Here’s the latest from out of Atlanta, via a highly informative column from Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
- The Braves are “believed to be leaning toward” keeping Brian Snitker to manage in 2018, Bradley writes. Snitker met with Braves brass yesterday. While the team hasn’t made a final decision, and while it seems likely the team will make coaching changes even if it doesn’t dismiss its manager, GM John Coppolella characterizes the meeting as a “productive” one. Snitker’s status has been a subject of speculation over the last week, as it has looked at various points like the Braves could aim to replace Snitker with special assistant Bo Porter or third base coach Ron Washington, both of whom have MLB managerial experience. The Braves have an option on Snitker’s services for 2018.
- Looking forward to 2018, Coppolella believes the Braves will get younger. “We’ve got arguably the best prospect in the game (Ronald Acuna) pushing his way up to Atlanta. He’s going to be given every opportunity in Spring Training,” Coppolella says. “When he’s ready, nobody’s going to stand in his way. I said the same thing about Ozzie Albies this spring, and it’s the same way.” Elsewhere, Coppolella notes that it’s possible the team could trade Matt Kemp or Nick Markakis to clear space, although that acknowledgement seems to have come in response to a direct question from Bradley.
- Coppolella says the team “needs to make a decision” on R.A. Dickey’s club option for 2018. Other than that, the team “won’t be playing in big free-agent pitching waters,” preferring instead to give opportunities to younger pitchers. Dickey’s option is worth $8MM or a $500K buyout. He’s posted a 4.32 ERA, 6.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 while eating 183 1/3 innings this season and would seem to be an asset at that price, although he’ll turn 43 next month. Dickey’s option is a team option, although Coppolella notes that Dickey too “needs to make a decision on whether he’s coming back,” perhaps referring to the possibility Dickey could retire. (About 70% of MLBTR readers believe the Braves should exercise Dickey’s option, via a recent poll by Jeff Todd.)
- The Braves’ biggest priority this winter will be relief pitching Coppolella says. The team will look for one reliever or “preferably two.” The Braves’ bullpen’s 4.62 ERA this season has ranked fourth worst in the Majors.
- The Braves have already extended Kurt Suzuki, and Coppolella repeats they’re likely to exercise fellow catcher Tyler Flowers’ $4MM option as well (rather than paying him a $300K buyout). That the Braves would plan to exercise such a cheap option comes as little surprise after Flowers’ strong .286/.378/.445 season. Also unsurprisingly, Coppolella indicates that he’s happy about the Braves’ catcher position for 2018.
- The Braves, of course, haven’t contended in 2017, although with 70 wins, they’re already topped their 2016 total. “We’re going from 67 wins to 68 wins to 70-something wins,” says Coppolella, who emphasizes the contributions of young players (including, one assumes, rookies like Albies, Johan Camargo and Sean Newcomb, along with even newer arrivals like September callup Luiz Gohara). “We’re seeing us do it with young players. A big point for me is that you’re not seeing starts go to Joel De La Cruz. You’re not seeing innings go to Jake Brigham or Ryan Kelly. We’re doing it with kids.”