Building a Contender the Braves….I mean, The Ryan Way

Building a Contender the Braves….I mean, The Ryan Way

***New edit at bottom as, for whatever reason, I thought Brad Peacock was a free agent and that’s not true***

Building an Atlanta Braves roster to compete in 2018 isn’t for the faint of heart…

On the subject, we’ve heard from Stephen on how he would make the Braves a contender with his idea of trading a few heavy prospects to fill out the 25-man with quality. Then we heard from Tommy on how he’d go about without losing any prospects. Both seem like plausible options and I guess the reason I’d like to chime in and make my opinion known is…truthfully, these guys don’t know anything.

In fact, I cannot believe I go to pretend work with these guys. Oh…and the smell? Have you ever smelled Tommy after a full day of setting up our new blog?  I hope you haven’t had the pleasure.

But now, it’s my turn (evil laugh), and since the Minions have already laid the groundwork for me, I’ll just pick from their brains and plant my new crop right on top of their incompetent seeds…love you guys.

Many of you know that I love a flexible roster, both offensively and defensively. I love the idea of having interchangeable parts that don’t have a huge drop in production. The Cubs are the best example in the game in this regards as they use their very strong bench to give rest to their core players.  That’s the way I’m going to build a roster so follow along while I try to channel my inner-Theo to make the Braves a contender.

 

Braves Roster Casualties

  1. Jace Peterson– If you love something, let it go.  Jace is so easy to like and he seems to do just enough at the end of the season for the Braves to keep him around. This year was no different as he was a force off the bench the last 2 months.  But factor in his entire body of work, and not just his pinch hitting opportunities in August and September, and he’s been exactly a replacement level player for his career, which is below average on both sides of the ball. Doesn’t fit the Theo-model.
  2. Adonis Garcia– No explanation needed
  3. Rex Brothers– see Adonis
  4. Matt Adams– While I’d love to keep living my dream of Freddie Freeman working his behind off to be the Braves 3B for the future, it’s just not going to happen and that leaves Matt Adams as a very expensive bench player that can’t play defense. He’ll come up in a trade later in the article.
  5. Matt Kemp– There’s no DH in the NL and we saw what a year of Kemp can do for a team.  He’ll come up in a trade later in the article.
  6. Nick Markakis– Braves cannot afford to run a RFer out on a regular basis that’s barely above replacement. He’ll come up in a trade later in the article.
  7. Jim Johnson– Instability just doesn’t have a place in my 2018 bullpen so it’s time for JJ to hit the showers after shedding another uniform.  He’ll come up in a trade later in the article.

 

The Haves and the Needs

With the removal of the above 7, the Braves are left with the following core players:

Catchers: Tyler Flowers, Kurt Suzuki

Infielders: Freddie Freeman, Ozzie AlbiesDansby Swanson, Johan Camargo

Outfielders: Ronald Acuna, Ender Inciarte, Lane Adams

Starting Pitchers: Julio Teheran, Luiz Gohara, Sean Newcomb, Max Fried

Relief Pitchers: Mike Foltynewicz, Arodys Vizcaino, Jose Ramirez, A.J. Minter, Dan Winkler, Sam Freeman, Akeel Morris

With the above core, the Braves are in need of a 3rd baseman, a left-fielder, a starting pitcher, a utility fielder, and a shutdown reliever. I can help with that.

 

Free Agents aren’t Free

  1. Sign Todd Frazier, 2 year 32MM. Coming off a year where the Toddfather earned a 3 fWAR, he had a career low-BABIP. I’d love to see him in a Braves uni for 2 years.
  2. Sign Pat Neshek, 2 year 20MM- If the Braves have Sam Freeman, AJ Minter, and Jacob Lindgren pitching out of the bullpen in 2018, needless to say left-handed hitters will be sitting down with regularity. Add Neshek to this mix and the bullpen could become immediately elite.
  3. Sign Brad Peacock to a 2/32MM deal. If only Folty could take his advice, Peacock has become a really good starting pitcher primarily using 2 pitches. He’d be a good under the radar guy to plug in once every 5 games.

