Building a 2018 Playoff Team

Building a 2018 Playoff Team

So last Friday night I was watching the Astros/Yankees game, feeling a bit depressed, maybe a few drinks in me and I decided I wanted to try to build a Braves playoff team. For 2018. I wanted to see if it’s possible. Braves have some young talent coming, a superstar to build around, a farm system of currency, some money to play with, a rather weak division to play in, and a brand new stadium so I thought, why not?

I set a couple parameters for myself to keep things as realistic as possible. First, keep the budget under 120 million. I know there have been rumors payroll will go up with STP and The Battery revenue but I’m going to believe that when I see it. Second, keep the number of big trades limited. This isn’t MLB The Show and while it’s technically possible to reshape the entire roster with 7 or 8 massive trades, that’s not exactly reality. The last rule I set myself is I have to assume all of Matt Kemp’s 2018 salary, around 18M, will still be on the books. It’s not a guarantee that will be the case but I really don’t see a way around it at this point.

Ok, so before we can create a winner, we have to set a baseline for where the team is currently. For this we are going to use team fWAR. If you don’t know how team fWAR works, basically a replacement level team, or a 0.0 WAR team, projects to have a record around 46-116. I say around because there is some margin of error but that’s a good place to build from. Some people think 0.0 WAR means 0 wins but even replacement level players have good days or weeks or even months and will win some games. Baseball is full of randomness.

So replacement level is around 46 wins, keep that in mind. Every Win Above Replacement you add to that adds a win to the standings. The 2017 Braves, for example, had a total team WAR of 26.8. Add that to 46 and you get 72.8 wins. Their actual win total was 72 wins, so well within the margin of error.

So now that we have a baseline, we need a level to reach. For this exercise, we’re going to set the mark for a playoff team at 90 wins. Some years it’ll take more, some years it’ll take less but given there are now two Wild Card teams, I feel like 90 wins gives you a real shot at the playoffs. It’s arbitrary but whatever. So, if replacement level is 46 wins and playoff level is 90 wins that means Atlanta needs a team total of 44 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). They won 72 last year and, as the team currently sits, probably would be projected for something similar so they’ve got to find 18 Wins somewhere.  Or I guess we’ve to find 18 Wins somewhere.

With that, here’s my team:

 

Player

2018
Contract

2018
WAR

C

Tyler Flower

$4,000,000.00

2.0

Kurt Suzuki

$3,500,000.00

1.5

INF

Freddie Freeman

$21,300,000.00

5.0

Ozzie Albies

$500,00.00

3.0

Dansby Swanson

$500,00.00

0.0

Jed Lowrie

$6,000,000.00

3.0

Johan Camargo

$500,000.00

0.4

Rio Ruiz

$500,000.00

0.4

Travis Demeritte

$250,000.00

0.1

OF

Ronald Acuna

$500,000.00

2.5

Ender Inciarte

$4,600,000.00

3.0

Khris Davis

$10,000,000.00

2.5

Lane Adams

$500,000.00

0.2

Dustin Peterson

$250,000.00

0.2

SP

Chris Archer

$6,500,000.00

5.0

Julio Teheran

$8,500,000.00

2.0

Luiz Gohara

$500,000.00

3.0

Mike Foltynewicz

$4,000,000.00

1.5

Sean Newcomb

$500,000.00

1.0

Max Fried

$500,000.00

1.0

Mike Soroka

$250,000.00

0.2

Lucas Sims

$500,000.00

0.1

RP

Jason Hursh

$500,000.00

0.1

AJ Minter

$500,000.00

1.5

Sam Freeman

$500,000.00

0.3

Arodys Vizcaino

$3,000,000.00

1.0

Akeel Morris

$500,000.00

0.5

Jose Ramirez

$500,000.00

0.0

Wade Davis

$10,000,000.00

1.0

Dead Money

Matt Kemp

18,000,000.00

0

Jim Johnson

$2,500,000.00

0

Nick Markakis

$5,000,000.00

0

Total

$114,500,000.00

42.0

The only way for Atlanta to have a playoff team in 2018 is with some external additions. If you want to use nothing but home-grown talent, then it’s going to be a while. So, that leads us to our first trade:

