Atlanta Braves – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-04-22T02:43:36Z Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Braves Designate Josh Ravin]]> 2018-04-21T19:43:01Z 2018-04-21T19:43:01Z The Braves have designated righty reliever Josh Ravin for assignment, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Correspondingly, the club has elected to purchase the contract of fellow right-hander Miguel Socolovich from Triple-A Gwinnett.

The Braves acquired Ravin from the Dodgers last November in exchange for cash considerations after. Ravin pitched just three innings for the Braves across two appearances. In between those two appearances, he was outrighted off the club’s 40-man roster, purchased again from Triple-A, and spent time on the DL with an illness.

Last night’s game saw Ravin allow two earned runs in two innings of relief during the 12-inning marathon against the Mets; the club likely made the move in order to get a fresh arm in the bullpen. It’s worth noting, though, that Ravin’s fastball velocity (in a limited sample size) was down nearly two miles per hour from where it sat a year ago with the Dodgers. He’ll give way to Socolovich, who was also recently outrighted from the club’s 40-man roster.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[NL Roster Notes: Bautista, Perdomo, Gonzalez, Mac/Pence]]> 2018-04-20T02:38:36Z 2018-04-20T02:38:36Z The Braves don’t intend to take a long time deciding whether to bring up recent signee Jose Bautista, Michael Hoad of writes. GM Alex Anthopoulos says that the club is “optimistic [Bautista is] going to have an opportunity to come up,” so it seems the expectation is that the former star will indeed get a shot. He’ll be looking for a return to form at the plate even as he makes a surprising return to third base after nearly a decade spent mostly in the outfield. But Anthopoulos did note that he hasn’t made any promises of a MLB promotion, so it seems that Bautista will at least have to show something to get a crack at boosting a Braves team that is off to a nice start.

Here are a few notes on some National League players who are already slated to move onto or off of a major league roster:

  • The Padres have optioned righty Luis Perdomo, per a club announcement, with reliever Kirby Yates being activated from the DL to take his roster spot. Though he showed a good bit of promise last year, Perdomo has been tagged for 13 earned runs in 14 innings in his first four starts of the 2018 campaign. Though he has given up quite a lot of hard contact, the resulting .510 batting average on balls in play surely seems like an outlier. Beyond the performance considerations, the move helps the team manage a roster that has quite a few moving parts.
  • Marlins pitching prospect Merandy Gonzalez is heading to the majors for the first time, as’s Joe Frisaro writes. Skipper Don Mattingly says he’ll use his new hurler as a long relief option for the time being. Gonzalez is a starter by trade, and has some long-term hopes of working in a big-league rotation, but at the moment is appealing mostly because he offers the possibility of filling some innings and is already on the 40-man. Miami added Gonzalez in the trade that sent reliever A.J. Ramos to the Mets last summer.
  • There’s nothing official yet, but Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic tweeted the “informed speculation” that outfielder Mac Williamson will join the Giants tomorrow. There are still some complications, but the 27-year-old has clearly played his way to a call-up. In fifty trips to the plate at Triple-A, he’s hitting a ridiculous .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs. Meanwhile, veteran Hunter Pence has managed only one extra-base hit, nine singles, and two walks in his 61 MLB plate appearances. It seems he will be headed to the DL with a thumb issue.
Steve Adams <![CDATA[Braves Designate Lane Adams For Assignment]]> 2018-04-19T19:46:21Z 2018-04-19T19:32:35Z The Braves announced that they’ve designated outfielder Lane Adams for assignment. His spot on the 25-man roster will go to right-hander Matt Wisler, who has been recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett and will start tonight’s game in place of the injured Anibal Sanchez.

Adams, 28, has been a quality reserve outfielder in Atlanta since having his contract selected last season. Originally signed to a minor league deal in the 2016-17 offseason, Adams worked his way onto the big league roster and has since batted .270/.345/.460 in a total of 143 plate appearances. He’s also been a somewhat seldom-used piece, though, having started in just 14 of the 100 games he’s appeared as a Brave. More often than not, Adams has been utilized as a pinch-hitter, pinch-runner or late-game defensive replacement.

The Braves will have a week to either trade Adams or try to sneak him through outright waivers, though because he’s been outrighted previously in his career (by the Yankees in 2016), he’d have the right to reject the assignment in favor of free agency anyhow. With Adams off the roster, the Braves will utilize an outfield mix of Preston Tucker, Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis and Peter Bourjos for the time being, though obviously the potential promotion of top prospect Ronald Acuna is looming on the horizon.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Braves Place Anibal Sanchez On Disabled List]]> 2018-04-19T01:58:08Z 2018-04-19T01:51:41Z Braves righty Anibal Sanchez landed on the 10-day disabled list on Wednesday after suffering a hamstring strain while running in the outfield during pre-game warmups, as the team announced. Things looked potentially much worse, as Sanchez reportedly collapsed and was down for several minutes before having his leg placed in an air cast and being carted off the field (Twitter link via’s Mark Bowman). Thus far in 14 innings (two starts, one relief appearance), the 34-year-old Sanchez has yielded just two runs on 11 hits and six walks with 14 strikeouts. He’d been relying more heavily on a cutter and a changeup with the Braves than he had in previous seasons, and those tweaks had generated positive gains in swinging-strike rate, chase rate and ground-ball rate. Lucas Sims, Matt Wisler and Max Fried are among the 40-man roster options to step into the rotation in place of Sanchez for the time being.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Braves Promote Jesse Biddle, Place Jose Ramirez On 10-Day DL]]> 2018-04-18T19:01:14Z 2018-04-18T19:01:14Z The Braves are set to promote lefty Jesse Biddle to the big-league roster, per a club announcement. He’ll replace righty reliever Jose Ramirez, who is heading to the 10-day DL after experiencing shoulder inflammation.

It’s a long-awaited call-up for Biddle, who was selected in the first round of the 2010 draft and once regarded among the game’s hundred top pre-MLB players. Injuries disrupted his progress, however, and forced him out of the rotation.

Since landing with the Braves and working back to health, Biddle has shown well in the upper minors. He turned in 49 2/3 innings of 2.90 ERA ball last year at Double-A, registering 9.6 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9. And Biddle was off to an excellent start in the highest level of the minors in 2018, allowing just three hits and no runs while running up eight strikeouts against a single walk in his 6 1/3 innings.

As for Ramirez, 28, this’ll be a much-needed reprieve after a brutal opening to his own season. He has also tossed 6 1/3 frames, all in the majors, but with much different results. Ramirez has not only coughed up a dozen earned runs, but has surrendered eight walks to go with his seven punchouts.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Braves Sign Jose Bautista]]> 2018-04-18T17:19:11Z 2018-04-18T16:53:01Z The Braves have announced the signing of veteran slugger Jose Bautista to a minor-league deal. Per the organization, he’ll head to extended spring camp and will line up at third base. The deal would pay him at a $1MM rate in the majors, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets.

While Bautista has maintained he still hoped to play in the coming season after sitting out Spring Training, this news comes as a surprise. The Braves have long been expected to fill out their outfield with top prospect Ronald Acuna, which seemed to make them an unlikely destination for Bautista.

In a twist, though, Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos — who was with the Blue Jays when Bautista broke out and turned into a superstar — will give the veteran a chance to return to the hot corner at 37 years of age. Bautista certainly has spent plenty of time there, but the vast majority of his experience at third came in the distant past. Needless to say, this isn’t the third-base move that many anticipated at the start of the 2017-18 offseason.

Bautista will not only be looking to show he’s capable of returning to the infield after mostly plying his trade in the grass over the past nine seasons. He’ll also have to prove he can bounce back from a marked decline over the prior two campaigns.

Heading into the 2017 campaign, which Bautista spent with the Blue Jays after having to settle for a one-year deal in free agency, the hope was the his 2016 effort was just a blip. Bautista had experienced a big power drop, after all, but largely maintained his other-worldly plate discipline and still reached base at a healthy .366 clip.

But the most recent season did not go as hoped for the ever-confident veteran. Bautista hit 23 home runs but carried a miserable .203/.308/.366 slash in his 686 plate appearances. He also drew walks and went down on strikes at rates (12.2% and 24.8%, respectively) worse than he had since way back in 2008 — which is also the last time he spent the majority of his time at third.

It’s certainly an interesting gambit for the Braves, whose current plans at the hot corner involve riding out a Ryan Flaherty hot streak, mixing in Charlie Culberson, and waiting for Johan Camargo to return from the DL (while hoping he can repeat a surprisingly solid debut season). If Bautista can return to anything approaching the form he showed at the plate between 2010 and 2015, when he was one of the game’s very best hitters, he could boost a team that is playing solid baseball out of the gates but has cause to anticipate some regression from certain players.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Aaron Blair Undergoes Shoulder Surgery]]> 2018-04-17T23:50:53Z 2018-04-17T23:48:04Z 6:48pm: Blair will miss the entire 2018 season after the procedure, which addressed a capsule tear, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports in a story and Twitter update.

5:30pm: Braves righty Aaron Blair has undergone shoulder surgery, per a team announcement. The precise nature of the procedure, which was performed by Dr. James Andrews, has yet to be disclosed.

Blair, who’s still just 25, has largely struggled since going to the Atlanta organization in the oft-discussed swap that sent Shelby Miller to the Diamondbacks. While two other key pieces in that deal — Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson — appear to be core pieces for the Braves, Blair’s own future was already uncertain before today’s news.

The 36th overall pick in the 2013 draft, Blair was considered a high-quality prospect at the time of the deal. And he pushed into the rotation picture in Atlanta not long after arriving. But the early returns were quite poor, as Blair worked to a 7.59 ERA with 46 strikeouts and 34 walks in his first 15 starts, over which he managed only seventy innings.

Heading into 2017, the hope was that Blair could reestablish his trajectory and work back into the MLB mix. Instead, he foundered at Triple-A, pitching 127 1/3 innings of 5.02 ERA ball with 7.4 K/9 against 4.0 BB/9. In his only major-league outing, Blair was knocked out after just three innings. He was again ineffective this spring.

The righty did make one Triple-A appearance this season, so it does not appear he’d stand to accrue MLB service while he is out. But if the Braves wish to free up a 40-man spot, they’ll need to put Blair on the 60-day DL, where he would gain service credit. That’s likely not a major concern for the organization, though, given his struggles. Instead, it seems as if Blair’s 40-man spot may ultimately be in jeopardy.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Poll: When Should The Braves Promote Ronald Acuna?]]> 2018-04-17T23:58:24Z 2018-04-17T18:35:50Z The topic of whether top prospect Ronald Acuna should be in the Majors or in Triple-A is one of the most oft-discussed topics certainly among Braves fans but also among fans throughout the league. The 20-year-old, after all, has been widely billed as a phenom in the waiting and topped the majority of prospect rankings from major outlets this offseason (with the occasional exception of Shohei Ohtani, when he was deemed eligible for such lists).