 

The Trades

  1. Matt Kemp and Jim Johnson to the Yankees for Jacoby Ellsbury and 5MM- Contracts neither team wants, nor do they have the room to play the other player. Braves take on an extra year with Jacoby, but he could thrive in left-field in a soft platoon with Lane Adams.
  2. Nick Markakis and Matt Adams to the Angels for Luis Valbuena. Braves rid themselves of the Markakis contract as Kakes shifts over to LF for the Angels, and the Angels get the bopper 1B they need. Valbuena becomes a super-utility bench bat for the Braves covering 3 infield positions.

The Final Roster and fWAR projections

(Click to Expand)

PlayerSalaryfWAR Projection
Tyler Flowers4,000,0002.0
Kurt Suzuki3,500,0001.5
Freddie Freeman21,359,0005.5
Ozzie Albies550,0003.0
Dansby Swanson550,0001.8
Todd Frazier17,000,0003.0
Johan Camargo550,0001.2
Luis Valbuena8,000,0001,2
Jacoby Ellsbury11,000,0002.0
Ender Inciarte4,600,0003.6
Ronald Acuna550,0002.0
Lane Adams550,0000.6
Julio Teheran8,500,0002.0
Luiz Gohara550,0002.0
Sean Newcomb550,0001.5
Max Fried550,0000.6
Brad Peacock13,000,0002.6
Pat Neshek10,000,0002.0
Arodys Vizcaino2,600,0001.2
Dan Winkler550,0000.3
AJ Minter550,0001.0
Jacob Lindgren550,0000.5
Jose Ramirez550,0000.5
Mike Foltynewicz2,300,0000.8
Rio Ruiz550,0000.4
Jesse Biddle550,0000.4
Mike Soroka550,0000.6
Lucas Sims550,0000.2
Akeel Morris550,0000.2
Micah Johnson550,0000.2

Adding up the totals, you get 44.2 fWAR and a payroll under 120 million (factoring in all of cash from the Yankees). While some of the above trades might have to add small time prospects (or MLB players) to the deals (Wisler, Blair, etc), none will cost the Braves anyone they cannot afford to lose. The real upside that I like in regards to a plan that doesn’t build by trading prospects is that it leaves a trade deadline deal for a difference maker a real possibility.  What do you guys think?

Braves 25-man roster to begin season

Lineup: Ender, Albies, FF5, Frazier, Ellsbury, Acuna, T-Flow, Dansby

Bench: Suzuki, Valbuena, Camargo, L.Adams, Micah J

Rotation: Gohara, Teheran, Newcomb, Fried, *Peacock

Bullpen: Vizzy, Neshek, Minter, Lindgren, Winkler, Ramirez, Folty

Fixing the Mistake

Thanks to the comments section, I now realize a fatal flaw in my plan: Brad Peacock is not a free agent. Maybe we can bring back Coppy and he “work something out with Peacock”…too soon? Anywho, in my opinion, this isn’t a 1-step thing as there are no 2nd tier free agent starting pitchers that tickle my fancy, so new plan:

  1. Leave Mike Foltynewicz in the rotation: In my opinion, this isn’t ideal but I’m not ready to shell out serious cash or prospects to land the “ace” quite yet.  Folty should be a 1.5-2 fWAR player again, but I’d like to see him drop a pitch from his arsenal and focus on dominating with a FB/Slider combo with an occasional changeup.
  2. Sign Steve Cishek to a 3/24MM deal.  Solidifying the bullpen is going to be a priority this offseason. With the additions of Neshek and Cishek to go along with our dominate LH core, this will make late innings very promising for the Braves.
  3. Sign J.J. Hardy to a 2/12MM deal. Hardy is 35 and is now entering the twilight of his career. A switch to a Super-Utility sub is likely the move that happens this year or next.

 

What do you guys think? Does the addition of Folty back to rotation with the pickups of Cishek and Hardy make up the fWAR difference that’s left with Peacock vacating. Looking at projections, I think it may!

 

Go Braves!

 

 

16 Comments

Solid work from you as always, Ryan.

First MAJOR sticking point for me is Brad Peacock is not a free agent. He’s arbitration eligible for the Astros. So that’s an automatic no-go for the scenario. Also, imagine someone his age with his strikeout rate entering free agency. He might command more than what was suggested, but like a cow’s opinion….it is moo, since he’s not free agent eligible.

