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Braves Mailbag: A big season for Mike Foltynewicz, Dansby Swanson’s next step and more

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This week’s mailbag answers are here!

Atlanta Braves v Boston Red Sox Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Happy Friday everyone! I wanted to first say thank you for a bunch of good questions. I couldn’t get to all of them but will try to include the ones that I passed over for the next one.

With the delay of the regular season, does the Marcell Ozuna signing now seem like a waste? Weren’t the Braves thinking Cristian Pache or Drew Waters would be ready by the summer?

Not really. When the Braves signed Ozuna, it wasn’t about him being an outfielder but was about adding a right-handed power bat to the team’s lineup. I think there was a possibility that either Cristian Pache or Drew Waters could be ready at some point in 2020 but you have to remember that they aren’t playing now either, and a late start could mean we may not see them at all until 2021. I have been dreaming of a potential outfield of Ronald Acuña Jr., Pache and Waters for a while now. I have always seen Pache as a potential replacement for Ender Inciarte, but I think we are going to have to see how it goes with Ozuna. Alex Anthopoulos did leave the door open for Ozuna and the Braves to discuss a long-term deal when his one-year pact was announced.

With one year of arbitration eligibility and many competitors for the rotation, what do you see in Mike Foltynewicz’s future with the Braves? Extension/trade?

I think this is a big season for Mike Foltynewicz for the exact reasons you listed. I think Atlanta will always be looking to add a top of the line starter to the rotation and still have enough young pitching prospects on the cusp that you could see a guy like Foltynewicz, who is starting to get expensive, get squeezed out if he doesn’t perform. It is a situation that is made more difficult by a shortened season. He struggled last season after elbow soreness wrecked his spring. How will he perform this season after Spring Training abruptly came to an end?

An extension is possible, I guess, but doesn’t seem as likely at the moment. On the flip side, he could be a non-tender candidate should he struggle in 2020. There are a lot of variables to consider with the rotation and the Braves do value their depth, but I still believe that the next season Foltynewicz pitches will be a big factor in determining his long-term future.

From 2017-2019, we’ve seen Dansby Swanson go from 64, to 80, to 92 wRC+. Does he break 100 wRC+ this year and what is the main area he must improve to do this?

Swanson could be in a similar position to that of Foltynewicz. He looked like he was on his way to a breakout season in 2019 before a heel injury wrecked his second half. He bounced back with a good performance in the Division Series but the Braves need to see him take the next step. As a hitter I think further improvement with his plate discipline would be big. He handled the slider away better last season and was able to punish pitches on the inner half as a result. I think now we just want to see him do it over a full season and that would answer a lot of questions.

I think just as important for Swanson is his performance defensively. He took a slight step back in most defensive metrics in 2019 although he was still above average per Statcast’s new Infield Outs Above Average metric. As they have done with Inciarte, Atlanta can live with league-average offense from Swanson provided his defense is good enough at shortstop.

How does all this play into service time and contracts? Would a one year contract be up after this season or would it carry over if there is no season? Same with service time, has MLB decided how this year will play into service time yet?

This is one of the big questions that is being discussed by Major League Baseball and the Players Association. Keep in mind that I am answering this at about 6 pm Thursday and no deal has yet been announced by both sides. That could change at any moment as ESPN’s Jeff Passan and Kiley McDaniel have reported that a deal is close. (A deal was struck and you can read more about it here.)

As far as service time goes, we know that this has been something that has been fiercely debated by both sides. However, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported on Wednesday that the MLB’s latest proposal would grant full service time for players if the 2020 season was canceled. Players would receive the same service time that they earned during the 2019 season.

That would be especially significant for a team like the Dodgers who would be in position to lose Mookie Betts in free agency without him ever playing a game in their uniform. It is also worth mentioning that by offering this, MLB probably feels strongly that they will be able to play some sort of seasons this summer.

Do you like Scott Boras’ plan that would put the World Series on Christmas?

No I don’t like the idea because it would all but erase the offseason and would present serious ramifications for the 2021 season as well.

How many double headers could be schedule for a team each week? During a double header each team is allowed and extra player a 26th man and this year that would be a 27th man. If you have two double headers in 5 days or 1 turn in the rotation, would MLB allow two players to be added for the second double header?

I have been pretty surprised by the amount of talk in regards to playing scheduled doubleheaders. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for doing so in order to play as many games as possible but there are some serious things that would have to be considered. I think the talk of one or even two per week is excessive from a player health standpoint in my opinion. We have already seen Spring Training start and then get shut down. We figure there will be another preseason session at some point but it may be rushed and probably won’t be as long as it should be. Then a shortened season would be treated as much more of a sprint than what is normal. It just feels like the whole thing could have some pretty negative effects on the careers of pitchers in particular.

How the league helps the situation in terms of roster makeup is something that I am sure is being discussed now.

We all know how wildly popular Chip and Joe are around these parts. Who are some other broadcasters/crews you love/hate?

I think I could sense the sarcasm in your voice when I read that first sentence. (That is how I read it anyway). Unfortunately, I spend so much time either watching the Braves or watching minor league games that I don’t get to watch as much of other teams as I would like so my opinion may not be the best opinion. When I do get to watch it seems to be a lot of west coast games so the Padres, As and Angels come to mind as some that I thought were good. The worst? It has to be the Phillies, right?