Atlanta Braves – MLB Trade Rumors 2020-02-20T02:12:32Z WordPress Steve Adams <![CDATA[Braves Extend Alex Anthopoulos, Brian Snitker]]> 2020-02-17T14:17:12Z 2020-02-17T13:17:04Z The Braves announced Monday morning that they’ve promoted general manager Alex Anthopoulos to president of baseball operations and extended his contract through the 2024 season. The Atlanta organization also announced contract extensions for manager Brian Snitker and his entire coaching staff; they’ll now be in place through the 2021 season. Anthopoulos had previously bee under contract through the 2021 season, while Snitker was signed through 2020 with a club option for 2021.

“I am very pleased that Alex will be leading the Atlanta Braves’ baseball operations for years to come,” chairman Terry McGuirk said in the press release announcing the news. “Since he joined the organization, Alex has continued the winning tradition that Braves fans have come to expect.”

Alex Anthopoulos | Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

The 42-year-old Anthopoulos has been the Braves’ head of baseball operations since Nov. 13, 2017, when he was hired following the ousting of GM John Coppolella. The former Blue Jays GM and Dodgers vice president of baseball operations wasted little time in orchestrating a complex, financially motivated swap with one of his former clubs; in December 2017, Anthopoulos traded Matt Kemp and the remainder of his contract to the Dodgers in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy, Charlie Culberson, Scott Kazmir and $4.5MM.

The remainder of the 2017-18 offseason was a quiet one for Anthopoulos, although his spring pickup of Anibal Sanchez proved to be one of the minor league signings in recent memory, as Sanchez completely revitalized his career as a key rotation piece for the division-winning Braves.

Since that first offseason at the helm, Anthopoulos has become considerably more active both in trade and free agency. The Braves, under Anthopoulos, have shied away from long-term deals for aging veterans but have been aggressive in short-term pacts, signing the likes of Josh Donaldson, Dallas Keuchel, Marcell Ozuna, Cole Hamels, Travis d’Arnaud and Chris Martin to one- and two-year deals. Lefty Will Smith is the only free agent under this regime to sign a deal of three years. Anthopoulos has been active at both trade deadlines under his watch as well, acquiring pitchers Kevin Gausman, Shane Greene, Mark Melancon, Darren O’Day and the aforementioned Martin in a series of July swaps.

The best moves the Braves have made under Anthopoulos were surely locking down a pair of their own core pieces, however. Ronald Acuna Jr.’s eight-year, $100MM contract and Ozzie Albiesseven-year, $35MM contract are two of the most extreme examples of club-friendly deals throughout the sport. That pairing surrendered a stunning eight would-be free-agent seasons (four apiece), giving the Braves control over the majority of their prime years at well below-market rates. In the long run, both deals should provide exceptional levels of flexibility both in terms of actual payroll and luxury-tax obligations.

Anthopoulos’ track record isn’t spotless, of course. The Gausman acquisition paid dividends in 2018 but yielded disastrous results in 2019. It’s still rather surprising that he agreed to take on all of the $14MM owed to Melancon for the 2020 season in last July’s trade. And time will tell whether the decision to let Donaldson walk rather than match (or at least come close to matching) the Twins’ $92MM guarantee. All of that said, there’s little question that Anthopoulos has helped to maintain a strong farm system while supporting the big league roster with sensible, short-term additions. The Braves are in position to contend for a third straight division title in the NL East, and there’s little reason to think that won’t be the case for years to come, thanks to a controllable core centered around Acuna, Albies, Dansby Swanson, Mike Soroka and Max Fried.

Brian Snitker | Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Turning to the 64-year-old Snitker, he’s now locked in for what will be his fourth and fifth full years with the reins in Atlanta’s dugout. A Braves lifer who has spent a staggering 40-plus years in the organization in some capacity, Snitker served as a minor league coach, minor league manager, Major League bullpen coach and Major League third base coach before taking over as interim manager in 2016. This is the second short-term extension he’s signed since being hired as the club’s full-time skipper.

“Winning consecutive division titles illustrates the leadership and impact of Brian and his staff,” Anthopoulos said of the extension. “We are happy to know they will be leading the Braves through the 2021 season.”

Under Snitker’s leadership, the Braves have played at a 318-292 clip (.521) — including a 187-137 showing over the past two seasons. His 90-72 record in 2018 helped him to win National League Manager of the Year honors. However, the Braves have also yet to advance in a postseason series under Snitker. They were bounced by the Dodgers in the 2018 NLDS and by the Cardinals in the 2019 NLDS.

