Offseason Outlook: Atlanta Braves

The Braves are unlikely to do much free agent shopping, but improvements at left field and shortstop are possible. 

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Free Agents 

The 2011 Braves collapsed in epic fashion down the stretch, yet most of the pieces are in place for a competitive 2012 club.  That's fortunate, because GM Frank Wren has limited financial flexibility.

Assuming Moylan is non-tendered, the Braves will have about $84MM in commitments before accounting for minimum salary players.  That's $7MM less than the 2011 payroll of $91MM.  The Braves were closer to $100MM in 2008-09, but with a 5% drop in attendance this year raising payroll could be difficult.  Clearing $5MM of Lowe's salary yesterday was a win for the Braves, who did not envision him in next year's rotation.  Wren told reporters in October that Prado is likely back in left field next year, but otherwise I can see him traded or non-tendered.

Trading Jurrjens could serve the dual purpose of shedding $5MM and bringing back a bat, but Wren said this month"We have a lot of pitching but I think it’s not something that we’re looking to trade from."  His statement could be interpreted in various ways, so we can't rule out a Jurrjens deal if the right offer comes along.  The Braves have more depth than most teams with their "Big Four" of young starters: Julio Teheran, Randall DelgadoMike Minor, and Arodys Vizcaino.  With Lowe gone, Hudson will be the lone 2012 starter who exceeded 152 MLB innings in 2011.  But if the Braves feel Brandon Beachy, Tommy Hanson, and perhaps Minor can handle full workloads, Jurrjens may be expendable.

I think teams will be wary of surrendering a lot for Jurrjens.  SIERA suggests he's a 4.40 type pitcher, despite his career ERA of 3.40.  His strikeout rate dropped to 5.3 per nine this year, and he's missed significant time the last couple years due to knee, oblique, and hamstring injuries.  Any big league hitter the Braves get back would probably come with similar question marks or red flags.

I'm unconvinced the Braves won't look into left field upgrades, though a reasonable free agent target like Josh Willingham could prove a wash with Prado.  Still, bringing in a left fielder would allow Prado to back up Jones at third base.  The Braves will need an answer at shortstop, with prospect Tyler Pastornicky the favorite at the moment.  The Braves showed with Freddie Freeman they're not afraid to pencil a rookie into a starting job, but Wren should probably bring back Alex Gonzalez or a comparable veteran as an insurance policy.  Since Gonzalez is a Type B free agent, an arbitration offer makes sense.

The Braves' rotation averaged only 5.91 innings per start, 11th in the NL and worst among contenders.  They were saved by the league's best bullpen, but Jonny Venters, Craig Kimbrel, O'Flaherty, and Cristhian Martinez probably can't provide 316 innings again.  Free agents Linebrink and Sherrill didn't shoulder that kind of a workload, but the Braves should probably sign at least one veteran reliever to take some of the load.  Overall it looks like another winter of limited free agent shopping, after the Braves spent only about $5MM on that market last offseason.

For the most part, the Braves' improvements will come from within, as better overall seasons from Uggla, Prado, Jason Heyward, and Bourn are entirely feasible.  More innings from the rotation will be another key to success.


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108 Comments on "Offseason Outlook: Atlanta Braves"


Pete
3 years 9 months ago

If any NL team signs Josh Willingham as an OF, they better know that his ceiling is about 2 WAR because his defense stinks so bad. He will hit decently well, but he’s basically a DH at this point.

sain33
3 years 9 months ago

I think Willingham would be a great fit in ATL.  Yes he is not a Gold Glove Outfielder.  But he will get the job done.  In 830 innings that he played in the outfield this past season he only had 2 errors.  That is not bad especially when you think he played in the spacious Oakland Coliseum.  He would get help in ATL with Bourn in centerfield as well.  Willingham is also from Alabama and I bet he would love to get closer to his hometown.  Finally don’t forget that he played for Fredi when they were with the Marlins.

MLB_in_the_Know
3 years 9 months ago

You can’t make an error on a ball you can’t get to…

angryredmenace
3 years 9 months ago

And someone brings rational observation into the discussion.

inkstainedscribe
3 years 9 months ago

Moylan’s a fun dude, but I see him being let go, too. Given the limited range of the IF, it’s better to go with strikeout pitchers in the pen (and the rotation, for that matter — hence, the Lowe deal). I’d like to see a bigger bat on the roster for LF — Willingham? Cuddyer? — letting Prado move between LF, 3B, and 1B — and perhaps re-signing Gonzalez or Wilson on a one-year deal. But yes, the pieces are largely in place.