Braves get SP Chris Archer

Chris Archer – Wiki Commons

Rays get SS Kevin Maitan, SP Kolby Allard, OF Christian Pache, SP Ian Anderson

I know I’m going to lose some of you here and that’s fine but this exercise is about building a 2018 playoff team. This package hurts. That’s 4 top 100 prospects including their prize international signing Kevin Maitan. And Tampa might ask for more. I don’t know. But Maitan is 5 or 6 years away, no sure thing, and the kind of trade chip that might push Tampa to move their ace. I don’t know of many teams that can match that offer in talent. Archer is one of the best pitchers in baseball and exactly what the Braves need to start winning. There’s some speculation that Atlanta could lose Maitan when MLB announces there investigation findings and subsequent punishments but I still find that highly unlikely. The Pandora’s box that would open tells me MLB is much more likely to punish future transactions than past ones.

The next big trade is with Oakland.

Braves get OF Khris Davis and 3B Jed Lowrie

A’s get SP Kyle Muller and C Brett Cumberland

Khris Davis – Wiki Commons

This trade makes sense on several fronts. There’s been speculation that Davis’ arbitration number is going to be around 10 million this offseason, a number Oakland can’t afford, so there should be a high amount of interest to move him, even at a reduced rate. This is the perfect opportunity for Atlanta to swoop in and grab a LF with serious pop. Braves had one of the lowest ISOs of any team in baseball last year and Davis immediately helps that. Lowrie is also the perfect fit for Atlanta. One, he is very good and underpaid and the Braves need players like that to offset their collection of bad and overpaid players. Two, he’s only under contract for 2018 so the acquiring cost won’t be significant and he doesn’t block and prospects that might be moving their way to Atlanta. Lowrie and Davis combined for around 6 WAR for Oakland last year so I went slightly less, 5.5 WAR, for 2018. Both guys are really good, both guys play positions Atlanta needs upgrades, and both guys, for separate reasons, are extremely affordable to acquire. Makes sense.

After that we move to some internal improvements. The biggest upgrades from 2017 to 2018 will be getting full seasons from Luiz Gohara, Ozzie Albies, and I’m guessing Ronald Acuna. The team I built projects Albies and Gohara as 3 WAR players and given their 2017 performances and underlying skills, I didn’t feel these were unrealistic expectations. For Acuna, I went with a 2.5 WAR season which, for some, will seem modest given his production in 2017 and for others will seem aggressive since he’ll be 20 years old in 2018 and has never seen a Major League pitch. He could be better, he could be worse but I felt this at least stays in the realm of realism.

The other big addition for this team was adding Wade Davis to the bullpen. Braves bullpen was terrible in 2017 and some outside help will be required to get it to playoff standards in 2018. There will be internal improvements, getting full years from guys like A.J. Minter and Akeel Morris, to go along with Arodys Vizcaino, Sam Freeman, and Jose Ramirez but adding one or two experienced guys will be a must this off-season. For this team, I only added Davis to the roster but I left room in the budget to add more if necessary.

Other points of note:

  • I’m still not expecting anything from Dansby Swanson, projecting a 0 WAR year for him, so being wrong there could add some unexpected value.
  • Freddie Freeman is still awesome.
  • This model does depend on a slight bounce back from Julio Teheran or for one of the younger guys to step up and replace that value. It’s possible that value could come from Newcomb who I only have down for a 1 WAR season in 2018. This is a modest projection considering that’s how much he was worth in half a season in 2017 but when in doubt, I tried to air on the side conservative.
  • This team is built with the understanding of sunk cost. Guys like Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis have to paid but that shouldn’t be confused with have to play. My outfield doesn’t have a single inning of them in it. Markakis can probably be moved if some salary is eaten (I projected around half) and Kemp probably just has to be cut.
  • You’ll notice there are more than 25 guys here. Teams use way more than 25 guys in a season and I tried to illustrate that using some of the team’s upper minor league depth. Same concept with the rotation. No team uses just 5 guys anymore so some options will be needed.
  • One thing working in Atlanta’s favor is the number of young players on the roster. Because these guys haven’t accrued enough service time, they’re making the league minimum in salary. This gives the Braves flexibility all over the roster despite not having the biggest payroll.
  • These moves need to viewed in totality. What I mean by that is I’m not advocating the team go out and just get Chris Archer. Chris Archer is great but he isn’t worth 18 Wins. That move only makes sense when accompanied with the other moves, or moves like them.

