Now that the Braves have a new GM and MLB has handed down the punishment for John Coppolella’s and John Hart’s international spending scandal, it feels like we can finally shift our focus to the offseason. Here is part three of our offseason questions series:
There’s a very good chance you already know about Ronald Acuna, the 19-year-old wunderkind who dominated three levels of the minor leagues in 2017 before becoming MVP of the prospect-rich Arizona Fall League. He’s a true five-tool talent who could help transform the Braves as early as next spring.
There’s also a good chance you know that Nick Markakis and Matt Kemp (and Ender Inciarte, for that matter) are all signed through 2018, with Kemp around through 2019 and Inciarte a couple years past that.
Alex Anthopoulos has many things to tackle this offseason, but perhaps his most pressing need as the club’s new GM is finding a suitor for Markakis ($11M in 2018) and/or Kemp ($18M in 2018 and 2019). This will not come easy given both their obvious flaws, ages and contracts.
I mentioned Inciarte above, and while an argument can be made for dealing him, I don’t think it would be wise to do so unless a pinch-me-I’m-dreaming offer came along. Anthopoulos has never shied away from the big deal, but the odds of an Inciarte deal are about as low as it can go. It would be a real shock given his skillset and contract.
Markakis should be easier to move than Kemp. He’s owed far less money and will be a free agent in a year’s time, and he can at least handle a corner outfield spot on a semi-regular basis. Add in his strong presence in the clubhouse and an average bat (101 wRC+ over his last 1,000 plate appearances) and there may be a few suitors out there, especially if the Braves eat some money. Perhaps the Royals or Orioles would be a fit.
Kemp looked like a different person in April and May (156 wRC+), but hamstring injuries would bother him the rest of the way as his bat and glove faltered. He finished with a negative WAR.
A true DH at this point in his career, only a handful of teams would have use for Kemp’s bat. Add in the $36 million he’s set to earn the next two years (plus money from the Dodgers) and Anthopoulos will have to get mighty creative in order to get him out of town. An exchange of bad contracts would seem to be the only way to get rid of him.
As far as offseason moves go, the Braves could stand to gain the most from addition by subtraction in the outfield.