Ronald Acuna | Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Acuna opened the 2017 season in Class-A Advanced and skyrocketed to Triple-A by season’s end. The Venezuelan-born slugger didn’t just move up the ladder, though; his numbers actually improved upon each promotion, culminating with a .344/.393/.548 line in Triple-A.

Overall, Acuna slashed .325/.374/.522 with 21 homers, 31 doubles, eight triples and 44 steals across three minor league levels in 2017 — and he did so all before turning 20 years of age this past December. Even before reading any of the many glowing scouting reports on Acuna, it’s abundantly clear that he’s a special talent. Teenagers simply don’t perform that well in pro ball.

Entering the season, the thought was that the Braves, like many teams do with elite prospects, would take advantage of Major League Baseball’s service time infrastructure and hold Acuna in the minors long enough to delay his free agency by a year. Doing so would only require him to be in Gwinnett until mid-April. While some may bristle at the notion, it’s hard to argue, from a front-office standpoint, that the extra two weeks of games in 2018 are worth sacrificing Acuna’s entire 2024 season — his age-27 campaign. Keeping Acuna in the minors for those couple of weeks makes perfect sense from a long-term view.

That date has come and gone, however, meaning the Braves can bring their vaunted wunderkind to the Majors at any point, knowing he’ll be controlled through 2024. Bringing him up now would mean allowing him to reach arbitration four times as a Super Two player rather than the standard three times, but that’s of relatively minimal consequence — at least when juxtaposed with the notion of losing an entire year of club control over his prime.

But although Acuna dominated Grapefruit League play in Spring Training (.432/.519/.727), that hasn’t been the case in the regular season. It’s only nine games and 41 plate appearances, of course, but Acuna is hitting .139/.244/.167 in Triple-A. After striking out at a 19.8 percent clip last season, he’s already whiffed 14 times in 41 plate appearances (34.1 percent).

None of that does anything to change the perception that Acuna is a star in the making, but it stands to reason that the Braves may not relish the idea of taking a struggling 20-year-old and bringing him to the big leagues to face even tougher competition. It doesn’t help that Preston Tucker has filled in capably at the big league level. Even though the 27-year-old likely isn’t a long-term piece, and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that his start isn’t sustainable, the fact remains that the Braves have gotten some production out of Acuna’s would-be spot in the lineup.

That, of course, isn’t deemed a good enough reason for Acuna to be in the minors for many. Narratives on his brief minor league struggles will suggest that he’s pressing to earn a promotion or not engaged enough by the lack of competition. Atlanta skipper Brian Snitker went with the similarly nebulous explanation that Acuna is “trying too hard” at the moment (link via’s Mark Bowman). It’s understandable if Braves fans want to see him up at all costs; it’s been a lengthy rebuilding process down in Georgia, and Acuna’s arrival could in many ways mark a move back toward contention. It’s also true that attendance figures would likely spike, at least in the short term, the moment that Acuna is called upon for his highly anticipated debut. And if he’s anything close to the player that most believe he will be, there’s also an argument to be made that Acuna ought to be added to a ballclub that has played rather well and may yet be a fringe postseason contender.

All of those factors enter into the calculus of when Acuna will be brought to the big leagues. It’s a decision the Atlanta front office won’t make lightly, as the last thing first-year GM Alex Anthopoulos and his staff want to do is have to demote Acuna back to Gwinnett if he struggles out of the gate. At the same time, Anthopoulos & Co. are no doubt cognizant of the fanbase’s desire to see Acuna attack Major League pitching and of the manner in which a strong arrival on the scene would invigorate the Atlanta faithful.

(Link to poll for Trade Rumors app users.)

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Poll: Service Time Considerations]]> 2018-04-16T02:57:23Z 2018-04-16T02:57:23Z It’s no secret that talent alone doesn’t necessarily dictate when top prospects will reach the major leagues. Ballclubs have significant financial and competitive incentives to keep top prospects down in the minors even when they’re hitting the cover off the ball, or embarrassing every opposing batter from the mound. These incentives are a by-product of MLB’s service time regulations.

For those unfamiliar, the basic concept is as follows: players accrue service time for each day spent at the MLB level, even if they’re on the major league disabled list. After a player collects six years of service time, he’s eligible for free agency.

Things get far more complicated from there, however. MLB has specific regulations in place to account for partial seasons, since the vast majority of players are promoted at some point in the midst of the season. Perhaps the most significant aspect of these regulations (and certainly the most controversial) is that a player doesn’t get a full season’s worth of service time if he spends 12 days in the minors.

That seemingly short amount of time is the difference between the Cubs keeping Kris Bryant under team control through 2020 or 2021, which was (unofficially) the reason the team elected to keep him at Triple-A to start the season. At the end of 2020, Bryant will fall exactly a day shy of qualifying for free agency, giving the team the rights to one more of his prime seasons.

The conversation has once again resurfaced (though admittedly to a lesser extent) in regards to Braves prospect Ronald Acuna. Although the 20-year-old annihilated Grapefruit League pitching to the tune of a .432/.519/.727 batting line with four homers and four steals, Lane Adams and Peter Bourjos made the opening day roster while Acuna was reassigned to minor league camp. He’s now been down long enough to give the Braves control over him for an additional season.

It’s hard to blame teams for managing the service time of top prospects in this way, especially a Braves club that has little chance to contend this season as it is. From a pure baseball standpoint, the fraction of a WAR that Acuna might have contributed in those first 12 days (it’s worth noting that he’s off to a .152/.222/.182 start in Triple-A) is worth tens of millions less than the WAR total he’s likely to post in the year 2024.

On the other hand, the system is hardly fair to the players. At its core, it seems absurd that a single day of service time can cost a player the additional seven or even eight figures he could have earned if his final arbitration season had instead yielded open market value for him.

There wouldn’t seem to be an easy solution to the issue, either. There’s not exactly a midway point between becoming a free agent and being under team control for an additional season (though the Super Two regulations at least guarantee players more arbitration dollars if they’ve accrued a significant portion of a seventh year’s service time). One could say that 12 days is an awfully small percentage of a season and that players should gain the full year even if they spent 20 days, 30 days, 40 days, etc. in the minors, but no matter what, it’d always come down to one day making a multi-million dollar difference in value.

What do you think? Should the service time rules change, or are they perfectly reasonable the way they are now? (Poll link for app users)

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Luiz Gohara To Begin Rehab Assignment]]> 2018-04-15T15:43:57Z 2018-04-15T15:43:28Z
  • Braves left-hander Luiz Gohara, out since early March with a sprained ankle, will begin a Triple-A rehab assignment Tuesday, Mark Bowman of writes. Gohara will make at least four starts in the minors, according to Bowman, putting him on track to return sometime in May. Had Gohara been healthy during spring training, the 21-year-old would have stood a strong chance to open the season in Atlanta’s rotation. Instead, the Braves have had to turn to veteran Anibal Sanchez, who has delivered positive results in three appearances/two starts (1.29 ERA, 9.0 K/9, 3.86 BB/9 over 14 innings).
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Braves Designate Luke Jackson]]> 2018-04-15T15:21:36Z 2018-04-15T15:17:35Z The Braves have designated right-hander Luke Jackson for assignment, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. His spot on the Braves’ 25-man roster will go to righty Lucas Sims, whom they recalled from Triple-A.

    This is the second time since last December that the Braves have designated the 26-year-old Jackson, who rejoined their 40-man roster when they selected his contract April 4. Jackson then went on to make only two appearances, during which he combined for 1 1/3 innings and gave up two earned runs on two hits and a walk. He yielded both of those earned runs as part of the Braves’ epic collapse Saturday against the Cubs, who rallied back from a 10-2 deficit to escape with a 14-10 win.

    Sims, 23, has been a well-regarded prospect at times since Atlanta chose him 21st overall in the 2012 draft. He struggled during his first major league promotion last season, though, with a 5.62 ERA/5.07 FIP across 57 2/3 innings (14 appearances, 10 starts).

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Braves Could Wait To Promote Ronald Acuna]]> 2018-04-14T21:14:28Z 2018-04-14T21:14:28Z
  • Ronald Acuna is hitting just .138/.219/.172 over his first 32 Triple-A plate appearances this season, and with Preston Tucker playing well for the Braves in left field, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that we may have to wait a while longer to see Acuna make his big league debut. There had been speculation that Acuna could have been called up as early as today, as he would no longer accumulate a full year of MLB service time if he remained on the roster for the entire season, giving the Braves an extra year of control over the star prospect. Service time considerations aside, it doesn’t seem like Atlanta would try to rush Acuna to the majors when he is on such a cold streak. O’Brien did wonder, however, if the team could promote Acuna on Monday to generate some extra interest for the start of a new homestand.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Aaron Blair Headed To Dr. James Andrews For Shoulder Exam]]> 2018-04-13T17:04:04Z 2018-04-13T17:04:04Z Braves righty Aaron Blair is dealing with a shoulder injury and is headed to see Dr. James Andrews for an evaluation on Monday, tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. O’Brien’s colleague, Gabe Burns, had previously tweeted that Blair could miss “significant time” with the injury, though the specifics of the issue aren’t yet known. The 25-year-old Blair was viewed as a largely MLB-ready starter when the Braves picked him up from the D-backs alongside Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson in the Shelby Miller blockbuster, but he’s struggled to a 7.89 ERA in 73 big league innings thanks largely to shaky control and a susceptibility to home runs. Blair has a career 4.36 ERA with 7.6 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9, and while he may not have been viewed as an immediate piece of the rotation, a notable absence will thin out Atlanta’s rotation depth to an extent.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Could The Braves Be A Fit For Bryce Harper?]]> 2018-04-07T20:02:39Z 2018-04-07T20:02:39Z Bryce Harper’s free agent market receives an early preview by FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, who lists the eight teams he feels have the best chance at signing the star outfielder when he hits the open market after the season.  The Nationals and other big-market usual suspects are cited, though the Braves are a new addition to the list of candidates, as both Sirius XM Radio’s Steve Phillips and an unnamed friend of Harper’s feel Atlanta is a logical possibility.  It should be noted that the Braves are only being named here as a “makes sense on paper” type of candidate, as it isn’t known whether Harper himself would consider the Braves, or if the club is actually preparing for a run at the outfielder.  Still, a case can be made — Atlanta is known to be preparing for the end of its rebuild, with a large array of young players that could position the team as a contender for years to come.  Signing Harper would certainly be about the biggest splash possible in announcing a return to contention, though it remains to be seen if the Braves would be open to spending the record-setting contract Harper will seek in free agency.