3 years 9 months ago

I hope they go out and trade for Matt Kemp or Carlos Quentin. Then move Prado to a utility role where he has shined the best in my opinion. That would really make out line-up complete.

inkstainedscribe
3 years 9 months ago

Matt Kemp and Carlos Quentin aren’t exactly comparable players. They are Major League outfielders, but the similarity ends there.

vtadave
3 years 9 months ago

Right…just send Hanson, Teheran, and Freeman on over for Kemp.

Matt Talbert
3 years 9 months ago

Ha ha.  I’d give up that kind of package for Longoria, Zobrist + Jennings.  Its just craziness.
 

rundmc1981
3 years 9 months ago

I guess Kemp is the target of the Idiot’s Guide to Fantasy Trading. Braun seemed to be the winner in 2010 when many Braves fans seem to forget an extension signing from The Hebrew Hammer and not accept that as Milwaukee actually wanting him.

rundmc1981
3 years 9 months ago

I guess you didn’t read the article. Cliff’s Notes version: “limited financial flexibility” blah blah blah “Jurrjens could be traded” blah blah blah “probably wouldn’t get much for him”.

Matt Talbert
3 years 9 months ago

Jurrjens and prospects for either Kemp or Quentin woudl make me happy

Triple Hawpes Brewed
3 years 9 months ago

Sizemore to LF,
Aviles to SS,
Prado to UTIL/traded.

Done.

atlbravosfan11
3 years 9 months ago

it was such a waste to bring back diaz

3 years 9 months ago

Agree completely. That 2M should have been spent on that veteran righty reliever we need. If you moved Prado to the Utility role he gives you a RH bat too. Now we have spots on our bench locked down with bat only players (Hinske and Diaz). Really can’t move Prado to a bench role now, that spot has to go to somebody who can play short since we still have to have someone to play center. Basicaly we’ll have three backup outfielders now.

ChiefTomahawk
3 years 9 months ago

Your both completely right! As much as I love Matty D, it was a bad move since we really needed a RP. 

NYBravosFan10
3 years 9 months ago

I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if we send out the exact same lineup out there that we did last season after the Bourn trade. I’m good with Gonzo coming back on a 1-year deal and an option in case Pastornicky has a rough year in AAA and isn’t ready.

3 years 9 months ago

Jurrjens for Lowrie (add 2 million)
Sign DeRosa to “rebound” 1 yr. contract (1 yr/2million+1 mil in incentives)
Sign JD Drew to 1yr/6million +incentives

Rotation:  Hudson, Hanson, Beachy, Minor, Teheran/Delgado
Lineup:  Bourn, Drew/Prado, Chipper, Uggla, McCann, Freeman, Heyward, Lowrie
Bench:  Ross, Hinske, Diaz, DeRosa, Conrad/Constanza/, Prado/Drew
Bullpen: Venters, Kimbrel, O’Flaherty, Vizcaino, Martinez, Varvaro, whatever LHP you can find…

Pray for health….

Triple Hawpes Brewed
3 years 9 months ago

As simply as this can be put, uhm no.

Twinkilling61
3 years 9 months ago

Can I be a rival GM of yours? Only Lowrie for Jurrjens and you want to sign J.D. Drew?

3 years 9 months ago

Lowrie is under team control a year longer than Jurrjens (kind of evens out the trade).

Jeff
3 years 9 months ago

Trade makes perfect sense for both clubs.  Both are trading from a position of excess to suit their needs.

NYBravosFan10
3 years 9 months ago

I’m still bitter over the Drew trade so I don’t want that guy anywhere near us. It drives me nuts that we traded ADAM F’ING WAINWRIGHT away for one year of him.

3 years 9 months ago

I second the no on this one.  If the Braves are going to throw $6 million at an aging OF, I’d rather it go to someone like Johnny Damon instead of JD Drew.  Granted Damon is 3-4 years older than Drew, but atleast Damon doesn’t have a history of injuries like Drew does. 

