Offseason Outlook Part 2 – Ottavino, Kimbrel, Greinke, Kershaw, Corbin, and Iglesias

As mentioned in Part 1, there are still plenty of needs on the pitching side. By my count, there are currently 12 starting pitchers in the organization who could factor into the rotation at some point in 2019: Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb, Kevin Gausman, Julio Teheran, Touki Toussaint, Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Kyle Wright, Luiz Gohara, Kolby Allard, Bryse Wilson, and Patrick Weigel. So first off, there is probably not a scenario where the Braves bring Anibal Sanchez back to pitch in their rotation. This season’s rotation, in some ways, was patched together with the constant management of innings, 40-man spots, and injuries to our starting pitching prospects, and the reconstruction of the starting pitching unit of the organization will probably mean Anibal’s workmanlike durability that he proved to have will not have as much of a benefit.

It’s a foregone conclusion that some of the pitchers in that list will be traded to acquire an elite player. Some will be in the rotation. Some will be in the bullpen. Which is which, I’m not sure anyone could tell you. But what I can tell you is that there may not be another pitcher outside of Folty that you can confidently pencil in as a top of the rotation starter, someone you’d be confident in throwing games 1 or 2 in a playoff series. Could that change by the second half of next season? Absolutely. Touki Toussaint and Max Fried have shown flashes of being game-changers in that regard. Mike Soroka has plenty of top of the rotation potential. But the Braves may very well decide to hedge some of the risk associated with having that many young pitchers on the staff by landing some proven pitchers.

Starting Pitchers

Clayton Kershaw

Kershaw has 2 years and $65M remaining on his deal, but he could opt out. He’ll be going into his age-31 season next year, and he’s not pitched 200 IP since he pitched 232.2 IP in 2015. Like AJ Pollock and Michael Brantley, he hasn’t seen his best performance in 3 seasons. Does he deserve and will he get a 6+ year deal from someone? Most likely. But I wouldn’t bet on it being the Braves, and that’s probably a good thing.

Patrick Corbin

This has got to be the guy circled in red on the free agent list for the Braves. A Florida junior college grad, he had a bonafide ace-type season for the D-Backs this past year, and he turned the corner right before free agency. He threw 200 IP racking up 246 strike outs with a 3.15 ERA and 2.47 FIP. If you can get her, you’re probably willing to go over a $100M to do it with a 5+ year, $20M+ deal.

Zack Greinke

This one may not get much support, but he is another bonafide top of the rotation starter who is actually close to earning the huge contract he signed. He’s got 3 years around $35M per left on his contract. If the D-Backs decide to go in a different direction and decide that they’d rather dump him, he could be something of a “free agent” acquisition for the Braves as he may be available for just the money left on his deal or less. At age-35, he shows no signs of slowing down as he’s pitched at least 200 IP the last two years. But is he worth $35M per year? No, so Arizona may have to send money back with him. He would certainly anchor the top of the rotation for the Braves should they be able to acquire him. Somewhere in the $27-30M per year range is probably where he ought to be.

Notice how there really aren’t any starting pitchers without elite production on this list. If the Braves are going to do something in the rotation, they need an ace. We’ve got plenty of middle of the rotation starters.

Relievers

Remember that the Braves will add Darren O’Day to their bullpen next year as he was acquired in the Kevin Gausman deal. So the bullpen, in some ways, is fairly deep with Arodys Vizcaino, A.J. Minter, O’Day, Dan Winkler, Jonny Venters, Chad Sobotka, Jesse Biddle, and other guys like Shane Carle, Luke Jackson and Sam Freeman. Of course, some of our starting pitching prospects could make their way to the pen as well. But while Vizcaino and Minter may be perfectly fine to collect the last 3 outs of any particular game, they may decide to get another shutdown reliever. A lot like our rotation, we have lots of arms and will most likely be only interested in acquiring a shutdown reliever, if we acquire anyone above a waiver wire pickup or NRI.

Adam Ottavino

The Rockies threw $106M at Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, and Jake McGee, and while they were a disaster, Adam Ottavino was their best reliever. He racked up 112 strikeouts in 77.2 IP and pitched like Aroldis Chapman or Craig Kimbrel for the year. He’s 32 years old, but he’ll still get at least a 3 year deal, and he might secure the back of our pen quite nicely.

Craig Kimbrel

Speaking of him, of course fans will be interested in seeing him come back. He’s done a little bit since he’s been gone: 243.2 IP, 392 K, and a 174 ERA+ in his four seasons as a prodigal. He’ll be 31, and many teams, including his own, will be interested in his services. Unlike Ottavino, Kimbrel has been a consistent ace reliever his entire career. I fear some team will be looking at 4+ years at $18M+ per year, which might make Atlanta prioritize other areas over spending that on him, but he would solidify the entire bullpen the day he were to walk in.

Raisel Iglesias

If you’d prefer not to spend much money, he’s owed $5.7M per year for the next 2 years as he pitches meaningless innings for Cincinnati. He’s been lights-out for the past 3 years: 169, 181, and 177 in the ERA+ department. For his career, he’s stuck out 10 per 9. If you want to liquidate a couple-few starting pitching prospects into one relief ace, he’d be your guy.

What’s a Potential Result on the Offseason?

The simple answer to our woes is “sign Bryce Harper and Manny Machado and put the kids everywhere else”. And if we can do that, then yes, let’s do that and call it an offseason. But if you’d like one of many, many scenarios that ends with the two other juggernauts ending up with Harper and Machado but we still have an elite team, this is one:

-Sign Josh Donaldson for 3 YRs, $60M. Johan Camargo learns to play corner outfield, and Dansby is another sluggish offensive season away from trading places with Camargo as utility infielder.
-Trade Luiz Gohara and Wes Parsons for Nick Castellanos. Plug Castellanos in as the next RF named Nick.
-Trade Julio Teheran for a low-minors live arm.
-Sign Patrick Corbin for 5 years, $120M ($24M AAV).
-Trade Bryse Wilson and Kolby Allard for Raisel Iglesias.
-Trade Austin Riley, Sean Newcomb, and Ian Anderson for J.T. Realmuto

This is what you ride with:

LF Ronald Acuna
2B Ozzie Albies
1B Freddie Freeman
3B Josh Donaldson
RF Nick Castellanos
C J.T. Realmuto
CF Ender Inciarte
SS Dansby Swanson

INF/OF Johan Camargo
C Tyler Flowers
OF Lane Adams
INF/OF Charlie Culberson

LHP Patrick Corbin
RHP Mike Foltynewicz
RHP Kevin Gausman
LHP Max Fried
RHP Mike Soroka

RHP Raisel Iglesias
RHP Arodys Vizcaino
LHP A.J. Minter
RHP Darren O’Day
RHP Dan Winkler
LHP Jonny Venters
RHP Chad Sobotka
LHP Sam Freeman

Top Prospects
RHP Touki Toussaint
RHP Kyle Wright
OF Cristian Pache
RHP Ian Anderson
C Wilson Contreras
OF Drew Waters
RHP Patrick Weigel
LHP Joey Wentz
LHP Kyle Muller

Let’s ride.

