The Braves made the first significant free agent splash of the winter when they inked Josh Donaldson to a one-year deal worth $23M. Anthopoulos also brought home old friend Brian McCann on a team-friendly one-year deal worth $2M.
We all knew the Braves had multiple holes to fill this winter if they wanted to remain atop the National League East moving forward. The additions of Donaldson and McCann certainly help in that regard. There is plenty of other work left to be done, though.
General Manager Alex Anthopoulos went on MLB Network Radio and discussed his plans. He says they have three priorities at this point: a front-end starting pitcher, a late-inning reliever and an outfielder.
This shouldn’t exactly come as breaking news to anyone, but it does present a chance to see what options are out there. Anthopoulos plays things extremely tight-lipped and what he says should not be taken at face value; you’ll recall that a few weeks ago he said he was pleased with the current infield situation, and obviously that was not the case with the addition of Donaldson.
The Braves’ payroll hangs around $105M at the moment, although some things on the horizon (such as the decision on whether or not to tender contracts to Arodys Vizcaino, Adam Duvall and others) will swing that figure a bit. There is also the possibility of Julio Teheran ($11M in 2019), Darren O’Day ($9M) or others being moved in the next few months to trim costs. Even if the opening day payroll is around $130M, there is plenty of flexibility money-wise to address those three desires.
Adding an outfielder will not be difficult. Between the many free agent outfielders and the two dozen (or so) outfielders who could be acquired in trade, that feels like something that will get done sooner rather than later. It’s a big decision to make, though, as that player will likely slot in either first, second or fifth in the batting order depending on his skill set.
Outside of Craig Kimbrel, which seems very unlikely given his cost, there aren’t many proven closers on the market this winter, although there are a handful of really good relievers who could shift to the 9th inning if needed. The way bullpens are utilized in today’s game is evolving, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see the Braves add at least one proven arm if not two.
The most difficult area to address is the top of the rotation. Outside of Patrick Corbin, who figures to get mega dollars as this year’s top free agent, there isn’t anyone on the market who I’d qualify as legit No. 1 or No. 2 starter. As we know, front-end starting pitchers are rarely traded, and one of them, James Paxton, has already been moved this month.
The Braves could head into the spring figuring Mike Foltynewicz, Kevin Gausman, Sean Newcomb and some combination of Max Fried, Luiz Gohara, Mike Soroka, Touki Toussaint, Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright would form a reliable starting rotation. Anthopoulos may think that’s good enough. He might also want to acquire a proven arm to pair with Foltynewicz at the top to ensure 40 percent of his rotation comprised of guys with a combined 26 major league starts.
The next three months should be a lot of fun.