Also receiving contract extensions through the 2021 season Monday were catching coach Sal Fasano, pitching coach Rick Kranitz, bullpen coach Marty Reed, hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, third base coach Ron Washington, bench coach Walt Weiss, first base/outfield coach Eric Young Sr. and assistant hitting coach Jose Castro.

Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Tyler Flowers Discusses Braves' Catching Split]]> 2020-02-17T01:18:03Z 2020-02-17T01:18:03Z
  • Tyler Flowers is entering his fifth season behind the plate for the Braves, set to again participate in another timeshare, this time with the newly-signed Travis d’Arnaud.  The club’s strategy of more or less splitting the playing time between two catchers every season is a sound one, Flowers tells Steve Hummer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as “It has been a good way to balance starts and kind of keep both catchers fresh.”  Relying on a more traditional starter/backup allotment of playing time would make things tough on an everyday catcher since “It’s extremely difficult to start 120 [games] in Atlanta.  With the conditions, it makes it almost impossible.  I have a more difficult time than most with the heat and sweating and cramping, so I know it would be a challenge for me.”
  • ]]>
    Tim Dierkes <![CDATA[MLBTR Video: Cole Hamels Injured; Free Agent Additions; MLB Rule Changes]]> 2020-02-13T19:33:22Z 2020-02-13T19:33:22Z MLBTR’s Jeff Todd has the latest on Cole Hamels’ injury, free agent additions for the Mariners, Tigers, Cardinals, Pirates, and the new MLB rule changes in today’s video:

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cole Hamels Slowed By Shoulder Irritation]]> 2020-02-12T15:54:31Z 2020-02-12T15:54:31Z Recently inked Braves lefty Cole Hamels isn’t reporting to camp just yet, the team informed reporters including David O’Brien of The Athletic (Twitter links). He’ll remain at home for a stretch after experiencing shoulder irritation this winter.

    The news isn’t drastic just yet, but it’s certainly not what you hope to hear at this stage of the pre-season. Hamels is set to be reevaluated in three weeks’ time, which means he’ll almost certainly miss most or all of Spring Training. While manager Brian Snitker is expressing optimism, it’s hard to imagine that Hamels won’t be delayed at the start of the season.

    For the Braves, the hope will be that this is just an early-season blip. The club had inked Hamels to a one-year, $18MM deal with the expectation that the durable veteran would anchor the rotation at a solid value, without any long-term entanglements.

    Hamels has been one of the game’s most reliable arms over his 14 seasons in the majors. The 36-year-old missed a handful of outings last year (27 starts) and was sidelined for a bit in 2017 (24 starts), but has otherwise taken the ball more than thirty times in ten of the past dozen campaigns.

    At this point, it doesn’t seem there’s reason for the Braves to go scrambling for fill-in options. The newfound concern could help explain why the club just added Josh Tomlin, a potential swingman, to a group of non-roster invitees that already includes Felix Hernandez. There are plenty of younger pitchers who could be candidates to fill in for a few early-season starts as well, though obviously the calculus could change if Hamels doesn’t respond as hoped to rest and treatment.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Braves Re-Sign Josh Tomlin]]> 2020-02-12T15:34:42Z 2020-02-12T14:33:38Z The Braves have re-signed righty Josh Tomlin,’s Mark Bowman was among those to cover on Twitter. It’s a minor-league deal.

    Tomlin, 35, was a steadying presence for the Atlanta organization in 2019. Over 79 1/3 innings of action in 51 appearances, he worked to a 3.74 ERA. Though he managed only 51 strikeouts, Tomlin also posted a typically stingy tally of just seven free passes.

    One of the game’s softer-throwing pitchers, Tomlin also generates an abundance of spin on both his fastball and curve. With his consistently exceptional control, it’s just enough for the veteran to avoid hard contact — but he’s always walking a fine line. In 2018, opposing hitters produced a .396 wOBA (.379 xwOBA) with a whopping 3.20 home runs per nine. Last year, Tomlin managed to limit them to a .308 wOBA (.312 xwOBA) and a palatable 1.59 HR/9.

