10 Realistic Moves Atlanta Braves Should Consider
For a team that finished the 2013 campaign with 96 wins, the Atlanta Braves have an uncommonly busy offseason ahead of them.
Here's just a peek at Frank Wren's offseason checklist:
- Figure out what to do with Dan Uggla and the second base position
- Negotiate with Brian McCann
- Get B.J. Upton right again
- Weigh the pros and cons of returning Tim Hudson to Atlanta
- Determine the Braves' No. 1 starting pitcher
And that's not even the half of it.
It's not an all-inclusive list, but here are 10 moves Atlanta should seriously consider this offseason.
Trade Dan Uggla Back to Miami
No surprise here, as Dan Uggla is essentially the cover boy of the Atlanta offseason.
In the last couple of weeks, the conversation surrounding Uggla has shifted from if he should get moved to where he should be moved.
A deal with Cincinnati that would send Brandon Phillips to Atlanta seems to be popular among Braves fans, but taking on Phillips' four-year $50 million contract could financially cripple the Braves when it's time to give contracts to core Braves going forward.
If the Marlins are interested in bringing Uggla back and willing to take some of his salary off the books, the Braves should jump on the chance to clear some cap space to help the team elsewhere.
Let Brian McCann Walk
Speaking of large contracts, Brian McCann will be looking for a hefty pay-raise, and a long-term one at that.
Seeing as McCann will be turning 30 years old before the start of the 2014 season, and Atlanta has neither an open first base spot nor a DH spot to lengthen McCann's career, he does not look destined to stay.
Odds are McCann will be headed to an American League team with the pockets to pay him long term.
Atlanta can't afford to get into a bidding war with the Rangers or Yankees, so General Manager Frank Wren's best bet will probably be to offer McCann a contract out of respect, but let McCann walk in order to free up money to allocate elsewhere.
Start the Extensions
This is where the money saved from not having Brandon Phillips and Brian McCann should go.
With Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel and Kris Medlen eligible for arbitration, Mike Minor one season away and Justin Upton a free agent in two years, Atlanta needs to manage its money very wisely over the next few years.
If Atlanta wants to try to lock up Heyward, Freeman and Justin Upton for the long haul, it would be in its best interest to sign Heyward and Freeman to team-friendly long-term deals before their prices climb through the roof.
Trade for David Price
Atlanta could also allocate the money saved from Brian McCann to David Price for the next couple of years.
This deal is not a "must" by any means, but if the Braves don't believe that they can win a playoff series with Mike Minor, Kris Medlen and Julio Teheran at the top of the rotation, a trade for Price could definitely be in the works.
The structure of the deal is up in the air but would almost definitely include a catcher (either Christian Bethancourt or Evan Gattis) and two other players—probably a high-level arm and a low-level bat.
Atlanta shouldn't gut its system to add Price—not with Teheran and Minor developing into top-of-the-rotation arms—but if Wren can pull off the deal without hurting the Braves long term, it should be done.
Trade Evan Gattis
Speaking of trading Evan Gattis, now might be the time to capitalize on his value.
I'm not advocating that Atlanta trade Gattis, but the time could be right.
With Christian Bethancourt being groomed to take over the full-time catching job and no room for Gattis at first base or in the outfield, the Braves could use Gattis as a chip to acquire either a second baseman or David Price.
And if Gattis can be used in place of Bethancourt in a deal for Price, Atlanta should take advantage of that.
Again, Atlanta should not be actively shopping Gattis. But if the right deal comes around, Frank Wren should listen.
Hand the Reins over to Christian Bethancourt
If Brian McCann's departure is an inevitability, Atlanta is left with three in-house options at catcher: Gerald Laird, Evan Gattis, and Christian Bethancourt.
The most likely scenario for Atlanta is to enter the 2014 season platooning Gattis and Laird at catcher while starting Bethancourt in Triple-A to develop its future of the catching position a little more offensively.
However, should Bethancourt have a good spring at the plate, he has the best glove of the three of them and should merit a serious look at the starting catching gig.
Bring Omar Infante Back to Atlanta
The last four slides all have to deal with the second base position in Atlanta.
Should Atlanta choose to dip into the free agent pool to find its answer at second base, Omar Infante is the clear answer.
In addition to instantly shoring up the second base position defensively, Infante would likely hit second in the order (behind Jason Heyward) and dramatically decrease the amount of strikeouts in the Atlanta lineup.
He also owns the ability to play shortstop, third base and all three outfield positions when called upon.
Trade for Kolten Wong
With Matt Carpenter currently manning second base for the Cardinals, St. Louis General Manager John Mozeliak has to decide to either move him across the diamond to third base, or deal prospect Kolten Wong.
If he decides to deal him, Atlanta should be the first team to make the call.
An athletic speedster with some pop and the potential to become a good defensive second baseman, Wong would anchor the position for Atlanta for years.
The only question would be how much St. Louis would ask for.
Give Second Base to Ramiro Pena
Atlanta's top major league option for the second base position is Ramiro Pena.
Pena might be the most likely starting second baseman for the Braves, as he would already be a major defensive upgrade, and he hit extremely well in 50 games last season.
Without 500 career major league plate appearances though, what Pena can do with the stick over a full season of work is yet to be determined.
Call Up Tommy La Stella
On the other end of the spectrum is Tommy La Stella, Atlanta's top second base prospect.
Essentially the inverse of Ramiro Pena, who has a great glove and needs to prove his bat, La Stella has done nothing but hit in the minor leagues.
After posting a triple slash line of .302/.386/.460 as a 23-year-old in High-A in 2012, La Stella followed it up with a line of .343/.422/.473 in Double-A last season.
Now 25, La Stella could make the jump to the big leagues and fill the second spot in the lineup behind Jason Heyward.