Archive for October, 2019

#188: Now What?

Vox O’Reason

Mostly thawed, and looking ahead at what the needs are for this ballclub going into 2020. This is a young team with a great core intact, so you’d think there wouldn’t be much to have to fill in, but that’s not necessarily correct. There are some major holes in this lineup and pitching staff that must be filled.

First, let’s not forget that the team has a whopping 10 members of the final 25 man roster that is entering FA. That does include the retiring Brian McCann. Aside from those 10, there are 3 more for whom the team holds a team option, and another where there is a mutual option. That’s a major portion of the 25 man roster.

Looking more deeply, the biggest spots we will have to fill are 3B, starting pitching, and catching. We’ll also need at least 1 OF and maybe 2. Our bench will take a slight hit, but most of our bench will return.

J Donaldson

 

Bullet point #1: Will the Braves bring back Josh Donaldson? Published reports say there is mutual interest, and recent quotes from both sides seem to bear that out. But he will be expensive, and will likely require a 3 year commitment. While I personally believe he’s worth that, there is more to this equation which I will address next.

 

Dallas Keuchel

Bullet point #2: When the Braves took a flyer on Dallas Keuchel, I thought it was the perfect move for the team. Looking back, I still believe it was a good move for both the Braves and for DK. But the Braves wanted him for one main purpose. Help carry a young staff into the postseason, and will the big postseason games. We can check off the first box, but not the second. And I think that’s significant. I cannot see a scenario where he returns to the Braves for another stint. That creates a huge void in the starting rotation that must be filled. The team once again will be seeking a veteran presence for their young staff. If you think Julio is that guy, I respectfully disagree. I expect (I at least hope) that the team will decline Julio’s 2020 option and let him go elsewhere. That leaves us with defacto team ace Mike Soroka and up-and-down Mike Folty– as the only established starters for 2020. I believe Max Fried has also earned a spot, or at least he should have one to lose. But that’s just 3 of the necessary 5, not counting any depth we want to keep.

Matt Joyce

Bullet point #3: The bench will really only lose Matt Joyce, who is a FA and could sign elsewhere to start or at least platoon. Could he re-sign here? I suppose it’s possible, but I wouldn’t count on it. Rafael Ortega did a nice job in his opportunities, and is more versatile in the OF. He’s cheap, too. With Charlie, Johan, and Duvall all expected back, the bench should be fine. It needs to be noted that Billy Hamilton has a mutual option included in his contract, so there is at least a small chance he could return. But at $7.5M, it’s not likely.

 

Nick Markakis

Bullet point #4: Nick Markakis has very likely played his last game for the Braves. The team holds an option on him for 2020, but his disappearing act in October probably sealed his exit. I appreciate all that he has done for the team for the last 5 years, but it’s time for someone else to fill his spot.

Bullet point #5: Catching. Needs no explanation.

 

Mark Melancon

Mark Melancon

Bullet point #6: The bullpen. Mark Melancon will be back. Personally I think that’s a good thing. Shane Greene will also return. That’s a pretty strong back end returning. We should also return a healthy Jacob Webb, who was as good as we had in the pen before he got hurt. Losing Josh Tomlin (FA) will hurt a bit, but the fact is that pitchers like him are a dime a dozen, and most easily picked up just like he was… late in spring training. I can see that happening again in 2020.

So what does that all mean?

This is what this fan sees as the roadmap for the front office starting right now. Job #1 for AA and staff is to decide if they want to pour their big money into bringing back Josh Donaldson or a starting pitcher. I don’t think they can do both. The kind of pitcher we need will cost alot. I think AA needs to be in the Gerrit Cole derby, but that would eliminate any possibility of paying JD also. So the question must be asked and answered; Do we spend big on JDon, or on a pseudo-ace type pitcher? What say you find Stuffians on that one? There is just over $56M committed for 2020, so there will be money to spend. It won’t be of the Yankees proportion, but there is funding for some significant deals.

For me personally, I would love to see JD come back. I think he was perfect for this team and lineup this year. But if I have to choose… I’m choosing pitching. Austin Riley obviously has some work to do, but we’ve seen the potential he has. We can more easily address the 3B void from within over starting pitching. You cannot just grow an ace pitcher. Those take time to develop. And as we’ve witnessed painfully just this week, pitching is the key to postseason success.

We still don’t have an ace. Soroka is emerging, but he’s still just 22. And even at that, if you want to win, especially in the postseason, you better have a strong 1-2 punch. I want to see Cole/Soroka at the top of my rotation. And to be honest, I’d still take MadBum over a JDon reunion. MadBum would be a great fit, especially since he’s a lefty. He also won’t cost as much as Cole. Zack Wheeler? That’s a tough one. He’s gonna cost ya good bit, and has a history of not staying healthy. He falls on my list because of that. Still, when healthy, he’s a good one. I’m not looking at any other pitchers in FA. My standards are high. Caveat: If Steven Strasburg opts out of his deal, which he can do, he becomes my #1 target. I go after him hard and I pay him. I like him that much. Plus if we sign him away from the Nats, we don’t have to hit against him.

In the OF, Ender is still under contract even though he’s easy to forget about. His trade value is low, so I doubt he goes anywhere before the season. And his eventual replacement, Cristian Pache, is more likely to be a mid-season callup over making the team out of spring. But you still need a LF, so you can either address it in FA or via trade. But be careful, the trade capital is starting to run thin, and we need what we have to use in filling the biggest lineup void which I will mention shortly. If you address LF in FA, then it’ll not be Marcell Ozuna as he’ll come with a hefty price tag. I think we spend all our big money on pitching. We’ll need someone on a short deal anyway as Drew Waters will be coming up in another year if not sooner. A guy like Corey Dickerson might be a good fit. He bats LH and has plenty of power. He’d fit nicely into the lower part of the lineup where Mac and Flowers typically bat.

Speaking of Mac and Flowers…

Flowers

Brian McCann

This is where I think the Braves front office really has to do their work this offseason. It’s time to address the catching position with more than spit and duct tape. Mac is retiring and Flow is here only if the Braves pick up the team option. Thoppy needs to use what remaining prospect capital he has to get a catcher. And I’m not talking about a middling catcher to split time with Flow. I’m talking about a long term answer to start 120 games. It’ll cost him either Kyle Wright or Bryse Wilson, and maybe Drew Waters too. But you have to give quality to get quality. You can afford to give up the pitchers if you sign an ace. Untouchable Ian Anderson will also be ready soon, so the rotation will not need the minor league influx as much as we have needed it in recent years. We need pitching depth now more than a steady stream… but I digress. Back on topic, what catching answers might be available? Honestly, I have no idea. But that’s what Thoppy and Co. get paid the big bucks for, right?

So to capsulize: Sign a veteran pseudo-ace starting pitcher, add a LF, trade for a cornerstone catcher, fill in the gaps.

Easy right?

One note: I did not take into account the pre-arb and arb raises for guys who fall into that category when I noted the Braves 2020 salary commitment at just over $56M. RosterResource estimates the total payroll before any new additions to be in the neighborhood of $73M. Still, that leaves alot of flexibility to add quality players to this team for 2020.



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