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Atlanta Braves news and links: Braves may be closest rebuilding team to contention

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A good chunk of the National League has their eyes squarely focused on the future. The Braves are one of those teams, but they may be closer to returning to contention than any of the others.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

BRAVES NEWS

CBS Sports: Braves could be contending by 2018

The National League has 15 teams, and of those teams, six figure to be pretty bad. Four of those teams are obviously rebuilding, and one of those teams just happens to be our beloved Atlanta Braves. While the organization has repeatedly stated that their goal is to have a competitive team by the time they move to SunTrust Park for the 2017 season, it's looking more and more like 2018 may realistically be the year of a possible playoff push for the Braves. According to Mike Axisa of CBS Sports, the Braves may be hitting that window of contention before any of their contemporaries in the rebuilding pool.

...Atlanta has arguably the best farm system in baseball, one loaded with pitching prospects and near MLB-ready position player talent like Dansby Swanson and Mallex Smith. Young pitching is the best currency in baseball and the Braves have it in spades. Expect to see them flip some of those arms to fill their position player needs soon.

On top of that great farm system, the Braves also have several young big league players under long-term control who can be part of the next great Braves team. I'm talking specifically about Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran, and Ender Inciarte. Freeman is the oldest of the group at 26, and all three are under contractual control through at least 2020.

Three former Braves are trying to make it in Kansas City

If you're a former Braves pitcher who recently suffered some injury woes and you're trying to make it back to the big leagues, then apparently Kansas City is the place for you. Royals GM Dayton Moore has gone to the well of his old stomping grounds on plenty occasions, and he's recently filled up the bucket from that well with 3 former notable Braves -- Kris Medlen, Peter Moylan, and Mike Minor. Minor recently signed a contract to join the Royals, and he's hoping that he'll be able to make an impact for his new club at some point in the future.

"I'll pitch this year," Minor said. "I just don't know when. The philosophy here is, 'We go one day at a time.' It’s not about how many reps or throws you make. It's about how you feel. It's good for me and good for the front office. They're looking at me to get healthy and help them out a little bit in the second half and then next year -- just like Medlen."

Folty throws off of a mound in "controlled" session

Meanwhile in news concerning current Braves pitchers, Mike Foltynewicz threw off of a mound this weekend. Granted, it was a "controlled" session and it was only 15 pitches, but it's encouraging news for both Folty and the Braves since it means that he should be able to return in a timely fashion. Also, Grant McAuley caught up with pitchers Bud Norris and Casey Kelly for a couple of interviews.

Talking Chop Podcast Episode 3 focuses on the minor leagues

The highly anticipated and never duplicated Talking Chop Podcast is back at it again with their third installment, and this time, Eric joined up with Carlos and Brad to talk about the current apple of everybody's eyes: The Minor League system. If you love prospects -- and quite frankly, who doesn't? -- then you should definitely give this a listen.

MLB NEWS

Dodgers finalize signing of Yasiel Sierra

The Los Angeles Dodgers have once again dipped their toes into Cuban waters, and this time they've come up with a pitcher. They've had an agreement in place since January, but they finally made the signing official: six years and $30 million. If the numbers below are any indication, then the Dodgers have a real project on their hands.

Sierra had a 4.23 ERA in five years in La Serie Nacional in Cuba, with 221 strikeouts and 166 walks in 300 innings for Holguin and Sancti Spiritus. He started 25 of his 131 career games in Cuba, though in the 2014-2015 season all 36 of his appearances came in relief.

In his final season in Cuba, Sierra had a 6.10 ERA in 62 innings, with 55 strikeouts and 31 walks, though nine of the walks were intentional. He also had 11 wild pitches and seven hit by pitches. He hit 38 batters in his last three seasons.

Dexter Fowler may be joining the Orioles soon

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Orioles have been snapping up free agents in these latter stages of the offseason. After signing Yovani Gallardo, the O's apparently have their sights set on picking up former Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler. The two parties are reportedly close to an agreement on a two-year, $24 million deal. Fowler is coming off of a solid 2015 season in which he hit .250/.346/.411 with 17 home runs, 110 wRC+, and 3.2 fWAR.