The bullpen and starting rotation have been good, but pieces could be added to help the pen continue its recent success. As for the rotation, turnover seems inevitable. Both Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana will be free agents. Mike Minor has pitched so poorly that his spot may also be up for grabs in 2015.
Of course, certain places that appear to be holes now may not be. Backup catcher has been a struggle this season, but top prospect Christian Bethancourt should make the club next season and take that role.
Here are 10 players that Atlanta will be targeting during the winter, listed around the diamond starting with the position players.
1. Emilio Bonifacio
Bonifacio has had fewer than 70 at-bats as a Brave this season. He isn't receiving regular playing time anywhere but has contributed all over the diamond. His versatility, speed and solid contact skills make him an incredibly useful asset. This is especially true for a team like Atlanta who may need to fill plate appearances at center field and second base routinely in 2015.
2. Chase Headley
It may be time for Atlanta to bring in someone to compete with Chris Johnson for at-bats at third base. While Johnson is signed through 2018, his numbers have been far from his career year of 2013. Also, Johnson has displayed pretty severe platoon splits in his career. He has a career .312 average and .793 OPS versus lefty pitchers but bats just .277 with a .730 OPS versus right-handers.
Although he hasn't hit well in a few years, there are numerous seasons where Headley was better than Johnson has ever been. Headley also doesn't display a huge platoon split and is actually better against righties.
3. Melky Cabrera
B.J. Upton is not going anywhere as far as the 25-man roster is concerned. That doesn't mean Atlanta has to go through the whole Dan Uggla charade again. Upton's play has not warranted everyday at-bats for years now. Even if he's on the roster for 2015, the Braves need a starting center fielder. Luckily for them, Cabrera will be available and has been tremendous at the plate for a few years now.
Although Cabrera hasn't played center since 2011, he's a capable outfielder and a tremendous batter. Both statements should be welcome relief for Braves fans used to watching Upton day in and day out.
4. Kendrys Morales
Morales is not needed as a designated hitter for the National League Braves, obviously. He also isn't needed to play first base with Freddie Freeman entrenched there. However, Atlanta got no production from its bench this season and could use a reliable bat to pinch hit and play once a week. Morales' own 2014 was a lost season after his contract demands never materialized, and he got a late start. However, he is not too far removed from great offensive years at the plate.
5. Jorge De La Rosa
6. Justin Masterson
7. Jon Lester
8. Aaron Harang
The Braves will have a lot to decide in regards to their starting rotation and starting pitching depth. Although four players may not be added, these players represent four types of guys the team could target.
De La Rosa represents a good starter. He's not great and probably won't ever be. He's a solid, reliable guy for the middle of a rotation.
Masterson represents buying low. He was so horrid in 2014 that Atlanta could grab him cheap and hope for a resurgence. It may be riskier than adding a different starter but could pay off with more bang for the buck.
Jon Lester is obviously an ace. He is not going to re-sign with Oakland and will demand a ton of money. Adding Lester would slide Julio Teheran into the No. 2 starter slot, which might be more suited for him.
Aaron Harang could simply be brought back as well. The same goes for Ervin Santana. On one-year deals, both performed well in 2014. Atlanta could double down if the price is right yet again.
9. Luke Gregerson
10. Phil Coke
No matter how well certain parts of a team's bullpen perform one year, the group must be addressed and retooled the next. Relief pitcher performances are simply too erratic. Just look at Luis Avilan and David Carpenter for proof of that.
Luke Gregerson is a very good righty pitcher and has been for years. If the contract is right, bringing in a reliable veteran to pitch with the likes of Shae Simmons and Juan Jaime seems like a smart move.
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