So all toll, this is a 42 WAR team. Add that to our baseline of 46 and you get an 88 Win team. I know our goal was 90 but you’ll also notice there’s still some room in the budget. And the 120 Million payroll is a number I set myself. If this team was built and the playoffs actually became a possibility then it’s very unlikely ownership would set such a hard cap.

It’s also important to remember just about all playoff teams add talent throughout the year. The Dodgers added Darvish, the Astros added Verlander, the Yankees Frazier and Gray, Cubs Quintana and on and on and on. This team I built probably needs another SP and another RP but those all don’t have to be done in the winter.

Ok, there’s my team. Let me know what you’d do different.

8 Comments

I understand that you are only proposing this to try to make a run in 2018. However, as a DIEHARD Braves fan who wants to see us compete/have a similar run like we did from 1991-2005 (abet with more World Series titles than the one we won in 1995, lol)….I feel it would be A HUGE MISTAKE to ‘go for it’ in 2018!

We simply DO NOT know/DO NOT have enough information…regarding what we exactly have when it comes to our STUD Starting Pitching Prospects! We need to see how 2018 plays out regarding A NUMBER of Starting Pitchers….to see what moves, if any, we need to make in The 2018 Offseason!

I’ve posted all this in other threads…so I’ll save rehashing it. If Acuna and Albies BOTH perform as expected (PLEASE someone FORCE Snitker to bat Albies and Acuna AT THE TOP of the order in front of Freddie! With those two…Inciarte can be dropped to 7th in the order! He simply DOES NOT walk enough/steal enough bases (not compared to Albies AND Acuna) to warrant hitting at the top of the order)….then all we have to do is GET SOME LEGIT POWER in The 2018 Offseasn (without having to give up ANY of our Pitching Prospects).

Go back to read my reasoning why I feel that The Braves should make $35 mil a year offers to BOTH Manny Machado and Bryce Harper in The 2018 Offseason! 2019….is where we should AIM…NOT 2018!!!!!!!!

Fun scenario. I love doing these and trying to set limitations on myself–different ones–each time I do so. Usually end up with between a handful and a dozen rosters by the time the winter starts heating up. Not sure where to start, so I guess I’ll comment on things in the order presented since that’s most logical.

I can get on board with Chris Archer. In fact, Thomas could probably attest to the fact that I’ve been hounding him with “If you were their GM would you…” scenarios and Archer was one of them. Maitan, Allard, Pache AND Anderson is a doozy of a package to give up…and if we did surrender such a package, I certainly hope we’d get back the someone like Brad Boxberger as well since that was the package I targeted….only difference is I tried to give the Rays a little more upfront in MLB talent with Folty and Gohara, then filled in the rest of the value with Pache, Mike Soroka and Austin Riley. For me, I guess, in my scenario I was okay with the focus still being the future. That said…my scenario also included adding a HUGE blockbuster of a signing as well which would’ve more than made up for the loss of Folty and Gohara.

Regarding Lowrie and Davis. I would not be opposed…but the realism in this situation doesn’t seem legit. This is assuming the Braves more or less cut Matt Kemp. I know perhaps your intent was to imply that we would find some DH-needy AL team looking for the cheapest bat possible and paying his entire salary because it was too difficult trying to find any significant savings, but I don’t think the organization would simply just cut bait and take on the entire salary for the next two seasons. One season, maybe…but the Braves aren’t going to give up on getting rid of some or all of that 2019 salary if they can help it and with two years left on the clock for it, we’re either going to see something really creative, or the team run Kemp out there to left 120 times before his hamstring go to heck and back. Beyond that, my intuition has me thinking the A’s would hold out for a bit more on a return for Khris Davis…but then again, the joke may be on us with this one by giving up Muller as part of me looks at Khris Davis and wonders just how much more damage Davis’s defense would do to his value if he were to log another 300 innings in left? I mean…Davis is pretty bad out there. Maybe not Matt Adams/Matt Kemp kind of bad, but he’s not Ender Inciarte either. If we’re willing to surrender Muller, perhaps we could attempt to exploit another team’s outfield glut for a more well-rounded player?

