Offseason Outlook: Atlanta Braves

The Braves will seek outfield depth and determine how to replace Chipper Jones in the coming months.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Free Agents

The Braves’ lineup could look considerably different next year, since Michael Bourn’s a free agent and Chipper Jones has retired. General manager Frank Wren will seek outfield depth this winter, at a time that there’s an abundance of outfield options available in trades and free agency.

Michael Bourn - Braves (PW)

Few outfielders will generate more interest than Bourn, the speedy center fielder who spent the last year and a half in Atlanta. Bourn, a Scott Boras client, will surely decline the Braves’ qualifying offer in search of a multiyear deal. The Braves figure to keep tabs on the 29-year-old — they could certainly use a player of his caliber in center field. Still, Bourn figures to obtain a lucrative contract in free agency, and there are questions about how he’ll age, as Dave Cameron of FanGraphs explained in September. 

If Bourn signs elsewhere, the Braves could consider free agent center fielders such as B.J. Upton, Shane Victorino and Angel Pagan. While all three have enough leverage to command multiyear deals, they probably won’t require as much of a commitment as Bourn. Plus, all three are either right-handed hitters or switch hitters, which would add some balance to Atlanta's lefty-heavy lineup.

The Braves will also consider adding left fielders, since Martin Prado could move from left field to third base. This might be preferable for Atlanta given the lack of third basemen available in free agency. Corner outfielders such as Josh Hamilton, Nick Swisher and Cody Ross are now available on the open market.

Hamilton, the top position player available this winter, intrigues the Braves. He’ll presumably cost in excess of $100MM on a multiyear deal, however, and it’s not the Braves’ style to spend at the top of the free agent market. They should have the resources to spend on premium free agents this year now that Jones has retired, Derek Lowe’s contract has expired and Bourn has hit free agency. Still, it’s easier to envision the Liberty Media-owned team spending on Swisher or Ross.

Wren could also pursue trades for outfielders this winter. Shin-Soo Choo and Justin Upton could be available, though they play the same position as Jason Heyward. Josh Willingham and Denard Span of the Twins are also potential trade targets for the Braves. Atlanta's search for outfielders started early, when they claimed Jordan Schafer off of waivers in a move that provides them with depth and defense. Reed Johnson could re-sign as a free agent to come off of the bench and provide some offense against left-handed pitching.

If the Braves decide to keep Prado in the outfield and pursue a third baseman, they’ll encounter a light free agent market at the hot corner. Right-handed hitting infielder Kevin Youkilis would be one possible target. The trade market could include Chase Headley and David Wright, but those two seem like extension candidates rather than trade candidates at this point. Moving Prado to third base and pursuing two outfielders figures to provide Braves executives with more options.

Besides Bourn — MLBTR’s number three free agent — the Braves have lots of role players hitting free agency. As mentioned before, Johnson could return as a reserve outfielder. It won’t be surprising if the team’s other free agents sign elsewhere. Though David Ross complements Brian McCann nicely, many teams will have interest in Ross, so there’s a real chance Wren will have to find a replacement backup this winter.

The Braves’ large arbitration class includes a handful of non-tender candidates. Jair Jurrjens should be cut loose if the Braves can’t trade him by the November 30th deadline for teams to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players. Paul Janish provides insurance behind Andrelton Simmons and Tyler Pastornicky, but he recently underwent shoulder surgery and could also lose his roster spot this month. Peter Moylan isn’t safe either after missing much of the season to recover from a rotator cuff operation. 

Hanson could be a trade candidate at a time that many teams are looking for starting pitching. However, his fastball velocity dropped off in 2012 and his overall numbers were pedestrian: a 4.48 ERA in 174 2/3 innings. Hanson's trade value would have been considerably higher a year or two ago, as a pre-arbitration eligible player. The Braves’ internal assessment of Hanson will determine whether they trade him now or hold on in anticipation of a turnaround. 

Martin Prado could obtain an extension now that he’s just one year away from free agency. Tim Dierkes has suggested the sides could model a deal after Howie Kendrick’s four-year, $33.5MM contract. Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and Kris Medlen could also be considered extension candidates, though there’s less urgency with those players this early in their respective careers.

The success of the Braves' offseason depends on Wren's ability to acquire two position players who can effectively replace Jones and Bourn in the lineup. They should have the resources to address these needs, and maintain their position as a likely playoff contender in the NL East.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.


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65 Comments on "Offseason Outlook: Atlanta Braves"


DerangedAngry Hilbilly
2 years 8 months ago

so the team has between $26 and $32 mill to spend (depending on if the 8% increase in attendance translates to payroll) and they need to fill the entire bench except Francisco, LF and CF. That should be easy enough! ;-P

Defiancy
2 years 8 months ago

They don’t need to fill the entire bench. Ross will be back as will Reed Johnson I think. Other than that they will just pick up one more PHer type that can play OF/1st base and they are set for the bench.

DerangedAngry Hilbilly
2 years 8 months ago

I was thinking of going sean Rodriguez and Ty Wigginton types along with Ross,Reed and Francisco, tho they will need another catcher for a month.(Bethancourt ain’t it, he needs to develop his bat in AA)

Defiancy
2 years 8 months ago

Yeah my guess is that if Gattis has a good ST that he will be that catcher. You know Pastornicky and Janish will be back in their utility type roles.

2 years 8 months ago

They’re not gonna put Gattis on the 25-man roster as a backup. The Braves believe in his bat and they’re gonna want him to get regular playing time, especially now that he’s in the outfield.

Matt Talbert
2 years 8 months ago

Evan Gattis is Willingham Jr (catcher converted to LF) — came along slowly due to issues.. I’d love him.

2 years 8 months ago

I think Ross will test the market. He gave the Braves a discount on that two-year deal and he knows he’s a starting option for several teams.

Jeff
2 years 8 months ago

backup C shouldn’t be over $3mil (Ross) , Gattis, Pastornicky, and backup SS/CF (Janish/Constanza).
That’s your bench.

stl_cards16
2 years 8 months ago

Every team will have approximately an additional $25MM in TV money beginning next year. Whether teams spend it or any of it on payroll, is obviously up to them. But, it’s possible some of these mid-market teams have a considerable jump in payroll.

I believe this is going to be a very entertaining off-season. Every GM could potentially have an additional $20+MM to play with.

DerangedAngry Hilbilly
2 years 8 months ago

2 words: Liberty Media

tomymogo
2 years 8 months ago

Unfortunately Braves have the worst TV deal in baseball

Nathan Looper
2 years 8 months ago

Doesn’t matter. Its a national deal with ESPN, not the local deal. All teams get the same amount added to their budget

Nathan Looper
2 years 8 months ago

So I went back and looked at ESPN’s attendance records for each team. The Braves actually fell from 20 to 21. Do you have a link where I can read of the increase? I don’t want to be putting bad info out on other posts. I sure hope this is true…

2 years 8 months ago

i knew they had some money this year, but it is also nice to know they will have around 25 again next year with hudson, mccann and maholm coming off the books as well.

DerangedAngry Hilbilly
2 years 8 months ago

next year though we will have 2nd year arb for Meds , Venters and Heyward, first year arb for Freeman,and Kimbrel. It won’t eat all of it, but it will eat darn near half of it. Good thing is we might not need anything more than one starter and the usual bench/pen fill ins.

MLB_in_the_Know
2 years 8 months ago

Resign:
Reed Johnson – 2 years $4 million
David Ross – 2 years $6 million

Sign:
LF: Torii Hunter – 2 years $20 million

Trade for:
CF Denard Span with a package focused around Randal Delgado.

Call it a day.

CF – Span
3B – Prado
RF – Heyward
1B -Freeman
LF – Hunter
C – McCann
2B – Uggla
SS – Simmons

SP – Medlen
SP – Minor
SP – Hudson
SP – Maholm
SP – Hanson

BP – Best in MLB.

tomymogo
2 years 8 months ago

I like it, but I’d prefer Dexter Fowler than Denard Span if they’re gonna trade Delgado

rundmc1981
2 years 8 months ago

While Span is a LH hitter, he hits LHP well (.293 career). Fowler’s home-road splits are the deciding factor for me. Fowler’s away numbers are not good and would suggest a huge decline away from the high-altitudes of Coors Field. Considering COL would want A LOT for him, I wouldn’t want to take a chance after a breakout 2012.

I prefer Span out of those 2. Span also has a great contract that runs through 2015 (w/ team option), and MIN would take almost any pitching prospect we throw at them considering how much pitching they need.

tomymogo
2 years 8 months ago

You might have a point, but so does Dexter Fowler, under team control until 2015. I know we can’t trust those Coors field numbers, but he has a career 364 OBP, and that’s an ability easily transferable to other parks. His triples and homers will diminish, but he will still be valuable, and his defense will improve covering the outfield in Turner field over Coors field. He is a switch hitter and he hits lefties very good.

rundmc1981
2 years 8 months ago

You’re right, he does have exceptional OBP for his career. I don’t think COL gives him up, much like SD doesn’t give up Headley.

atlbravosfan
2 years 8 months ago

.331 career OBP away from Coors is much less appealing.

Please tell us again how those abilities will readily transfer over to other parks…

coolstorybro222
2 years 8 months ago

Span is 100 times better than Fowler.

tomymogo
2 years 8 months ago

a career 364 OBP is very appealing, great defense(not using UZR to judge because it’s Coors field, even Cargo is horrible according fan graphs), speed, kills lefties, tough to say Span is better IMO.

Not saying Span is bad, but I quite frankly think Dexter Fowler is a much better player and the best has yet to come

atlbravosfan
2 years 8 months ago

While Fowler definitely does hit lefties well, look at his home/road splits to see why I would not trade any premium player or prospect for him. Road last year .262/.339/.381 … no thanks.

rundmc1981
2 years 8 months ago

You need to consider what it would take to get both. I believe it’d take a lot less to get Span from MIN that Fowler from COL, considering we’ve gone after Fowler before. Fowler’s price is higher, plus MIN has Span replacement in Ben Revere.

Goat_Rider
2 years 8 months ago

Why the down arrows? The only thing wrong with these ideas is giving Reed Johnson two years? Seems a well-rounded, prudent approach that leaves money for extending their young studs

johnsilver
2 years 8 months ago

Will *THIS* be the year someone gets it thru Uggla’s head he doesn’t have any range to move to his left and he’d be a perfect 3b?

Fredi couldn’t convince him of it at Miami, but somebody has to be able to eventually.. good hands are one thing, but no range to one side is brutal and by now? Atlanta fans have had to notice his glaring hole in his defense.

He’d be a solid/average 3b..If he’d just move, but SOMEONE has to convince him.. Move prado to the OF, cause Ugg’s is going to just lose more and more of what range he has to his right as he gets even older and that isn’t much.

Not saying to be mean.. Uggs was always one of my favorite Marlins players, but he should have been at 3b when they got rid of Cantu, just wouldn’t budge off of 2b.

2 years 8 months ago

maybe he will now that he didnt hit 30 bombs last year. he was setting a record for most conssecutive seasons with 30 homers as a second basemen, not that the streak is broken he may be more willing to switch. not saying that was the reason he didnt want to change but it could have been a factor.

johnsilver
2 years 8 months ago

Possibility was the consecutive 30 HR factor.. remember even when he was with the Fish they used to harp (Announcers) quite regularly. Also the amount of HR a player hit in their 1st few seasons in the game Uggs was way up there also as recall (like total # of HR over 1st 4-5 seasons) guess Tommy Hutton was a fan also, like when ever he would hit a HR, he would shout:

“His name is Danny UGGLA” and was quite comical.

2 years 8 months ago

Uggla loses too much value if he moves. He can still be a top 3 offensive 2nd baseman next year if he bounces back, but at 3rd he is average as you said.

Rick
2 years 8 months ago

I am not sure what you’re talking about because from what I have seen the last two years, his range really is not that bad. It seems like he is routinely making impressive catches on bloopers and getting to grounders that I think he has no chance at. His worst part of his game in my opinion is his arm. It seems like most of his errors are on bad throws, and that’s with Freeman still saving his butt all the time. I would much rather have him at second than third.

Defiancy
2 years 8 months ago

Part of that is perception. He really does have bad range, the plays you mention are ones that should be more routine than he makes them look. He’s not a brick out there, but he isn’t exactly Dustin Pedroia either.

He actually had a decent year this year defensively, but sometimes he looks like he is standing still when trying to get to balls.

rundmc1981
2 years 8 months ago

Have you seen his neck? Of course it looks like he’s standing still when he’s moving. He’s a tree trunk.

DerangedAngry Hilbilly
2 years 8 months ago

exactly, and by moving him to 3rd and (i presume) Prado to 2nd, you have made the infield defense worse rather than better, Prado at 3rd Uggs at 2nd, defense improve over last year probably..

Defiancy
2 years 8 months ago

His range at second is HORRIBLE, and you’re asking to move him to third where he’d have to cover more ground? If he can’t get to balls at 2nd, I don’t see why he would be “sold/average 3b” considering third is a harder position to play. It’s not as if his range to right is outstanding or anything and he has a hard time making routine throws from 2nd base, much less 3rd base.

Plus it makes no sense to keep Prado in the OF. He is an above average defender at 3rd, and it’s a lot easier to fill a LF hole (especially this year) than it is a 3rd or possibly 2nd base hole per your suggestion.

johnsilver
2 years 8 months ago

Hmmmm….

His range has been bad at 2b for years, well known fact and Yes.. i watched him on a daily basis play it with the Marlins for years until he was traded to Atlanta, but in what world does 3b entail more range than at 2b?

Defiancy
2 years 8 months ago

For one he has to guard the foul line and still move to his left a great deal which as you stated is his weakest side. So why would you move a guy to play a position that highlights the weakest part of his game (moving to his left)? Are you arguing that second is a harder position to play than third?

Secondly, Uggla’s arm is atrocious He barely makes the throws from 2nd to 1st why would he make the throws from 3rd to 1st any easier?

rundmc1981
2 years 8 months ago

Look at Uggla’s RF/9 (Range Factor per 9 innings). He’s actually above-average. That shows that he actually has more range than most 2B, but I don’t suggest that that will translate well to 3B. First, the player has to be willing, and Uggla has never been willing to change positions, which Prado has been willing.

2 years 8 months ago

Second base is a premium defensive position, which is why you don’t see many sluggers there. It requires much more range and athleticism then 3rd.

The Data
2 years 8 months ago

Very well-known that third requires less range than second.

tomymogo
2 years 8 months ago

Does he have the arm? The majority of his errors are throwing errors and 3B requires more arm

johnsilver
2 years 8 months ago

Myself? Going from several years back? I thought he did and fredi and the FO did also, because they TRIED to get him to move to 3b when Jacobs was let go and Cantu moved to 1b and it’s highly doubtful that the leadership of any team would plan to move a guy to 3b without thinking he had the arm to make the throw.

His arm isn’t the strongest, much like Scutaro’s from making the throw from 3b, but think he could have then and probably now. Is accuracy a factor? Same can still be said of people like Hanley Ramirez if that is the case.

2 years 8 months ago

Uggla actually has one of the best ranges at 2B in the NL and gets to more balls than just about anyone else other than Brandon Phillips. He turns the double play as good as anyone in the league as well so his value is much higher at 2B and Prado is a better 3B than 2B. This is a no brainer and isn’t up for discussion. He wouldn’t be perfect for 3B at all. It’s not about whether he would budge or not. When he signed here, he said he was willing to play either one, but prefers 2B and there’s nothing wrong with that. Most of Uggla’s errors are because he gets to balls most guys don’t get to and tries to make a crazy play and ends up throwing it away, which certainly the Braves can live with. He is much better defensively than he is given credit for.

johnsilver
2 years 8 months ago

“Uggla actually has one of the best ranges at 2B in the NL and gets to
more balls than just about anyone else other than Brandon Phillips.”

Sometimes? Only a facepalm will do.

2 years 8 months ago

Wow….

Timothy Tappin
2 years 8 months ago

Atlanta should fool someone and trade that bust of Heyward for some prospects.

DerangedAngry Hilbilly
2 years 8 months ago

I assume this is sarcasm? Or was being the 9th most valuable player in baseball not good enough for you?

Timothy Tappin
2 years 8 months ago

Yeah it was sarcasm.

DerangedAngry Hilbilly
2 years 8 months ago

ya never know, last season there were people screaming for Frank Wren’s head for allowing that “bust” to play.! snicker (I mean 2011 btw)

rundmc1981
2 years 8 months ago

Don’t joke about that. There are some Braves fans stuck in 2011 that still believe that.

2 years 8 months ago

I agree, should trade him for the bust of a prospect Verlander and Cabrera.

Jeff
2 years 8 months ago

What I would do:

Give Bourn a fair offer, but let him go if he doesn’t take it.

trade for Span, offer up Hanson+Spruill for him. If this fails, go after Torii Hunter.

Talk to the Padres about Gyorko or Headley, expect that to fail.

Sign a cheap 4th OF type. Reed Johnson perhaps?

Prado would start either LF or 3B

I would have a competition between Juan Fransisco and Gattis for an opening day spot, with a 4th OF type thrown in as a failsafe. Between the three options, you should get one decent player- and Prado can play the other position.

You’d have a ton of money left, I would spend it on buying out FA years for Heyward, Freeman, Prado, Kimbrel, Medlen, and Beachy instead of free agents.

2 years 8 months ago

Well said. I’d rather Gattis stay at AAA for now and I don’t want Juan Francisco anywhere near the starting 3B job. I hope they don’t spend a ton of the market this off-season because as you noted, there are plenty of candidates for extensions.

2 years 8 months ago

Nice try to get people to talk about Heyward being a bust…LOL….EPIC FAIL!!!!!

tomymogo
2 years 8 months ago

For LF I like:
– Torii Hunter or Josh Willingham

For CF:
– Angel Pagan, Michael Bourn, Shane Victorino, and Dexter Fowler.

I think with whatever combination of those 2 I’d be very happy.

rundmc1981
2 years 8 months ago

Pagan won’t be worth the money. Especially true of Bourn. Fowler will cost a lot and isn’t great outside of Coors – so unless Turner is relocated…Victorino would be a great option on a shorter contract.

MIN won’t trade Willingham but for a king’s ransom…and considering they passed up signing Willingham before, I don’t think ATL’s FO is keen on him. Hunter would be my choice, but I have a feeling that some of the big boys will pay him more per year based on his 2012. Cody Ross is another decent option for LF (though he played RF). He hits LH pitching well, hits with RISP, and won’t need a 4-year contract to get it done.

tomymogo
2 years 8 months ago

I like Torii for 3 years 30 million, but yes a lot of big players involved

DerekJeterDan
2 years 8 months ago

Those of you saying Uggla needs to switch to third are forgetting that Martin Prado also plays that position. Atlanta has lived and can continue to live with Uggla’s defense at second, so long as his bat continues to produce. Prado will transition just fine at third base. What the Braves need to do is pursue catching help with McCann injured and Ross a free agent and Outfield help with Bourn leaving. They should be just fine if they fill those areas.

TimotheusATL
2 years 8 months ago

you’re pretty much right on. prado will end up being pretty much average defensively at third and his on base skills will make up for the lack of power at the position. the real issues are catcher, left, and center. move prado to third, sign or trade for a thumper to play LF, and some victorino-ish or pagan-ish player will end up at center.

they’ve gotta bring back ross and find a third-string defense-first catcher to give him some breathers until mccann is healthy. the DOB blog wolf-criers are wrong in thinking bethancourt is the immediate answer — he’s simply not yet ready to hit in the majors. it’d be a massive production dropoff to go that route.

all in all, the team’s in okay shape…probably another dogfight for second place in the division.

DerangedAngry Hilbilly
2 years 8 months ago

DOB’s blog is where baseball wisdom goes to die sadly….

I was thinking of Dioner Navarro, he could fill in for a bit and would probably be an easy trade after Mac returns.

tomymogo
2 years 8 months ago

Prado could play 2B, return to his natural position and improve team’s defense if Uggla could also play a solid 3B.

There’s a point to be made about moving Uggla, but only if he could learn to play 3B in spring training something I’m guessing he will be unable to do

tomymogo
2 years 8 months ago

How about Michael Cuddyer? Has always killed lefties, plays solid defense, value not impossibly high right now considering he got injured and didn’t put up a monster year in Coors field.

Michael Cuddyer and Dexter Fowler for Randall Delgado and 3 other solid prospects.

2 years 8 months ago

WIll this be the year we unload some pitching to get a decent hitter? Also, I’d hope we spread our money around more than blowing it all on Hamilton. I trio of above average pick-ups, plus a good back up infielder would make me happy.

$26912653
2 years 8 months ago

Never knew they had so many former jays.

cheez13
2 years 8 months ago

I say you make the least amount of change…no reason to shift everyone around. This is MLB, not Little League. Uggla played decent defense last year- I’m not sure why everyone wants to move him. Prado will be better than Chipper was last year at 3rd.
So, infield defense will be improved. OF defense will take hit no matter who they get. I believe Bourn-Prado-Heyward was best defensive OF in the NL, maybe MLB.
If there was a legit 3B to sign or trade for then I would leave Prado in LF. But, finding an OFer may be easier.
I wouldn’t mind signing Victorino and Hunter (depending on the money, of course). It would even out their line-up has far the LH/RH and be pretty solid defensively.
Sign Ross.
They would still have all that pitching depth to make a trade during the season. Maybe Hanson could increase his value because right now they would have to sell low. Wren could pull off a trade, he has always been good at keeping things low profile and then it just happens. Justin Upton comes to mind, even though he has a reasonable contract- its still a lot of money. Sometimes, I think this is the best time of the year in baseball…better than the season.