The Atlanta Braves have some money to spend this off-season. And historically, when they've had money to spend, they've done some spending. It hasn't always been wise spending, but they haven't been afraid to jump into the free agent market and shell out some cash.
Earlier in the week we estimated that the Braves would have somewhere around $25 to $30 million to spend on free agents, and there are a few free agents out there who might be worthy of that money. Here's run down of the guys I think the Braves will be interested in.
He will obviously be the Braves first target, but I imagine the team will want to get his situation resolved quickly, though that won't suit his agent, Scott Boras, who will want to draw out negotiations and hold out for maximum money. So I expect the Braves to make him a qualifying arbitration offer, then I expect Boras to turn it down, and I expect the Braves to move on. It would take Bourn stepping in between his agent and the team and getting something done early if Atlanta is to re-sign him.
Bourn is an attractive target for his speed and on-base ability, and he is one of the younger free agents on the market. The Braves should be able to afford him at around $10 million to $12 million a year, but I'm guessing Boras pushes his price beyond that.
"LOLOL, are you serious?" Yes, I'm serious. Everyone thinks that Josh is going to get gobs of cash from some cash-rich team, but I'm taking a different approach. I'm of the opinion that Hamilton will go somewhere he's comfortable, somewhere out of the media spotlight, and will not necessarily demand top dollar. He's from Raleigh, and may want to move somewhere close to home. All of those things describe the Braves and Atlanta.
Hamilton is left-handed, so there may be some hesitancy in adding another left-handed hitter to the lineup, but Hamilton has handled lefties well in his career, and the allure of adding a hitter like him to any lineup should not be dismissed because of a concern about getting too one-sided in your lineup. If he could sign for a bit of a hometown discount, then the Braves could afford him. But like Bourn, Hamilton will have to want to come to Atlanta, and will have to be willing to give up some money and years to come here, as the Braves aren't going to win any bidding wars.
The Flyin' Hawaiian is no stranger to the NL East, and no stranger to the Braves. His numbers aren't flashy, but they are solid, and he would fit the mold of a mid-tier free agent whom the Braves would likely have to spend less on for fewer years. He would be a cheaper alternative to Bourn in center field.
Upton is the youngest free agent on the market, and may have some added value because of that. It would probably be easier to give him a longer term contract knowing that he's under 30. The problem with Upton is the same thing that makes him an exciting and intriguing option. He's got speed, but doesn't get on base enough and strikes out too much to be a leadoff man. He's got power, but has not shown enough power to hit in the middle of the order. Signing Upton would represent a change in the way the Braves play baseball. He would team up well with Prado and Heyward in the upper middle of the order, as they expand their aggressiveness on the basepaths and at the plate. Upton has long been on the wish list of many Braves fans, so he would likely be a welcome addition to the club, but he'd also be a player who we would expect more out of each year -- and he has the talent to answer.
I know what you're thinking, "who would sign an aging former Angels outfielder." Answer, the Barves. Hunter wouldn't be choice 1A or even 3C, but he could have a few good years left in him, he can still play a decent center field, he's right-handed and can handle middle-of-the-order duties, has a little power, a little speed. The Braves could certainly do a lot worse than Hunter, but he could be one of those mid-tier less expensive free agents. When making up a lineup sometimes guys like this can make a lineup click.
There will likely be lot of rumors this off-season about Swish coming south. The Braves seem to be rumored with him every off-season, so it will be interesting to see if it finally happens. He's a solid run producer, whose steady production can probably be counted on for 25 home runs and an .800+ OPS. He's not going to be a superstar in any lineup, but he can be a solid and important piece of any lineup. I expect teams to overpay for him, though, much like they did for Willingham and Cuddyer last year. Strangely though, he might be the one guy the Braves would overpay for.
Those are about all the impact guys out there. All outfielders, that's on purpose, I expect the Braves, if they go after high-priced free agents, to go after an outfielder. There are some pipe dreams in this group, but with the money the Braves have to spend, I expect them to end up with one of these guys. I'm sure there will be some discussion of this in the comments... have fun.