    Clearly, Tomlin will have to earn his way onto the active roster in camp. It’s hard to handicap the odds at this point, but unless injuries intervene, the Braves could be left to decide between Tomlin and one of their younger arms for a seventh pen slot.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Checking In On Last Year’s NL Division Champs]]> 2020-02-08T05:12:49Z 2020-02-08T05:05:35Z We checked in earlier tonight on how things are shaping up for last year’s American League division winners as get set for a new season. Let’s do the same here for the three Senior Circuit clubs that won division titles in 2019…

    NL West – Dodgers (106-56; won division by 21 games)

    • It’s hard to assess the Dodgers’ roster without knowing if their planned Mookie Betts acquisition will go through. There are many moving parts involved in that deal, as a Betts pickup would send fellow outfielders Alex Verdugo and Joc Pederson, not to mention righty Kenta Maeda, to different teams. Regardless of that, and regardless of what wasn’t an especially active offseason for the Dodgers before the Betts swap, they’re in line to take home their eighth straight division championship in 2020. That said, they’ll face more competition from the Diamondbacks and Padres. Those two teams have enjoyed impressive offseasons, though it’s still difficult to imagine either toppling the juggernaut Dodgers in 2020.

    NL East – Braves (97-65; won division by four games)

    • The Braves lost a few key free agents in Josh Donaldson, Dallas Keuchel and Julio Teheran, but they still look like a rock-solid club when considering the talent on hand and their new additions. Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies and Mike Soroka continue to headline their core, and they’ve picked up Will Smith, Marcell Ozuna, Cole Hamels and Travis d’Arnaud in free agency. There’s little doubt the Braves will be very good again in 2020; problem is that they’re stuck in a division with two or three real challengers. The Nationals, last year’s world champions, as well as the Mets and Phillies have done quite a bit of tinkering with their rosters this winter. Even the Marlins have tried to better themselves. All things considered, the NL East is shaping up to be a dogfight this year.

    NL Central – Cardinals (91-71; won division by two games)

    • Like the NL East, the NL Central should be hotly contested in 2020. The Cardinals ruled by a thin margin last season, but they’ve since had a pretty low-key offseason. For the most part, they’ll be relying on their talent from 2019 to nab another title this year. Luckily for the Cardinals, neither the Brewers nor Cubs look demonstrably better (they’re arguably worse) than they were last season, and the Pirates’ roster is a mess. The Reds have been one of the offseason’s busiest teams, though, and look as if they’ll have a chance to jump from 75-win team to playoff-caliber club in 2020.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Braves Win Arbitration Hearing Against Shane Greene]]> 2020-02-05T21:41:11Z 2020-02-05T21:11:15Z The Braves have won their arbitration hearing against right-handed reliever Shane Greene, the Associated Press reports. He’ll now earn the $6.25MM salary figure submitted by the Braves rather than the $6.75MM salary for which he filed.

    Acquired in a deadline deal that sent prospects Joey Wentz and Travis Demeritte to the Tigers, Greene was unable to replicate the dominance he’d shown in Detroit in his new setting. The 1.18 ERA he posted in 38 innings as a Tiger last year never appeared close to sustainable, as it was largely predicated on a .178 average on balls in play and a sky-high 85.2 percent strand rate, but the extent to which Greene regressed in Atlanta was nevertheless a bit surprising.

    That’s not to say that Greene wasn’t a useful bullpen piece, but he punched out 28.5 percent of the hitters he faced with Detroit, only to see that number plummet to 20.8 percent with the Braves. Greene still notched a respectable 4.01 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 24 2/3 innings with the Braves, adding in another run allowed in 2 2/3 postseason frames in the NLDS.

    This will be the final trip through the arbitration process for Greene, who is set to become a free agent at season’s end. The $500K gap over which the two sides argued seems trivial to most fans but is viewed in a vastly different light by teams and agencies. Hearings such as this one serve as a reminder that the actual immediate cost savings are typically trivial; rather, it’s in teams’ best interest to try to fight for every last dollar rather than make concessions, as future arbitration cases for similar players are based upon the cases of today. Conversely, if an agency is able to even push a client’s salary forward by a couple hundred thousand dollars, that becomes a data point for future comparables. MLBTR spoke to several league execs about the intricacies of arbitration a few years back, and the points discussed still ring true in 2020.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Latest On Kris Bryant]]> 2020-02-05T06:28:16Z 2020-02-05T06:26:46Z Kris Bryant’s long-running service-time grievance against the Cubs finally came to an end last week. Bryant lost the hearing, meaning he’ll remain under team control for two more years instead of one. As you’d expect, the players’ association isn’t enamored of the results. MLBPA executive director Tony Clark issued a statement on the matter Tuesday:

    “The Players Association disagrees with the decision issued today in the Kris Bryant service-time grievance. While we respect the finality of that decision, we will continue to pursue any and all measures that incentivize competition, discourage service-time manipulation and ensure clubs field their best players. We applaud Kris’ courage and determination in challenging the Cubs’ actions and seeing the grievance through to the end.”

