Winter Meetings from an Atlanta Braves Perspective

Historically, the Winter Meetings are the 5 busiest days of the off-season. This year it takes place in San Diego from Sunday the 8th of December until Thursday the 12th. While technically, the meetings are the official annual meeting for owners and executives from the Minor Leagues, a great deal of MLB business has been consummated during the meetings since they were first crashed by Branch Rickey in the early 1930’s (exactly which year seems to vary by source). 4 concurrent but important happenings occur during the meetings:

The PBEO Job Fair

The Professional Baseball Employment Opportunity job fair offers a chance for those outside the industry to apply for positions with clubs. Depending on position sought, there may be opportunities! Most of the jobs available will be with minor league organizations or are for current MiLB personnel who wish to interview with a MLB team. Most scouts get hired as well as management/accountants to work on the “house” side of an MLB front office. People with PhD’s or professional degrees will show up at the meeting for the purpose of getting interviews and networking but are unlikely to get a job on the spot.

The National Agreement

The official beginning of negotiations to revise the National Agreement (between the majors and the minors) due to expire next year. Since 1883 the Majors and Minors have had a contract governing interaction between both parties. This agreement is set to expire at the conclusion of the 2020 minor league season and needs to be renegotiated. Usually, this process is a rubber stamp affair but this year’s negotiations have already proved acrimonious. MLB is proposing to contract 42 milb teams to simplify each MLB team’s minor league structure (MLB teams currently have between 5 and 8 MiLB affiliates. MLB is proposing to standardize this at 6 per team). The minors are not taking it well so far!

On the Braves front, our Advanced Rookie team in Danville is on the chopping block while our A+ team, the Florida FireFrogs, is currently without a home stadium and may face contraction as well. The home stadium for the FireFrogs in 2020 should hopefully get ironed out this week.

The Rule 5 Draft

Since the advent of the Rule 4 Amateur Draft in 1966, minor league players stuck in a farm system have been made available to the other teams who might employ them on their MLB squads (there was a Rule 5 draft from 1946-1965 that operated under far different rules). Players not on a team’s 40-man roster after either 4 or 5 years of MiLB play are eligible for selection. Teams draft in reverse order of won-loss record for 3 rounds. Teams are not required to make any selections at all and picks may be traded.

On the Braves front, Dan Winkler (just signed by the Cubs) and Grant Dayton were former Rule 5 pickups by the Braves while Darren O’Day was picked by the Orioles many moons ago. Ender Inciarte was also a Rule 5 pick by the Phillies, but was returned to the Diamondbacks. While the team is not expected to make any picks this year, several of our prospects may appeal to other teams. Thomas Burrows, a lefty reliever, is the likeliest to get taken. Others of note include RHP Brad Roney, and LHP Corbin Clouse.

The Meat Market

I lump trades and free agents into this category. Every agent in the business will be meeting with every GM/player acquisition person in an attempt to find the best fit for their clients. Meanwhile, most of the trades which will occur between today and spring training will be outlined as possibilities over the next few days. Very few trades traditionally get done during the meetings but the decisions driven by the basics of need, desire, player valuation and availability will be mostly threshed out for later. Some trades will happen, of course, as Jerry DiPoto still has a job while Tampa and Pittsburgh still have payroll responsibilities.

On the Braves front, Coppy liked trading during the meetings: AA so far has not. Still, possible Braves deals would be setting up a trade for an outfielder, 3rd baseman or top starter; continued talks with Josh Donaldson about returning to the team, and, crazy pie-in-the-sky deals for players like Francisco Lindor or Mookie Betts. Last year, if you remember, we explored trading Austin Riley ++ for J.T. Realmuto. I’m glad we didn’t do that one.

31 thoughts on “Winter Meetings from an Atlanta Braves Perspective”

  1. These Winter Meetings feel like they could be completely different than the post-Coppy era. AA has been aggressive and I expect more of the same until his table is set for 2020.

  2. My favorite things about the Winter Meetings:
    1. The Rule 5 Draft: Love the idea of players, who are stuck in an org, getting a chance elsewhere.
    2. The clarity of who is/isn’t available in trades.
    3. Trades
    4. Free Agent signings.
    5. How many times Jon Heyman talks up Boras clients.

  3. Burrows seemed to be pretty close to making our pen, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him taken. I think he’s the only Rule 5 concern I have.

    It’s been a busy fall and winter for me, so it feels like the offseason has flown by. It obviously helps when your team makes as many moves as they have. I, like most, feel like corner outfield and third base are the only areas where I see the Braves making a big move, so I’m not sure if we’ll see any big trade until the Donaldson market shakes out. I’d love to see a Donaldson signing and a trade for someone with control this week if I were to have a wish list for the week.

  4. Also, I’d love to hear people’s overall thoughts on the offseason so far. For discussion purposes, let’s assume they’ll add another bat to the lineup like Donaldson. I think we would all be underwhelmed should that not happen, so that’s not really worth debating. But that team as constructed, what do you think the ceiling is? WS contender? NLCS? NLDS? Fighting for a Wild Card spot?

  5. Good writing, Karl. I didn’t know that bit of history with Branch Rickey.

    I really don’t want the Braves to lose any minor league teams. I could deal with Danville being contracted, I suppose. The FireFrogs though? No! Based strictly on name and logo, that’s one of my favorite teams. I hope they do indeed get that ironed out.

  6. @6 Hypothetically, if they retain Donaldson, this offseason is a GIGANTIC success, in my book.

