Braves Free-Agent Shopping List

Braves Free-Agent Shopping List

Free agency is a dangerous game. For players, it’s amazing. After 6 years or so of having your wages suppressed by artificial rules, you finally get to take your skills to the open market. For teams, it’s usually an exercise in trying not to step on a landmine. With the evolution of analytics and projection systems, baseball has become smarter in how they spend their money, so it’s not the free-for-all it used to be. But MLB revenues are going up. And with that, obviously player salaries are going up so teams still must tread carefully.

For Atlanta, they enter the the Winter Meetings with some obvious areas of need and some money to spend. Braves won 72 games last year, and given they’re planning to get full years from Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Luiz Gohara, and Sean Newcomb as well as close to two-thirds a season from top prospect Ronald Acuna, it’s probably safe to pencil them in as around a 78-win team right now. Be smart in your additions and wise with the 40 million or so available, and meaningful September baseball is possible in 2018.

The trick is matching up your timeline with whatever moves you’re going to make. Historically, the earliest years in a free agent contract have the best return on investment, so you really don’t want to be jumping the gun too quickly. If your team isn’t quite there yet, you wait. That’s the question new GM Alex Anthopoulos will have to answer. Time to move or time to wait?

This post is obviously assuming they’ve decided they can make some noise right now are looking to sign players. They may very well decide to wait a year before doing anything significant, at which point, really none of these guys make sense but we really don’t know. All we can do is the make the list, and see what they do.

The Rules:


  • I prioritized 4 positions: 3B, LF, SP, and Bullpen.
  • This list is a ranking. I’d rather have the guy at #1 than the guy at #2 and rather have 2 than 3 and so on. We’ll go in descending order.
  • These are my opinions. I’ll explain them as logically as I can, but you’ll disagree somewhere. The subjective nature of this is unavoidable.
  • I said it up top but just to reiterate, this post is assuming they’re ready to make big moves this off-season.
  • The numbers I put next to each guy are the years and price I’m comfortable spending. Just because I put a guy on the list doesn’t mean any amount for any length of time will work. It’s that player for that price, within reason.
  • I fully understand trades are an option. I promise, I do. But again, this is a post about free agency. So, your “No, no, I’d much rather trade for player X than sign that guy” comment is just a waste of a perfectly good 10 seconds.

The List


  1. Mike Moustakas 3B, 5 years/$70M

Coming in at #10 is probably a controversial pick and basically the entire reason I put in that 5th bullet point above. Moustakas’ contract predictions have him getting over 90M in free agency. Maybe over a 100M. At those prices, I have zero interest. But this offseason has started slow and if, for whatever reason, his market drops, he could be potentially become more and more interesting. What I like about Moose’s profile is he brings value with his glove and his bat and he’s on the younger side for being a free agent. This contract would run through his age 29-33 seasons so you’re not risking quite as much with age regression.


  1. Todd Frazier 3B, 2 years/$34M

Maybe the most talked about free agent among Atlanta fans, Todd Frazier comes in at #9. Like Moustakas, Frazier brings offensive and defensive value to the table which really, is what gets him on this list. Most of the projections I’ve seen for him are in the 3 year/44M range. 14M/year is perfectly reasonable for his skill set but I’d rather keep it at 2 years. His profile has some scary elements in it and his declining years could come hard and fast. Even if you bump up the AAV a couple million, which is what we did here, you’re still probably better off.


  1. Adam Lind 1B, 1 year/$3M

We’re not going to spend a bunch of time on this. If Atlanta is going to try to contend this year, then they’ll need some LH pop off the bench. Lind is good and the 1B/DH market is so saturated, it wouldn’t take much to get him.