    Although Bryant understandably fought the Cubs over team control after they delayed his rookie promotion, he said last week he harbors no ill will against the club. While there doesn’t seem to be bad blood between the two sides, that doesn’t mean Bryant will be a Cub for much longer. The Cubs have had a modest offseason after last year’s dud of a finish, and if they’re as focused as getting under the luxury tax as, say, the similarly deep-pocketed Red Sox (who traded Mookie Betts and David Price on Tuesday), Bryant might not stick around for much longer. Bryant has been the subject of trade speculation for months, after all, and the fact that the $18.6MM man is controllable for two years instead of one should only help his value on the market.

    A 28-year-old former NL MVP, Bryant has a pair of suitors in the Nationals and Phillies, who have shown “at least exploratory interest” in him, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today. This isn’t the first time either team has been connected to the 28-year-old Bryant this offseason, though, and it’s unclear whether they’re more inclined to trade for him now that the third base market has all but emptied out in free agency. The Nationals re-signed Asdrubal Cabrera, who figures to hold the position down until prospect Carter Kieboom’s set to take the reins, while the Phillies have the versatile Scott Kingery as their projected starter and Alec Bohm waiting in the wings.

    The Braves, yet another NL East team, are in questionable shape at the hot corner, where they look prepared to roll with Johan Camargo and Austin Riley in the wake of Josh Donaldson’s exit in free agency. Nevertheless, the Braves have not been discussing Bryant with the Cubs, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, so it continues to look unlikely that he’ll end up in Atlanta.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Braves, Yonder Alonso Agree To Minor League Deal]]> 2020-02-05T00:21:55Z 2020-02-04T23:54:02Z The Braves have agreed to a minor league contract with free-agent first baseman Yonder Alonso, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (Twitter link). Presumably, the MVP Sports client will be in Major League camp as a non-roster invitee this spring.

    Alonso, 33 in April, scuffled through perhaps the worst season of his MLB career in 2019, slashing just .199/.296/.346 with 10 homers and 13 doubles through 335 plate appearances between the White Sox and the Rockies. Prior to that, he hit a combined .257/.340/.458 with 51 homers in 1095 plate appearances between Oakland, Seattle and Cleveland.

    The Braves, of course, don’t have an immediate opening for Alonso, given the presence of Freddie Freeman and the absence of a designated hitter in the National League. However, if he’s able to return to form, Alonso would make a formidable bench bat and a quality Plan B in the event of a Freeman injury. It’s also possible that he’ll simply look to get at-bats with the Atlanta organization this spring in hopes of garnering attention from another club with a more acute need for a player of his skill set. That’s relatively common practice for this type of veteran in Spring Training.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Details On Reds’ Pursuit Of Marcell Ozuna]]> 2020-02-04T18:18:45Z 2020-02-04T18:18:45Z It’s mostly of historical interest at this point, but the Reds’ pursuit of Marcell Ozuna was perhaps more spirited than was known at the time. The Cincinnati club offered him a three-year, $50MM contract, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link).

    Though it is somewhat unusual for a player to turn down a similar annual salary over a longer term for one on a shorter term, that’s just what Ozuna did. He picked the Braves’ offer of one year and $18MM. Whether the Reds also would’ve considered a single-season arrangement isn’t clear.

    For Ozuna, this was a calculated gamble — not unlike the one he took when he spurned the Marlins’ interest in an extension way back when. He’s still just 29 years of age and has shown rather an impressive offensive ceiling (143 wRC+ in 2017).

    If Ozuna can turn in another campaign along those lines, he might well earn a much larger contract. Even if not, another solid effort could allow him to take down something close to or even in excess of what the Reds would’ve paid him. At the same time, there’s always risk — especially for a corner outfielder who has endured some shoulder problems and sagging numbers of late.