3 years 9 months ago

and Damon has a history of not being terrible, which is always a good quality

3 years 9 months ago

Johnny Damon’s career fWAR: 46 (3 more seasons than J.D. Drew)
J.D. Drew’s career fWAR:  47.6

Good point. Sigh…

3 years 9 months ago

good thing they don’t sign guys based on fWAR. Damon the past 4 years has played in 143 games every year and Drew  has gone 109/137/139/81. I would consider not being on the field ‘terrible’ as well

Also, way to pick out the one stat that was in Drew’s favor. Damon is a better player.

3 years 9 months ago

how about value?  OPS?  UZR?  OBP? UZR/150?  In fact, what is Damon better at?  Staying on the field? Educate yourself before speaking please… 

3 years 9 months ago

I don’t think either of those players are signed for their defense. The fact is if you sign either of them you want them on the field. With Damon you’re getting 140 games with Drew you’re getting somewhere between 80 and 140. Also, I’ve never met anyone cool that ends every comment with …. you’re not the first ….

3 years 9 months ago

no getting through.  oh well.   despite every evidence known to man, you still dont understand.  JD drew has played RF for his career, has better range, and a better arm than Johnny Damon.  Personal insults are elementary and is what one says when the arguments lost.

3 years 9 months ago

check out Keith Law’s free agent article. Damon is 27th Drew is 47th

3 years 9 months ago

J.D. Drew had an awful 2011 and he does have an injured past, but here are his plate appearances, his fWAR, and his value over his last 5 years …
’06-594 plate appearances 4.4fWAR   value 16.3 million
’07-552 plate appearances 1.9fWAR   value 7.6 million
’08-456 plate appearances 4.1fWAR   value 18.4 million
’09-539 plate appearances 4.9fWAR   value 22.2 million
’10-546 plate appearances 2.4fWAR   value 9.6 million
’11-286 plate appearances-0.3fWAR   value -1.1 million

Drew, over his career, has produced phenomenal defensive ratings in right field so transitioning to the easier left field will be quite easy.  If the Braves can regulate his playing time to 2/3 or 3/4 of the game, J.D could easily be worth 6 million dollars.  Say what you want about him, but he’s a really good player.

Adding…I really think the Braves need to scrap the “RH” bat and just look for a player that can hit. 

3 years 9 months ago

why do we need a 3rd lefty in the pen?   If we can get one, great…..but Venters, and O’Flaherty are great LHP in the bullpen.

Jeff
3 years 9 months ago

I’d also add that Medlen could fill a late inning role that was filled by EOF last year- which could ease the stress that EOF/Venters had last year.  Kimbrel, what will help him is some runs so there are fewer 3-2 games.

3 years 9 months ago

Because Venters and O’Flaherty aren’t used as LOOGY’s.  I really could care less what hand the final guy is but with Fredi Gonzalez, there will have to be another lefty.  One guy I left out was Medlen.  He’ll obviously be in the pen (probably in place of Varvaro).

atlbravosfan11
3 years 9 months ago

i liked varvaro. he has good stuff. i wouldn’t be shocked if he has a place out there next year

rundmc1981
3 years 9 months ago

I like the Lowrie deal but true Braves fans won’t allow JD Drew to set foot in the state without being booed. Why? Adam. Wainwright. 

Jeff
3 years 9 months ago

JD Drew was good when he was in Atl, so it wasn’t all bad.

3 years 9 months ago

Forgot Medlen.  Replace Varvaro…

Jeff
3 years 9 months ago

Nah, Medlen replaces Moylan.  Last guy in the pen is either Ascenio/Gearrin/Varvaro

atlbravosfan11
3 years 9 months ago

haha

3 years 9 months ago

Medlen can take Linebrink’s job and do it ten times better.  That gives you four late inning relievers who can be light’s out.  You still have to get more innings from your starters (Fredi, lose the flowchart), so dealing Jurrjens doesn’t make sense.  Let the young arms develop.

It’s SS, some bench help and maybe a LOOGY.

MLB_in_the_Know
3 years 9 months ago

“Prado is likely back in left field next year, but otherwise I can see him traded or non-tendered.”

Absolutely no way Prado is non-tendered. He was the All Star game starter last year at 2B, I understand that he had a down year and is not an ideal LF, but no way is he non-tendered, he has lots of value, be it with the Braves or as a trade candidate.

