Your Atlanta Braves have been busy over the last couple of days, but if you missed any of it or need these moves to be put into context, here’s a review of what has been an active week.
Braves Non-Tender Three
The non-tender deadline was last night at 8:00. This was the deadline for the Braves to tender a contract to any Atlanta Brave on the 40-man roster who didn’t already have a contract for next year. This list included pre-arbitration players, but we tend to focus more on the arbitration guys. Atlanta had seven entering the day and increased that by eight by acquiring Chase Whitley. I’ll get back to him in a second.
Matt Adams was the guy with most of the attention on him. Atlanta spent the last few weeks trying to find a team willing to deal for Adams, but teams weren’t biting. That’s less a result of an ultra-slow market and more a result of the many Adams-like players already available who probably would be cheaper than the $4.5-$5.0 million Adams stood to earn in the final year of arbitration. Atlanta could have kept Adams and may have been able to find a trading partner later when injuries or poor play opened up spots this spring, but that was too expensive of a bet to take for the Braves. It’s not impossible to see Adams return later at a cheaper rate, but his projected salary was just too much for Atlanta.
In addition, the Braves non-tendered Jace Peterson. Arbitration-eligible for the first time, Peterson played in the third most games and picked up the fourth-most plate appearances over the last three years, but had only 0.6 fWAR to show for it. While he has been completely inept against lefties, he’s only managed a career .298 wOBA against right-handed pitchers. He was a fan favorite and a hard worker who played all over the field, but the Braves weren’t interested in doubling his salary in arbitration.
They also passed on doubling Danny Santana‘s salary. Like Peterson, Santana was hitting arbitration for the first time. He had a spectacular rookie season for the Twins in 2014, aided significantly by an unsustainable .405 BABIP. He’s produced a .249 wOBA and 49 wRC+ since and wasn’t impressive with the Braves outside of one swing.
Atlanta did tender contracts to Mike Foltynewicz, Arodys Vizcaino, Sam Freeman, and Dan Winkler. They will now try to agree to a deal with each of them for the 2018 season. It seems unlikely that any will receive more than a one-year contract. Speaking of one-year contracts, the Braves avoided arbitration with Rex Brothers and the recently-acquired Whitley. Brothers, who has one option remaining, will get the prorated sum of $1.1 million while in the majors and $450,000 in the minors. The deal is non-guaranteed, which means the Braves would owe only termination pay rather than his full salary should they release him.
Atlanta Claims WhitleyMentioned this a couple of times already, but the Braves added Chase Whitley off waivers from the Rays. The two sides quickly hashed out a contract for 2018. Whitley will earn $800,000 in the majors and likely half-that if he’s in the minors. He does have an option left.
Whitley grew up in the Yankees’ organization and surprisingly started a dozen games for them in the big leagues in 2014 despite being mostly a reliever for them in the minors. Possibly unrelated, Whitley would miss most of the next two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery. During that time, the Rays claimed him off waivers. Last year, he spent 41 games in the Rays’ bullpen as a long reliever, posting a 4.08/3.56/5.01 ERA/FIP/xFIP. Reports suggest that the Braves will give Whitley a shot to start this spring.
Depth-wise, Whitley’s a guy. He’s more effective against righties than he is lefties, but I worry his BABIP won’t stay in the .250s for long. He doesn’t invite much soft contact, though managed a 5.3% HR/FB ratio last year. He works steadily off a four-seam 90 mph fastball, 83 mph change, and 82 mph slider. The changeup is probably the most effective pitch in his arsenal.
In my opinion, some scout really likes Whitley. Might even be Anthopoulos. I see Lance Cormier. So…yeah.
Braves Trade Jim Johnson
Anthopoulos’s first trade mirrored John Coppolella’s…but in reverse. Coppolella’s (and John Hart‘s) first trade following Frank Wren’s dismissal was to trade for international money in the Arodys Vizcaino/Tommy La Stella swap. This time, Atlanta uses the international money to facilitate the trade of Johnson and his $4.5 million contract to the Angels. The Braves pick up Justin Kelly. Long story short on Kelly – he was a left-handed 33rd-round pick in 2016 who hasn’t looked that good.
That’s okay, though, because this trade was about Johnson. Interestingly, the Braves received $1.25 million from the Reds last August for Randy Ventura. They traded $1.21 million, or their remaining pool, to the Angels. In a weird way, the Braves traded Randy Ventura in order to trade Johnson. With the current class lacking any significant prospects and Atlanta’s signing bonus restrictions ($300K max bonus), Anthopoulos saw an asset that was going to be wasted if he didn’t use it.
In the meantime, Anthopoulos found $4.5M in usable funds. This could be a big boost for the Braves should they need to cover salary while trying to trade Matt Kemp or Nick Markakis. After starting the week with a full 40-man roster, the Braves are now at 37.
Tinnish No More
Last night as the non-tenders flooded in, an odd story about Andrew Tinnish also came out. Anthopoulos and Tinnish were close in Toronto and in AA’s first high-profile front office shakeup, he brought Tinnish in to be his VP of Amateur and International Scouting. That was the role he had with the Blue Jays, but Tinnish, who is Canadian like Anthopoulos, had second thoughts. He will now be staying with the Blue Jays for personal/family reasons. Tinnish is a highly respected talent evaluator and getting him was a coup. However, it only lasted for a few days.Atlanta is expected to bring two other front office types into the mix in yet-to-be-announced roles. Ed Lynch, 61, is the former General Manager for the Cubs from 1994 until 2000. He most recently worked under Anthopoulos with the Blue Jays as a professional scout, a role he filled until 2016. If you’d like to hear more about Lynch, here’s a clip from last winter with an interesting story involving what the Cubs would have done had Kerry Wood not been available for Chicago to select in the 1995 first round.
Dana Brown is another guy Anthopoulos worked with and is expected to join the Braves. In fact, he was the latter’s boss when Anthopoulos joined the Montreal Expos’ scouting department. Brown followed the Expos to Washington where he continued as their Director of Scouting. It was during that time that the Nationals drafted Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, and Ian Desmond. Brown was credited with “guiding the organization” for those selections. When Anthopoulos took over as the Jays’ GM, he added Brown as a special assistant. He’s since interviewed for open General Manager positions.
In Toronto, Brown, like Tinnish, was part of Anthopoulos’s trusted brain trust. While losing Tinnish hurts, adding Brown could soften the blow as Anthopoulos looks to make over the Braves’ front office.
What are your thoughts on the last few days? Any mistakes? Surprises? Let me know!