    This bit of information is obviously also interesting because of its impact on the rest of the market. The Reds went on to strike a multi-year pact with Nick Castellanos, promising him $64MM over four seasons in a deal that he can opt out of after either of the first two campaigns.

    It’s still a bit unclear how the market interplay between these players unfolded, but it was obviously a major factor. Notably, the Castellanos deal is far more desirable from the player’s perspective than that obtained by Ozuna from the Braves. After all, the former’s contract conveys both the upside of a possible return to the open market as well as long-term security. Unless Ozuna had another reason to prefer Atlanta, it stands to reason that his offer from the Reds did not include such generous opt-out opportunities.

    Signing Ozuna cost a draft pick, it’s worth noting, since he turned down a qualifying offer from the Cardinals. He’s also no longer eligible to receive one in the future. The Reds might’ve been more comfortable with the structure they gave Castellanos since he did not cost a pick up front and remains eligible to receive a QO if he opts out (thus carrying the possibility of eventual draft compensation to the team).

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[MLBTR Poll: NL East Favorite]]> 2020-02-01T07:06:53Z 2020-02-01T07:06:53Z The World Series champions came from the National League East in 2019, when the appropriately named Nationals took home their first-ever title. It has been an active few months in the division since then. Even the notoriously low-budget Marlins have gotten in on the act, having added multiple veterans in an attempt to climb out of the gutter in 2020. Odds are that the Marlins still won’t be in the race, though, so who’s the front-runner among the other four to win the division this year? It appears they’re all legitimate candidates.

    Although the Nationals just won it all, they did so by getting into the playoffs by way of a wild-card berth, not an NL East title. That honor went to the Braves for the second year in a row. The Braves still have not been victorious in a playoff series since 2001, and they lost their No. 1 free agent, third baseman Josh Donaldson. However, even in the wake of Donaldson’s departure, they still bring a formidable roster to the table. Outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., first baseman Freddie Freeman, second baseman Ozzie Albies and right-hander Mike Soroka haven’t gone anywhere. They’re now complemented by free-agent additions in outfielder Marcell Ozuna, lefty Cole Hamels and reliever Will Smith, among others.

    Like the Braves, the Nats lost their marquee free agent, another third baseman in Anthony Rendon. There’s no easy way to replace him, though the team does have Asdrubal Cabrera on hand as a stopgap until standout prospect Carter Kieboom is ready to assume the reins. Rendon’s exit hasn’t deterred Washington from trying to go for a second straight title in 2020, as the club has re-signed righty Stephen Strasburg, to name one of several players, and picked up first baseman Eric Thames, second baseman Starlin Castro and reliever Will Harris from outside.

    The Mets and Phillies were the next best teams in the division last season, and both clubs have new managers (Luis Rojas for New York, Joe Girardi for Philadelphia). They also have different-looking rosters compared to then. The Mets lost righty Zack Wheeler to the Phillies, whose $118MM guarantee ranks among the richest of the offseason. They still boast a quality rotation, though, with Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz and the newly signed Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha in the mix to complement back-to-back Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom. They also continue to feature a solid lineup headlined by the powerful Pete Alonso, last season’s NL Rookie of the Year, as well as Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil.

    The Phillies did far more heavy lifting last offseason than this winter, but they’ve still been aggressive with the signings of Wheeler, who should give them a true No. 2 starter behind Aaron Nola, and shortstop Didi Gregorius. On paper, they look like a better team than the one that finished an even 81-81 a season ago.

    Philly was a fourth-place squad in 2019, but it may be in line to push for a division title this year. However, it’ll have to overcome three strong clubs in the Braves (97-65), Nats (93-69) and Mets (86-76). The offseason isn’t over yet, but as of now, which team do you think is the favorite?

    (Poll link for app users)

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Free Agent Spending By Team: National League]]> 2020-01-29T07:45:35Z 2020-01-29T07:02:42Z With the clear exception of the still-unsigned Yasiel Puig, free agency is almost devoid of high-upside contributors at this point. The majority of players capable of securing guaranteed contracts have already come off the board, making this a good time to check in on which teams have spent the most and which clubs have paid the least via the open market. We’ve already gone through the same exercise for the American League, where the Yankees have returned to the top of the heap as the biggest spenders in their league and in the sport in general. Meanwhile, over in the Senior Circuit, reigning world champion Washington clearly isn’t resting on its laurels after a storybook playoff run…