119 thoughts on “Offseason Outlook Part 2 – Ottavino, Kimbrel, Greinke, Kershaw, Corbin, and Iglesias”

  1. From last thread, Donny mentioned in a roundabout way that Bryce’s star power makes him more valuable. And while that’s absolutely true, that actually may work against the Braves in their efforts to sign him. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Atlanta fans aren’t quite as star driven. They’re not necessarily going to come to the park to watch Bryce Harper or whomever. But that effect, in my opinion, exponentiates in larger markets. So while Harper has an additional boom above his performance, that boom intensifies in New York, LA, Boston, Chicago, etc. more than it does here.

  2. I’m not sure that’s a valid assumption. We haven’t had much “star power” in this city to test it against, outside of Mike Vick and Dominique and Deion.

    I’ll go to more games if they sign Harper. So there’s an extra $20 at least added to our top line, lol.

  3. @107 From the previous post, some of what I said is a bit tongue-in-cheek and meant to be melodramatic… as in, of course they will find a way to compete. I also found your previous post to be a good laugh because that is the standard useless cycle of conversation on this topic.

    @1 Rob, those are some interesting assumptions. Obviously, I don’t know Atlanta, but it seems like Atlanta is different than its surroundings. The very thing I hear about the Braves is that they appeal more broadly to the south than they do to the city. Maybe Harper would interest the city more than the Braves’ more traditional market?

    That said, who wouldn’t take the Braves a lot more seriously if they suddenly added one or two of the better players in baseball to their roster? The media would plaster the Braves all over the place in that scenario, no?

  4. I think Corbin is going to make a LOT of money. He’s clearly far and away the top free agent pitcher, and he’s a lefty who strikes a bunch of people out, doesn’t walk many people, and is on the right side of 30. After last offseason it’s hard to say exactly what’s going to happen in the market, but I bet he’ll wind up a payday that’s closer to $200M than $100M, and more guaranteed money and years than any other free agent pitcher.

    Greinke’s the guy I’d love to get — he’s basically worth his contract, so he wouldn’t cost much more than money. On the other hand, that’s why the Diamondbacks don’t have much incentive to trade him, as he wouldn’t give them much more than salary relief, and it’s not like they’re likely to find a better use for the money.

    I sure wouldn’t mind bringing back Morton on a two-year deal either. I’d give him 2 years, $40 million; he’s been on the fence about whether he wants to retire, and that kind of two-year deal would be a good soft landing. (Could be an overpay, but a) short-year deals are hard to get and with free agent pitchers, the years are ALWAYS what kills you more than the money, and b) it’s not my money — John Malone’s a multibillionaire!)

  5. I don’t think of people in DC as very star-driven either, but for a while at jam-packed Nats games, there was a little bit of a “Somebody put me in this Harper jersey and told me to be here, where I am? Is this brunch?” sort of vibe.

  6. In fairness, if you were blindfolded, chloroformed, and dropped off at a random spot in Atlanta, and you asked, “Am I on Peachtree?” you’ve got better than a stopped clock’s chance of being right.

    If they dump you off in DC, odds are that when you open your eyes, you’ll be at brunch.

  7. Well then perhaps we are too hard on Julio Teheran, diminished velocity and all. Teheran will be 28 years old, has pitched at least 175 IP for 6 years and averaged 193 IP for those 6 years. 3.61 ERA, 4.15 FIP, 7.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9. Of course, there’s the concern of a downward trajectory since his IPs have decreased 5 years in a row and his walks have increased. But this year he increased his K rate a full K per inning, lowered his hits and his home run rate, so the decline hasn’t occurred across the board.

    Corbin may very well have turned a corner, but he’s pitched 200 IP twice in the last 5 seasons, and he’ll be 29 next year. He had an insane year last year: 2.47 FIP, 11.1 K/9, almost cut his HRs in half, and reduced his walk and hit rates. But is one elite season since his 25th birthday worth getting 8 years and over $24M per year at his age? Then I’m either under-estimating Corbin or I’m under-estimating Teheran. But if Corbin is going to command $200M, then I’d just keep Teheran.

  8. I feel like I can speak a little on Corbin. It took him a while to truly recover from TJS. His slider is really good. This year, somebody made some genius decision that he should throw it a lot more, and it worked. That he can do different things with the slider — throw it for a strike and make you whiff when it lands near your back foot — makes it all the more devastating.

    We’re just now entering this coaching phase of getting pitchers to play to their strengths — this is what helped Folty make the leap too. I don’t know if we know enough yet about whether the Charlie Morton or Patrick Corbin type of gains will stick if they leave their current coaches or teams. I guess we’ll see.

    I suppose I’m saying that 2018 wasn’t a fluke, but it also may not be repeatable?

  9. Julio’s had a great career but his trendlines are headed decisively in the wrong direction. The velo drop and huge increase in BB% are worrying and seem potentially correlated (i.e., he has to stay away from the meat of the zone since he doesn’t have his cheese any more) and his HR% remains incredibly high — third-highest in the NL over the last two years.

    I think he’s a cromulent back-end starter, but these days, that’s just what he is.