  1. Cameron Maybin OF, 1 year/$8M

Maybin is the bargain fix for LF if they decide to go that route. He’s the knock-off brand. The cereal that comes in a bag instead of in a box. Obviously finding someone with a bit more talent would be preferable for LF, but if they need someone cheap and solid, Maybin is a decent choice. He’s not much of a hitter anymore, but his defense and baserunning still keep him as a playable option and his still an upgrade over Kemp


  1. Michael Pineda RHP, 2 years/$12M

Pineda had Tommy John surgery last July, so you take a two-year deal at a steep discount to make it worth paying for his rehab. Best case is he comes back mid-season, strong and healthy, and you’ve stolen a big-time arm for pennies. 6M/year is a reasonable gamble to take on that outcome and even if he can’t start anymore, he would be a strong addition to the bullpen.


  1. Tommy Hunter RHP, 2 years/$10M

Hunter put up a 2.61 ERA and a 3.07 FIP as a reliever last year with TB. And he did it with a K/9 of almost 10. But because teams don’t hand out big FA contracts based off one year of performance any more, he’s only projected at around 5 or 6M AAV. Yeah, I’d take that in heartbeat. Even if he regresses a bit, the commitment is so low, it’s worth the gamble that he’s found something.


  1. Jarrod Dyson OF, 2 years/$20M

I probably value defense and base-running more than the average fan, but I would love this move for LF. Dyson keeps plodding along as a 2 WAR player and you match him up with Ender Inciarte and Ronald Acuna, and Anthopoulos’ goal of improving the defense will have been completed. And you’d be doing it at an extremely affordable rate.


  1. Alex Cobb SP, 4 years/$60M

I hate buying starting pitching on the free agent market. Absolutely hate it. Cobb is the only SP on this list and the only reason he made it is because he really started to come on at the end of last year. Cobb had TJ surgery a few years ago and basically missed all of 2015 and 2016. Last year was his first full year back, and in August and September his K rate jumped to almost 24%, which is where it was pre-surgery. Add that to his 50% ground ball rate and I’m officially intrigued. 4/$60M is what he’s projected to get in FA and I’d be perfectly fine paying him that. But given some of the teams already reportedly interested in him, my guess is the upcoming bidding war prices Atlanta out of his services.


  1. Neil Walker 3B, 3 years/$30M

I’m not going to write much here just because I recently wrote 1000+ words on why I want Neil Walker at 3B, which you can read here. Short version: he’s better than you think. He’s projected for 3 years and $10 or $11 million AAV.


  1. Lorenzo Cain OF, 4 years/$70M

I think I’ve made it pretty well known by now that I want Lorenzo Cain as Atlanta’s new LF. I love defense, especially OF defense and an outfield of Cain/Inciarte/Acuna give me all the feels. It’s also important to note that baseball has entered a fly ball revolution, and in this writer’s opinion, outfield defense is going to be at more of a premium than ever. Go do it AA. Put together the best defensive outfield in baseball. Cain was a 4 WAR player last year so paying him $17M/year is just the price of doing business. Business I would happily do.

So there it is. If I was trying to compete next year and wanted to explore the free agent waters, these are the players and prices I would target. Agree? Disagree? Let me know.


Hard pass on Lorenzo Cain please! I have nothing against his game right now, but I fear he’ll look more like Nick Markakis in two years than the guy he is now.

If we’re talking purely adding via free agency, tops on my list would be Mike Moustakas. I know Austin Riley is waiting in the wings, but I’d explore trying him in LF. If that doesn’t work, he’d always be tradeable. There’s also the chance he doesn’t continue to excel as he advances, too. Either way, the market looks to be shrinking on Moose- and if you can get him at 4/60 or 4/65… I’d jump.

Alex Cobb would be a fantastic signing at the 4/60 price, and I’d even go as high as 4/70 for all the reasons you listed. And I won’t go into speculative trades, since that isn’t the objective here… but it’d keep us from being locked into needing Tehran if the right deal came along. However, I’m with you in that I think this water’s going to be a little too deep for Atlanta.

I’d be in favor of adding Tommy Hunter, too. The pen could stand a veteran addition, and at 2/10 or 2/12… that’d be a value add.

