The Braves saw an early exit in the 2012 playoffs.
If the Atlanta Braves want to make a run at the World Series, there are three moves they must make in the offseason.
Atlanta's center fielder and leadoff hitter Michael Bourn could be moving during the offseason. The Braves will need to find someone to replace his production.
They still need to find a third baseman to fill the void left by Chipper Jones, but the options in free agency are thin.
They Braves don’t need to worry about pitching, however. They picked up the 2013 option for Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm.
They also have Tommy Hanson, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy as starting pitchers.
Atlanta's main concern is finding replacement fielders. Martin Prado seems to be the most likely candidate to fill in at third base. The Braves just need to sign two outfielders during the offseason, and then they will be set.
The Braves are playoff contenders with their current roster. Any signing or trade that the Braves make will instantly make them better and turn them into World Series favorites.
Denard Span would be a cheap replacement for Michael Bourne.
Michael Bourn had one of his best years as the leadoff hitter for Atlanta. He had 171 hits, nine home runs and 57 RBI.
According to CBS Sports, the Braves desperately want to re-sign Bourn. They offered the speedy leadoff man a one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer, but he is expected to decline the offer for a bigger, longer deal worth up to $100 million dollars.
If Bourn decides not to sign with Atlanta, the Braves shouldn’t fret. There are plenty of outfield options for the Braves. They could trade for Twins outfielder Denard Span as Bourn’s replacement. He is much cheaper than Bourn, yet has similar stats.
In 2012, Span had 146 hits, four home runs and 41 RBI with a .283 average. As the leadoff hitter, Span had a .339 on-base percentage, which is only .006 points less than Bourn's.
According to MLB.com, Span is due only $4.75 million as a part of a five-year contract from the Twins.
With the extra money the Braves would save, they would be able to sign Martin Prado and Jason Heyward to long-term deals.
Nick Swisher has hit 20-plus home runs in 9 straight seasons.
Signing Nick Swisher only makes sense if the Braves decide to move Martin Prado from left field to third base as a replacement for Chipper Jones.
Let’s say that Prado does move. What can Swisher bring to Atlanta?
He is a consistent hitter who can also hit for power. Swisher hit for at least 20 home runs and 69 RBI in his first eight full seasons.
Along with his hitting, Swisher is a great asset in the field. He can play both corner outfield spots and even first base, if needed. In 102 starts in left field, Swisher posted a .983 fielding percentage and only four errors.
Swisher would fit perfectly into Atlanta's lineup in either the No. 6 or 7 spot. He is a great bat to have in the lower half of the order.
Martin Prado is the best utility player in the MLB.
Martin Prado is arguably the Braves' best player.
He is a consistent No. 2 hitter who can get on base and drive in runs. He has averaged 12.25 home runs, 60.5 RBI and a .342 on-base percentage over the last four years.
In 2011, he had his lowest batting average with .260. He quickly proved that it was a fluke as he posted a .301 average this past season.
Prado has also proven himself as an excellent fielder. In seven seasons, he has only 41 errors.
He helps the Braves so much by being able to play six of the eight possible positions (excluding pitching). Having Prado as a true utility player lets manager Fredi Gonzalez rest some of his starters throughout the season.
Prado should cost the Braves about $7 million per year. He is only 29 years old, so signing him for five or six years would help the Braves make multiple runs for the World Series.