Second thing I would want to discuss is the choice of Neshek at such a hefty yearly price. Yes, he’s good. Perhaps even worth it if you’re using him all over the place and in every high leverage situation arising. However, your insinuation is that lefties will not be a problem for Atlanta in 2018 and that we need to get a big time righty out here and there. While Neshek will certainly do the trick, why not someone like….say….Peter Moylan. Fraction of the price, nearly twice as many groundballs (which in STP we can agree is a good thing), and just as effective against right-handers last year and throughout their respective careers. I know these exercises aren’t really always about thriftiness, but seems an old friend might have been overlooked here.

I’m a pretty researched man, but geez if I didn’t punt on first down with the Peacock thing. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, and I’m not sure why my brain thought he’d be a FA. I’ll have an altered approach soon.

As for Moylan, I love him but I’ll take Neshek’s health and track record.

No problem, Ryan. Happens to the best of us. I recall one winter lobbying to trade a pretty substantial package of players for a guy who had already reached free agency–you know, which became an easier argument to make just to sign the guy instead. lol

Regarding Neshek, I can get onboard with the idea of having him. I guess the only reason I question is based on the argument used to sign him (more or less that we need a ROOGY to offset some LOOGYs more than a stud) and my generally frugality when it comes to relief pitchers.

That said, if you’re telling me to go find a shutdown reliever we can use in any spot, Neshek would probably be on that short list. Probably would be one of the preferred over bigger “closer” names too, in fact. Gotta wonder how much having that quirky delivery cost him in his career. He’s certainly been good enough to be a closer, but I don’t think anyone’s ever really given him a fair shot at doing so because he’s generally viewed as a novelty and someone who should be a specialist (like Moylan, while he’s still relevant to the conversation). Also good on him for not making it a sticking point in his career.

This is absolutely the correct direction – very close to how it could work. A few minor problems. First, Peacock is not available; he’ll have his first year of arb so he is going to stay with Astros and be cheap for them, too. If you’re going to spend $13M, you might as well go for Arrieta or Darvish. Frazier and NeshaK are good picks.

The trades are no go’s – no way. Assuming Holliday retires or is not picked up then you might have a chance with Kemp. Just go Kemp for Ellsbury straight up (costs the Braves an extra $3M). You’re stuck with Johnson. There is no way the Yankees will take Johnson – their bullpen is already too good for that. Plus your trade would require the Braves to throw in $2M not the Yankees to throw in $5M. Can you really imagine the Yankees paying $5M for Kemp and Johnson??? So you need to add another $8M to your payroll (Johnson plus the $3M for Ellsbury). Don’t forget that the Yankees have sworn up and down that they will get under the luxury tax limit. They will not take on payroll.

As for the Angels trade, the Angels will want no part of Markakis. Maybe you can get them to trade Valbuena for M. Adams and throw in $4M (hey, maybe the Angels will think about taking Johnson). The Angels are already trying to re-sign Upton (or get him to not opt out) and they have the money to make it happen. If that happens, forget them taking Markakis. So add $11M to your payroll for Markakis.

If you can find a different Markakis and Johnson trade then your plan might work. Right now, you’re $19M over budget. You could skip over Neshak and play Johnson and figure you have a good enough bullpen and save $10M, but I agree that having one “sure thing” reliever is necessary. If you do that, you might have a decent chance of trading Markakis for nothing but salary relief. Nevertheless, subtract Neshak and trade Markakis for salary relief and this roster is as good as it might be able to get (adding Frazier, Ellsbury, Valbuena, and Arrieta/Darvish)

Also, you mentioned S. Freeman and Akeel but didn’t put them on the roster. I think the Braves will keep 8 RP rather than 7. Subtract Micah and Lindgren (he’ll need some conditioning time at AAA) and add S. Freeman and Morris. Whatever bullpen piece breaks down first will leave a space for Lindgren to fill.