Braves1976
3 years 9 months ago

I stopped reading when Tim mentioned Prado as a non-tender candidate. But it’s nothing new for me to disagree with Tim’s opinions concerning the Braves.

mgsports
3 years 9 months ago

Damon is know a DH.
Ross could be had if they think Simmons is ready.
Red Sox’s would do that Trade if the Braves for in Prado or Diaz to play RF.

Matt Talbert
3 years 9 months ago

We can always release Matt Diaz and eat that 2 million I suppose or get some kind of buy out clause in his contract.  He can also be demoted if he starts out sucking.

Matt Talbert
3 years 9 months ago

Prado will be with the team unless some team comes up to us with an offer we can’t refuse.

Bryan
3 years 9 months ago

SIERA can suggest all it wants.  Jurrjens is a great pitcher…the only question mark is the bad knee.

rundmc1981
3 years 9 months ago

You’re kidding, right? And you think his terrible numbers after the AS Break 2011 were from just injuries? That’s ridiculous. “Great pitcher”? The man’s fastball topped out at 89 mph and he’s not a groundball pitcher. The question mark isn’t the bad knee…it’s the whole body including the arm. His knee had nothing to do with him losing 3 MPH on his fastball (and yes, I know he’s not a “strikeout pitcher” but when you can’t have an effective fastball, your offspeed stuff won’t be as effective). I respect what he’s done over the last few years, and he was a great pickup from DET, but we cannot offer him a free agent contract with his agent, which means we only have 1 year left of his services. I ask you, when does this “great pitcher” go on the DL? Plus or minus before June 2012? 

3 years 9 months ago

I’m actually a believer in SIERA, but I’m also observent enough to note that there are exceptions to every one of these advanced statistics . I believe Jurrjens is that exception (no matter what the proprietor of this site thinks). Jurrjens went out and played hurt and tried to help his team and you want to knock him for it, and you’re the same person who would be calling him a wimp if he didn’t try to tuff it out. Flat out and simple when healthy he’s a great pitcher and a legit number two on all but a couple staffs. And he will be fully healthy this year.  

rundmc1981
3 years 9 months ago

How do you know what I’d be calling him? No, I wouldn’t be saying that because I know we have 5-6 better/cheaper pitchers behind him that can are licking their chops for his spot. Of course he has to play hurt: a) he’s a professional, that’s what it is to be a “pro”, b) he’s arbitration-eligible, meaning: he don’t play, he don’t have much of a case for the big $$$ in a arbitration hearing, c) he’s been on the DL at least 5 times in the last 3 seasons. You said it: “when healthy he’s a great pitcher”…if only he were healthy. You’re saying he’ll be “fully healthy” in 2012? I hope I see that…on someone besides the Braves. 

3 years 9 months ago

To be frank we absolutely have to have one of Hanson and Jurrjens healthy next year to be a serious contender. The young arms are great and I expect great things from them but they aren’t going to go pitch for pitch with the big three in Philly or the front of STL’s rotation, even Milwaukee has a legit front end of the rotation. We absolutley have to have someone to pair with Hudson at the top to get us back into October. I’d much rather risk getting nothing for Jurrjens than trade him for the scrap heap players that will be offered for him.

rundmc1981
3 years 9 months ago

I completely agree with you. With Sabathia off the market, CJ Wilson is the best available SP. Early indications are that the Braves aren’t interested in trading JJ based on early trade talks, but that could change. Many teams, like KC/WSH are looking for a front-end starter, and JJ could be that, and arguably, has been that for us. By getting rid of Lowe I think we’re in need of JJ a lot more than we were with Lowe. I do think that once the trade market becomes clearer by starters like Wilson signing, we’ll get a sense of how much the Braves value JJ and how confident they are not only in him, but in the young pitching that would be his replacement. That’s scary to think that we would be relying on Hudson, Hanson and some pitchers that have so little MLB experience.

3 years 9 months ago

The Braves also came out to the media and said they had “little to no interest” in Bourn, then right after the Bourn trade they said “he was the guy we wanted all along”.  Later, Wren changes his story again in this article…
link to businessweek.com

Point being, don’t trust Frank Wren’s word.  He’s like Clay from Sons of Anarchy.  He’ll sweeten, or sour his words depending on how it helps his club, then pull the rug from under your feet, put 2 bullets in your dome,  and wrap your corpse in it.

