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Braves Mailbag: DH, Rotation thoughts and more

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National League Championship Series Game 3: Atlanta Braves v. Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Cooper Neill/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Thanks again for everyone that took time to send in questions for this week’s mailbag. I wasn’t able to get to all of them but we will do another one soon. Lets get right to it.

We all know that Alex Anthopoulos will not overreach to re-sign Marcell Ozuna but do you think that he actually wants a rotating DH instead having Ozuna there 90% of the time? Seems like he covets flexibility and I could see Freeman, d’Arnaud and others rotated in the DH position to keep everyone fresh during a potential full 2021 season.

I think it depends actually. We have seen a lot of American League teams trend towards not using a regular DH and using that position as a way to give players some rest without taking their bats out of the lineup. It does open up some flexibility provided that the team has the necessary depth to pull it off. Teams with a deep bench would benefit much more from this strategy. With that said, if you have an opportunity to plug in a guy like Ozuna who can help solidify the middle of your order, you would definitely do that even if it costs you some of that flexibility. In my opinion it really just comes down to how the roster is put together. I do think Alex Anthopoulos values having flexibility, but I don’t it would factor as highly as adding a strong presence to the middle of the order.

If the DH is introduced in 2022, what are some internal options we can begin to evaluate? Bryce Ball is the only candidate that jumps off the page to me, but he seems like a few years out, so I’m curious if there’s any internal names we can start to look at to potentially fill that role?

This kind of goes along with the question above and it just depends on what Atlanta’s lineup looks like. I do agree that having the DH full time in the National League would be a good outcome for Bryce Ball who probably isn’t going to be able to play anywhere but first base. No one other than Ball really jumps out at me as someone that could be locked in as a primary DH. Hypothetically speaking though, if we one day see an outfield combination of Drew Waters, Cristian Pache and Ronald Acuña Jr in Atlanta, having the DH would allow an opportunity for a guy like Michael Harris should he prove to be ready. You could just use the DH as a means to find playing time for everyone. I think it is just a matter of when and not if that the DH ends up in the National League and I think it is going to be fascinating to see how National League teams decide to use it.

If the DH is in effect for next season, what are your thoughts on going with a 6-man rotation? In theory, it would allow the starters to get more rest, thus allowing them to potentially pitch deeper into games, which would save the bullpen arms.

I don’t think it will be a situation where you see the Braves go with a six-man rotation exclusively, but there is no doubt we will see it during some stretches provided that the regular season schedule returns to something close to 162 games. Over the last few seasons, Atlanta has often used off days and at times pushed starters back in effort to keep them fresh. That will be something that will be important for a guy like Charlie Morton who is older and has dealt with some injury issues in the past. It could also be important for a guy like Ian Anderson who is looking at big increase in workload. To pull this off though, they will need some quality starter depth and I think they will have it. If Kyle Wright ends up rounding out the rotation, then guys like Bryse Wilson, Touki Toussaint and Huascar Ynoa will be waiting in the wings if they aren’t transitioned to full time roles in the bullpen. Tucker Davidson and Kyle Muller should both also be ready to contribute at some point in 2021.

Since the Braves non-tendered Duvall and Ozuna is a UFA, don’t they need to be more proactive in finding a LF before the few available ones are all gone?

I can certainly see this line of thinking but teams can’t force players to sign and the outfield market has hardly moved this offseason. Remember the Braves targeted both Smyly and Morton early and landed both. The outfield market has been slowed in large part due to the uncertainty of the DH in the National League. It seems as though that may not happen for 2021 now but there are still reports around the league that it might not be completely out of the question either. If we consider Marcell Ozuna to be Atlanta’s top target, he doesn’t really have any incentive to sign early before he knows how many teams might be interested. A guy like Michael Brantley probably needs to wait and see what happens with the DH because he immediately becomes more valuable to a National League team if there is no DH. I would guess that GMs around the league have their fingers on the pulse of the market and will act accordingly. Unfortunately, it may still be a while longer before it starts to move.

Why is MLB leadership so inept to have so many major issues as we turn the calendar to 2021 (DH in NL? Spring training? Playoff expansion in 21 or 22? Minor league seasons? And on and on and on)?

I honestly think it is just a result of years and years of mistrust from both sides. The players agreed to a CBA that didn’t do them any favors financially during the last negotiations. That has put way more pressure on union chief Tony Clark to correct those errors this time around. On the other side, you don’t own a baseball team without being a good business person and good business people don’t give away money. Personally, I would like to see some new people on both sides of the aisle charged with negotiating because I just don’t have a lot of confidence in what we have currently.

What are the expected years/AAV for the Freeman extension?

I have always looked at the five-year, $130 million extension that Paul Goldschmidt signed with the Diamondbacks as a good starting point for Freeman. Freeman will make $22 million this season. I think a raise to around $25 million annually would be fair and then it is just a matter of working out the years. This is something I still expect to get done after the roster is largely set so maybe a deal gets done sometime during spring training.

The Braves have an opening At the catcher position. Will they sign J.T. Realmuto to fill that position and hit behind Freeman?

I am a little surprised that we haven’t gotten this question a little more this offseason. Realmuto is one of the best free agents currently available and is by far the best catcher option. The Mets were seen as the most likely team to give a big contract to Realmuto but they instead pivoted and gave James McCann a four-year deal. That has kind of put a cloud on Realmuto’s market. I still think he ultimately gets big money from someone and Atlanta already has Travis d’Arnaud who has shown that he can put up good offensive numbers. If there is no DH, then neither Realmuto or d’Arnaud would likely be happy splitting the workload. If the DH were to stick around for 2021, then I do think it is an interesting idea but I am not sure the Braves would think so. Ultimately I think the Braves add a veteran catcher with 2/3 of the playing time going to d’Arnuad. I also think William Contreras could be an option late in the season and could serve as depth if needed.

If you are the Phillies, I still can’t understand how you could let Realmuto get away.

With the 2020 season being lost for most minor leaguers, how much do you think this will hurt their trade value? Will this make us overpay for a preseason trade? Who does the loss of a season hurt more – guys close to the MLB or the guys in A-Ish ball (ie. Drew Waters playing in ATL in 2021 or Shea looking at 2023..)

There is a lot to unpack there but when has Alex Anthopoulos ever overpaid since joining Atlanta? A good question I would like to have answered is how teams felt about the training at the alternate site. While most have assumed that it wasn’t as valuable as a full minor league season, I am not convinced that there wasn’t some value in the set up. I think it hurt the lower level guys more so than the guys that were closer to the major leagues because many of those players weren’t at the alternate site. As far as the individual prospects go, I think Drew Waters would have likely seen time at Triple-A in 2021 anyway and he could be an option at some point. I am also not convinced that Cristian Pache doesn’t see some time there to start the season but he probably deserves the opportunity to win a job during the spring. I heard a lot of good things about Shea Langeliers’ progress at the alternate site and I don’t think the lost season put him behind in his development. I am guessing he will be at Double-A in 2021 and could see some time at Triple-A if things go well and the Braves want to push him.