    Nationals: $316.75MM on 10 players (Stephen Strasburg, Will Harris, Daniel Hudson, Starlin Castro, Yan Gomes, Howie Kendrick, Eric Thames, Asdrubal Cabrera, Ryan Zimmerman and Kyle Finnegan; financial details unclear for Finnegan; top 50 MLBTR signings: four)

    Reds: $164MM on four players (Nick Castellanos, Mike Moustakas, Shogo Akiyama and Wade Miley; top 50 signings: four)

    Phillies: $132MM on two players (Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius; top 50 signings: two)

    Braves: $116.25MM on nine players (Will Smith, Marcell Ozuna, Cole Hamels, Travis d’Arnaud, Chris Martin, Nick Markakis, Tyler Flowers, Darren O’Day, Adeiny Hechavarria; top 50 signings: five)

    Diamondbacks: $109.65MM on five players (Madison Bumgarner, Kole Calhoun, Hector Rondon, Stephen Vogt and Junior Guerra; top 50 signings: two)

    Brewers: $48.38MM on eight players (Avisail Garcia, Josh Lindblom, Justin Smoak, Brett Anderson, Eric Sogard, Alex Claudio, Ryon Healy and Deolis Guerra; financial details unclear for Healy and Guerra; top 50 signings: two)

    Padres: $48MM on three players (Drew Pomeranz, Craig Stammen and Pierce Johnson; top 50 signings: three)

    Mets: $24.35MM on four players (Dellin Betances, Rick Porcello, Michael Wacha and Brad Brach; top 50 signings: three)

    Marlins: $23.855MM on five players (Corey Dickerson, Brandon Kintzler, Francisco Cervelli, Matt Joyce and Yimi Garcia; financial details unclear for Joyce; top 50 signings: one)

    Giants: $17.775MM on four players (Kevin Gausman, Drew Smyly, Tony Watson and Tyler Anderson; top 50 signings: one)

    Dodgers: $15.25MM on three players (Blake Treinen, Alex Wood and Jimmy Nelson; top 50 signings: one)

    Cardinals: $15MM on three players (Adam Wainwright, Kwang-hyun Kim and Matt Wieters; top 50 signings: one)

    Cubs: $2.5MM on three players (Steven Souza Jr., Jeremy Jeffress and Ryan Tepera; top 50 signings: zero)

    Pirates: Signed OF Guillermo Heredia and C Luke Maile (financial details unclear; top 50 signings: zero)

    Rockies: Signed RHP Jose Mujica (financial details unclear; top 50 signings: zero)

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Teams That Gained Or Lost Draft Picks Via Qualifying Offer Free Agents]]> 2020-01-26T13:49:39Z 2020-01-26T13:49:39Z Now that Marcell Ozuna has signed, all 10 of the players who were issued a one-year, $17.8MM qualifying offer in November have settled on teams for the 2020 season.  Of that group, two (Jose Abreu of the White Sox and Jake Odorizzi of the Twins) accepted their qualifying offers and returned to their clubs — Abreu, in fact, topped off his QO by signing a contract extension that will run through the 2022 season.  Stephen Strasburg also isn’t changing uniforms, as the longtime Nationals ace rejected the club’s qualifying offer but eventually re-signed with Washington on a seven-year, $245MM deal.

    That leaves us with seven QO players who will be playing on new teams in 2020, and as such, the draft compensation attached to those seven players has also now been allotted.  Under the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the same compensation was handed out to all six teams who lost those players, as the entire sextet fell under the same financial criteria.  The Mets, Cardinals, Braves, Giants, Nationals, and Astros all aren’t revenue-sharing recipients, nor did they exceed the luxury tax threshold in 2019, so all six teams will receive a compensatory draft pick between Competitive Balance Round B and the third round of the 2020 draft.

    Here is how the so-called “Compensation Round” breaks down.  The order of the picks is determined by worst record-to-best record from the 2019 season.

    68. Giants (for Madison Bumgarner)
    69. Giants (for Will Smith)
    70. Mets (for Zack Wheeler)
    71. Cardinals (for Marcell Ozuna)
    72. Nationals (for Anthony Rendon)
    73. Braves (for Josh Donaldson)
    74. Astros (for Gerrit Cole)

    San Francisco now possesses five of the first 87 picks in next June’s draft.  With the Giants still in the NL wild card race last summer, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi opted to hang onto Bumgarner and Smith rather than trade either player, a decision that led to some criticism since San Francisco was widely considered to be closer to rebuilding than truly contending.  The critics’ judgement grew even harsher after the Giants went 22-32 record in August and September and fell well short of the postseason.  Still, given that teams were reluctant to part with top-flight young talent for even controllable players (let alone rentals like Bumgarner and Smith) at the trade deadline, Zaidi clearly felt that the two picks he could recoup from the qualifying offer process were more valuable than anything offered for the two Giants pitchers last July.

