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Power Ranking Atlanta Braves' Biggest Needs Heading into Free Agency

Gavin AndrewsCorrespondent IIOctober 10, 2016

Power Ranking Atlanta Braves' Biggest Needs Heading into Free Agency

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    With the Braves' 2013 season now in the rearview mirror, General Manager Frank Wren and the Atlanta Braves now have their sights set on the offseason.

    Atlanta's needs are few but significant. Without a decent second baseman, let alone a legitimate ace to pit against Clayton Kershaw, the Braves were exposed as a good but fundamentally flawed team. 

    This offseason, Wren eyes to fix that. 

    Here's power ranking the Atlanta Braves' biggest needs.

     

    Braves contracts and potential free agents courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.

1. Second Base

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    Chris Gardner/Getty Images

    The Problem:

    Dan Uggla is making $13 MM a year to hit .180. 

    Potential Losses:

    Uggla (via trade or severance) 

    Current Big League Options: 

    Uggla, Elliot Johnson, Paul Janish 

    Possible Solutions:

    Skip Schumaker, Brian Roberts, Nick Punto, Kelly Johnson, Omar Infante (via free agency), Tommy La Stella (AA Mississippi), Jose Altuve, Kolten Wong (via trade)

    Say what you will about Atlanta acquiring a No. 1 starter to pit against Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg and Adam Wainwright; second base is currently a black hole in Atlanta. After three years, it's pretty clear that Dan Uggla is very unlikely to produce in Atlanta, and Elliot Johnson and Paul Janish are backup infielders at best. 

    With the market for free agent second baseman rather weak, Atlanta might be best off acquiring St. Louis second baseman Kolten Wong, who is blocked by Matt Carpenter. However, if Wong is too pricey Atlanta could always plug a stopgap like Kelly Johnson in.

2. Starting Pitcher

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Problem:

    Only four surefire starting pitchers in 2013 rotation: Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Kris Medlen, and Brandon Beachy (recovering from elbow surgery). Also, Atlanta lacks a legitimate ace. 

    Potential Losses:

    Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm, Freddy Garcia (all via free agency) 

    Current Big League Options: 

    Alex Wood, David Hale 

    Possible Solutions:

    David Price (via trade), Tim Hudson, Scott Baker, A.J. Burnett, Matt Garza, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana (via free agency), Cody Martin (AAA Gwinnett)

    With the contracts of Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm coming off the books and Brandon Beachy still recovering from elbow surgery, Atlanta is definitely in the market for starting pitching—specifically an ace. 

    Unfortunately, David Price stands alone as the only true No. 1 starter on the market this winter. The Braves have the chips to acquire him and take their contention to the next level. However, with Mike Minor and Julio Teheran showing such promise, Atlanta might want to see if one of their young arms develops into the kind of ace the club needs.

    If that's the case, Hudson will almost definitely be re-signed with either Alex Wood or David Hale filling the role of No. 5 starter until Beachy returns. 

3. Catcher

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    Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

    The Problem:

    Brian McCann will likely draw a higher salary in free agency than Atlanta is willing to pay. 

    Potential Losses:

    McCann (via free agency) 

    Current Big League Options: 

    Gerald Laird, Evan Gattis 

    Possible Solutions:

    Christian Bethancourt (AA Mississippi), Carlos Ruiz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia (via free agency)

    With Gerald Laird under contract for one more year and Brian McCann likely to be signed by an American League club for much moo-la this winter, now might be the perfect opportunity to see if Christian Bethancourt can handle the reins in Atlanta. 

    If Bethancourt ends up playing for, I don't know, Tampa Bay in the spring, Atlanta has two options—either platoon Laird and Evan Gattis, or sign an impact catcher and let Gattis be a bench bat. If that's the case, the Braves could easily pick up Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Carlos Ruiz and solidify the catching position.

4. Reliever

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    Brian Kersey/Getty Images

    The Problem:

    The contracts of three major cogs to previous Atlanta pens are expiring.

    Potential Losses:

    Scott Downs, Eric O'Flaherty, Luis Ayala

    Current Big League Options: 

    Alex Wood, Jonny Venters, Christhian Martinez, Cory Gearrin

    Possible Solutions:

    Re-signing Downs, O'Flaherty, and/or Ayala, Craig Breslow, Oliver Perez (via free agency), Cody Martin (AAA Gwinnett)

    Scott Downs wasn't terrific in his 14.0 innings with Atlanta, but his track record suggests that was an aberration. Eric O'Flaherty was a major piece in the 2009-2012 Braves bullpens though, and Luis Ayala twirled 31.0 meaningful innings in 2013. 

    Ideally, Jonny Venters could come back from injury and resume his prior domination. However, if the Braves are iffy on his arm, Craig Breslow and Oliver Perez are both solid candidates to sign this winter.

5. Backup Outfielder

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Problem:

    Is Reed Johnson an effective major leaguer?

    Potential Losses:

    Johnson (via buyout)

    Current Big League Options: 

    Jose Constanza

    Possible Solutions:

    Todd Cunningham (AAA Gwinnett), David DeJesus, Franklin Gutierrez (via free agency)

    Ideally, either Reed Johnson bounces back and has a great spring or Jordan Schafer grows into a larger offensive role. However, should the team need to find another outfielder, Wren could either promote from within or shop the clearance rack for free agent outfielders.

    Promoting Todd Cunningham would certainly be cheaper, but should B.J. Upton get off to another slow start, Atlanta would find itself without a third outfielder capable of both hitting and fielding. That's where signing David DeJesus or Franklin Gutierrez for cheap would come in handy.

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