    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 4/6/18]]> 2018-04-06T21:06:16Z 2018-04-06T21:06:16Z Here are Friday’s minor moves from around baseball…

    • The Braves announced that catcher Chris Stewart was outrighted after clearing waivers. He has accepted the assignment to Triple-A, per’s Mark Bowman (via Twitter). The 36-year-old opened as the third catcher in Atlanta but saw plenty of time in the first week of the season owing to injuries. Still, he was clearly on the chopping block at the first moment a roster need arose, especially once the club acquired younger receiver Carlos Perez. Stewart will remain on hand for depth if and when a need arises. He’s considered a sturdy presence behind the dish, but owns only a .230/.297/.292 lifetime batting line in the majors.
    • Outfielder Darrell Ceciliani and left-handed reliever Kevin Chapman have signed with the New Britain Bees of the independent Atlantic League, the club announced. The 27-year-old Ceciliani has spent parts of the past three seasons in the Majors with the Mets and Blue Jays, hitting a combined .190/.250/.300 in 109 plate appearances. However, he’s a career .282/.336/.459 hitter in parts of three Triple-A seasons. Chapman, meanwhile, logged innings with the Astros from 2013-16, pitching to a combined 4.09 ERA with 7.9 K/9 against 5.1 BB/9 in a total of 55 innings. The 30-year-old has averaged 11.1 K/9 and notched a 3.96 ERA in 231 2/3 Triple-A innings, though he was hammered for a 6.65 ERA between the Triple-A affiliates for the Braves and Twins last year.
    • Former Astros reliever Josh Zeid announced on Twitter today that he’s formally retiring as a player. The 31-year-old hasn’t appeared in the Majors since 2014, but he’s logged plenty of Triple-A innings since spending two seasons in the Houston bullpen. Zeid also took pride in serving as the closer for Team Israel’s 2017 World Baseball Classic club, during which he tossed 10 shutout innings with a 10-to-6 K/BB ratio and notched a pair of saves. A former 10th-round draft pick out of Tulane (Phillies, 2009), Zeid retires with a 4.39 ERA in 650 minor league innings and a 5.21 ERA in 48 1/3 MLB frames.
    • Right-hander Brandon Cunniff, who tossed 52 innings of 4.50 ERA ball with 9.2 K/9 and 5.4 BB/9 with the 2015-16 Braves, has signed a deal with the Mexican League’s Bravos de Leon, according to the team. The 29-year-old spent the 2017 season with Miami’s Triple-A affiliate in New Orleans, where he worked to a 4.45 ERA with 54 punchouts against 28 walks in 54 2/3 innings out of the bullpen.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 4/5/18]]> 2018-04-05T23:45:42Z 2018-04-05T23:45:42Z Here are Thursday’s minor moves from around the game…

    • The Braves outrighted reliever Miguel Socolovich to Triple-A Gwinnett following his recent DFA, and David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets that he accepted the assignment. As a player who’d previously been outrighted off a 40-man roster, Socolovich could’ve rejected the assignment in favor of free agency but will instead remain with the club. Socolovich appeared in one game with the Braves, during which he tossed two perfect innings with a pair of punchouts. Prior to this abbreviated Atlanta stint, the 31-year-old spent three seasons in the Cardinals organization, totaling 66 1/3 innings of relief. With the Cards, Socolovich logged a 3.80 ERA with 7.7 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and a 44.1 percent ground-ball rate.
    • The Mariners released veteran backstop Tuffy Gosewisch from their roster at Triple-A Tacoma, as Rainiers broadcaster Mike Curto reports (Twitter link). The 34-year-old Gosewisch went just 2-for-28 with the Mariners last season, though one of those two hits was a homer. He’s a career .190/.228/.271 hitter in 447 MLB plate appearances, though he’s also slashed a drastically superior .258/.318/.406 in his Triple-A career.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Braves Designate Chris Stewart, Select Contract Of Luke Jackson]]> 2018-04-04T16:16:26Z 2018-04-04T16:14:38Z The Braves announced a roster move today after burning through some relief arms in last night’s contest. The club has designated catcher Chris Stewart for assignment to create roster space for righty Luke Jackson, whose contract was selected.

    Stewart, 36, joined the Atlanta organization on a non-guaranteed MLB deal over the winter. He made the Opening Day roster, though it’s not known what financial obligations the Braves will carry after today’s move. (It is possible that the club worked out an advanced consent agreement in advance to avoid being on the hook for a full season of salary.)

    The veteran receiver received quite a bit of action early in 2018 with both Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki dealing with injuries. But the Braves ended up landing another option in Carlos Perez, obviating the need to continue carrying the light-hitting Stewart with the top two backstops on the mend.

    As for Jackson, he had been bounced from the 40-man roster in late December but will get an early shot at redemption. Of course, he could ultimately also be a roster casualty when a need arises. The 26-year-old owns a 5.64 ERA with 5.5 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in 68 2/3 total MLB innings.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Angels Acquire Akeel Morris, Designate Troy Scribner]]> 2018-04-04T00:59:02Z 2018-04-03T22:19:22Z The Angels announced on Tuesday that they’ve acquired righty Akeel Morris from the Braves in exchange for a player to be named later or cash. Atlanta designated Morris for assignment over the weekend. In order to clear a spot for Morris on the 40-man roster, the Angels designated right-hander Troy Scribner for assignment.

    [Related: Updated Los Angeles Angels depth chart]

    Initially a 10th-round pick of the Mets back in the 2010 draft, the now-25-year-old Morris overpowered hitters in the lower levels of the minors, posting gaudy strikeout totals that helped to overshadow some glaring control issues. He quickly shot up the Mets’ prospect rankings, ranking 19th and 22nd among Mets farmhands in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 offseasons, respectively. The Braves picked him up in the 2016 trade that sent Kelly Johnson to New York in what looked to be a surprisingly solid return for Johnson at the time.

    Morris has continued to post solid numbers in the upper levels of the minors, as evidenced by last season’s 3.09 ERA, 10.2 K/9, 4.4 BB/9 and 32 percent ground-ball rate in 46 innings of Triple-A ball. The St. Thomas native also tossed 7 1/3 innings with the Braves’ big league club in 2017, allowing just a run on six hits and four walks with nine punchouts while averaging 93.1 mph on his heater. Morris is in his final option year, so the Angels will be able to shuffle him back and forth between Triple-A Salt Lake and Anaheim as they see fit this season.

    As for Scribner, the 26-year-old made his own big league debut last season, pitching to a 4.18 ERA with an 18-to-10 K/BB ratio in 23 innings for the Halos. Unlike Morris, Scribner has worked primarily as a starter in the minors, spending the bulk of the 2017 season in Salt Lake, where he notched a 4.35 ERA with 9.0 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9 with a 36.6 percent grounder rate in 103 1/3 innings of work. The former Astros farmhand, whom the Angels acquired in March 2017 in exchange for cash, still has multiple minor league options remaining, which should enhance his appeal to clubs that are thin on rotation depth in the upper minors.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Braves Select Contract Of Anibal Sanchez, Designate Miguel Socolovich]]> 2018-04-02T20:45:59Z 2018-04-02T19:42:44Z The Braves announced on Monday that they’ve selected the contract of veteran righty Anibal Sanchez and designated right-hander Miguel Socolovich for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man and 25-man rosters. Additionally, the Braves added trade acquisition Carlos Perez to the active roster and cleared room by placing righty Josh Ravin on the 10-day DL with a viral infection. The Braves acquired Perez from the Angels over the weekend in a straight-up swap for infielder Ryan Schimpf.

    Sanchez, 33, will look to revitalize a career that has gone south in recent seasons. Signed to a five-year, $80MM contract by the Tigers in the 2012-13 offseason, the right-hander vastly outperformed his salary in the first two seasons of that deal, taking home an American League ERA title in 2013 and turning in a strong 2014 campaign as well. However, the final three seasons of that pact quickly turned into a disaster for the Tigers, as Sanchez’s effectiveness quickly evaporated.

    From 2015-17 with the Tigers, Sanchez logged a total of 415 2/3 innings and surrendered 262 earned runs (5.67 ERA) on 462 hits (85 homers) and 131 walks. The righty still shows a penchant for missing bats (8.2 K/9 over the final three years of the deal, 8.9 K/9 in 2017), but his ground-ball rate has eroded and he’s become stunningly homer prone.

    He’ll eventually slot into the rotation behind Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb and Brandon McCarthy and serve as a bridge to one of Atlanta’s many impressive young arms in the upper levels of the minor leagues. For now, though, Sanchez is likely to work out of the ’pen due to the fact that Atlanta doesn’t need a fifth starter for another week or so.

    Socolovich’s time with the Braves will be extremely brief. His contract was only selected this past Friday, though reports at the time even indicated that it was likely to be a short-term move. Socolovich did get into one game with the Braves, during which he tossed two perfect innings with a pair of punchouts. Prior to this abbreviated Atlanta stint, the 31-year-old spent three seasons in the Cardinals organization, totaling 66 1/3 innings of relief. With the Cards, Socolovich logged a 3.80 ERA with 7.7 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and a 44.1 percent ground-ball rate.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Braves To Add Anibal Sanchez, Carlos Perez To Roster]]> 2018-04-01T23:16:22Z 2018-04-01T23:16:22Z The Phillies will receive a formal warning letter from Major League Baseball in the wake of an unusual situation from Saturday’s game,’s Buster Olney tweets.  The league ruled that home plate umpire Jerry Layne was right to allow Phils reliever Hoby Milner some extra warm-up pitches after Milner was brought into the game seemingly without warning by manager Gabe Kapler, as Milner wasn’t even up in the bullpen.  The Braves objected to Milner being allowed any warm-up pitches after being called into the game, yet Layne felt the extra time was necessary for the sake of Milner’s health.  Kapler’s usage of his bullpen has already become a controversial subject in Philadelphia, as the Phillies used 21 pitchers over their first three games of the season.  “Any time we have a miscommunication it’s my responsibility so I take full responsibility for it,” Kapler told NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salibury and other media after the game.

    • The Braves are set to add both Anibal Sanchez and Carlos Perez to their 25-man roster for tomorrow’s game, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets.  Corresponding moves have yet to be determined, as Atlanta still isn’t certain whether Kurt Suzuki could require some DL time after he was hit in the hand with a pitch on Friday.  Perez is out of options, so the newly-acquired catcher seemed likely to get an immediate placement on the MLB roster to avoid being exposed to waivers.  Sanchez was signed to a minor league contract two weeks ago and will make $1MM for reaching the Braves’ big league roster.
    • There could be quite a bit of roster-juggling for the Braves in the next couple of weeks, as’s Mark Bowman details in a reader mailbag piece.  Bowman actually wasn’t certain the team would go ahead with promoting Sanchez since the Braves don’t need a fifth starter until April 10, and there wasn’t any major need to use Sanchez out of the bullpen since the relievers weren’t overly taxed over Atlanta’s first three games.  (Plus, the Braves are off today and on April 5.)  Much will depend on Suzuki’s DL status or if Johan Camargo will be immediately activated when he is eligible to come off the disabled list on April 5, or if the Braves will give Camargo some time in the minors to get fully up to speed after missing three weeks.
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Braves, Angels Swap Ryan Schimpf, Carlos Perez]]> 2018-04-01T03:37:23Z 2018-04-01T03:17:25Z The Angels have acquired infielder Ryan Schimpf from the Braves for catcher Carlos Perez, according to an announcement from Los Angeles. Schimpf will head to Triple-A, per the Angels.

