In what has been a stunning beginning to the 2019-20 offseason the Atlanta Braves have been the most active team on the market, signing:
- Tyler Flowers, 4MM for 2020
- Nick Markakis, 4MM for 2020
- Darren O’Day, 2.25 in 2020 and club option for 3.5 in 2021
- Will Smith, 3/39MM with 2023 club option for 13MM
- Chris Martin, 2/14MM
This isn’t much different compared to last year for the Braves, at least the money involved, as the Braves committed 25MM to Brian McCann and Josh Donaldson on November 26th. However, unlike last year, I don’t think this is the end of most of the offseason spending. With needs at third base, catcher, outfield, and at least 2 pitching spots, the Braves have more shopping to do and if early spending is reflective of what’s to come, there’s significant cash that’s going to be dropped for the 2020 season. Let’s take a look at the current payroll once again to gauge what may, or may not, be available.
Freddie Freeman– 22.5 MM
Mark Melancon– 14 MM
Ender Inciarte– 7.7 MM
Ozzie Albies– 1 MM
Ronald Acuna Jr– 1 MM
Nick Markakis– 4 MM
Tyler Flowers– 4 MM
Darren O’Day– 2.25 MM
Will Smith– 13 MM
Chris Martin– 7 MM
Total: 76.45MM for 10 players
Total for 8 players: 27.2MM
Cumulative Total for 18 players: 103.65 MM
Total: 1.71 MM
Cumulative Total for 21 players: 105.36 MM
Available Roster Spots: 5
Atlanta Braves Needs
Whether it be filled with someone currently on the 40-man Roster, or even in the organization, the Braves, with 5 roster spots available, are likely in the market for:
- Pitcher (likely starter)
- Pitcher (likely reliever)
- Third Baseman
Internal Candidates for Starting Pitcher
Sean Newcomb– While it opens up another roster spot for a reliever, there’s already been news dropped by Anthopoulos that Newcomb will be allowed to stretch out during Spring Training and will likely be given the hardest look to grab the 5th rotation spot. Needless to say, he’s going to have to find a changeup before he can be a successful starter again.
Bryse Wilson– Just had a bloody awful time keeping the ball in the park, largely due to a fastball that lost its life. For Bryse to be successful at the MLB level, he’s going to have to re-find the sink on his fastball and keep the ball on the ground.
Tucker Davidson– Very unlikely that Tucker would make the roster out of camp unless he really impressed, and I think that’s a possibility. Davidson is currently training at Driveline and already saw a big jump in his velo in 2019.
Kyle Wright– It took a while for Wright to rebound from a terrible start at the MLB level in 2019, but about halfway through the season, the switch switched. In 13 starts from mid-June to end of August, Wright carried very healthy numbers (76.1 IP, 3.30 ERA, 2.9BB/9, 10.5K.9) and he’s got the best stuff in the system behind Ian Anderson.
Ian Anderson– This might surprise you, but Ian Anderson will be 22 a month into the season and he’s the best pitching prospect in the system. His time at AAA in 2019 didn’t go well, so this seems very unlikely.
Internal Candidates for Relief Pitcher
A.J. Minter– The highest ceiling in the lot, but could have the lowest floor, too. He had a Jekyll and Hyde 2019 as his walks disappeared at AAA and he, once again, racked up the Ks. At the MLB level, he was a complete disaster. Still, there’s a lot to like in A.J. and let’s not forget the odd spring he had in 2019, and that can mess with a mind.
Philip Pfeifer– My dark horse candidate, especially if the Braves are looking for a multi-inning reliever. Pfeifer worked his tail off last offseason and his stuff showed out. He’s got a lively fastball, a good curve, and an average changeup. Unlike many lefties, he doesn’t have a platoon split as LHHs only carried a .616 OPS in 2019, while RHHs carried a .617. He could be really good for the Braves and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him work his way to the rotation.
Chad Sobotka– You could pretty much copy/paste what was said about Minter. Sobotka had good peripherals in AAA but absolutely stunk in the bigs with a big dinger problem. Unless Sobotka figures something out, this might be his last chance.
Touki Toussaint– Touki had a lost 2019, and I think it’s time for him to develop into a max effort reliever, but I don’t suggest that to happen at the MLB level. I’ve always thought Touki would end up in the back end of an MLB bullpen, but for now I’d just take MLB bullpen.
Jacob Webb– I liked watching Webb last year, but I also felt like I was watching a Jorge Sosa magic show. Webb is a good pitcher, but it’s reckless to say that he earned his 1.39 ERA. Still, Webb has, if healthy, a good track record, and the Braves could do worse than Webb as their 8th bullpen arm.
Jeremy Walker– Seemingly always overlooked, Walker could be that early bullpen ROOGY brought in when the Braves are in need of a GiDP as he carries a great GB rate and rarely walks anyone.
Patrick Weigel– If Weigel is healthy, there’d be nothing that I’d like more than to see him work his way to the back end of a bullpen. Prior to Tommy John, Weigel was pushing 100. His return was unspectacular and I hope that year 2 will work out better for him.
Internal Candidates for Catcher
Alex Jackson– It’s very odd to me that so many look over Alex Jackson. He’s improved his catching defense every year since returning to the position and still hits the ball extremely hard. He threw out 50% of would be base thieves last year and we could use some of that at the MLB level. For me, I’d totally take a .650ish OPS from a catcher that’ll run into 20-25 HRs a year and play good defense and I think AJax could do just that.
Internal Candidates for Third Baseman
Austin Riley– Riley feels like the elephant in the room across Braves outlets. Through his first 18 games as a big leaguer, Riley had 9 HRs and was carrying a 1.101 OPS. Then…the inevitable happened: the league adjusted. From there on, the Ks came in bunches, striking out in 83 of 203 at-bats. He just couldn’t lay off the MLB slider. However, if Riley’s track record holds true, he will adjust and needs to be given time to adjust, but can the Braves take that chance?
Johan Camargo– After a stellar 2018, where Camargo carried an .806 OPS with 19 HRs, he was demoted to super-utility to make way for Josh Donaldson, and the experiment didn’t go well at all. On August 15th of 2019, he received another demotion, one to AAA, after putting up a measly .612 OPS in 236 PAs. But holy smokes, did he destroy the ball at AAA: 1.221 OPS in 64 PAs. On September 1st, he got the call back to the bigs and carried that same hot bat. In a small sample of ABs, Camargo put up a 1.682 OPS until a fractured shin put him on the IL for the rest of the season and the playoffs.
Funds left, Staying Internal or Going External?
If early indications hold true, the Braves are going for it and I cannot fathom that the team would spend so much on the bullpen with other obvious holes on the team if there wasn’t a big bump in payroll. I’m now 100% convinced that there’s going to be a big bump, with floor being 140MM on Opening Day. That means, at the least, there’s 34.64 MM.
Even with an expanded payroll, it’ll be hard to fill all those needs externally, and at top dollar. One big trade, maybe 1-2 more free agent signings, and going internal from there will likely mean 1 (or 2) of these spots being filled in-house.
What needs are you picking to stay internal? External?
Thanks for reading.