Lastly, if we need a LF, I’d just cheap out here this year and try to get Hyun Soo Kim on a 1 year deal for a million or so a year. He’s not outstanding or anything, but I’d platoon him with Lane Adams… and that’d always give me two decentish bench bats between whomever isn’t playing out of the FloZuki and Adams/Kim tandems.

Hot damn. Attempt three at trying to formulate a reply here. First one interrupted at work by a massive time-eating (though, I’d call it time-wasting) effort where the easiest solution is to just fire the idiot, but for some God forsaken reason we’re trying to argue a case for him. Second one so rudely interrupted by the completion and aftermath of the Matt Kemp trade earlier today which shot a quarter to half my reply to hell.

Anyway…I won’t be responding to specific names listed in the post so much as just talking about the positions discussed: 3B, LF, bench parts, relievers and starting pitchers and the strategies I feel the Braves should be employing with each.

— Third Base —
This is a position that entirely depends on how Alex Anthopoulos feels about Austin Riley. Early indications are that he’s pretty high on Riley having witnessed the types of stats he posted while laying waste to some of the best pitching prospects the minor leagues have to offer in the AFL.

That said and assumed, the Braves will not likely be seeking out longterm options at the hot corner. At least not for the likes of one/two-position veterans like Mike Moustakas and Todd Frazier whose only other conceivable position would be 1B where we happen to employ a hug-giving, world-beating, man child who is a man free of the laws of physics and the universe. Only part of that is fabricated. The world-beating part. =P

I wouldn’t rule out a longterm contract, but it’d have to be to a player who would have the ability to shift around and play multiple positions if/when Austin Riley is finally ready to debut and/or take over fulltime. Otherwise, find an affordable stopgap type who can shift into a bench role and you’ll find the types of players the Braves will likely be looking for. Seeing as that may be the case, it may be a long while before the Braves sign a third baseman, if at all. (If the hint wasn’t caught, this is a place where a trade makes more sense)

— Left Field —
Okay…so the trade of Matt Kemp officially opens up left field. However, as things stand, Acuna will take that spot. Yeah, yeah…we really should shift Markakis over there and allow Acuna to play right. Semantics. I’d do it, personally, but I’m not sure the Braves would. Regardless. Let’s assume for this practice that Markakis is just gone. Don’t care how. Don’t care where. Don’t care why. He’s just gone. Acuna takes over in right and Ender’s in center. With those things assumed, left field is a position where Anthopoulos can afford to seek out a longterm fix as none of the Braves prospects not named Acuna are on the precipice of making an impact at SunTrust Park anytime soon.

However, just because a solution could be sought out in free agency doesn’t mean it will be. The free agent market offers little-to-no solutions for Atlanta. You could sign a JD Martinez, but would likely suffer the same situation with him that we did with Kemp’s shoddy defense. You could attempt pursuit of Lorenzo Cain, but asking him to play left field may be a deal killer for Lorenzo as I’m sure he wants to play center for at least a few more years. You may look into Carlos Gomez, but he’s a mere fragment of the memory of what he once was, plus the fact that his name reminds many Braves fans of a very sour incident where Gomez was particularly douche-like.

If Markakis is gone and a left-fielder is needed, it may be a stopgap type like at the hot corner. One capable of splitting time with Lane Adams like a Curtis Granderson, Andre Ethier, Seth Smith or Michael Saunders–whichever is likeliest to sign the shortest, cheapest, no strings attached for an additional year contract.

Obviously, this is a situation where a trade would be recommended if you’re looking to add real talent…but if free agency is the name of the game, it’s bargain parts here too.

— Bench Help —
I will reference Adam Lind for one reason only, and that is because he’s basically Matt Adams, but with a better hit tool. I wouldn’t be against Lind if the purpose of signing him was to use him in left field as part of a platoon with Lane Adams. However, that is based solely on the offensive profile. I imagine the reason Lind does not get more time in the outfield is that he’s a Matt Adams-like mess in left just like….well, Matt Adams is in left. That said…Adams wasn’t released because he wasn’t worth $4.5M, it was because he had no positional flexibility outside of 1B and it wasn’t worth paying much of anything to a guy who only plays the one position that the Braves really don’t have to worry about.