    Injuries likely played a part in this deal for both teams. The Angels sent second baseman Ian Kinsler to the disabled list on Saturday, while Braves catcher Tyler Flowers was already on the DL with an oblique strain. Flowers’ backup, Kurt Suzuki, took a pitch off the hand during an at-bat on Friday, though he won’t need a DL stint, Mark Bowman of reports. Nevertheless, that injury scare was all the more reason for the Braves to add depth in the wake of Flowers’ loss.

    Schimpf, 29, lasted less than a month with the Braves, who acquired him from the Rays on March 5. He’s best known for a solid 2016 campaign in San Diego, where he batted .217/.336/.533 (130 wRC+) with 20 home runs in 330 plate appearances. Schimpf’s success that year (his rookie season) came thanks in part to both a 64.9 percent fly ball rate and a 12.7 percent walk rate. At the same time, Schimpf struck out in nearly 32 percent of PAs. His swing-and-miss tendencies carried into 2017, when he fanned 35.5 percent of the time and saw his overall production plummet. Across 197 PAs, Schimpf hit .158/.284/.424 (88 wRC+) with 14 HRs, but he continued to rack up fly balls (63.9 percent) and walks (13.7 percent).

    The 27-year-old Perez lost his spot on the Angels when they designated him for assignment earlier this week to make room for Shohei Ohtani’s promotion. Perez amassed upward of 280 PAs with the Angels in both the 2015 and ’16 campaigns, but the addition of Martin Maldonado last year helped limit him to just 21 big league trips to the plate. Over 595 PAs with the Angels, Perez batted .224/.267/.332 (64 wRC+). On the defensive side, Perez threw out an impressive 38 percent of would-be base stealers (far above the 30 percent league average) during his Angels tenure, though he did draw minus pitch-framing marks from 2015-16. With no options remaining, Perez will have to go through waivers if the Braves attempt to demote him to the minors.

    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[NL East Notes: Nimmo, Conforto, Cooper, Sanchez]]> 2018-03-31T21:11:21Z 2018-03-31T21:11:21Z The imminent return of Michael Conforto could force one of his deserving Mets teammates out of a job, Anthony DiComo of writes. Specifically, leadoff hitter Brandon Nimmo (who reached base four times on opening day) could end up being displaced to the bench, as the Mets also have Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce at the outfield corners. Nimmo, who was the club’s first-round selection in 2011, leapfrogged Juan Lagares on the depth chart with a fantastic spring. However, he doesn’t carry the upside of Conforto or the track record of Bruce or Cespedes. DiComo adds that the Mets are not considering shifting Bruce to first base, as the club seems content with Adrian Gonzalez at that position for the time being. For his part, Nimmo isn’t thinking about the outfield crunch at this time. “When Conforto comes back, we’ll deal with that,” he said. “But as far as right now, I’m just going to try to be me, and be the best me I can.”

    Other items from the NL’s eastern teams…

    • In other Mets news, Anthony Swarzak left today’s game with an apparent injury. Said injury was later described as a “sore oblique”, and he’s considered day-to-day for the time being (h/t Anthony DiComo of For Swarzak’s part, he’s “not panicking” about the soreness and is hoping it’ll disappear tomorrow.
    • After being hit by a pitch on the wrist in yesterday’s 17-inning marathon, Marlins outfielder Garrett Cooper was replaced by fellow outfielder Cameron Maybin. After the game, the club described the injury as a “wrist contusion”, writes’s Joe Frisaro. It’s good news for Miami to hear that Cooper’s wrist isn’t broken, but he’s day-to-day for the time being, and it’s unclear when he’ll return to the lineup. “I took the sleeve off, and it was pretty purple,” Cooper said of the injury. “No fracture. Just day-to-day right now. I can move it around. Just a little swollen.”
    • The Braves currently have three catchers on the roster, but manager Brian Snitker says that one of them could give way to right-hander Anibal Sanchez soon. David O’Brien of the Atlantla Journal-Constitution writes that while Sanchez has been tabbed for the fifth spot in the rotation (when necessary) for some time, the club may add him sooner than that in case they need to deploy him as a reliever. Sanchez pitched to a horrific 5.67 ERA across 415 2/3 innings across his last three seasons with the Tigers, though his strikeout (8.14 K/9) and walk (2.84) ratios remained generally good during that time.
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Braves Designate Akeel Morris]]> 2018-03-31T20:19:17Z 2018-03-31T20:05:06Z The Braves have designated right-hander Akeel Morris for assignment. Morris’ 40-man spot will go to Josh Ravin, whose contract the club has purchased from Triple-A Gwinnett. Left-hander Rex Brothers has been optioned to make room for Ravin at the big-league level.

    Morris, 25, made his big league debut with the Mets in 2015, but didn’t appear again in the majors until last July. He struck out nine hitters and allowed just one earned run across 7 1/3 innings for the Braves during his second stint, though he did walk four hitters. Even in Triple-A last season, the righty only managed a 32% ground ball rate and sported a 4.44 BB/9 mark.

    Similarly, the right-handed Ravin walked nine hitters in just 16 2/3 innings with the Dodgers last season, and ended the campaign with a bloated 6.48. He did, however, manage to strike out 10.62 batters per nine innings. That’s where the 33-year-old’s upside lies; he had a whopping 14.01 K/9 across 35 1/3 Triple-A innings last season.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Braves Place Tyler Flowers On DL, Select Contract Of Miguel Socolovich]]> 2018-03-30T19:11:15Z 2018-03-30T19:06:13Z Braves catcher Tyler Flowers has been placed on the 10-day DL with a strained left oblique muscle, the team announced. No timeline for his return was given, but oblique issues tend to sideline a player for a month or more. In a pair of corresponding moves, Atlanta has selected the contract of right-hander Miguel Socolovich and transferred left-hander Jacob Lindgren to the 60-day DL. Lindgren recently underwent Tommy John surgery.

    The 32-year-old backstop suffered the injury in his first at-bat of the season in yesterday’s opener. As Gabriel Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted yesterday after Flowers exited the game, he’d been slowed by a groin issue in Spring Training that created enough concern for the Braves to carry three catchers to begin the season. Veteran Chris Stewart made the Braves’ roster after signing a non-guaranteed big league deal this offseason, and he’ll now likely serve as the backup to Kurt Suzuki for the foreseeable future, as Suzuki steps into the role of manager Brian Snitker’s primary catcher.

    It’s a tough blow for the Braves, who enjoyed a career year from Flowers in 2017. Long regarded as a quality defensive catcher, Flowers took his offensive game to new heights last season when he slashed .281/.378/.445 with a dozen homers in 370 trips to the plate. That marked a continuation of the improvements he showed in his first season of a two-year deal (plus a 2018 option) with the Braves, as Flowers has followed up seven underwhelming offensive campaigns with the White Sox to hit .276/.368/.433 for the Braves — the team that originally selected him in both the 2004 and 2005 drafts.

    With Flowers on the shelf, Atlanta will look to Suzuki to build upon on his own career year from 2017. The 34-year-old Suzuki hit .283/.351/.536 with a career-best 19 homers last year in 309 PAs for the Braves. Rather than test the open market, Suzuki instead agreed to a one-year, $3.5MM extension with Atlanta late last September.

    Socolovich, 31, has spent the past three seasons in the Cardinals organization, totaling 66 1/3 innings of relief work and posting a 3.80 ERA with 7.7 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and a 44.1 percent ground-ball rate. Socolovich has averaged just 90.6 mph on his heater in that time but has gotten by thanks to a knack for limiting hard contact (27.8 percent hard-hit rate, 16.4 percent line-drive rate) and inducing pop-ups (14.4 percent infield-fly rate).

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Jacob Lindgren Undergoes Tommy John Surgery]]> 2018-03-28T22:48:41Z 2018-03-28T22:48:41Z Southpaw Jacob Lindgren will miss the 2018 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution  reports. He had previously had the same procedure in August of 2016.

    Lindgren, who recently turned 25, has opened plenty of eyes since he was taken in the second round of the 2014 draft. In 54 minor-league innings, he has racked up 85 strikeouts and allowed just 11 earned runs on 28 hits.

    Though he cracked the majors in his second season as a professional, Lindgren’s career has hit the skids with elbow problems since. The Braves signed him to a major-league deal after the Yankees cut him loose, but Lindgren has yet to pitch competitively with his new organization.

    Typically a second TJ surgery in close proximity requires a lengthier rehab process. In this case, then, it’s hard to know when the Braves might expect Lindgren to return. He can certainly be shifted onto the 60-day DL, though managing him on the 40-man roster through the 2018-19 offseason could prove difficult.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Braves Announce Roster Decisions]]> 2018-03-28T18:10:24Z 2018-03-28T18:02:54Z 1:02pm: Atlanta will also keep Chris Stewart as a third catcher, per Robert Murray of Fan Rag (via Twitter). The veteran receiver had signed a non-guaranteed MLB deal over the winter.

    9:52am: The Braves have announced a series of roster moves that set up the team’s Opening Day, 25-man unit. Third baseman Rio Ruiz has been optioned while non-roster players including righty Anibal Sanchez, outfielders Ezequiel Carrera and Danny Santana, and infielder Sean Kazmar were reassigned out of MLB camp.

    These decisions reflect some shifts in thinking over recent days. It had seemed that Ruiz would open up with a shot at third base due to an injury to Johan Camargo. But the organization ended up snagging Ryan Flaherty, who now is set up to get some run at the hot corner in concert with utilityman Charlie Culberson.

    Likewise, Santana long seemed a likely candidate to take a utility role from the bench, but the recent signing of Peter Bourjos seems to have bumped Santana from the immediate plans. As’s Mark Bowman suggested earlier today on Twitter, Santana (along with Carrera) can be stashed at Triple-A to begin the season. That’s preferable to boosting either player to the 40-man and perhaps then facing an early call when it comes time to add a fifth starter. Instead, Lane Adams will now likely take an Opening Day job, barring an intervening acquisition, though the out-of-options outfielder could now be vulnerable when the roster pressure arises.