The Problem with your trade/free agent signings….are that it leaves us with ZERO CHANCE/Payroll Flexibility to sign Manny Machado AND/OR Bryce Harper (while I’m in favor of signing BOTH to $35 mil a year each type contracts….I’d be willing to drop one IF Austin Riley proves legit AND/OR a Ginacarlo Stanton type player is ‘gifted to us’ in a dump job by a team needing to shed payroll!) after The 2018 Season!

Going for it in 2018 is shortsighted ESPECIALLY if it prevents us from making moves in the following seasons! Also, we still do not know what we exactly have with our highly touted young starting pitching prospects!

Machado and Harper are both projected to be near $500M type players. There will be lots of competition and even the richest clubs won’t be able to afford both. How does the plan work if they’re both worth $50M per year each? Both have had significant injuries in the past. If you wrap too much projected WAR into so few players, you may have one good season but probably a lot of mediocre seasons when one or the other spends a bunch of time on the DL. It’ll take about three years for your “cheap” players to start being expensive. A 10 year commitment to 2 players makes the payroll projection over 5-6 years really, really bad. It’s not going to ever happen. Machado and Harper and Trout will never play on the same team.

Dude..NO ONE is getting anywhere close to $50 mil a year, lol! Gincarlo Stanton’s contract is seen as an albatross…EVENT after the MONSTER season he had at the plate in 2017! Imagine Stanton hitting behind Freddie Freeman (with Albies and Acuna setting the table for those two)?

NO WAY do either Machado or Harper get in excess of $35 mil a year (on average). Perhaps at the end of their contract, (probably 7 years max…with opt outs…because after 7 years each will be around 32 years old….meaning that they’ll be able to get one last big contract if they dont opt out before then), they’ll be making more than $35 mil..but the AAV will be around $35 mil for each of them!

If I’m wrong…then if I had to pick one to open up the vault to $40 mil a year..it would be Machado. He has a good glove at 3rd to go with his offensive prowess! However if Austin Riley proves to be capable of hitting for power by 2019…then I’d be open to seeing The Braves only going after Harper (if the bidding for both were to go higher than $35 mil a year each).

Regardless, I feel that 2019 is the year that we’ll be ready to seriously compete. A number of parallels can be drawn to compare to our position going into the 1991 Season (where John S. made a number of key moves to UPGRADE positions of need). If they can make the numbers work financially, just imagine Machado and Harper in that 2019 line-up…..we’re positioned to have HELLA CHEAP/TALENTED pitching for the next 4-5 years!!!!

Why not invest the resources in the likes of Machado and Harper (especially given that Freddie is only making $21 mil a year for the next 4 years…while Inciarte is only due $33 mil over the next 5 years. Swanson, Albies, Acuna will only be making ML Minimum Wage over the next several years)?

So close. I have nothing against keeping Folty in the rotation but doesn’t that go too weak on the idea of pushing to contend in 2018. The other FA SPs may not whet your appetite for a cheap young guy, but, barring a trade for a SP, that one of them has to be on the needs list to be able assure yourself of a winning rotation. Most winning teams now prefer to have 6 SP options with one stashed as long relief. Moving Folty back to the rotation leaves no long man in the pen. Sign Cobb.

I also really like the idea of Hardy transitioning to a super util. He showed in a small sample late in the season that he can be effective in a limited role. Problem is that you already have two super util on the team – Valbuena and Camargo – and the both play infield. You traded the only LH bench OF options so that’s what you need to buy into. I suppose Micah can be a LH OF option.

I am also firm in that I think the Braves should keep four on the bench and eight in the pen. Sam Freeman and Akeel Morris need to be in your pen. You need a lock down closer. Wouldn’t Addison Reed be a better choice than Chisek? Of course, with Cobb in the rotation and Micah on the bench then maybe Neshak is all you can add in the pen. If you do forego Cobb, then you could buy a high leverage closer like Wade Davis (not my fav choice but we are trying to win now). Who would be the long reliever in that case?

It’s HELLA TOUGH for me to buy into the ‘going for it in 2018 without sacrificing prospects’ argument….because 1. I really feel that for our LONG TERM prospects…it is ESSENTIAL that we use The 2018 Season to find out what we have when it comes to our young/talented Starting Pitching (something we’d be limited to doing if we signed/traded for veterans like Cobb). 2. Anything other than a one year rental would take up precious long term payroll dollars! No way would a veteran like Cobb settle for a one year contract (long term, I feel that our prospects can be WAY BETTER/WAY CHEAPER for the next 6 years…than Cobb)!

Again, save the money for The 2018 Offseason Free Agency!

What you brought up about Folty…PRECISELY makes my point about THE SANITY of ‘going for it in 2018’! It ‘forces’ you to think what is best SHORT TERM! Sure, in theory, you could probably build a winner in 2018 without technically ‘giving away the farm’. However, what effect would ‘going for it in 2018’ have on THE LONG TERM PROSPECTS for The Braves after 2018?

I’m actually looking forward to seeing how our young starting pitching/bullpen DEVELOPS over a full season in 2018! While I expect us to take our lumps the 1st couple months of the season….I feel that if we can get into June HEALTHY….we’ll have a much better idea by The All-Star Break what we really have! We’ll know whose been able to develop a 3rd pitch to get hitters out…..and who ‘may’ need to go into The Bullpen.

Also, we’ll have 3-4 months worth of Triple A starts to evaluate Mike Soraka, Kolby Allard and Tooki Touisant…in addition to 3-4 months worth of starts to evaluate Kyle Wright and others in Double A….and 3-4 months worth of starts to evaluate Joey Wentz, Bryce Wilson and others in High A ball!

While The Braves probably have an idea of how we’ll open The 2018 Season Starting Rotation……Spring Training will be used to evaluate what will surely be a young bullpen (other than Vizcaino and Jim Johnson, assuming that we dont trade him this offseason). The first few months of the season will show us WHO is ready for Prime Time…AND who may need to be sent down and replaced!

I’m simply not a fan of using Free Agency to acquire pitching (especially expensive pitching). That’s why I ABSOLUTELY LOVED Coppy’s draft strategy of acquiring A MASS # of pitching prospects early in The Draft! Because of variance/injuries/flaming out….it’s VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE to determine/predict ‘for sure’ who will make it! However if you trust/believe in your scouts ability to evaluate talent….then drafting a high volume of pitching prospects will lessen the odds of ‘bad luck’ destroying/completely wiping out your pitching options!

While not an exact science, I feel that it’s way easier to draft hitters AND more economical to spend money on ‘the right’ Free Agent hitters. Opening the vault for 25/26 year old HELLA PRODUCTIVE hitters like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper in Free Agency after The 2018 Season (given their extensive track record of production)..simply makes too much sense, lol (that is, IF things play out in 2018 with our young pitching/Albies, Acuna, Swanson….like I expect)! The big plus is that we WOULD NOT have to part ways with any of our prime pitching prospects to acquire those two!

Ryan, you should take a look at Cameron’s latest chat on Fangraphs. Someone asked him about a Kemp/Johnson for Ellsbury trade and Cameron said there was no reason the Yankees would do that.

Roger. I understand Dave Cameron is highly respected in the world of baseball analysis, but he is hardly an expert in rosterbation. He is no more an expert than Ryan, yourself and myself, to be honest. Just because he doesn’t see a reason does not mean a reason exists for the Yankees to do it.

That said. I actually see things the opposite way. If the Yankees were offered this, they’d probably jump on it. Why? Simply to be out of the monetary commitment to Ellsbury over the next 4 years (3 years plus the 4th year buyout). They’re going to bench the guy anyway. Kemp would at least provide part-time thump for two years and Johnson…well, would simply be a release or a zombie house flip situation for them.

If anything, the Braves are the ones who should not be doing this, but I don’t argue the point with Ryan because…well, he was tasked with having to get rid of Kemp and this is one of the few plausible ways. Not exactly the way I’d do it, but close.

Bryce, I happen to agree with you on this point. I was just pointing out that someone seems to be reading this blog and then posting to Cameron’s chat. It also pisses me off that Cameron goes on and on about how bad the Braves are and that the FO has done nothing for the MLB portion of the team (and all the prospects in the system are high risk). The Braves put significant talent on the field but had a few holes big enough that it couldn’t sustain many victories. I see this exercise as filling potholes and shoring up depth not totally remaking the roster.

Roger, what is the link to Cameron’s chat about The Braves that you’re referring to? I’ve failed to find it at Fangraphs!