    It’s worth noting that the 74th overall pick will be Houston’s first selection of the 2020 draft, after the Astros lost both their first- and second-highest selections in both 2020 and 2021 as part of their punishment for the sign-stealing scandal.  Since the Red Sox are also under league investigation for their own alleged use of electronics to steal opponents’ signs in 2018, Boston could also potentially lose at least one pick in this year’s draft, so we can’t yet say that the 2020 draft order is finalized.  Of course, the order could be further muddled if more trades occur involving picks from the two Competitive Balance Draft rounds, which are the only types of draft picks that can be traded.  We’ve already seen the Rays and Cardinals swap their picks in Rounds A and B as part of the multi-player trade that sent Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena to Tampa Bay earlier this month.

    Let’s now look at the six teams who signed the seven QO-rejecting free agents, and see what those clubs had to give up in order to make the signings.

    Yankees, for signing Gerrit Cole: Since New York exceeded the luxury tax threshold in 2019, they gave up their second- and fifth-round picks in the 2020 draft (a.k.a. their second- and fifth-highest selections).  The Yankees also gave up $1MM in funds from their international signing bonus pool.

    Diamondbacks, for signing Madison Bumgarner: As a team that didn’t exceed the luxury tax threshold and was a revenue-sharing recipient, the D’Backs had to give up their third-highest draft choice to sign Bumgarner.  This ended up being Arizona’s second-round selection — the team’s first two picks are their first-rounder (18th overall) and their pick in Competitive Balance Round A (33rd overall).

    Twins, for signing Josh Donaldson: Minnesota also received revenue-sharing and didn’t exceed the luxury tax threshold, so signing Donaldson put the Twins in position to give up their third-highest draft selection.  However, the Twins are actually giving up their fourth-highest pick in the 2020 draft, which is their third-round selection.  The Twins’ actual third selection is their pick in Competitive Balance Round B, but those picks aren’t eligible to be forfeited as compensation for QO free agent signings.

    Angels, for signing Anthony Rendon: Since the Halos didn’t receive revenue-sharing funds and also didn’t pay any luxury tax money, they had to give up their second-highest draft pick (their second-rounder) and $500K in international bonus funds to sign Rendon.

    Phillies, for signing Zack Wheeler: The Phillies surrendered their second-highest selection (their second-round pick) and $500K of their international bonus pool, since they were another team that didn’t exceed the luxury tax line and didn’t receive revenue-sharing money.

    Braves, for signing Will Smith and Marcell Ozuna: The dual signings put Atlanta in line for a dual penalty.  The Braves didn’t exceed the luxury tax threshold and also didn’t receive revenue-sharing money, so they gave up their second-highest draft pick (their second-rounder) and $500K of international bonus money for Smith.  In landing Ozuna, the Braves then had to also forfeit their third-round pick (their third-highest selection) and another $500K from their international bonus pool.

    Losing two draft picks and $1MM in international pool money isn’t nothing, though these particular sanctions had less impact on the Braves than on other teams, which undoubtedly influenced their decisions.  First of all, the compensatory pick Atlanta received for Donaldson is higher in the draft order than their third-round pick, so the net loss is only a second-round pick.  Secondly, the Braves’ movement in the international market is still limited by the punishment handed out by Major League Baseball in November 2017 for Atlanta’s past international signing violations.  Part of that punishment included the Braves’ pool for the 2020-21 international market being reduced by 50 percent — being so handcuffed in the international market anyway, the Braves probably felt $1MM in pool money was no great loss.