    The offense should be at least as good, if maybe not a hair better? They arguably upgraded at catcher. Nick moving into a true platoon makes the team better. Acuna and Albies will continue to mature as hitters. Freeman should be healthy. There’s a lot to like.

    The big thing is the pen will be stronger from the jump. They’ll have a true closer, instead of hoping for the best. There’s a plethora of options for match up purposes. It’s also filled with some veteran hands, which I think isn’t to be underestimated in those tense late innings.

    The rotation should be solid enough. I said I wanted Cole, and Anthopolous sorta obliged. Maybe I should’ve been more specific? Lol. I seriously do like the Hamels signing, though. Hamels is better than Keuchel, and he’ll be here for an entire season. It isn’t the best rotation in baseball, but it’s strong. Plus the Braves have so much pitching depth, there’s always a chance someone breaks out.

    The glass is half full, for me, so long as they bring back Donaldson, or acquire another legit clean up hitter who can mash 30+. The only thing that would sour me on the offseason is if Donaldson leaves, and they can’t/won’t fill that void. Then I won’t be able to share my thoughts without an array of four letter words.

  7. @6
    If they only make 1 more move to fill the hole at 3B, I think that 2 things have happened:
    1. AA has seriously measured the market and found that in order to add now, it would cost out of his comfort zone.
    2. Factoring in number 1, they would wait and see until July.

  8. @3 I wouldn’t have done a package for Realmuto of more than Riley; and they wanted Pache or Anderson too, apparently. It’s not that JTR isn’t good. As you said, best catcher in the game. But! It’s the prospect cost, plus the extension cost that made me scream, “Nooo!”

    When you boil it down, the best catcher in the game only hits about as well as a good COF. COF is cheap, and easily attainable in trades or FA. The Braves could’ve got a guy there, who’d add the same offense as JTR, and play more. I’m really of the mindset of your catcher just needs to be average, with a solid glove, and good pitch calling.

  9. @myself I’d like to think that the Braves won’t do that and that they are building a World Series contender for Day 1.

  10. Recording the 3 Flags Flying podcast again tonight! Send us your Winter Meetings Mailbag questions!

  11. @6–What is the ceiling if they sign Donaldson or otherwise get a comparable bat? I think they are a team that should win in the low 90’s. If that is the case, they will likely make the playoffs. At that point the ceiling is world champs. Or lose in the first round. Or somewhere in between.

    See, I really do subscribe to the “playoffs are a crap shoot” school. Of course you want to maximize the talent and win as many games as you can. But the goal is to make the playoffs. I don’t need to remind Braves fans that four NL East teams that finished second to the Braves have gotten to the World Series since our guys last won it all. And three of those became world champs.

    To be sure, some playoff teams have better odds of advancing than others do. Having three excellent starting pitchers helps in the postseason (the Braves won a lot of postseason series in the nineties), but Braves fans know that even three HOF starters doesn’t guarantee a World Series victory.

  12. Right now, there’s too many “ifs” to be able to say. Assuming we get Donaldson or an equivalent at 3B (Bryant?), the offense and defense will not really be better. IF Inciarte resumes being a legit CF or Pache is ready to take over then the offense may be better. IF we get a reasonable replacement for Culby and Joyce (e.g. Duvall is as good as Joyce and Camargo is better than Culby) then the offense may be better. IF Riley can come back and be a reasonable power COF then the offense is better. IF D’Arnaud can put in a full season of what McCann did for the first half then the offense is better.

    The pitching, on the other hand is demonstrably better based upon the beginning of last year. But there are a lot of “ifs” remaining to be answered on pitching, too. IF Hamels is better than Keuchel – one of the smaller “ifs” – then the pitching is better. IF Newk can adequately replace Julio (NOT a small “if”) then the pitching is better. IF Folty can continue his resurgence then the pitching is better. The bullpen is already better, but the bullpen last year was not so bad after June 1st.

    IF the offense is as good as last year (and you can’t diminished the impact of Riley and Duvall and Joyce), then there is no reason this team can’t win 97 again. Getting Donaldson and filling the bench well will get us back to 97.

  13. @12 Mailbag question: Which young pitcher(s) do y’all feel will maybe benefit the most from Hamels tutelage?

  14. Shea Langeliers
    somewhat presumptuously for one so lacking in years
    though the six figure Boras retainer
    he stoutly regards as sine qua non, a no brainer.

  15. For some reason, this article doesn’t show up on the BravesJournal front page for me; I have to get to it through the link in the twitter account.

  16. As you can see from some of the above comments, we’ve had some caching issues with the site. The site had been using a caching plugin that wasn’t built for this site’s host, so I removed it and installed something different. However, in the transition, it appears some issues were introduced.

    Best I can tell, the issues are only for a few users, but enough to make it a significant problem. The caching issue from the site’s side should be resolved now. However, a few of you may need to reset your browser cache on your device if it (the device) is still experiencing the problem.

    This is done in your browser settings. There are too many browsers for me to give specific directions for each, but if you Google something like “empty browser cache in Chrome”, you should easily find the directions.

    If you experience any more problems, definitely let me know. Sorry about the headache!

  17. Congratulations to Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller on their election to the Hall of Fame. Sadly this is likely Murph’s final chance.

  18. Hold me out of the post season in 2012
    put up with the titters from folks like us
    that and your $245 million show my respect for your decision.

  19. a musical metric is due
    the aural receptors the clue
    as means of assessing
    the barrel’s full blessing
    how pure, the way that it flew.

    This will happen this year coming, has to.

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