    Speaking of that fifth starter’s spot, it seems the expectation remains that Sanchez will ultimately ascend to the rotation. For now, though, he’ll be assigned to Triple-A. If and when he does come up, he’ll need to be added to the 40-man roster.

    While this slate of moves allows the Braves to avoid any final decisions — since control rights have been maintained over all the team’s options — that doesn’t mean that some moments of reckoning won’t soon arise. As we discussed in our review of the club’s offseason, this roster seems primed to undergo a fair bit of turnover at the start and over the course of the 2018 season.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Latest On Ronald Acuna]]> 2018-03-27T21:04:12Z 2018-03-27T21:03:31Z 4:03PM: Acuna hasn’t been approached with any offers, the outfielder himself told David O’Brien and other reporters, and he and his representation hadn’t been engaged in any sort of talks about a potential $30MM deal.

    1:55PM: Braves phenom Ronald Acuna has at least given some indication to the Braves that he would be interested in a long-term contract, according to’s Mark Bowman. While some discussions have taken place, it seems there is no real indication at present that the sides are particularly likely to agree to a deal.

    The report from Bowman arises after former ESPN Deportes blogger Arturo Marcano tweeted yesterday that Acuna had turned down a $30MM offer from the Atlanta organization. But both Bowman and David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link) reported in strong terms that no such offer had been issued by the team.

    Acuna, who’s perhaps the highest-regarded pre-MLB player in baseball, was previously re-assigned out of major-league camp in anticipation of opening the year at Triple-A. First, though, he showed why he has drawn so much hype with a monster performance in the Grapefruit League.

    A generally similar situation was unfolding with the division-rival Phillies, whose top prospect Scott Kingery pushed for a MLB role with a big performance in camp. He ultimately agreed to an extension before ever suiting up for a big-league game — a somewhat controversial contract model. That deal, while hardly unprecedented, has sparked some new discussion as to whether teams will increasingly attempt to lock up their best prospects quite early in their careers.

    For the time being, anyway, it seems there’s not much likelihood of a similar outcome in Atlanta. The team would no doubt be quite willing to make a commitment to Acuna at the right price, but it’s far from clear whether the sides will see eye to eye — or even whether significant further discussions will take place.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Latest On Jose Bautista]]> 2018-03-26T16:18:26Z 2018-03-26T16:17:02Z MARCH 26,11:17am: The Rays are “unlikely” to sign Bautista, according to Mark Feinsand of

    10:28am: The Braves are no longer in the mix for Bautista, tweets FanRag’s Jon Heyman, who adds that it’s unclear if the Rays are still interested in him.

    MARCH 25: Jose Bautista continues to discuss one-year contracts with multiple teams,’s Marly Rivera reports (Twitter link), with the Braves and Rays among the teams in talks with the veteran outfielder.  When last we checked in on Bautista’s market, he said he was considering several Major League offers, focusing on finding a good fit for his family and playing for a winning team as his primary criteria.

    Neither the Rays or Braves seem like obvious contenders in 2018, with Atlanta still in (perhaps the final stages of) a rebuild and Tampa Bay shuffling the roster this winter to save money while still hoping to remain competitive in the AL East.  Both teams could be better fits from a personal standpoint, however.  Bautista lives in the Tampa area, and he has expressed interest in joining the club both this offseason and last winter during his previous trip through the free agent market.  Playing in Atlanta would also keep Bautista relatively close to home, plus he and Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos have a longstanding connection from their time together with the Blue Jays.

    Bautista would fit the Rays’ desire to add a right-handed hitting outfielder, though Bautista’s right field defense has been below-average for the last three seasons.  He could also provide a platoon partner for Brad Miller at DH or first base, and perhaps even take the odd appearance at third base in a pinch.

    There isn’t such an obvious path to playing time for Bautista on the Braves’ roster, and it could be that the team’s signing of Peter Bourjos to an MLB contract earlier today could have closed the door on Bautista’s chances with Atlanta.  Bourjos and Bautista offer almost entirely different skillsets, of course, though the Braves now have Bourjos, Lane Adams, and Preston Tucker in the left field mix alongside regular center fielder Ender Inciarte and right fielder Nick Markakis.  Elite prospect Ronald Acuna is also expected to be promoted possibly as early as mid-April (i.e. when the Braves can be sure of gaining an extra year of control on his services), leaving even less room in the outfield.  Freddie Freeman obviously has first base spoken for, plus the Braves don’t have a DH spot to offer.

    It remains to be seen if Bautista has anything to offer in even a semi-regular role, given his sub-replacement level numbers in 2017.  Bautista hit just .203/.308/.366 over 686 plate appearances for the Blue Jays, and between that ugly performance and his already-declining numbers in 2016, it would be rather surprising to see Bautista rebound to anything close to his old form as he enters his age-37 season.  That said, given Bautista’s excellent track record prior to 2016, one can also understand why teams would consider taking an inexpensive, one-year flier to see if he has something left in the tank.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Braves Sign Peter Bourjos To Major League Deal]]> 2018-03-27T20:17:33Z 2018-03-25T20:22:16Z The Braves have signed outfielder Peter Bourjos to a major league deal worth $1MM, MLBTR’s Steve Adams reports. Bourjos is a client of Dishman Sports Group.

    It wasn’t a long stay on the open market for Bourjos, whom the Cubs released Friday after an unsuccessful bid to make their roster. Bourjos joined the Cubs in February on a minors deal, which came after he spent 2017 with the Rays and batted .223/.272/.383 with five homers and five steals in 203 plate appearances. Long a well-regarded defender, the 30-year-old Bourjos racked up six Defensive Runs Saved and a 1.2 Ultimate Zone Rating in 476 innings divided among all three outfield spots last season.

    Although Bourjos’ offensive production has dropped off since his best season – 2011 – when he hit .271/.327/.438 in 552 PAs with the Angels, the righty-swinger was a useful option against lefties last year (.260/.310/.442). If that continues, he could be a factor as a reserve in Atlanta, which features a lefty-heavy outfield (depth chart). Of course, righty-hitting, all-world prospect Ronald Acuna should debut soon, which could impact Bourjos’ playing time.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Braves To Sign Ryan Flaherty To MLB Deal]]> 2018-03-25T19:24:09Z 2018-03-25T19:23:29Z 2:23pm: The contract should be worth around $750K, per Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.

    12:57pm: The two sides have agreed to a major league deal, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

    12:36pm: The Braves are attempting to sign free-agent utilityman Ryan Flaherty, Mark Bowman of tweets. It’s unclear whether he’d get a major league contract, but Roch Kubatko of reported earlier Sunday that Flaherty is set to sign an MLB pact with someone. That may prove to be Atlanta.

    The 31-year-old Flaherty was previously with one of the Braves’ NL East rivals, the Phillies, who added him on a minor league deal in the offseason. Flaherty ultimately decided to opt out of that contract on Thursday.

    To this point, Flaherty has spent his entire major league career in Baltimore, where the left-handed hitter failed to pose a threat offensively (.215/.284/.355) over 1,270 plate appearances. He was versatile with the Orioles on the defensive side, though, as he lined up at every infield position (primarily second base) and also saw some time in the outfield.

    Given the presence of rising star Ozzie Albies, the Braves are all set at the keystone, but Flaherty could back up him and shortstop Dansby Swanson. He could also function as depth at third base, where starter Johan Camargo will begin the season on the disabled list. For now, the Braves’ top reserve infielder is the out-of-options Charlie Culberson (depth chart).

    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Braves Have Checked In On Greg Holland]]> 2018-03-24T22:28:33Z 2018-03-24T22:28:56Z
  • Jim Bowden of The Athletic confirms in a tweet that the Braves, Diamondbacks and Cardinals have all checked in on free agent reliever Greg Holland. However, none of them feel as though they can be competitive financially based on the right-hander’s current asking price. Bowden suggests that Holland should take the best offer on the table. With less than a week left until opening day, it’s hard to argue that point.
  • ]]>
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Braves To Release Scott Kazmir]]> 2018-03-24T22:20:13Z 2018-03-24T21:55:12Z The Braves have elected to release Scott Kazmir, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets.

    The move is somewhat curious on the surface. After pitching a scoreless inning today in a Grapefruit League game, Kazmir left the mound with what was described at the time as arm fatigue. The left-hander was slated to be the team’s fifth starter, which the Braves will need for at least the first month of the season as Luiz Gohara deals with a left ankle injury. It’s now unclear whom they’ll use in that role behind Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz, Brandon McCarthy and Sean Newcomb. One option is the recently-signed Anibal Sanchez, who’s in camp on a minor league deal. Sanchez is indeed likely to fill the last spot in the Braves’ rotation, per O’Brien.

    The 34-year-old Kazmir didn’t last long in Atlanta, which acquired him in an unusual, luxury tax-geared trade with the Dodgers in mid-December. Kazmir’s due $16MM in 2018, the last season of a three-year, $48MM deal he signed with the Dodgers entering 2016. The journeyman has disappointed since signing that deal, as he logged a 4.56 ERA/4.48 FIP in 136 1/3 innings in the first year of the contract before missing all of last season with a hip injury. A lack of durability has long been a problem for Kazmir, a 2002 first-round pick of the Mets who has endured an inconsistent career with several clubs since debuting with Tampa Bay in 2004.

    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[NL East Notes: Thompson, Ruiz, Gonzalez, Flores, Wheeler, Lugo]]> 2018-03-23T19:29:25Z 2018-03-23T04:45:34Z It appears that the Phillies are transitioning right-hander Jake Thompson into a relief role, writes Todd Zolecki of Once part of the six-player return for Cole Hamels, Thompson has only made four relief appearances in his professional career (majors and minors included). Three of those appearances came last year, however, and he’s been used largely out of the bullpen in Grapefruit League play. Thompson says that nobody has directly told him he’ll become a reliever, but believes it to be the case. “They think the slider and split can work in short periods, miss bats and get ground balls,” Thompson said of Philadelphia’s coaching staff. “They’ve built up my pitch count a little bit, so if something happens I can still do both. I’m fine with it. Anything that can get me in the big leagues and stay I’d be willing to do.”