    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Acuna To Hit Leadoff In 2020]]> 2020-01-25T16:47:02Z 2020-01-25T16:47:02Z Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker has no intention of moving Ronald Acuna Jr. to the cleanup spot, per The Athletic’s David O’Brien (via Twitter). Even before the Marcell Ozuna signing, Snitker wasn’t entertaining removing Acuna from leadoff, where he excelled last season after a short stint in the middle of the order. Acuna has 15 leadoff home runs across his two seasons with the Braves and an overall batting line of .297/.380/.565 out of the leadoff spot. Acuna hardly struggled elsewhere in the lineup, but he’s certainly a luxury at the top of the order for the two-time defending NL East champs. With Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna presumably behind him in the order, there’s no particular need to mess with success. Let’s check in elsewhere in the National League…

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Anthopoulos On Donaldson, Ozuna, Rotation, Payroll]]> 2020-01-24T07:31:56Z 2020-01-24T07:31:56Z The Braves took one of the last high-end free agents off the board when they inked Marcell Ozuna to a one-year, $18MM contract Tuesday, but the signing looks like a mere consolation prize for the team. After all, the Braves lost a better free agent the previous week when they saw third baseman Josh Donaldson agree to a four-year, $92MM pact with the Twins. The Braves prioritized re-signing Donaldson this offseason, general manager Alex Anthopoulos told Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Jeff Schultz of The Athletic in separate interviews, but they were simply unwilling to meet the Twins’ bid for the 34-year-old.

    “I don’t blame him for a minute,” Anthopoulos said of Donaldson’s choice. “It’s a fantastic contract for him. He earned it. Would’ve loved to have him stay a Brave, but we ultimately had to make a decision. We felt like it was best for our club to go to a number and not go beyond that to get it done.”

    In the end, the number Donaldson received “went north of where we thought it would be at the start of the offseason,” according to Anthopoulos, who added that “Josh gave us every opportunity to sign him back and every opportunity to get the deal done.” And Donaldson didn’t leave because of any payroll constraints hampering the Braves, per Anthopoulos, who noted the team “could’ve” matched the Twins’ offer. However, the executive just wasn’t comfortable doing so.

    So now what for the Braves? Well, barring an unexpected trade for the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado or the Cubs’ Kris Bryant, it appears they’ll turn to Johan Camargo and Austin Riley – two third basemen who struggled last season – to pick up the slack at the hot corner. When they were trying to re-sign Donaldson, they were “also weighing the possibility that we would be blocking Riley or blocking Camargo from playing third base. That presents its own challenges,” Anthopoulos stated.

    It’s anyone’s guess what the Braves will get from Camargo and Riley in 2020, but the addition of Ozuna should help cover for the loss of Donaldson’s offense to some extent. Anthopoulos acknowledged the Braves “likely” wouldn’t have signed Ozuna had they convinced Donaldson to come back, but Ozuna is nonetheless someone who excites the club. They believe Ozuna has untapped potential.

    “Because of his stat line last year, we felt he was an undervalued player. We felt he was better than his .240 average and 29 home runs,” Anthopoulos said of Ozuna, who – for what it’s worth – was a Statcast darling in 2019. The 29-year-old ranked in the majors’ upper echelon in average exit velocity, hard-hit percentage and expected weighted on-base average, to name a few key metrics.

    Does the Ozuna acquisition mean the Braves will part with one of their outfielders (say, Ender Inciarte)? “I don’t think so,” Anthopoulos observed, noting there’s more room for extra options now that the league’s moving from a 25-man to a 26-man roster, and that “too many good players” is a high-class problem.

    Elsewhere on their roster, the Braves made a noteworthy move earlier this offseason when they picked up left-hander Cole Hamels on a one-year, $18MM guarantee of his own. Now, although Anthopoulos opined that a team’s “never comfortable” with its rotation, he’s hopeful that “we can have one of our young guys or two take a step, like last year with (Max) Fried and (Mike) Soroka.”

    Hamels, Fried, Soroka and Mike Foltynewicz look like shoo-ins to make up four-fifths of the Braves’ rotation at the start of the season, but the team did try to add another splashy name to the group earlier in the winter.

    “We talked to some of the starters who got bigger, longer deals, whether that was (Hyun-Jin) Ryu, (Zack) Wheeler, Bumgarner,” Anthopoulos revealed. “We ultimately chose not to go to the same contract, whether it was length or total value.”

    If the Braves’ rotation or some other part of their roster fails during the first few months of the season, perhaps the two-time defending NL East champions will find reinforcements leading up to the summer trade deadline. The Braves are already projected for a franchise-record Opening-Day payroll of $158MM – almost $45MM more than 2019’s season-starting outlay – but there may be more in the coffers. Anthopoulos said he “was given a quick yes” when he asked CEO Terry McGuirk for a spending increase during the prior two summers.