There have been several times Cameron has disparaged the Braves – not unique to him, though. This is from today’s chat with Jeff Sullivan:

“Patty O’Furniture: Realistically what type of package would it take for the Braves to pry away Chris Archer? I know it’d be a lot, but can you approximate it beyond that?
9:58
Jeff Sullivan: This is just me speculating, but I’m not sure the Rays and the Braves are really that good of a match
9:58
Jeff Sullivan: Even ignoring the part where the Braves might have to spend the next few months worrying about their own front office, I think the Rays would want more security back. The Braves have a bunch of high-risk underperforming young pitchers”

I’m trying to figure out which pitchers are “under-performing”. Maybe he’s referring to Teheran and Folty, but I don’t know of any others that underperformed. Newcomb, Gohara, were about as expected for the initial performances and Fried has been sensational in the AFL. This seems to be a consensus opinion at Fangraphs.

Roger, that’s PRECISELY why I DO NOT want to see The Braves trade ANY of our top tier pitching prospects! As I’ve stated NUMEROUS times, if we trust our scouting (and in Coppy’s ability/drafting strategy from 2015-17), then why not STAY THE COURSE and see how these guys develop? Other than possibly Kolby Allard (who has the potential to be our version of Tom Glavine), virtually EVERY ONE of our top rated Starting Pitching prospects have ‘swing and miss’ stuff! SCREW what some DOUCHEBAG says about our pitching prospects ‘under-performing’!

The economics of the game dictate that in order for a team to FLOURISH…it is ESSENTIAL that a team has a number of CHEAP/TALENTED players performing at any given time! Also, there is potential that we may be striking GOLD with our limited supply of hitting prospects (Albies, Acuna, Riley, Jackson..and to a degree, Swanson). 2018 will go a long ways towards establishing what we PRECISELY have with Albies, Acuna and Swanson at The Major League Level…..while 2018 will show us at Triple A IF RIley and Jackson are deserving of a shot in Spring Training 2019 to earn a 2019 Opening Day spot!

If we can get LUCKY (luck, both good AND bad, are variables in life) with our relatively few hitting prospects…then we can AFFORD to miss on a few of our Starting Pitching Prospects! The math/skill sets dictates that there is A HIGH LIKELIHOOD that we’re going to get our Starting 5 FOR YEARS TO COME from the batch of Pitching Prospects we currently have…..in the next few years! We just need a little time to figure out WHICH ONES it will be!

I’m HELLA EXCITED to see how things play out in 2018 IF we stay the course. SCREW the BS Chris Archer trades! SCREW paying Cobb/Lynn/Sabathia OVER-INFLATED Free Agent Money! SCREW opening the vault for the likes of Frazier!

Trade Markakis this offseason (to open a Starting Right Field Spot for Ronald Acuna)….and revamp the top of the batting order to give Albies AND Acuna an opportunity to WRECK HAVOC on the bases THROUGHOUT 162 games, giving Freddie Freeman a chance to COMFORTABLY LEAD MLB in RBIs (assuming he can stay healthy)!

If Albies and Acuna turn out to be THE REAL DEALS…..then just imagine how POTENT The 2019 Line-up could be (again, I’d allocate The 2018 Payroll savings..towards any money we’d have to eat in The 2018 Offseason when we trade Matt Kemp’s Final Year/$18.5 mil contract to an AL team in need of a DH)….and OPEN THE VAULT for Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, giving each around $35 mil a year each!

With our cheap pitching (both starting and bullpen)…cheap Albies, Acuna, Swanson.. Inciarte only making $5 mil and Freeman, a bargain at $22 mil in 2019…..I feel that we could afford to pay HALF of our projected $140mil-ish team payroll to two players in Machado and Harper…ESPECIALLY given how revenues would SKYROCKET with THE WINNING that we’d be putting on the field!

Also, if I’m correct, our BAD TV contract expires around 2027. Often times, teams/local networks negotiate new contracts several years in advance! With the BOOM in local ratings, starting in 2019….The Braves would be HELLA POSITIONED to DEMAND a TV Contract that DRASTICALLY INCREASES the pittance we’re currently getting from local tv!

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