It's been a slow offseason around these parts. We should have expected such as this is a young team that returned much of its roster from last season. Brian McCann and Tim Hudson were tough but expected (somewhat) losses, and with the arbitration cases holding the payroll hostage and the farm system preventing big trades, there really wasn't much the Braves could do. There are certainly hopes that the Braves could still have a big move left - prices begin to fall around this time of the offseason, and the Braves, while not necessarily having the best prospects, might be offering the best prospects - but let's take a moment to look over the entire team.
Looking around the roster, there should be no surprises. If there's a space between a certain person or group of people, that means they'll probably be in the minors or their position isn't certain - for instance, Christian Bethancourt is unlikely to be in the majors, but he has a chance at the Opening Day roster. Note that these are not all of the players on the 40-man, but they are who I currently expect to be given a chance at making the Opening Day roster.
You'll note a few things. One, there are no current holes on the depth chart. Should the season begin today, the Braves could field a competent 25-man roster. The second is that Ryan Doumit is the only player who is in his last year of a contract/team control (Note: I just realized Laird should also be red, but I'm not gonna go change it right now). That means that this roster, which should still win 90+ games, will be back again next season. You'll see some red then.
The main "holes" are still in the bench and bullpen. I would say Jordan Schafer, Joey Terdoslavich, Ramiro Pena, and Ryan Doumit are near-locks for the OD roster. There are certainly a few other possibilities on the 40-man, but there are still some options remaining in free-agency to add. Another hitter - a righty like Delmon Young, perhaps, to complement Doumit - would be nice as Pena and Schafer are versatile enough to cover the defensive positions. Doumit and Gattis can also play a few positions, though poorly.
In the bullpen, the Braves have enough weapons. In my opinion, Jordan Walden is one of the critical points. If he's healthy enough for 50+ innings, I have every faith this bullpen can be elite yet again. David Carpenter adding another season like last would be awesome as well. But the remaining 3 spots in the bullpen can be filled from within. Hale can be another late-inning arm, but he can start off being a sort of 2012 Kris Medlen. Ryan Buchter can kill lefties. Any mixture of the others can be a competent middle relief/mop-up option. It ain't sexy, but it'll work. Adding a reliever or two with a track record and talent - I'd like Oliver Perez if the price is right - would give the team some depth, but it's not necessary.
And of course, there remains the hope of a frontline starting pitcher. Given the price tags we've seen floated around, it doesn't look like the Braves will nab any of them. The Cubs and Rays don't have to make any trades, so they remain in a position of leverage. A trade with Boston for Jake Peavy or John Lackey would be interesting, but Boston won't necessarily want to part with them - I'd be okay with Felix Doubront as well. If the Dodgers get Masahiro Tanaka, they'll have too many pitchers for 5 spots. What would the Brewers want for Yovani Gallardo or Kyle Lohse? The point being that there are still options available, but like with the other spots above, the Braves are still okay on this front.
So what is the to-do list?
- Get a bench bat. Preferably it's someone who can handle 3B, but I'd say the primary aim is simply someone who can hit. Doumit adds pop from the left side, so let's add a righty piece.
- Add a lefty reliever - Mike Gonzalez, Oliver Perez, and (of course) Eric O'Flaherty remain available - to take some of the pressure from Luis Avilan and to prevent Ryan Buchter from having to start the year in the majors.
- Add another veteran reliever on the cheap - plenty of guys fit this description.
And that's really it. It ain't sexy, but it should help keep the Braves fighting for the division title. And all of these are areas you can usually wait deep into the postseason for. No reason to overpay for any of these items as they'll likely contribute nearly what a Joe Smith will.
An above-average starting pitcher is still the hope, but it remains more of a desire than a need.