The Winter Meetings are still rolling on (and if you want to hear John Coppolella talk to Grant McCauley about what’s been going on so far, then we’ve got you covered) and so far, the biggest Braves news hasn’t been a trade or a signing. It’s been the fact that Coppolella has once again put the onus on the young pitchers to earn a spot in the rotation. Although he didn’t name names, you have to figure that guys like Aaron Blair and Matt Wisler were placed in Coppy’s crosshairs with the comments he made yesterday.
This is some tough love from the Braves' GM, and it's more than fair. Wisler and Blair were terrible in 2016, with the latter posting a 7.59 ERA during his first 15 big league starts. They need to be better.
It's worth noting that Coppy didn't directly mention Wisler or Blair in his quote, but let's be real here. He's not talking about Williams Perez.
Meanwhile, John Hart told Fox Sports South that he’s in favor of the approach that Coppy is taking with the young pitchers and he figures that this is the best way to go about developing those guys. If that’s the case and this is the rotation that the Braves go with as they enter the 2017 season, then you can imagine that the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation is going to be pretty intense during the spring.
The Braves foresee a rotation, that without any further additions via trade or the free-agent market, will include Teheran, Colon, Dickey and Garcia, with the fifth spot up for grabs. They expect Blair, Foltynewicz and Wisler among the short list of those entering spring training in that mix.
"It's OK for these guys. Let them come in and compete for one job," Hart said. "That's how it's supposed to be, isn't it, when you're good? Let them compete for one job. Let's see."
2016 was very rough for Eric O’Flaherty. He made 39 appearances and managed to get an ERA of 6.91 and a FIP of 4.33 and his season ended in September when he was diagnosed with elbow neuritis. Despite the rocky road that he travelled last season, the Braves have decided that it’s worth giving him another shot at spring training, as they’ve brought him back on a minor league deal.
While the Braves and Nationals figured to be the front-runners in a potential trade for Chris Sale, there were still other teams lurking in the shadows and preparing to pounce at the right time. One of those teams was the Red Sox, and they’ve swung a deal that sends prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech to the South Side of Chicago in exchange for the former White Sox ace.
There’s also a lot to wonder about just how much better Chris Sale actually makes this team. He’s an exceptional pitcher, and will be Boston’s for the next three years (at a fairly reasonable price), but they were already a good team with a good rotation.
That being said, if the Red Sox were going to go all-in on 2017, they have at least done a good job of that. Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Eduardo Rodriguez are not in the deal. Even Blake Swihart remains. Moncada may have eventually taken over third base before the season was over, and Michael Kopech had an outside shot to play a bullpen role by the end of the year. But as far as 2017 were concerned, they were not nearly so likely to make the difference as Sale is.
Meanwhile, the Rays made a bit of a splash by signing Wilson Ramos to a two-year deal that could be worth up to $18.25 million. Of course, this is all pending a physical and considering that Ramos tore his ACL and is still in the process of rehabbing from that injury, it’s not a given that this will go through. If it does, then the Rays figure to have a solid situation at the catcher spot once he returns.