  10. I suppose the takeaway is that it truly matters what you’re doing before you go into free agency so long as you’re not a complete out-of-nowhere guy like Charlie Morton. Arrieta, having trended downwards at age 31, got a 3-year, $75M deal that was frontloaded ($30M, $25M, $20M across the three years). So my $24M AAV is probably too low, but sheesh, I hope the Braves don’t go 8 years, even if that’s what it’s going to take to get him.

    This talk just makes very happy that they have pitching coming out of their ears.

  11. And yeah, my point was that Teheran would probably have more positive value being owed $11M and $13M over the next two years if a guy like Corbin is going to get $25M+ per over 8. But right, he’s absolutely a back end starter.

  12. @1

    Yeah, I’d say it’s exactly the opposite. The Atlanta fanbase (and by that I mean the fanbase that’s actually in metro Atlanta…the Braves fanbase throughout the Southeast is somewhat different) is almost entirely star-driven, or at least almost entirely driven by things that are new and exciting. I think Donny @3 is exactly right that you would get a serious uptick in interest from the Atlanta area if the Braves signed Bryce Harper.

    Now, the Braves draw a large part of their fanbase from the surrounding states, so Braves fans as a whole differ from Falcons or Hawks fans, for instance, in this regard, but yeah, Atlanta sports fans don’t really seem to care for boring teams that do nothing but win. I read somewhere (I wish I remember where I read it), and I agree, that the order of preference for Atlanta sports fans (in an overly sweeping generality) is 1) Have the team be entertaining and win; 2) Have the team be entertaining and lose; 3) Have the team be boring and win; 4) Have the team be boring and lose. It actually kind of drives me nuts, to be honest.

  13. But if you were looking at justifying a top of top of market deal for Harper, who would benefit from additional popularity revenue: Los Angeles or Atlanta? I didn’t mean to diminish Atlanta per se, just that LA or NY may take advantage of that more. But I have data or anything, of course, to go off of there.

  14. We’ve talked a lot about there being an objective value to a player. That Bryce Harper is worth $35M per year for 10 years, and that’s just what he’s worth. But what we’re talking about is, yes, he may be “worth” — tough word, anyway — $35M per year for 10 years, he may be worth $40M per year for 12 years to LA or NY because of the additional capitalization they can make off of his name. I think my thinking on how to value players is evolving based on this idea.

    And is any of this offset by the existence of state income taxes?

  15. Newk is about the same value as Realmuto given their respective team control. I don’t throw in anything else from our top-30 in that trade

  16. Something I have been thinking about watching the Brewers, is that the Braves have a roster that seems perfectly suited for the Brave new world of less reliance on long outings from starters. I’m not saying it is the optimal strategy, but we keep listing off the potential rotation candidates and noting that the list has too many spots for too few rotation spots, but just imagine if the long term goal was to keep them all and develop them into 2-5 inning types that could go every 2 to 4 days.

    I’d still rather have an ace or two that could give me 6-7 solid shutout innings, but you really could do the Tampa model of 1 or 2 traditional starters and the rest some form of bullpen guys with our personnel.

    Just food for thought.

  17. @15, I think income taxes can make a difference on the margins, but possibly less than other factors. For example, I think Miami entices at least as many players because of the weather and lifestyle as because of zero state income tax. I generally think players care far more about total nominal dollar value, rather than dollars minus taxes, because of the overall prestige. Plus, obviously, the desire to play on a winning team.

  18. @14, 15 Aren’t those markets already saturated with current super stars? I’m not saying that Harper to NY wouldn’t sell some merch, but look at who is already there. I seem to recall Alex Rodriguez actually having a tough time in the NY market simply because Derek Jeter was already larger than life. My feeling is that there has to be some diminishing returns on continually adding more super stars onto those teams, whereas some other markets have more “sleeper market” potential that is a jolt away from coming back to life.

    C’mon, Rob… you and I both know the Braves, as a property, has significant potential value with the right improvements to the curb appeal. ;)

  19. @6 If they dropped you off in DC, at least in some parts, you’d not be at brunch; you’d be brunch. Take it from someone who was beat up for having a flat tire in the wrong neighborhood.

    I find DC to be very star driven and very attached to Harper, Scherzer, Rendon, and Strassburg. I guess I’m biased by the lady in my neighbor cube who has Bryce plastered all over her cube. I think she’s a relative, though….

  20. You’re also forgetting that Atlanta is, in fact, a large market (or at absolute worst, clearly the largest mid-market). Not as large as LA or New York, but it’s both a top 10 TV market and a top 10 market in terms of area population, which is why the idea that the Braves are a small-market team and that’s OK drives me up a wall. They’re not, they’re a large-market team whose ownership wants to act like they’re not.

    Anyway, I digress…the point is that Atlanta would benefit from additional popularity revenue for Harper every bit as much as New York or Los Angeles, especially given the fact that the city’s sports fans are attracted to shiny things at an unusually high rate.

    Also, LA has what you’re talking about, but New York doesn’t really. I really don’t think the Yankees see a massive uptick in attendance and fan interest because Bryce Harper is added to their already absurd list of superstars.

  21. @7 @10 In the D’Backs series where I think we faced Corbin, Greinke, and Godley(?), what struck me the most is that they all seemed to be the same pitcher. Greinke, in particular, never threw anything faster than what Teheran throws. He, did, however, throw lots of pitches slower. Corbin may have hit 92. They throw three speeds Normal, Slower, and Slowest. Greinke threw several eephus pitches in the 60s. Teheran will be the same kind of pitcher eventually – he just needs another slower pitch. Both Greinke and Corbin regularly threw pitches between 70-75. Same kinds of pitches that make knuckleballers successful. Right now Teheran moves the ball around and throws a FB at 89 and a slider/change at 83 or so. He needs a slower pitch with at least 10mph separation. When he has that, he’ll be Greinke or Corbin. Either they are teaching each other in AZ or their pitching coach has a dedicated plan about how to pitch.

    What makes Corbin better than Teheran is that he’s more polished and has the extra dimension that Julio still lacks. Julio is a great pitcher for a rebuilding team. He is relatively cheap (R.A. Dickey, Bartolo Colon, Jaime Garcia money) and he will give you lots of credible innings with the occasional meltdown. And he has the potential to turn into a Greinke type. Including him in a deal with prospects for a star should be a good deal for the acquiring team.

