7 Bold Predictions for the Atlanta Braves' Offseason
While two teams are competing in the World Series, the Atlanta Braves are now focusing on the offseason.
The biggest storyline will be about Michael Bourn, while other moves must be made to ensure the Braves remain competitive.
Any way you look at it, this offseason could set the tone for the next five years.
Here are seven bold predictions for the Braves this offseason.
Michael Bourn Will Not Re-Sign with the Braves
While most Braves fans hope the team can re-sign Michael Bourn, it's not going to happen.
Bourn is likely going to command at least $15 million over five years. For the Braves and Liberty Media, that's likely too high of a price, and they'll end up letting him walk.
While losing Bourn would hurt, all you have to do is look at what he did in the final month of the season. He batted .215 with two RBI, five stolen bases and an on-base percentage of .347.
That's not exactly what you want to see out of your leadoff hitter.
While the Braves will make every attempt to re-sign him, the likely price tag of $15 million a year will be too high.
So, who do the Braves sign to play center field?
Shane Victorino or B.J. Upton Will Be the Leadoff Hitter
This is a hard one to predict as the market for Michael Bourn will dictate the market for the rest of the free-agent leadoff hitters.
Shane Victorino and B.J. Upton would each be great fits in Atlanta.
While neither will steal the amount of bases Bourn does, both play as good of defense and can get on base with the best of them.
Victorino did have his struggles at the plate this year, but for the most part he's a .280 hitter. His defense is one of the best in the league in the outfield as well.
He would likely cost the Braves about $7 million a year.
As far as Upton, he just needs a change of scenery from Tampa Bay. He's not likely to hit for a high average, but he will provide power and speed at the top of the lineup.
Over the last two years, Upton has 51 home runs, 159 RBI and 67 stolen bases. He runs a line of .244/.315/.441 as well.
Upton will likely fetch around $9-10 million a year.
Then again, it all depends on Bourn. If he doesn't get the big dollars like he expects, then the market will be different for Victorino or Upton.
Also, don't be surprised if the Braves go after Angel Pagan, who would be another great fit in Atlanta. He has the same tools as both Victorino and Upton, and that would carry over to Atlanta.
No Catcher Will Be Signed
Brian McCann recently had shoulder surgery and will be out for six months. That puts a return date around May 1.
The Braves already have a good backup in David Ross, who will likely get a majority of the starts to begin the year.
While some may think the Braves need to sign a backup to Ross to begin the season, they forget there's someone already in-house.
Atlanta faces a tough decision on McCann after this season. He becomes a free agent after the year and the Braves have to decide if they want to re-sign him.
Before that decision, however, they're going to take a long look at Christian Bethancourt.
With McCann out the first month of the season, it would be the perfect opportunity to see what the kid is made of. It's a win-win situation for the Braves.
If he performs well and the Braves decide to let McCann walk, they will have confidence in their new catcher. If they re-sign McCann, they'll have showcased to other teams what the young catcher could do. In the long run, that will be able to bring a lot back in a trade.
Pitcher Options Will Be Picked Up
Pitchers Paul Maholm and Tim Hudson will both have their options picked up this offseason.
Had Brandon Beachy not gotten injured during the regular season, then it's likely that only one of them would have had their option picked up.
A report by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says the Braves plan to exercise Maholm's option worth $6.5 million.
Hudson is in the same boat as O'Brien, and the Braves are expected to pick up his $9 million option as well.
That's five starting pitchers from last year's rotation the Braves are expected to carry into 2013.
Or are they?
Blockbuster Trade This Offseason
The Braves have five strong starting pitchers, with more waiting in the wings in the minor leagues.
Frankly, there are too many starters who are capable of playing in the big leagues, and the Braves have to make a move.
That move will be for Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton.
While many will laugh at this, saying Arizona won't give up its star player, they also forget the D-Backs are in need of pitching.
Enter the Braves. With players like Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado and Sean Gilmartin ready to be on a big-league roster for good, the Braves can part with one (pairing with Mike Minor) or two.
Delgado would be a definite choice, while it would be a toss-up between Teheran and Minor for the other spot. The Braves aren't likely to deal Gilmartin given he's still developing.
It will also take a third prospect, although it won't have to be a highly touted prospect like the others. Other prospects the Braves could deal are Navery Moore, Edward Salcedo and Zeke Spruill.
By bringing Upton in, the Braves will fill a gap in the outfield and be able to move Martin Prado to third base.
Martin Prado Will Get Long-Term Extension
After proving how important he is to the Braves, Martin Prado is going to get a long-term extension from the Braves.
Last year, Prado had a line of .301/.359/.438. He is the perfect No. 2 hitter in the Braves' lineup.
There's no reason to believe we won't get at least $8 million a year.
He's shown his versatility, and that's something the Braves need to have around. Look for him to get four or five years with at least the $8 million sum...maybe more.
Reed Johnson Will Be Re-Signed
When the Braves traded for Reed Johnson (along with Maholm), they got more than they bargained for.
Johnson was great when he started in games and helped provide some spark off the bench.
While Eric Hinske has been great the last few years for the Braves, we saw him struggle this year, and the Braves are going to let him walk in free agency.
Enter Johnson, who will be the Braves' top option off the bench, with the team likely keeping him for the next two or three years.
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