BRAVES RADIO NETWORK, ATLANTA, GA – With one big piece of the Braves offseason puzzle now in place with last week’s signing of LHP Will Smith, the most common question I’ve gotten on Twitter since is “what’s next”? You can make the argument that the Braves have more questions (third base, catcher, starting rotation, corner outfield) this Hot Stove season than they did a year ago at this time. We know that Flowers and Markakis are both back on one-year, four million dollar deals. We also know that the club doesn’t look at either as an everyday player. Alex Anthopoulos said as much on his conference call that they had already spoken to Nick Markakis about being a platoon outfielder. Who he shares time with is still to be determined. It could be a wide variety of internal options (Duvall, Camargo, Joyce) or the team could, and will likely still pursue better options on the Free Agent and Trade Markets.
We do know the team has already saved $11 million dollars cutting ties with Julio Teheran. Reliever Shane Greene and starter Mike Foltynewicz are each projected to receive approximately $7 million dollars in salary arbitration. With the club adding Will Smith, it’s conceivable the team could non-tender Shane Greene and put those resources towards any of the above needs.
For those who aren’t aware of my track record when it comes to predictions, in 2017 I went really bold and predicted the Giants and Tigers in the World Series. In 2018, those two teams had the first two picks in the Draft…I’m not kidding. That said, I thought it’d be fun to make a few picks at who I think helps round out the roster heading in 2020.
Starting rotation: This one’s easy. Madison Bumgarner is the choice. The 30 year old native of Hickory, NC has spent all eleven Big League seasons in San Francisco and is a three-time World Series champ, World Series MVP and four-time All-Star. The Braves need to find an innings-eater with Julio Teheran’s tenure seemingly over, and Bumgarner fits that bill. Also, as we’ve heard so many times, he brings instant credibility to a young rotation.
Catcher: This one isn’t so easy. Yes, Yasmani Grandal is the best name available on the market. He’s also the guy that’s going to get the most attention from clubs looking for a solid veteran with a reliable bat this offseason. As optimistic as I am that the Braves land Bumgarner, I feel a lot less certain about Grandal wearing an Atlanta uniform next season. Beyond Grandal, the market of available backstops is less than impressive. I’ll say the club looks to make a deal to acquire a catcher and if the Cubs are looking to blow things up, expect to see Willson Contreras’s name pop up quite often. Keep in mind, Willson’s younger brother William is a highly regarded prospect in Atlanta’s rich farm system and could be ready in the next year or so.
Corner Outfield: With a number of internal options at their disposal, I still think the Braves need to find an outfielder with a big bat in the event they aren’t able to resign Josh Donaldson. Both Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna are out there and would make a ton of sense for the defending NL East champs. In my opinion, either of those would be perfect options to get in the lineup to compliment the reliable left handed stick of Nick Markakis. Plus, you’ve seen the Marlins linked to both these players, and I don’t for a second think Miami could out-bid or entice either of those two to South Florida for a team that’s years away from contending.
Third Base: Yes, Josh Donaldson is the answer here. But let’s just say he’s lured elsewhere and the Braves need to fill those shoes. They do have internal options available in both Johan Camargo and Austin Riley, but once again, I think the club looks outside the organization to get better at the hot corner. I can’t see them being in the market for a lengthy contract with Anthony Rendon, not can I see Washington being able to afford to let him walk. Mike Moustakas is an intriguing option, and could likely be signed to a two or three year pact. Other than that, third base is similar to catcher as there’s not a whole lot of attractive names out there. Again, Donaldson is the perfect fit for this clubhouse and lineup. I’ll say they find a way to bring him back on a three year commitment.
If history is any indication, I’d expect the Braves to once again be extremely aggressive to fill these important holes before bidding wars can open up. With the Winter Meetings getting underway in San Diego the second week of December, I’d look for at least one of these holes to be filled before all 30 teams descend on sunny Southern California.
Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet.