The Braves have made a flurry of trades that are clearly aimed at the future this winter, acquiring Shelby Miller, Tyrell Jenkins, Max Fried, Jace Peterson, Dustin Peterson, Mallex Smith, Manny Banuelos, Michael Foltynewicz, Rio Ruiz and Andrew Thurman in exchange for Jason Heyward, Jordan Walden, Justin Upton, David Carpenter and Evan Gattis. However, despite the departure of so many key players from recent seasons, president of baseball operations John Hart says he plans to hang onto closer Craig Kimbrel, per MLB.com’s Mark Bowman.
“We have never entertained trading (Kimbrel) and have had zero conversations with any clubs about Craig,” Hart explains. “I want him finishing out a World Series win.” Hart adds that despite trading away Heyward, Upton, Gattis, Carpenter and Walden, he feels confident about the players that he’s added. Atlanta has inked Nick Markakis, Jason Grilli, A.J. Pierzynski and Jim Johnson as free agents this winter, and Miller, acquired in the Heyward/Walden deal, figures to be a key cog in their 2015 rotation.
The Braves may yet add another piece, as they currently project to have Zoilo Almonte starting in left field. Reports since last night have linked them to Nori Aoki, and David DeJesus’ name has come up in a speculative fashion as well. (I’d also note that both Ichiro Suzuki and Colby Rasmus remain available on the free agent market.)
Still, it seems a long shot that the Braves would contend after shedding so much talent, particularly given the presence of a stacked Nationals team, a much-improved Marlins club and a presumably healthier Mets roster within their division. However, given the large amount of young talent that’s been stockpiled and the fact that the Braves did extend several core players — including Andrelton Simmons, Freddie Freeman and Julio Teheran — last winter, Atlanta could be in for a quick turnaround.