    Other news from some of baseball’s Eastern teams…

    • It wasn’t long ago that Braves third baseman Rio Ruiz was struggling with a new swing and seemed destined to start the season in the minors, David O’Brien writes in a piece for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That outlook has changed dramatically, as Ruiz’ offensive output has been a lot more impressive over the past couple weeks. The 23-year-old’s uptick in production coincides with an injury to Johan Camargo, who’s set to open the season on the disabled list. Though the organization seems to believe Camargo can return as soon as he’s eligible, manager Brian Snitker left room for interpretation on whether Ruiz can stick at the position even then. ““Rio has worked his ass off the last couple of years. He’s getting better,” said Snitker. “You never know, situations happen, door gets opened and a guy doesn’t give it back. You never know.”
    • Mets manager Mickey Callaway says he doesn’t expect Adrian Gonzalez to play every day, and not even against every right-hander (h/t Anthony DiComo of That likely means more playing time for Wilmer Flores“Wilmer deserves to play, and not just against lefties,” said Callaway. That’s not the only interesting comment Callaway made today, as he confirmed that Seth Lugo is being considered as a rotation candidate following an excellent Grapefruit League outing in which the right-hander struck out five while allowing no runs across four innings. The presence of Lugo in the rotation would likely make Zack Wheeler, who had another rough showing today, the odd man out. “”We have some big decisions to make,” Callaway said on the subject.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Offseason In Review: Atlanta Braves]]> 2018-03-23T18:24:58Z 2018-03-23T03:40:13Z This is the latest entry in MLBTR’s 2017-18 Offseason In Review series.  Click here to read the other completed reviews from around the league.

    A much-anticipated offseason started off with unexpected front office turnover and ended up focusing squarely on the future.

    Major League Signings

    Trades And Claims

    Option Decisions

    Notable Minor League Signings

    Notable Losses

    Braves 25-Man Roster & Minor League Depth ChartBraves Payroll Overview

    Needs Addressed

    Whatever the Braves’ plans may have been heading into the offseason, they were jolted with the sudden and stunning downfall of former GM John Coppolella and eventual move of president of baseball operations John Hart out of his role atop the baseball hierarchy.

    The former regime was toppled by a scandal arising out of the organization’s international signing practices. In addition to the front-office upheaval, the violations of MLB rules cost the organization its rights to several notable previously signed prospects and left it facing reduced international spending capabilities for several seasons as well as the loss of a third-round pick in the upcoming draft.

    After dabbling in a move for former executive Dayton Moore, who instead remained with the Royals, the Atlanta organization struck a deal to bring in former Blue Jays GM and recent Dodgers exec Alex Anthopoulos. He’s now the top baseball decisionmaker in the Braves hierarchy.

    Whether that shake-up changed the Braves’ plans for the 2017-18 winter will never really be known. But the organization certainly did not end up acting as many anticipated. Having opened Sun Trust Park last season and with an abundance of young talent reaching the majors, many anticipated that the organization would announce the beginning of the end of its rebuilding period by pursuing some significant additions via trade and/or free agency.

    As it turned out, the Braves’ arguable on-field needs — including potential improvements at third base, the corner outfield, and the bullpen, along with veteran rotation help — were never really addressed, at least not in the manner of an organization that’s readying for contention. While the division-rival Phillies made two significant splashes and spent some real cash on their bullpen, the Braves pursued a course designed to clear future payroll capacity and support the ongoing development of internal talent.

    The biggest need identified by Anthopoulos was not, say, finding a high-quality regular at the hot corner. Rather, it was figuring a way to move Matt Kemp and his significant remaining contractual obligations in an advantageous manner. After moving the remaining dollars owed to reliever Jim Johnson, Anthopoulos arrived at a fascinating money-shifting swap involving Kemp with none other than the organization he had just worked for. In a deal full of notable veteran names, the Braves shipped Kemp to the Dodgers in exchange for high-priced veterans Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, and Adrian Gonzalez — along with $4.5MM to make the deal entirely cash-neutral. Atlanta also landed versatile bench candidate Charlie Culberson.

    The roster-clearing benefits for the Atlanta organization were clear. Moving Kemp out of the picture left the club free to try some other options in left field. The Braves claimed Preston Tucker and later signed Ezequiel Carrera; those two left-handed hitters could pair with the righty swinging Lane Adams. Of course, the real occupant of left is not going to open the 2018 campaign in the majors. All-world prospect Ronald Acuna ran roughshod over the Grapefruit League but will not make his MLB debut until later in the coming season. While Anthopoulos has insisted the decision was based purely on Acuna’s development, and he did race through the minors last year, there’s also little doubt that service-time considerations also played a role.

    Of course, that could have been accomplished simply by cutting Kemp loose. Picking up the veteran trio was of greater utility, however, even with Gonzalez being cut loose. Kazmir and especially McCarthy will represent 2018 rotation candidates for the Braves, thus obviating the need to spend more on veteran pitching to build out the rotation. Having already declined an option over knuckler R.A. Dickey, the Braves needed some innings to avoid putting too much pressure on their young arms.

    Additionally, the swap shifted the payroll hit from Kemp forward. The Dodgers preferred to consolidate the money they owed to free them from the luxury tax this year. For the Braves, though, the move allowed the team to spend down its obligations now while clearing the books for 2019. Now, only Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran, and Ender Inciarte are promised money for the future.

    It seems, though, that the financial shift also tamped down the likelihood of any significant outlays for the 2018 season, as the immediate payroll ballooned. That left the Braves seeking low-commitment additions throughout the winter. In addition to picking up Tucker and Carrera in the outfield, Anthopoulos added a variety of infielders, including Culberson, Danny Santana, Christian Colon, and Ryan Schimpf. Having already extended Kurt Suzuki to reunite with Tyler Flowers behind the dish, the club added Chris Stewart on a non-guaranteed MLB deal and Rob Brantly on a minors pact to round out the catching depth. After losing Luiz Gohara to injury, the club picked up Anibal Sanchez on a minors pact to deepen the rotation mix. And Anthopoulos added a variety of low-risk relievers, including Chase Whitley, Shane Carle, Josh Ravin, and Tommy John patient Grant Dayton. None of those players cost the Braves more than a de minimus amount of cash, 40-man spot, and/or a non-roster invitation.

    Questions Remaining

    The club’s approach hardly seems to set the stage for a 2018 postseason berth, though a run can never be ruled out. There is, after all, quite a lot of intriguing talent spread across the Braves’ MLB roster and top minor-league affiliates. But there are also loads of questions, the answers to which will help chart the future for the organization.

    We already touched upon the outfield situation. Ender Inciarte is firmly ensconced in center, while Nick Markakis will presumably handle the bulk of the time in right during the final season of his contract. That leaves left field open to examination as the season progresses. Unless Acuna is injured or unexpectedly stumbles at Gwinnett, odds are the pressure will steadily mount for him to be handed the reins — particularly if the Braves get off to a decent start and/or the platoon players don’t pan out.

    The right side of the infield is set with star first baseman Freddie Freeman and young second bagger Ozzie Albies, who has earned a long leash after a strong, 57-game debut showing last year. Likewise, the catching situation is largely settled to open the season, as the Flowers/Suzuki pairing will handle the duties.

    There’s more potential intrigue, though, in the remaining two spots on the dirt. Dansby Swanson’s sophomore swoon tamped down excitement about his future, though there’s still good reason to believe he’ll be a quality regular and ample cause for the Braves to exercise patience. Third base is largely wide open. It seems the organization will give Johan Camargo a shot at proving he’s no flash in the pan, though he’s expected to open the year on the DL. Schimpf perhaps could have received a shot but turned in a rather unbelievable 0-for-30 performance this spring. Rio Ruiz has not exactly seized his limited opportunities to date but has perhaps shown enough at Triple-A to warrant a chance. Otherwise, the club would likely be left with a mix of Culberson and Santana to hold down the fort. Well-regarded prospect Austin Riley could force his way into the picture if he keeps mashing; no doubt the hope is he’ll earn the job in the long run. It’s perhaps still possible that the Braves could end up finding another option from outside the organization over the next few weeks.

    The pitching staff, meanwhile, is chock full of wild cards. The top four members of the rotation are clear, but each comes with as much uncertainty as talent. Julio Teheran is looking to bounce back from a mediocre 2017 season, Mike Foltynewicz will try to turn the corner, McCarthy has made just 25 starts over the past two seasons, and power lefty Sean Newcomb needs to show that he can limit the free passes. A rotation slot had been intended for youngster Luiz Gohara, who impressed at all levels (including a five-start MLB debut) last year. But he suffered a few injuries in camp and now looks to be ticketed for a reasonably lengthy layoff, leaving the door open behind him. While Atlanta may not need a fifth starter to open the year, the club will eventually need to fill out the starting staff. Kazmir and Sanchez are the notable names here, with both looking to rebound from unproductive recent seasons. Otherwise, Matt Wisler, Aaron Blair, or Lucas Sims could again be given opportunities despite failing to capitalize on their prior chances.

    No matter how that situation sorts itself out, the Braves will be weighing all season long whether and when to make some further promotions. Touted young hurlers such as Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, Max Fried, and Kyle Wright are expected to knock on the door in the near term. With another wave of talent coming up behind them, the front office surely won’t hesitate to take a look at those arms against the game’s best hitters when they’re deemed ready. After all, it could soon be necessary to make some tough calls on which pitchers to keep and which to dangle in trades.

    If Anthopoulos focused anywhere in particular this winter, it seems to have been the bullpen, where the club added new arms and outrighted Mauricio Cabrera and Luke Jackson. There are loads of options stacked up for trials and patches as the situation dictates. Arodys Vizcaino will be looking for some elusive consistency after a strong 2017 effort, with Jose Ramirez and lefty A.J. Minter primed to join him at the back of the pen. Veterans Peter Moylan and Sam Freeman figure to provide some stability. Dan Winkler, whose Rule 5 status is still not fully determined, will hope to remain healthy and effective.

    That likely leaves two spots still open to some debate, with Whitley, Ravin, Carle, Wisler, and Blair perhaps the chief candidates to open the season on the active roster now that Rule 5er Anyelo Gomez has been returned. Lefty Rex Brothers has struggled this spring after agreeing to a non-guaranteed arb deal. Reclamation projects Jesse Biddle and Jacob Lindgren could represent interesting southpaw candidates at some point but aren’t immediate options (with the former already having been optioned and the latter dealing with elbow issues). Righties Jason Hursh and Akeel Morris won’t make the active roster but are still on the 40-man, as are young southpaws Adam McCreery and Ricardo Sanchez. Needless to say, it’s likely there’ll be quite a lot of turnover in the relief unit as the season goes on. With 26 pitchers on the 40-man roster at present, it’s all but certain that a few hurlers will end up being traded or placed on outright waivers at some point.


    Outside of those roster spots that were locked down entering the winter, the strategy was obviously to build out depth, seek some diamonds in the rough, and create competition. That process is likely to carry on throughout the season as needs arise and players sink or swim. The Braves will surely prioritize protecting their future talent pool over maximizing immediate MLB performance, but plenty of difficult decisions will begin to be made as camp draws to a close. While the organization doesn’t really have loads of veterans that figure to profile as mid-season trade candidates, it’s certainly possible that deals will be considered at some point for Teheran, McCarthy, Markakis, and certain veteran relievers or bench pieces. Expectations are tempered for the coming season, but fans and the front office alike will surely be watching closely at how things are shaping up for 2019 and beyond.

    How would you grade the organization’s offseason efforts? (Link for app users.)

