Atlanta Braves' Big Offseason Questions That Still Need to Be Answered
The Atlanta Braves have been selective in making moves so far this offseason.
With a young and talented core in tact, the Braves don't have many major moves to make.
However, there are still some questions that need to be answered as we approach the new year.
If the Braves are going to repeat as National League East champions, they have some loose ends that need to be tied up, to solidify this team as the early favorite.
With that in mind, here are some questions that the Braves still need to answer this offseason.
1. Who Starts at Second Base?
The only starting position that is up in the air is second base.
As the roster currently stands, Dan Uggla would be the Opening Day starter, but it's no secret the Braves would like to move Uggla before the season starts given his struggles.
If the Braves can find a suitor for Uggla, the Braves would have Ramiro Pena or Tommy La Stella to become the starter.
I'm all for La Stella to be given the opportunity to win the starting second base job in spring training.
While Pena looks to be a capable starting second baseman, I believe the Braves like his value in late-game situations at the plate and in the field.
La Stella is a high contact, low-strikeout hitter and would be a great fit in this Braves lineup.
The second base job will be interesting to watch over the rest of the offseason.
2. How Do Braves Round out the Bullpen?
Once again, the Braves should have one of the league's top bullpens in 2014.
Closer Craig Kimbrel and setup men Jordan Walden, Luis Avilan and David Carpenter are all set to return.
The Braves also will get Jonny Venters back— at some point, and added an intriguing reliever in sidearm, Luis Vasquez.
However, the Braves want to solidify the bullpen with one more piece.
The most likely candidate is Eric O'Flaherty, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery and won't be available on Opening Day.
The Braves seem interested in bringing O'Flaherty back, with David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweeting there's a "good chance" a deal will get done.
It will be interesting to see how the negotiations play out.
If O'Flaherty signs elsewhere, the Braves will look for a short-term replacement.
3. Will the Braves Extend Young Players?
The benefit of having a core of young players is the team's control over those players.
The downside is the escalating price of these players in arbitration as they become more and more valuable.
Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Mike Minor, Andrelton Simmons and Craig Kimbrel are all eligible for free agency between 2015 and 2017.
The Braves should be looking to extend these players now to ensure they'll be Braves as the team heads to their new ballpark in 2017.
Extending these players now would help general manager Frank Wren avoid some headaches in the next few years.
4. Will Braves Monitor Additional Starting Pitchers?
The Braves were hoping to add a veteran presence to a starting rotation that lacked much experience, following the departure of Tim Hudson.
It looks very, very likely that the team will be done adding a starter after signing Gavin Floyd to a one-year deal.
However, Wren would be smart to continue to monitor the market in case a starting pitcher becomes more available.
It's worth noting that the Justin Upton deal looked dead at this time last year, only for it to be rejuvenated as the asking price changed.
As the season approaches, it's always possible a team lessens the asking price in hopes of moving a player.
It's highly unlikely anything changes for adding a top-end starter.
However, the market should still be monitored— just in case.
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