    I’m not sure either Greinke or Corbin would be worth what we’d have to pay. I get the real feeling that AA is not just looking for guys whose performance meets their contract but guys whose performance will exceed their contracts (“value” propositions).

  22. @104 from prior thread. I hate how you take things out of context just to make a point. I never said that trading wasn’t a viable way to get a star. My point was that getting a star is never easy. And my “money” reference could certainly include trades as trades are often evaluated in dollar value of the traded pieces.

  23. @21 Aw, Chief, that’s true. The Brewers relievers are better than the Braves’ ……. NOW. Give them another year or two of experience and some of these guys we have will be as good as anyone anywhere. How many rookies did the Brewers have in their pen (note that I haven’t counted so I could be wrong). We had around 4 rookies in the pen at any one time and 5-8 rookies rotating through there.

    One reason I am less concerned about our rotation and pen than our offense is just that….. age. Our whole pitching staff could perform to another higher level without any changes just because of experience and maturity.

    With the exception of Riley, any more internal offense contributors are more than one year away. We need additions from the outside. And not just 2 WAR additions – we got that. We need 4-5 WAR additions.

  24. 21-I think you miss my point that all of the starter studs we have coming up in the minors could be as good or better than what the Brewers have in bullpen. You could almost jettison all the non Minter/Viz relievers. Not sure we have a Hader (who does), but most dominating relievers are failed starters to some extent. Who’s to say how much their stuff would play up out of the pen.

  25. Not at all interested in paying big money for a guy who throws a ton of sliders and already has TJ under his belt.

  26. @23 If I’m to believe Brooks Baseball (too lazy to dig into PitchFX during lunch)…

    “In 2018, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (90mph) and Slider (81mph), also mixing in a Sinker using a Two-seam Fastball grip (90mph), Change (83mph) and Curve (73mph).”

    I would say that Julio’s 4-seam and slider are a terrific combination that would explain his K/9 increase. I suspect the H/9 decrease is aided by good defense around him, and the lack of velocity on his 4-seam is probably why his HR/9 is higher.

    I don’t know how quality his other pitches are. It’d be nice to see him use the sinker and change up to induce more ground balls. I think he’s really living off the mix of speeds now, though, which is my main point.

  27. Hader is so lethal because of how he’s being used and his ability to handle that. Before these relievers became so valuable, you’d probably hear more people wondering why he’s not being put in the rotation, since that’s where you put the best pitchers. If indeed the Braves decide to keep all of these pitchers, you would be looking at a Max Fried or Touki Toussaint coming out of the pen in 2 inning spurts, and that has the potential to be as lethal.

  28. If you keep all the pitching, then you can spend *all the money* on offense, and field a roster for several years that takes advantage of the fact that our 12-man pitching staff costs next to nothing.

    When it comes time to pay these young pitchers, we’ll have hopefully already won the WS. Let’s worry about that bridge when we get to it.

  29. Rob, I agree with you absolutely that we are a bit harsh on Julio, which we do have a tendency to do so with our own players. I hope the change of pitching coach can help his worry trends as AAR pointed out but he definitely has value given his age and contract. His value is not as low as we think.

    Can we just move on to the Red Sox / Dodgers world series? That will be the dream world series for the MLB.

  30. @32 I agree with you, I rather we spend the money on offense rather than SP. I believe in this group of SPs. We may want to add a closer though and I wouldn’t mind bringing Kimbrel back. That’s probably the only thing I want to add on the pitching side. Viz will not be cheap so we may as well give ourselves a better closer and then cut/trade Viz.

  31. I could see AA doing Gausman like deals for Bumgarner and Castellanos. Saving our best prospects – Pache, Riley, Anderson, Contreras in those deals by taking on some dead salary (O’Day).

    If the big trade isn’t out there, I’m sure their fine saving the bigger bullets for the trade deadline.

  32. Joe West is an imbecile of the highest order. That might wind up being one of the worst calls in postseason history if the Astros lose this game by one or two runs. How your default is fan interference on that play, I can’t even fathom.

  33. Among all people, we should understand that extra effort is needed for smaller market team to beat big market team.

  34. Similar to what we were discussing earlier with Atlanta actually being a large market, Houston is actually a bigger market than Boston, both in terms of TV and population. There are more Red Sox fans than Astros fans, obviously, but Houston is the bigger market.

  35. Kimbrel has been singularly unimpressive in this post season. Check the numbers, the walks in particular. Even in victory, he sucks. Like tonight.

  36. Jaso Stark nugget: the last clean post season inning from Kimbrel, where his team had the lead, was in 2010.

  37. @32 agreed. The Braves are in a unique position with 7-8 blue chip starting pitching prospects. Safe to say 2-3 of these guys are going to turn into TOR guys, and cheap. Why spend 140 mil on Patrick Corbin when we likely will have someone better than him in the long run controllable for a small fraction of the price. Now that we finally have the available money to spend, get an elite offensive guy or two. Realmuto is the guy I’d love to get in a trade, but I wouldn’t give up 7 years of an ace for 2 years of him. Be patient.

  38. So I guess if you’re a fan in the outfield seats, and there’s a deadly missile flying straight at you, you need to ignore all primal impulses for personal safety and let it hit you in the chest because there’s some degree of a chance that a fielder might make a play over the wall that’s too low.

    Makes total sense.

  39. @45

    Reducto absurdum
    what logical issues there were he has deferred’em
    once the ball exits the field
    the fan rules, pure mayhem suggests he has no need to yield.

  40. Our starting pitcher
    will face one batter, son of a bitcher!
    For those who’ll succeed him the going is tough
    Six pitches only, that’s more than enough.

  41. I think the Braves are definitely proving that there is indeed such a thing as a pitching prospect. TIISATAAPP.

    I will be very interested to see what Realmuto is acquired for and by whom, if he is dealt. You only get two years, but he’s by far the best catcher in baseball making very little. Newcomb, in his second year, was a 2 WAR pitcher who literally no scout or prospect guy has thought will find his command. They are probably having a hard time figuring out what to do with Newcomb and Teheran. My gut is that I don’t want both of them in the rotation next year.

  42. @46 They should offer me an umpiring gig, because there’s absolutely no way, upon film review, that I would not call that a home run. The fielder’s glove closed before the ball got there. The fans caused the ball to spill back onto the field. Easy call there. Home run Astros. #thatwaseasy #seemstoological

  43. There’s the primal instinct to protect yourself, then there’s the primal instinct to HOLY CRAP CATCH A HOME RUN BALL BY JOSE ALTUVE! And both of those things should not be put into the hands of a fan. Take it off the table. Make the wall higher. If a fan can catch it, it’s theirs. If not, it’s the fielder’s. Just take it off the table.

  44. SunTrust doesn’t have this problem whatsoever. Between the two bullpens, the right field wall, no seats in center, and the high wall in left-center, no one’s getting to a ball.

    I can’t tell from all the pictures I’ve pulled, but I even think there’s some monkey grass as well beyond the left-center field wall, but I could be wrong.

  45. What I want from this offseason as a fan is movement towards certainty.

    Patrick Corbin was a 6 WAR pitcher last year! IMO now isn’t the time to say “well, we may have someone who might turn into that eventually.” Now is the time to convert potential into certainty. Because the farther out you get, the future gets harder and harder to predict.

    I get that AA wants to be efficient as he moves the team towards certainty. If the best way to do that — getting the biggest improvement while leaving the most resources aside for still more moves — is to bump our 1 WAR Teheran for a 4 or 5 WAR Corbin, then so be it.

    I don’t have a strong preference, but it’s worth noting: that’s roughly the same WAR improvement that you’d get by going from a likely 1 WAR Markakis (in 2019, assume he goes back to being the player he’s been) to a 4 or 5 WAR Harper (split the difference between Harper’s past three seasons).

    And that’s more improvement for a LOT less money — sure, you keep Harper longer, but you can’t make as many other additional moves over time to sustain your competitiveness.

    (I’m not in the tank for Patrick Corbin, I promise. I realize he’s going to be a Yankee.)

  46. I don’t want to trade Newcomb if I don’t have to. I would need a rotation upgrade back in exchange. I know Newcomb can pitch 150 pretty good innings. That is very valuable to a team that’s competing.

  47. I agree Rob. The park design has created all these grey areas and confusions. You don’t get that in other sports.

  48. @48, That’s not at all what it seems to me. They’re not leaning out into the field of play. Their hands are forward, their arms slightly up; not down. Regardless, the arc of the ball was clearly headed straight for their upper bodies.

  49. @51 (re: the Jose Altuve HR / fan interference call) – here’s a good (and detailed) article explaining the interference rule and showing a bunch of camera angles of the flyball.

    Rule 6.01(e) says: No interference shall be allowed when a fielder reaches over a fence, railing, rope or into a stand to catch a ball. He does so at his own risk. However, should a spectator reach out on the playing field side of such fence, railing or rope, and plainly prevent the fielder from catching the ball, then the batsman should be called out for the spectator’s interference.

    This means that fan interference can only occur if fans (1) reach out into the field of play *and* (2) in so doing clearly prevent the fielder from making the catch. We can all agree that the seat layout in RF in Houston makes it possible for fans to reach out over the wall – so interference is possible in theory. Whether it actually occurred here… it’s a very close call, but I lean towards saying probably yes. I can certainly see why the on-field interference ruling was upheld on review.

  50. I say emphasize, first, position players. One outfielder (can be left with Acuna to right) and a catcher.

    Go BIG. I am usually not for that. However, Braves need concentration of WAR, not “gross WAR.”

    IF you have gotten an outfielder and a catcher and if you can still get a starting pitcher, then as long as one acquisition is pure money, one acquisition is pure trade, and the other acquisition is either a small trade or small money, fine to get a starting pitcher.

    Our trade acquisition will lower the starting pitching prospects. Then, the pitchers we have left can get it done in the pen and starting.

  51. Wilson Contreras
    has decided it would better prepare us
    to view his framing and pitch blocking skills
    at Sun Trust Park, the venue that thrills.

  52. @59 Great post… I may be erroneous in my reasoning, but my conclusion is simply he closed his glove before the ball got there. No one forced it shut. Therefore, there’s no way he could make that catch.

  53. The pitching prospect part. What did you see at the **ML level** that would lead you to believe that outside of Touki and Fried?

    Along those lines, Fried now has a 3.32 MLB career ERA with 10 K/9. Why he is not an etched in stone member of the rotation at this point is not easily understood.

    Soroka can go either way.

  54. First off, you can’t hold it against a prospect that he hasn’t yet pitched at the major league level. So I would say that pitchers like Anderson, Wentz, Mueller, etc. that have not yet pitched at the big league level should be considered successes so far as they continue to move through each level with success. So there’s that.

    Folty, Newcomb, Soroka, Fried, Touki, Gohara (3.47 ML FIP in 49 IP), Wilson, Biddle, Winkler, Minter, and Vizzy (he’s pitched the majority of his pro seasons in our org from beginning to end) have all pitched well in their range of ML experience. Wilson pitched poorly in one-inning relief stints (not his strength), but pitched very well in his one start. And even if they didn’t, you couldn’t possibly say a 21-year old Bryce Wilson or Mike Soroka or a 22-year old Luiz Gohara have not been resounding successes with where they are at their age.

    Wisler, Blair, Sims, and 21-year old Kolby Allard have not pitched well at the major league level. Sims is still only 24, however. Ricardo Sanchez and Manny Banuelos are on this list based on the logic in the first paragraph.

    So yeah, we’ve done really well with our pitching prospects to where… TIISATAAPP.

  55. It’s also important to note that we are hitting on pitching prospects very closely to the rate we are hitting on position player prospects. But you don’t hear anyone saying that there’s no such thing as an outfield prospect. TINSTAAOP!

  56. @65 Exactly right on Fried. The main issue is durability – blisters. That’s what’s holding Fried back.

  57. @54, 60 I think it will boil down to risk. Everyone loves low risk / high reward opportunities, but we’re far more likely to be looking at higher risk / higher reward. I think the Cubs and Astros are decent analogs for where the Braves are likely heading in that each of those teams have had at least one higher risk move but also hit a home run on a lesser acquisition (Arrieta / Morton) that really moved them up into contention.

    The Braves have a pair of starting pitchers who have had a ~4 bWAR season in Folty and Gausman. These are the guys we’ve gotta be able to rely on in the rotation, and so we’re really looking for that centerpiece player like Jon Lester (FA signing) or Justin Verlander (deadline trade). Of course, the Cubs also had their Anibal Sanchez (John Lackey) for a short stint, so there’s room for that on the plate too. Folty is kinda our Kyle Hendricks at this point… I like where the Braves sit…

    I’d go get Bumgarner if there’s even a small chance of that guy being available. /discussion

  58. The fielder’s glove closing before the ball got there is made irrelevant by the fact that the fans interfered with the ball beforehand. And they pretty clearly are up, leaning out and over the field of play, interfering with the ball in the air. West made the correct call.

  59. Yeah, Betts actually appeared to give way to the fans there because they were hanging over the fence.

    Still…. Astros homerun. Red Sox can suck it. #thatwaseasy

  60. Betts’ arm is reaching over the fence and the ball is clearly going to be a home run. There’s no fan interference on that.

    The fans are reaching up to keep the ball from hitting them in the chest. There’s one fan reaching across, but also not out over the field of play. I’m guessing this fan is what caused West to make the call, but he’s still wrong.

    But more to the point, if we think that West made the correct call, we have to assume that Betts would’ve made one of the best catches in postseason history with the ball never in his glove, so if you’re going to call fan interference erroneously, double is a way fairer place to go than out. Out should only be called on that play if the ball is in the player’s glove and a fan knocks it out IMO. Even if it gets into his glove, to assume he holds on as he crashes into the wall is a bit much. That’s not at all a routine play.

    UPDATE: I think this is also another case where the outfield-line umpire does more harm than good. In a regular season game, there’s no way that gets called as fan interference. Just as in a regular season game, there’s no way the infield fly call happens.

  61. Shrug.

    I just don’t think that a clear home run should be called an out because the defender could have made a play. The ball would have to be caught outside the confines of the field, and in going up to get that ball he would be “doing so at his own risk.”

    This is starkly difference from the Maier call where the fan caught a ball that would not have gone out and it was ruled a homer.

    But I can see the big market team slant MLB umps are showing here. ;)

  62. Kind of hard to reconcile Joe West’s call with MLB giving the Astros a free pass on dugout spying.

    Also, makes sense why we may have to be conservative when adding payroll. Counterintelligence staff to stop the Dodgers from stealing our signs and taking nearly every borderline pitch aren’t going to work for us for free :)

  63. @64/@70 – it looks to me as if the fans made contact with Mookie’s glove as he’s reaching towards the ball, causing the glove to close prematurely.

    @73 You seem to be misunderstanding the interference rule. It doesn’t matter where that flyball was *going* to land, it’s interference if fans made contact with Mookie in the field of play and that contact obstructed him from catching the ball.

    Here’s the deal – if Mookie had extended his glove out of the field of play in order to catch the ball before the contact with the fans, then there cannot be any interference. Similarly, if the fly ball had been 10 rows deep, there would have been no catch to interfere with and even if some fans had made contact with Betts during his leap, there would have been no interference.

    It sounds like you’re contending that the fan contact with Betts occurred outside the field of play (ie his glove was into the stands at the point of first contact). Having looked at the various videos of the play I don’t think that’s true but it’s awfully close. The likely definitive video angle down the right field line was screened by a security guard.

    PS – There’s a 0% chance the Braves sign Machado, 5-10% chance we get Harper.

  64. Double post – I may have missed your point @73 that primarily, you doubt Mookie would have made the catch, and the rule *does* require the umpire to rule that a fan interfered with a player in the field of play such as to “plainly prevent the fielder from catching the ball”, which admittedly is a pretty high bar of evidence to reach.

    I looked to me like Mookie was going to make the catch, but it wasn’t a sure thing by any means. Even if there had been no fans around, the ball could have clanked off his glove or bounced out when his glove hit the top of the wall, etc. Essentially, the interference call is giving the player credit for an out that the umpire deems would have been made in the absence of interference. I doubt that any umpire has called interference on a play of that (defensive) difficulty level before.

    That said, let’s not lump Joe West’s interference call in with Sam Holbrook’s infamous 2012 “infield fly rule” call. Those two instances are not remotely comparable, and now I’m totally triggered and stuff.

  65. Betts’ arm does go over the fence, but that’s after three of the fans reach over the wall and interfere with the fly ball.

    Whether or not he would have caught it if he were not interfered with is irrelevant. The fans reached into the field of play and interfered with the ball. That’s a out due to fan interference. Them’s the rules. (The fact that they got it wrong in 1996 doesn’t mean they should continue to get it wrong forever.)

  66. Essentially, the interference call is giving the player credit for an out that the umpire deems would have been made in the absence of interference. I doubt that any umpire has called interference on a play of that (defensive) difficulty level before.

    That’s not the rule. The rule is that if a fan interferes with a live ball while it’s in play, the batter is either out or repositioned on the bases to where he would have been without that interference. When they interfered, they created an out *by rule.* Level of difficulty doesn’t enter into the equation.

    Are the fans over the wall, hanging out and impacting the play and the defender, while the ball is live and in play? Yes. Absolutely. That’s an out. That’s the rule.

  67. @79 Interference does not cause an out by rule – the ball is dead and the ump puts the batter/runners where he thinks they would have been absent the interference. Fan interference happens all the time on ground ball doubles down the 1st/3rd base line and the batters aren’t ruled out; the ball is dead and the ump tells the runner what base he should go to. It’s rare to see the rule in the context of disputed HRs, but it’s the very same rule.

    6.01(e) Spectator Interference
    When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.

    So – if a fan interferes with a batted ball that wasn’t catchable (let’s say Altuve hits a deep fly ball but Betts was nowhere near the wall, and the fans contact Altuve’s fly ball as it is descending but still in the field of play) then the ball is dead but the batter is not out – rather, the umpire decides where the batter and runners should have ended up. If Betts plainly had no chance to catch the ball (if it were, say, descending further back into the stands) then West would have been wrong to call out Altuve even if the fans clearly made contact with Betts while he was in the field of play.

    Therefore, by operation of logic, Joe West calling Altuve out means he judged that Betts would have caught the ball absent the interference.

  68. He had a chance to catch it. West made the right call. Fan interference on a fly ball that has a defender in range should always be an out.

  69. @81 Doesn’t matter whether he had a chance to catch it. Does his glove leave the field of play to try to make that out? If the answer is yes, then why does it matter if a fan maybe reached out over the wall or accidentally bumped his glove closed? No one leaned out over the field, and that ball was without a doubt clear of the fence. Mookie Betts’s only hope to get that ball was to jump up and reach into the stands to snatch it.

    But instead, what we are here to debate is whether those fans put their hands directly above the wall and bumped a glove and thereby messed up a clear shot to make the catch.

  70. Unless there’s a video angle that’s right down the fence line, there’s just no way to tell. I hate both teams so don’t care who got jobbed.

  71. I actually want the Astros to lose and for them to have their very own “-gate” during the offseason. I just feel like their losing shouldn’t be blamed on some fans for very naturally trying to catch a ball clearly in the seats.

  72. @85, that’s the issue I have with the call. It seems unlikely West could tell the fans were in the field of play when video evidence from better angles than he had are inconclusive. If in doubt you shouldn’t make that call. It’s either a double because you thought it bounced back onto the field after hitting his glove (which is what I thought in real time) or it’s a homer. If he calls either then it’s a homer after video review.

  73. Jeffrey Maier was over the wall. Bartman was over the wall. These guys were not over the wall.

    The guy you reference with his left hand braced didn’t even factor into anything, and anyway, he’s leaning across the rail, not out and over the wall. Meanwhile, the other two guys are in an upright posture, arms are raised up towards the ball, not down towards Betts; neither of their arms are even close to fully extended. The one guy’s face is locked in a closed-eyes grimace because every instinct of his body is telling him he’s about to get hit square in the heart with a speeding missile if he doesn’t do something to protect himself. What the hell is a fan supposed to do in that situation anyway?

  74. If the call had been HR it would have been upheld on review as well. Sucks to be the Astros. Maybe they can figure out how to cheat better and avoid these situations in the next 3 games.

  75. Well, the one thing you can say against the Astros is that their organization chose to make the wall that short in the outfield, and they chose poorly.

  76. Who cares. I hate the Astros. I hate that stupid left field. I hate their stupid stadium. They lost all three of their home games. They deserve to go home.

    Nobody felt sorry for us when we lost in the playoff.

  77. Bob Nightengale: “Craig Kimbrel had been tipping his pitches for 2 weeks, Alex Cora said, and problem solved.”

  78. David Price
    now isn’t that nice
    0 and 9 becomes one and nine
    for that kind of money the distinction is fine.

  79. Every time I see a mention of the Braves being interested in retaining Markakis, I cringe. I know they’re just talking the talk right now and all options are on the table. The guy was worth 2.6 bWAR last season, but I figure he contributed just .6 bWAR in the second half. Only 4 of his 14 homers were in the second half. It was maddening to think that he was hitting clean up throughout the second half with a .700 OPS. An upgrade is overdue for the outfield, and if they somehow resign Markakis it would have to be for the bench/4OF spot.

  80. @93

    Don’t you believe a word of it. Face saver. Tipping your pitches is one thing, throwing almost as many balls as strikes in the post season another. He was so ineffective two nights ago when asked for 6 outs to close out a 2 run lead.

    Two hits, 3 walks, 35 pitches, 19 balls. Boston would have likely lost that game had it not been for a great diving catch by Bientendi with two out in the ninth and all kinds of people on base.

    Not for me, thank you. But check out the WS, could be interesting!

  81. I was fond of the Astros until the cheating thing, so I’m glad the Red Sox bounced ’em. There are some likable guys on that squad.

  82. @98 Yep, I know. I wanted to like them. Probably closer to the truth is that all contenders are employing underhanded spying tactics and trying hard to tip toe along the rules without being in blatant violation.

    I really do wish the sport and everybody in it were more virtuous, but it’s cutthroat. I bet it’s totally rampant.

    As an aside, I would be interested to see all the ways in which teams are being creative at… cheating. From an engineering standpoint, I’d like to know. :)

  83. It’s nothing new. There have been greenies, steroids, ball doctoring, binoculars in the centerfield seats, etc. etc. etc. It just doesn’t bother me if a team cheats. We just happen to know who has cheated recently.

  84. OK, I did a little thought experiment yesterday. Note that I have only done offense so far, which explains some of the outliers that have either exceptional pitching or exceptionally bad pitching.

    My hypothesis is a team needs at least three 3.0 WAR or more players to be competitive for the playoffs and at least three 4.0 WAR or more players to go all the way. Here’s what I found in FG 2018 data.

    Team 3.0 4.0
    Red Sox 4 4
    Yankees 4 4
    Dodgers 7 3
    Athletics 5 2
    Brewers 4 2
    Nationals 4 2
    Angels 3 2
    Indians 3 2
    Reds 3 2
    Astros 2 2
    Rockies 2 2
    Braves 5 1

    This implies that the Red Sox or Yankees and the Dodgers should make the WS. Not bad, huh? Further, the Reds and Angels have awful pitching and the Astros have great pitching, which explains that variance. The Nats obviously just didn’t play to expectations. 9 of the 10 playoff teams are represented here (only the Cubs were off but they did have three 3.0 WAR players but only one 4.0 WAR player – Cards, D’Backs, Rays also had three 3.0 WAR players and one 4.0 WAR player).

    Note that I cheated a little on the Braves by including Ender and his 2.9 WAR. This tells me the Braves are firmly a playoff caliber team but needs additional improvement to be a WS contender. This is a good explanation why we need to add 4 WAR players and nothing less to be able to improve.

    This analysis included 35 4+ WAR players and 69 3+ WAR players. The next step of this analysis was to figure out which of these players might be reasonably available. After all, how many teams do you expect to have their best players walk or be traded???

    4+ WAR players possibly available include – Machado, Merrifield, Realmuto, Gennett. If you expand to 3.8, you might include Suarez and Peralta. If you go down to 3+ WAR then you can add Grandal, Brantley, Harper, Escobar, Schwarber, Castellanos. Now, I could be wrong and there may be others available, but it’s still a pretty small set of targets. Realmuto has to be our top trade target and then Peralta, Schwarber (can’t abide Castellanos’ lack of defense). FA targets have to be Harper, Brantley, Grandal.

    There just are no other options in the hitters market other than ones we have been discussing already (Brantley and Schwarber haven’t been mentioned much).

    We should add at least one of these guys (I’m voting for Realmuto) and then hope that Riley can be a 3+ WAR player and either or both of Ozzie and Acuna will become 4+ WAR players. To be better than the Dodgers / Red Sox, we need 7+ 3 WAR players and 3-4 4 WAR players. That would mark us as an elite team.

    I have to admit that Peralta looks a lot better to me after doing this analysis. We could sign Corbin and trade Newk to AZ for Peralta. That is not a bad plan…….

  85. I don’t care much for the Red Sox, but I have to confess that I’m pulling for them to win it all. I think the regular season should count for something and they were clearly the best team.

    Of course, if it were the Braves I would change that philosophy immediately since we were the best team for several years and rarely won it all. Also, if it was the Yankees or Phillies that was the best regular season team I would still pull for them to get swept and outscored at least 20 to 0 in the division series.

  86. Is there something in the rule book that prohibits pitcher/catcher communication over a secure wireless channel? Eliminates cheating, speeds up the game (which as we know is oh-so-important)…but I guess the downside is that runs-per-game might be cut in half or something.

  87. @103 I don’t know that it would be successful, but it’d be neat to try and find out. As it is, teams are deciphering coded messages during the games, and I can imagine encrypted wireless communications might be easy to map as well.

    Baseball has gotten too smart.

  88. For a few hundred bucks you could build an unbreakable system that used one-time-pads rotated daily (or per-inning, or per-at-bat). It must be against the rules, since it’s such an obvious thing.

  89. Oh, yeah, use of electronic devices is against the rules. They’re only allowed to use certain approved devices.

    Probably they will allow something like what you describe in the near future.

  90. @102. Except that they weren’t ‘most clearly the best team’.
    Boston. Houston
    Actual Record. 108 105
    EWL by RS/RA 103 112
    Pythag avg. 101 109

    By all the advanced metrics of actual team strength, the Astros had a clear record advantage over the Red Sox. And to a degree more than double the advantage the Red Sox had in actual games W/L

  91. I’m hoping for Milwaukee to come back off the ropes and beat the snot out of the Dodgers. I really don’t want to see/hear about a Dodgers / Red Sox World Series.

  92. @107, thanks. I knew the Red Sox regressed over the last month or so, but I didn’t realize that the Astros were that close to them.

  93. I just took a look at pitchers’ WAR on FG and it’s hard to draw any conclusions. One thing I can say for sure is that Folty was an “ace” for 2018 as the 19th best pitcher in the majors. I also found that 9 of the top 18 pitchers were on the Astros, Indians, and Mets. If you use 3.0 WAR as a minimum to be a TOR (not a true ace) pitcher then there were only 32-33 in all of baseball and only 17 teams had at least one. And the Brewers were the only playoff team with 0 although they have one of the top 3 bullpens.

    The availability of any of these pitchers is virtually nil and the vast majority are either in arbitration or pre-arbitration. To me, this bodes extremely well for the Braves depth of very young talent and the ability to develop one or more TOR pitchers. Of these pitchers, excluding the bottom three on the list (JA Happ, Charlie Morton, Lance Lynn), there were only two other FAs – Corbin and Keuchel – and, I think, only Zack Wheeler is one year away from free agency. The only other way to target an ace is to trade for one.

    Also, our bullpen was not terrible but was second worst among playoff teams (it’s no wonder the Indians were bumped as bad as their bullpen was). Our bullpen would be much better just by lopping off the bottom portion (some of which have already been lopped (Moylan, Sims, Wisler, Ramirez, etc…)). Improvement among all our rookie bullpen’ers is one way and bringing in maybe one reliable arm.

    I am convinced now getting a trio of Corbin, Peralta, and Realmuto would make us WS contenders even if we can’t land Harper.

  94. @110 I hope we get Realmuto (just for you, Roger), but I’m still convinced the asking price is going to be too high.

    I think that this is what AA sees, regarding the trio of players the team can attempt to acquire. He’ll probably kick the tires on Harper and Corbin, but his sights are likely set on adding more WAR to the roster than a singular signing of Harper could provide even in Bryce’s best season. It makes more sense to acquire it through multiple upgrades.

    I’m just hoping we won’t have to wait till the deadline to grab a veteran staff ace. I’m not discounting Foltynewicz, who may just become bespoke vaunted staff ace, but it would be nice to land a veteran TOR pitcher with playoff experience. It may be that such a move never makes sense for this team due to prohibitive cost versus risk. I’ve got my heart set on, just a little bit, Madison Bumgarner. I know the risk on that guy is going up (lost velocity, not a good sign…), but I can still hope.

  95. Good hitting continues to beat good pitching. Or is it more about good scouting, good sign-stealing, good cheating?

  96. All of the above.

    The only question in my mind is how much were the Dodgers able to steal/spy on the Braves during the NLDS?

  97. Yeah my fear is that the Braves are pretty much complete rubes in the high-tech high-stakes cheating arena.

    Look at the Sox hitters’ performance with 2-strikes. It’s insane. There’s an advantage being exploited somewhere/somehow, and not all teams are in on it.

  98. I’m the opposite regarding the Braves. They’re not naive. The previous GM just got banned from MLB. The current GM knows what’s up. The only question is how are they going about this sort of thing, because they almost certainly are. :)

  99. @107

    I have a real tough time paying attention to expected wins and Pythag to evaluate a season that just happened in its entirety. Not using actual record there seems to be missing the point. It’s not like there are 15 games in a season or something. 162 is more than enough to say what happened should have happened. The Red Sox were better.

  100. Hey, I just noticed that Peralta is from Venezuela. He’d be a great addition to our current Venezuelan Mafia. Of course, we’d have to re-sign Anibal…….

  101. This moment in Braves history must not pass unnoticed.

    Jhoulys Chacin
    when he considers all the other places he has been
    Says he has Atlanta in his blood
    but when he was here we hardly considered him a stud!

    Chacun Ha-son-gout…Game 7.. Go Julio!!

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