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Dansby Swanson Not Discouraged By Rough First Season]]> 2018-03-20T22:33:09Z 2018-03-20T22:33:09Z
  • Dansby Swanson’s first full MLB season didn’t go as planned, as the Braves shortstop and former first overall pick struggled to a .232/.312/.324 slash line over 551 and was even briefly demoted back to Triple-A.  Despite the lack of results, Swanson told’s Jerry Crasnick that he is looking at his 2017 as a learning opportunity.  “Just because last year didn’t go as planned, it doesn’t mean that this year won’t,” Swanson said.  “We all struggle at points in our lives.  I’m grateful it happened early, because you can build off that and learn your lessons and move forward.  I don’t even look at it as failure.  I look at it as growth.”  Still just 24 years old, Swanson has been working on his fielding and has adopted a new positioning of his hands on the bat as he looks to break out as Atlanta’s everyday shortstop.
  • ]]>
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Braves Return Rule 5 Pick Anyelo Gomez To Yankees]]> 2018-03-20T20:57:46Z 2018-03-20T20:57:46Z The Braves have returned Rule 5 draft pick Anyelo Gomez to the Yankees, as announced by New York’s official Twitter feed.  The 25-year-old right-hander has been assigned to the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate.  Atlanta had originally selected Gomez out of the Yankees’ farm system with the eighth overall pick of last December’s Rule 5 Draft.

    Gomez owns a 3.24 ERA, 9.3 K/9, and 2.58 K/BB rate over 269 1/3 career innings in the minors.  Most of that experience is in the lower levels, though he impressed enough in 2017 to earn a promotion to Double-A (36 2/3 IP over 17 games) and even a brief two-inning cup of coffee at the Triple-A level.  Gomez started just one of his 38 games last season, and the move to the bullpen resulted in a 1.92 ERA in 70 1/3 innings across all levels.  With an abundance of strong arms in the minors, Gomez’s return only further reinforces the Yankees’ depth, though he is probably behind several other pitchers in terms of getting a big league promotion some time this season.

    The Braves technically had two Rule 5 picks on their roster, as injury-plagued right-hander Dan Winkler’s Rule 5 status is still in effect despite missing much of the last three seasons due to injuries.  Winkler and the other intriguing arms in Atlanta’s system created a tough road for Gomez to find a spot on the 25-man roster, and he didn’t help his case with a rocky performance (10.80 ERA) over 8 1/3 Spring Training innings.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Braves Reassign Ronald Acuna To Minor League Camp]]> 2018-03-20T14:19:20Z 2018-03-19T22:58:36Z The Braves have re-assigned much-hyped prospect Ronald Acuna to minor-league camp, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was among those to report on Twitter. He’ll presumably open the season at Triple-A.

    It’s rarely notable when a 20-year-old is moved out of major-league camp. Then again, it’s fairly rare even to see a player of that age on the MLB side in the first place.

    Acuna is a particularly special case. He began the 2017 season as a highly-regarded but largely untested youngster and finished the campaign as arguably the game’s best overall prospect after blitzing up the minor-league ladder. He opened at High-A and ended at Triple-A, improving his output all the while. Acuna finished with a cumulative .325/.374/.522 slash over 612 trips to the plate, adding 21 long balls and 44 steals to go with it.

    Recent developments have only raised Acuna’s profile further. He mashed his way through the Arizona Fall League and has laid waste to the Grapefruit League this spring, posting a .432/.519/.727 batting line with four home runs and four swiped bags in 52 plate appearances.

    There’s not much question that Acuna is ready for the majors. But the Braves are evidently not quite ready for him to join the active roster. That’s hardly a surprise, as the organization has consistently indicated Acuna would open in the minors, but it remains quite notable.

    It’s impossible to ignore the service-time factors at play here. So long as Acuna is not allowed to accrue 172 days of service in the coming season, he won’t accrue a full season of MLB service. That would allow the Braves to play him in the majors for most of the upcoming campaign while still controlling him for six full seasons after that point. (Of course, the club might also try to hold him down long enough to prevent future Super Two status, though that would be yet a harder sell.)

    Of course, even a delay of a few weeks’ time can have an impact on a team’s won-loss record. But that’s not a particularly pressing concern for this organization. While Atlanta had been looking to 2018 as a season to gear up for contention, a series of events — the poor finish to 2017, stunning front office upheaval, and big salary swapping trade that pushed financial obligations forward — seemingly conspired to change the plans.

    In that regard, the considerations are a bit different than in the much-discussed case of then-top-prospect Kris Bryant back in 2015. Bryant, who was also a good deal older than Acuna, started in the minors despite a torrid spring and was held down just long enough for the Cubs to ensure that additional season of control. He played in 151 games after arriving and helped lead the team to a postseason berth.

    We’ve never yet seen a situation as eyebrow-raising as Bryant’s and probably never will. But Acuna is certainly in the same general category: a super-premium prospect who has shown everything needed to prove he’s ready — at least from an on-field perspective — to play at the game’s highest level. Instead, the Braves will at least open the year with some kind of platoon in left field, likely featuring some combination of Lane Adams, Charlie Culberson, Danny Santana, Preston Tucker, and/or Ezequiel Carrera.

    Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos explained his thought process to’s Mark Bowman, stating that Acuna’s own developmental needs were the primary concern. Atlanta’s new top baseball decisionmaker also suggested he would not have been as inclined as the prior front office group to move Acuna up so quickly last year.

    It’ll be interesting to see whether or how the Major League Baseball Player’s Association addresses today’s decision by the Braves. The union has already felt squeezed on the free-agent side of the service-time spectrum, making it especially notable to see a top young talent handled in a manner seemingly designed (at least in part) to delay his entry onto the open market.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[AL Notes: Rays, Cobb, Archer, Twins, Tigers, A’s]]> 2018-03-19T19:29:14Z 2018-03-19T17:21:50Z Even though right-hander Alex Cobb is still a free agent as the regular season closes in, there won’t be a reunion between him and the Rays, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. Cobb’s not going to end up signing for a price the Rays deem palatable, Topkin suggests, even though he’s amid a highly disappointing trip to free agency after rejecting the team’s $17.4MM qualifying offer at the outset of the offseason. As they begin life without Cobb, the Rays are set to use a four-man rotation – something their top starter, Chris Archer, discussed with Travis Sawchik of FanGraphs. “The concept makes sense,” said Archer, who noted it’s particularly logical for low-payroll teams to have “four guys on the shuttle making $500,000 each,” as opposed to one player earning $2MM-plus. Although, Archer cautioned that it’s “hard to sustain” a bullpen-heavy plan over the course of a 162-game season. Archer’s also wary about how teams going to more of a bullpen approach could affect player development, as he explained to Sawchik, whose quote-filled piece is worth reading in full.

    More from the AL:

    • Twins infielder Erick Aybar will be able to ask for his release if the team doesn’t add him to its roster by Friday, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press reports (all Twitter links here). It’s unclear whether Aybar would accept a Triple-A assignment (the club hasn’t discussed it with him, per chief baseball officer Derek Falvey), but his chances of eventually landing a spot with the Twins may have improved Sunday with starting shortstop Jorge Polanco’s 80-game suspension. Polanco got the news of his positive PED test a month ago, Dan Hayes of The Athletic was among those to tweet, but the Twins themselves weren’t aware of it until Sunday, Falvey said.
    • In better news for the Twins, righty Ervin Santana is “progressing as expected” in his recovery from February finger surgery, according to Falvey (via Berardino). He should be back toward the tail end of the 10- to 12-week recovery timeline, Berardino notes.
    • Tigers righty Mike Fiersback issues could force him to start the season on the disabled list, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press relays. If so, both Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd would make a Detroit rotation whose only sure bets at the moment are Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann and Francisco Liriano. The Tigers guaranteed Fiers $6MM over the winter with the hope that he’d grab a starting spot, but he hasn’t made a good case for himself this spring, having surrendered 12 earned runs on 10 hits and eight walks, with seven strikeouts, in 11 1/3 innings. Nevertheless, thanks to his veteran status, the Tigers are willing to give the 32-year-old Fiers “leeway,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. As such, if Fiers is healthy, he’ll be in their season-opening rotation.
    • Athletics right-hander Raul Alcantara could lose his 40-man roster spot when their deal with righty Trevor Cahill becomes official, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Alcantara, 25, is out of options and hasn’t produced in Oakland, where he combined for 46 1/3 innings of 7.19 ERA/7.45 FIP ball from 2016-17.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Braves Sign Anibal Sanchez]]> 2018-03-19T16:09:48Z 2018-03-19T16:09:11Z MARCH 19: Sanchez’s deal is worth $1MM, Jon Heyman of FanRag tweets.

    MARCH 16: The Braves announced that they’ve signed right-hander Anibal Sanchez to a minor league contract and invited him to Major League camp for the remainder of Spring Training. The veteran Sanchez, a client of agent Gene Mato, had previously been in camp with the Twins on a non-guaranteed deal but was cut loose when Minnesota’s signing of Lance Lynn ended his bid for a rotation spot. Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported recently that Sanchez was nearing a deal with a new club (Twitter link).

    Sanchez, 33, wrapped up a five-year, $80MM contract with the Tigers last season, during which he delivered two sensational seasons followed by three ugly years. From 2015-17 with the Tigers, Sanchez logged a total of 415 2/3 innings and surrendered 262 earned runs (5.67 ERA) on 462 hits (85 homers) and 131 walks. Sanchez still shows a penchant for missing bats (8.2 K/9 over the final three years of the deal, 8.9 K/9 in 2017), but his ground-ball rate has eroded and he’s become stunningly homer prone.

    The Twins saw enough to give Sanchez a 40-man roster spot earlier this spring, though his contract came with a non-guaranteed salary of $2.5MM, and Minnesota opted to give him 30 days’ termination (roughly $417K) upon signing Lynn, thus allowing Sanchez to reenter the free agent pool with a notable parting gift.

    With the Braves, he’ll serve as depth for a starting staff that looks likely to include Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz and Brandon McCarthy but has some uncertainty beyond that trio. It’s not known what veteran lefty Scott Kazmir has to offer after missing the 2017 season due to injury, and while the Braves have an enviable stock of arms on the cusp of MLB readiness, none has yet solidified himself as a definitive big league starter, Sean Newcomb, Luiz Gohara, Max Fried and Lucas Sims are all vying for rotation spots, while righties Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair remain on the 40-man roster (though that latter pairing has had its fair share of opportunities and subsequent struggles in the Majors).

