Schafer, Terdoslavich, and Laird as bench options, and promote three of Hale, Buchter, S. Simmons, Ian Thomas, or J.R. Graham to RP duties on the big club. But somehow I don’t think that’ll be their path. I believe they’ll make a trade that will impact the roster in a significant way. Who might that be? Glad you asked.
Laying the Foundation
Money: The Braves look to have about $82 million committed to 20 or so players, leaving the following positions available: Starting 2nd baseman, 1 Bench Player, 3 Pitchers (either 1 SP and 2 RP or 3 RP, depending how the Braves view Wood).
These are the players who I think they could potentially include in a deal.
- Craig Kimbrel: In a market that is about to go insane with cash flow, the most dominant closer in baseball could very well bring back a king’s ransom. Selling high on Kimbrel, right when he’s about to get really expensive would be very smart.
- Chris Johnson: With a .394 BABIP, we likely just saw the peak year of Mr. Johnson. His defense will always be a liability at 3rd base and his WAR will likely be much closer to 2 than 3 this upcoming season. Everyone knows that he’s likely to regress, but even so, his trade value will probably never be higher.
- Jordan Schafer: Jordan faded over the course of the season, but proved valuable when healthy. His .348 BABIP helped him have his most successful Major League year to date. He has three more years of control, and it might be possible to snooker a desperate team into thinking that he’s a center fielder.
- Gerald Laird: I don’t advocate trading Laird, but he was good in part-time play, even when pushed to third catcher duties. His salary might make him an attractive second-stringer for a catching-hungry team.
- Kris Medlen: Since coming off of Tommy John in 2012, Medlen has performed well above expectations. Our minor league system has a lot of starting pitching, which means that a pitcher like Medlen — an above-average starter who will be a free agent after 2015 — could be expendable. It’s the same situation as Brian McCann last year. He’s a good player who doesn’t cost much now, but will cost a lot soon.
- Dan Uggla: The dictionary definition of selling low. I’d trade Uggla to any team that will eat $5 million of his contract.
- B.J. Upton: Relative to his contract, B.J. was probably the worst regular in all of baseball. The Braves might have to eat $40 million to get rid of him. He’s not going anywhere.
Players I left off the list
- Anthony Varvaro: Seemed to fall out of favor last year and wasn’t trustworthy in close games.
- Tommy La Stella: He hasn’t played above AA. While I think he’ll be a candidate for the Opening Day job, he’s not even on the 40-man yet. He’s a lot like Gattis: we like him because of his AFL performance, but he’s older than top prospects and he’s had so little time in the upper minors that he doesn’t have much trade value.
- Tyler Pastornicky: With his gruesome injury last year, I’m not sure that it’s wise to keep him in the Braves’ 2014 Opening Day plans.
- David Hale: In swingman limbo. Depending upon the needs of the organization, Hale could be a long man in the pen or stretched out in AAA as starter.
- Paul Janish: A scrap heap, one-dimensional player that will return back to the Major/Minor league merry-go-round.
- Elliot Johnson: See Janish, Paul.
- Jonny Venters: Venters was re-upped by the Braves and the early prediction is April/May, an approximation which seems very unlikely. He went under the knife on May 16, 2013. Brian Wilson underwent a second Tommy John at the end of April, 2012 and was back pitching in the Majors 16 months later, late August of 2013. As a second Tommy John is less predictive than the recovery time of the first, it might be more realistic to hope Venters will be ready sometime in the second half of 2014. Even that might be pushing it. His money is calculated in the money mentioned earlier, however I’m reserving his roster spot for other relievers since we know for sure he won’t be on the 25-man Opening Day roster.
- Cristhian Martinez: Ol’ Lisp always seemed to be on the cusp of trustworthiness, having incredible long outings out of the pen where the starter crapped the bed the first few innings and it was his job to keep it close. Then, he’d earn some trust and quickly puke it up by having a string of poor outings. (See 4/12/11 & 4/13/11 as examples: in the first two of those, he combined for 7IP 4K 1BB 0R, and then he followed them by allowing run(s) in 6 of his next 7 appearances.) Shoulder surgery probably diminishes what little faith the organization had left in him.
- Joey Terdoslavich: Joey did himself no favors in his call-up. I could easily see him making the roster, but I could also see him starting in Gwinnett or being a throw-in on a deal.
Note on Brandon Beachy: I counted Beachy as one of the Braves’ starting pitchers, because the Braves are optimistic that Beachy will be fully healthy by Spring Training. But no one knows how Beachy will respond to his second elbow surgery, not even Beachy. He’s a dominant pitcher as long as he’s healthy, but that’s the caveat you have to attach to every pitcher. Fingers crossed.