To each their own on the bullpen, I guess. Wade Davis I have to disagree with on two fronts, but perhaps the first front is because you didn’t disclose the entire contract details for his presumed signing. You’ve listed him at $10M for the 2018 salary. Unless that is a back-loaded contract, I feel that is a severe underpay. David Robertson got $11.5M a few years ago. Melancon got $15.5M a year ago. Other elites like Jansen and Chapman also cashed in with mega-deals for more. I’m not really lumping Davis into the conversation with Jansen and Chapman, but he is certainly deserving of getting within the ballpark of Mark Melancon’s AAV. 4-years, $13M/year is about where Davis value should be this winter…and I don’t think he’ll have trouble beating that projection due to an overreaction on the market by a team desperate for help. That said…even though we are kind of desperate for help, I don’t think that team paying that price is the Braves. We are desperate, sure…but we still have Minter and Vizcaino. I don’t necessarily trust them, but we still have Sam Freeman and Jose Ramirez, who did everything within their power to gain our trust and have done so with the majority of the fanbase, I’d say. The Braves need relievers, yes…but I don’t think they need a big name closer. They just need help…whether that be setting up games, speciality work or just flat out innings-eating help. Maybe we can’t do better statistically than Davis…but we certainly have to do better than that in terms of value per dollar. Davis is the “last piece of the puzzle” type guy and Atlanta, even with your proposed additions would be anything but a piece of the puzzle away.

First, I have to say I disagree totally with the Archer scenario. Better to sign Darvish or Arrieta for twice as much as Archer and keep all the prospects. Even signing a second tier veteran for a shorter term (Cobb or Lynn or even J. Garcia) and expecting better performance from the young guys. You cannot guarantee performance from anyone – better to buy smart than trade everything.

That being said it would be so much better to try and fill some holes by trading off bad contracts. For example, trade Kemp and Teheran for Brtton and Trumbo. Then you don’t need to sign either of the Davis’ (Khris or Wade). It also saves the $20M from signing the Davis’ and an additional $3M from the contracts comparison ($26M for Kemp/Teheran vs $23M for Britton/Trumbo). Trumbo brings basically the same upside OF Khris and Britton is another elite lefty reliever. The O’s get value in using Kemp as a strict DH and they are desperate for starters. If they balk, I’d throw in Sims as a sweetener. The Braves get power (minus injury risk) and a bullpen stopper. Use that extra $23M on one of the above mentioned FA starters – any that would take a 2-year contract. Trumbo can be platooned with Markakis who still provides OBA and clutch hitting with passable defense. The next step would be to trade either Markakis or Matt Adams for something of value. Although a playoff team would have to have a a M. Adams or Trumbo to protect against the loss of Freeman to injury. Having Trumbo makes trading Adams a lot easier. Oddly, the Orioles people I talk to say they think the Braves would never go for this. The Orioles, on the other hand, would jump at the opportunity to get rid of Britton’s and Trumbo’s contracts and add a real SP at the same time.

Also, use part of that $23M to sign Frazier as a bridge to Riley. You get all the power you need with Frazier and Trumbo and, hopefully, Acuna. And Frazier plays defense. That leaves Camargo as a true Super Util and available to fill in in case of any injury.

Please check out the fWAR using my plan along with keeping or trading Matt Adams who you don’t mention. Further, you list Markakis at $5 and Johnson at $2.5M. Markakis will be paid $11M and Johnson $5M regardless of whether you drop them or not. You’re going to get more WAR by keeping Markakis and M. Adams rather than using K. Davis and D. Peterson.

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