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Sean Newcomb Earns Rotation Spot]]> 2018-03-18T03:30:07Z 2018-03-18T03:29:41Z Left-hander Sean Newcomb will open the year in the Braves’ rotation, Gabriel Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. He’ll be part of a quintet that should also include Julio Teheran, Brandon McCarthy and Mike Foltynewicz, though it’s not yet clear who will occupy the fifth spot. The 24-year-old Newcomb debuted in the majors last season and recorded a 4.32 ERA/4.19 FIP across 100 innings, also posting a promising K/9 (9.72) but a troubling BB/9 (5.13). Braves manager Brian Snitker is impressed with the progress Newcomb has made since last year, saying: “Amazing where he’s at to me right now from where he was a year ago. How much improvement that guy’s made. The confidence, his mound presence, the competitiveness, the whole thing from a year ago today. It’s so much better.”

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Latest On Greg Holland]]> 2018-03-15T18:08:26Z 2018-03-15T18:08:26Z The market for Greg Holland has seemingly been tepid, at best, in recent months. Two teams that have at least considered him as of late, per FanRag’s Jon Heyman, are the Braves and the D-backs. Atlanta has “checked in” on Holland, while Arizona has considered a run at him as well. One oft-connected team that doesn’t seem likely is the Nationals, as Heyman adds that the they’re “not planning” to pursue him at this juncture of the offseason. (That aligns with comments GM Mike Rizzo made to the media early this afternoon.)

    The Diamondbacks already have a plethora of arms vying for bullpen spots, though as the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro recently pointed out, there are potentially as many as three spots up for grabs. Archie Bradley is considered to be among the ninth-inning favorites in D-backs camp, with Brad Boxberger and Yoshihisa Hirano also vying for saves, but Holland would give them a more established arm and deepen the overall bullpen mix in a year Arizona plans to contend. Payroll, of course, could be an issue for the D-backs, though it wasn’t long ago that they were trying to find creative ways to fit J.D. Martinez onto the books.

    As for the Braves, their late-inning mix is also murky. Arodys Vizcaino figures to open the year in the ninth inning, with Jose Ramirez, A.J. Minter and Sam Freeman among the setup options helping form the bridge from the rotation to Vizcaino. There’s obviously strong incentive for the Braves to forgo signing Holland. As a rebuilding club that may not yet be ready to contend, the Braves surely don’t relish the idea of surrendering draft picks to sign a player who rejected a qualifying offer.

    I’d add that at the same time, the Braves needn’t fret much over the international forfeitures they’d face, as they’ll he handcuffed in that regard anyhow following the November scandal that prompted John Coppolella to resign as GM. Beyond that, high-end bullpen arms are always in demand at the deadline, and it’s not outlandish to think the Braves could receive a better prospect than the one they’d acquire with the third round pick they’d be forced to punt. (Losing the slot value of that pick in their draft pool, however, would limit their ability to get creative, though.)

    Finding teams that make sense as an on-paper fit for Holland is hardly a problem. Virtually any club in the league could stand to improve by pushing its seventh-best reliever to the minors and adding Holland to the bullpen mix. However, we’ve already seen a significant portion of the league largely sit out the free agent market, and at this stage of the offseason, more teams are up against payroll limits and reluctant to forfeit a draft/international considerations. There’s still enough time in spring that Holland could potentially make a handful of appearances before Opening Day, but the longer he waits, the more his early-season availability will be called into question.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Braves To Sign Ezequiel Carrera]]> 2018-03-20T16:39:20Z 2018-03-13T18:05:20Z The Braves have agreed to terms with outfielder Ezequiel Carrera, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). It’s a minor-league deal, per’s Mark Bowman (Twitter link). Carrera can earn $650K in the majors, Bob Nightengle of USA Today tweets.

    Carrera was recently released by the Blue Jays, sending him onto the open market in the middle of Spring Training. That move allowed the organization to avoid most of the $1.9MM arbitration salary it had agreed to with Carrera at the outset of the offseason.

    As Ben Nicholson-Smith of reminds us on Twitter, current Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos was responsible for bringing Carrera to Toronto back when he ran the Jays’ baseball operations. Clearly, Anthopoulos is a believer, though it’s not clear whether Carrera will have a real shot at earning a roster spot over the final weeks of Spring Training.

    Carrera, 30, did have a strong 2017 season in which he posted a .282/.356/.408 batting line with eight home runs and ten steals over 325 plate appearances. Whether now or at some point during the campaign to come, he could be an option as a reserve/platoon outfielder in Atlanta. Currently, the team appears to be slated to utilize fellow left-handed hitter Preston Tucker in a similar role.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[NL East Notes: Phillies, Conforto, AGon, Robles]]> 2018-03-13T16:16:24Z 2018-03-13T16:16:24Z As the Phillies introduce Jake Arrieta today, the organization is now much more clearly in a competitive posture than it was at the outset of the winter. But the pedal won’t be fully pressed down, it seems, despite the presence of a few other notable free agents who’d improve the near-term outlook in Philadelphia. GM Matt Klentak says that he does not anticipate any further additions before the start of the season, as’s Todd Zolecki tweets.

    More from the NL East:

    • The Mets continue to have cause for optimism on outfielder Michael Conforto, whose scary shoulder injury made for quite an offseason concern. He’s now nearing game readiness, Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets, and anticipates getting into a spring game next week. That doesn’t mean that Conforto will be on the Opening Day roster, but certainly suggests he’s on track to return relatively early in the season. In other injury news, via’s Anthony DiComo (Twitter links), the Mets say that outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has a sore wrist. Though there’s no indication at present that it’s a worrying injury, he has undergone an x-ray and is waiting for the results. Meanwhile, veteran third baseman David Wright is no closer to a return; rather, he’ll hold off on baseball activities for at least eight weeks after being examined recently.
    • New Mets first baseman Adrian Gonzalez discussed his fresh start and unusual offseason with Mike Puma of the New York Post. Notably, Gonzalez says he was initially resistant to the Dodgers’ request that he waive his no-trade protection to go to the Braves in a contract-swapping move that ultimately left him landing in New York. But Los Angeles “sweetened the deal every single time” he met with the team, says the veteran, who acknowledged there was compensation involved.
    • Pete Kerzel of examines the Nationals’ decision-making process with top prospect Victor Robles, who is impressing in camp despite a middling stat line in Grapefruit League action. The 20-year-old is ready for the majors, by all accounts, though the organization certainly has plenty of good reasons not to carry him out of camp. First and foremost, the organization has a solid center field combo already lined up in Michael Taylor and the out-of-options Brian Goodwin; in that sense, then, promoting Robles would mean parting with depth. Service-time considerations are also a factor; since Robles picked up 25 days of service last year, he’s just 147 days away from a full year of service. If the Nats wish to delay Robles’s eventual entry onto the open market, they’ll need to keep him down until early May; keeping him from potential Super Two status would likely mean waiting to bring him back up until the middle of the summer.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Alex Anthopoulos On Jays Tenure, Braves Future]]> 2018-03-13T02:56:47Z 2018-03-13T02:56:47Z Current Braves and former Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos joined’s Mark Feinsand for a wide-ranging podcast chat. It’s a great listen in full for fans of either of those organizations or anyone interested in learning more about Anthopoulos’s path in the game.

    Anthopoulos opened up on some key elements of his time in Toronto now that a few years have passed. He served as GM there from 2010 to 2015 before moving on to a stint with the Dodgers front office and then landing the GM gig in Atlanta last fall.

    While the end to his perch atop the Jays’ baseball ops department was obviously bittersweet, particularly as it came right on the heels of a bitter ALCS loss, Anthopoulos also made abundantly clear that he feels no ill will at all toward current club president Mark Shapiro. Rather, he says, the fit just did not seem optimal and he elected not to sign a five-year offer to remain.

    Anthopoulos answered a bevy of questions about some of the key deals swung during his tenure, going all the way back to the organization’s admitted good fortune of landing of pre-breakout stars in Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. Of note, he acknowledged — as he was not really willing to do at the time — that Bautista might not have been extended in early 2011 had it not been for the earlier swap that took Vernon Wells’s extension off the books. (Anthopoulos also acknowledged feeling some unease after many big moves, including the Bautista extension and even the acquisition of Josh Donaldson.)

    There’s plenty more historical examination in the chat, including the recruitment of Russell Martin. That deal went down when the Jays decided to offer an additional season and $8MM in guaranteed money, boosting the organization’s offer over the four-year, $74MM scenarios that other teams had dangled. Among other memorable moves, Anthopoulos explains the trade deadline double-play that landed Troy Tulowitzki (link) and David Price (link). That mid-season, go-for-it maneuver came about because the team (correctly) believed it had a rare chance at a big run if only it could shore up its run prevention.

    Anthopoulos says he received interest from a number of clubs after deciding to leave the Jays, but his decision ultimately boiled down to one between the Astros and Dodgers. In the end, he cites his longstanding relationships with president of baseball ops Andrew Friedman and GM Farhan Zaidi as the primary decisions to choose the opportunity presented by the Dodgers.

    Likewise, in moving on to Atlanta, Anthopoulos said he was convinced not only of the state of the organization’s resources but also that it’d be enjoyable to work under team chairman Terry McGuirk. The international signing scandal that opened the GM seat cost the organization some prospects, but Anthopoulos suggests that does not change the overall trajectory of the team, which he says is loaded with young talent.

    The Braves certainly have not engaged in a ton of momentous dealmaking since Anthopoulos took over, but he did discuss the massive salary-swapping arrangement he worked out with the Dodgers. It helped, he acknowledged, that he had just been with the Los Angeles organization, as he knew its intentions and had plenty of trust with its leadership. While both sides explored other possibilities before pulling the trigger on the deal, Anthopoulos says it was the “only deal that was going to make sense” for the Braves involving Matt Kemp.

    Moving Kemp to clear the way for the eventual call-up of Ronald Acuna was the “number one priority from a player standpoint,’ says Anthopoulos. Reallocating salary commitments to the 2018 season functioned to create ample “financial flexibility” for the organization moving forward. It seems the goal for the coming season is to develop and assess young players before deciding whether and how the organization “might need those dollars” it freed for the future.

    At spring camp, Anthopoulos says, he’s focused on getting to know the young players who are vying to become parts of the organization’s future. Some, he acknowledges, may end up being traded. The spring offers a chance to gain new insight on the “human element,” Anthopoulos says, calling that one of the many elements he has gained additional appreciation for over his decades in the game.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Luiz Gohara Could Be Out Until At Least May]]> 2018-03-11T20:26:01Z 2018-03-11T20:25:35Z
  • Braves left-hander Luiz Gohara’s sprained ankle is likely to keep him out until May, if not later, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Manager Brian Snitker acknowledged that ““it’s going to be a while” for Gohara because he’ll essentially have to restart spring training from scratch when he’s well enough to return. A healthy Gohara may have opened the year in the Braves’ rotation, but his injury woes could lead to veteran lefty Scott Kazmir claiming a spot, O’Brien notes. A hip injury prevented Kazmir from pitching in the majors in 2017, his final year with the Dodgers.
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