- Much of the Braves’ Opening Day roster is set, but there are still jobs available on the bench and in the bullpen, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman writes. Chaz Roe, who is out of of options, has the inside track on one of the remaining bullpen jobs, although fellow righty David Hernandez (who the Braves recently added on a minor-league deal) is another possibility. Paco Rodriguez and Kevin Chapman are competing to join the ’pen as lefties, while veteran hitters Matt Tuiasosopo and Mel Rojas Jr. could also have shots at making the team, particularly, it would seem, if the Braves opt to go with five bench players instead of four. The Braves will also keep an eye on the trade and free-agent markets.
The Braves have signed reliever David Hernandez to a minor league contract, the team announced. The right-hander hit the market when the Giants released him Friday.
The 31-year-old Hernandez would provide another experienced bullpen option if he were to make the Braves, who have fellow 30-something relievers on hand in Jim Johnson, Eric O’Flaherty and Josh Collmenter. Hernandez might have a legitimate shot to crack Atlanta’s roster, too, as Mark Bowman of MLB.com reported Saturday that righties Mauricio Cabrera and Armando Rivero are likely to open the season on the disabled list.
The Braves are the fifth major league organization for Hernandez, who debuted with the Orioles in 2009 and has registered a 4.10 ERA, 9.13 K/9, 3.83 BB/9 and a low ground-ball rate (31.6 percent) over 487 innings. He posted similar numbers to his career totals last year in Philadelphia, where he logged a 3.84 ERA with 9.91 K/9 against 3.96 BB/9 and a 37.3 percent grounder rate in 72 2/3 frames. Hernandez has typically helped offset his paltry ground-ball totals by inducing plenty of infield pop-ups (13.5 percent career rate), and he features a 94 mph fastball.
- The Braves have had some interest in trading for White Sox lefty Jose Quintana, though Atlanta president of baseball operations John Hart says his rebuilding team isn’t quite ready to make that kind of major deal. “We’re still growing this team. Our whole mantra has been young players,” Hart said. “It’s worked. We like where we’ve gone. Our farm system has gone from worst to first. At this point we’re probably likely not going to move these [prospects].”
- More from Hart, who said that the Braves “haven’t really entertained anything” in regards to trade offers for veterans, including Nick Markakis. “Nick is a good piece. He’s a super pro player….We’ll look at what happens this year, but he’s an affordable guy,” Hart said. Markakis is owed $10.5MM in both 2017 and 2018. The Braves somewhat surprisingly signed Markakis to a four-year, $44MM deal in the 2014-15 offseason just as the team was beginning its rebuild, and the veteran has hit .282/.358/.386 over 1370 PA since coming to Atlanta.
Boyer, 35, posted a 3.95 ERA, 1.53 K/BB and just a 3.5 K/9 over 66 relief innings with the Brewers last season. That low strikeout rate is typical of Boyer’s career (he has just a 5.6 K/9 over 405 1/3 IP during his ten years in the bigs), as he has been a reliable bullpen arm thanks to an ability to induce soft contact and a 51.9% career grounder rate.
If Boyer doesn’t find a job elsewhere, the Braves have left the door open for the veteran to return on another minor league deal, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports (Twitter links). Boyer said that the Braves would be his probable choice if he did have to settle for another minors deal, as the Georgia native would be able to live at home while pitching for Triple-A Gwinnett.
- The Braves may be without high-powered righty Mauricio Cabrera to start the season, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Cabrera, a key cog in the team’s future and immediate bullpen plans, felt some discomfort in his elbow. It’s possible he’ll end up back on track for Opening Day, but the organization will (understandably) be quite cautious, manager Brian Snitker explains. If he does require a DL stint, Bowman says the organization could choose to use the opening to hang onto either out-of-options righty Chaz Roe or veteran minor-league free agent Blaine Boyer.
Pittsburgh has pursued a trade for White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana over the past several months, but Pirates general manager Neal Huntington found the asking price to be “well above where it made sense for us” (via ESPN’s Jim Bowden). With the Bucs seemingly out of the picture for Quintana, the Astros and Braves are the “best possibilities,” per Bowden, who notes that the White Sox “continue to work hard” to trade the 28-year-old. No deal is imminent, though, according to Bowden, who adds that the Astros would have to part with both right-hander Francis Martes and outfielder Kyle Tucker, two of Baseball America’s top 20 prospects, to acquire Quintana (all Twitter links). Houston balked at giving up a package of Martes, Tucker and righty Joe Musgrove for Quintana during the Winter Meetings.
- The Braves released southpaw Matt Marksberry, according to the pitcher himself earlier this week on his Facebook page. Marksberry posted a 5.06 ERA, 7.8 K/9 and 1.35 K/BB rate over 26 2/3 innings with Atlanta from 2015-16. He suffered a severe health scare last fall when he was placed in a medically-induced coma following a seizure that caused a collapsed lung, though Marksberry appears to be recovering well from that terrifying situation.
The Pirates, Astros and Braves are among multiple teams still showing interest in White Sox lefty Jose Quintana, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports. Pittsburgh and Houston have been widely linked to Quintana on the rumor mill all winter long, while connections between Quintana and the Braves have been largely quiet since December, when Atlanta reportedly balked at Chicago’s very high asking price for the southpaw. Several evaluators tell Passan that the Braves aren’t a great trade fit for the Sox, as while Atlanta’s farm system is very deep, its top prospects (Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies and Kevin Maitan) are all middle infielders, and Chicago already has Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada slated as their up-the-middle combo of the future. In short, not much has really changed on the Quintana front, as the Sox are in no rush to make a deal unless someone meets their price. “The White Sox have dispatched more scouts than usual” to minor league camps, Passan writes, in a sign of due diligence should a good trade offer suddenly emerge.
- The Braves have Cubs outfielder Matt Szczur on their list of possible trade candidates, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (via Twitter). Szczur is out of options and the Cubs intend to keep him, though a 25-man roster spot could be hard to manage given Chicago’s multitude of depth options. Szczur has a career .245/.297/.376 slash line over 346 PA since debuting with the Cubs in 2014, and he is a right-handed hitter who can play all three outfield positions, which fits Atlanta’s known need. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman recently opined that since the Braves have several out-of-options players, they could deal one such player for another on a rival team.
3:27pm: The Braves have officially announced the move.
2:20pm: MLBTR has learned that veteran lefty John Danks asked for and will be granted his release by the Braves. Danks is willing to sign elsewhere, but is not interested in pitching in the minors.
Danks reached a minor-league deal with Atlanta in December, then allowed seven runs while striking out seven and walking six over 9 2/3 innings of spring work. Even before those disappointing performances, Danks seemed unlikely to crack a Braves rotation that will feature Julio Teheran, Bartolo Colon, Jaime Garcia, R.A. Dickey and Mike Foltynewicz. The 31-year-old Danks pitched with the White Sox early in the 2016 season but did not pitch for another team after being released in May.
Danks has pitched over 1,500 innings and won 79 games over parts of ten seasons in the big leagues, all of them with the White Sox, and he stood out as a rotation workhorse from 2008 through 2011. He has, however, had a rough go since shoulder problems that resulted in surgery in 2012 — in the last five seasons, he has a 4.92 ERA, 6.0 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 while dealing with an average fastball velocity that’s gradually slipped from 91.6 MPH to 87.1 MPH last year. He made $65MM over those five seasons thanks to a long-term deal he signed prior to the 2012 season, although that contract expired last fall.