Guest
3 years 9 months ago

I just realized that it might be kind of quiet for ATL from here on out.  Given the lack of near-MLB 3B in the system, and the team’s stated preference to avoid free agency, I think they’re planning on keeping Prado around to take over after Chipper.  If Uggla was shifted to LF, and Prado was playing 2B, would we still be talking about a need to upgrade the lineup?  I doubt it, and either way those bats are in the lineup.  I don’t think we should lose sight of the fact that this is a very good team.  Since they have very limited funds, it makes sense to hold tight and use the money they can save for an in-season acquisition if needed.  I would like to see them bulk up the bench, though.  Let Diaz take over for Conrad’s RH pinch-hitting duties (he’s a better overall hitter) and sign a versatile guy like Hairston that can play all over (including SS) and hit a little.  That’d make up a bench of Hinske and Diaz (LH and RH pinch hitters), Ross, Hairston, and… who am I forgetting?  Anyways, that’s a good bench.  Diaz can play OF and we could find someone to back up CF.  Plus, we can always shift Prado around.  That’d be a nice, versatile team.  With Medlen in the picture, I don’t think it’s totally necessary to add a bullpen guy, but I wouldn’t be upset if they did.

tomymogo
3 years 9 months ago

Yeah until Joey Terdoslavich or Edward Salcedo who seem like the real deal

ChiefTomahawk
3 years 9 months ago

What’s everyone thoughts about Grazy Sizemore?

Guest
3 years 9 months ago

seems like a nice guy

mikk402
3 years 9 months ago

I wouldn’t mind taking a shot on Grady but you have to do it with the understanding that you will probably not get/need him an entire year. He becomes valuable when Prado has to fill in at 3rd when Chipper is hurt/resting so your not running a AAAA guy out there. Grady probably won’t give you an entire year either, but Prado can spell both and it give the braves significantly more depth to the roster. Problem is that we would have a ton of OFers on the team

3 years 9 months ago

We have to have someone who can back up CF anyway so it might as well be somebody good. I’d take Sizemore and bring up Constanza when he gets hurt. Atleast we’d have a plus player when he was healthy. I liked the idea of Hairston too. Hinske, Diaz, Prado, Hairston, and Ross is a pretty stinking good bench. Not to mention great versatility with Prado and Hairston.

rundmc1981
3 years 9 months ago

Sizemore has a lot of upside, but we really don’t have the $5M+ per year (probably a 2-3 year deal) it’d take to take a chance on him. He’s still under 29 and could be a great chance, but when you factor in his health and that we don’t have an immediate need for a CF, he’d have to be moved to LF. Committing that much to someone who hasn’t been known to be a power, speed threat in the last 3 years is questionable. That chance could make one Executive of the Year for a club, but honestly, it could also be the fuel to any (inane) talk of booting Wren out. I like Sizemore (as do the ladies), but I don’t think he’s the right fit for our needs.

3 years 9 months ago

Jair for Melky Cabrera? With McLouth leaving, the Braves could have a spot for him….

bringbackandruw
3 years 9 months ago

no.

Jeff
3 years 9 months ago

The only way Melky comes back to Atlanta is if Abdullah the Butcher gets to fork him to death and serve him at his restaurant.

He is the most hated former Brave since Dan Kolb.

ugapip
3 years 9 months ago

You are kidding right! What are you smoking?

3 years 9 months ago

And yes, I know Melky used to be a Brave, and all that stuff. Solves both teams’ needs though.

bringbackandruw
3 years 9 months ago

again, no.

rundmc1981
3 years 9 months ago

Dubbya, how’s it go? “Fool me once, shame on you…”

William Scott
3 years 9 months ago

Later Lowe!!! About two years too late!

3 years 9 months ago

By the way, um, non-tendering Prado? You must be from Flushing Queens! Baaaaaa! Met sheep alert!

tomymogo
3 years 9 months ago

Why 84 million before league minimun commitments? it’s 80.77 million.

Right now they have 12 players making the league minimun. At 450k which I think is the league minimun it’s about a total of 5.40 million, so really they have committed a total of 86.17 million leaving the Braves around 5 million to sign a SS, and a backup SS.

If this is right, forget about Josh Willingham, Braves might only be able to sign Alex Gonzalez at 3mill/yr