That established, Lind would be a poor fit for the Braves, IMO. The bench could certainly use some help, especially if Camargo is given a chance to play the year at 3B, but that help needs to be a little more flexible postion-wise than a 1B/DH type and needs to be able to play positions of more concern including 3B, SS and possibly some 2B from time to time. Ability to play 1B doesn’t hurt, but is extra gravy more so than a requirement. With Camargo’s (and even Ozzie Albies’s) ability to play short, 3B is the hard requirement, with 2B ability very handy as well.

I suppose that is where Culberson’s role is with the team currently….but this dude screams “Chris Woodward” to me and I am not enthusiastic about having him as our utility guy. If the Braves can improve, they probably should. If even just to make Culberson earn his spot against some spring invite types.

As for as legitimate utility help, my suggestion would be to look into Howie Kendrick. He fits into that potential multi-year contract player who can easily shift around the infield and outfield to get regular ABs, to plug in for injuries and to take over for struggling youngsters for a while. Having someone like Kendrick around would not only help with depth issues, but also would help develop leaders out of the young bench pieces we will likely be employing this season.

— Relief Pitching —
I know only one reliever was named in the post and that reliever’s already signed for way more than what was proposed, so I will try not to use my knowledge of that or the developing market for relievers to my advantage when saying any of this.

At the base of things, I agree with the sentiment suggested in Tommy Hunter. It wasn’t so much about Tommy Hunter specifically (Sure, portions were specific to him, but there’s more to it than just numbers) as it was suggesting the Braves find a general bargain like a Tommy Hunter. I can get onboard with that.

However, that is where things get rough for Atlanta. There aren’t many like that. The established relievers and generally any reliever who had an above-average-to-great year are getting paid this winter. To the point where this is no longer a strategic place where the Braves can find a stud for a reasonable price like some signed for in the past seasons.

Names in the discount bin that I’d personally look into are Peter Moylan, Jared Hughes, Zach Duke and perhaps other slightly bigger names like Tyler Clippard, Matt Albers or Boone Logan if the market shuns them for whatever reasons. Not to say that I’d opt for any one of these over some the youngsters below…

— Starting Pitching —
Ahh…finally on to starting pitching. Such a hot topic with such varying opinions. However you slice it and whatever stance you take there is one fact that can not be denied and that is starting pitching is a place where the Braves actually have a ton of depth compared to the other positions being discussed. Like. A literal shit ton of depth.

The rotation, including today’s Kemp trade, is already full. Brandon McCarthy, Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb and Luiz Gohara. That’s listed by salary, for those wondering…not a suggested order/hierarchy. That’s assuming Scott Kazmir’s left arm just falls right off. “Oh, look. There it goes, rolling down the street and into the storm drain” kind of falls right off. I’d also caution not to overlook Lucas Sims who is still lurking around with Max Fried keeping him company after trolling some of the best hitters the minors had to offer in the AFL. Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard and Ian Anderson on the way. Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson, Joey Wentz and Kyle Muller not far behind. That doesn’t even include potential development of Touki Touissaint and Patrick Weigl waiting to return to his development path potentially late in 2018, but most likely in 2019. That’s completely writing off the garbage and filler in the system like Aaron Blair, Matt Wisler, and Jason Hursh.

Hell. When I can assume a dude’s arm gets lopped off and is being eaten by mutant alligators in the sewers of Georgia and put a prospect like Touki Touissaint in the afterthought of a list at his position, you have depth. A lot of it.

So we don’t need starting pitching, right? Eh. It’s debatable.

While all those names are impressive, over 50% of them have never seen the major leagues and perhaps even levels of the minor leagues above Double-A. On top of that, none of them are currently considered aces…let alone top of the rotation pitchers. Currently, mind you.

Sure…the Braves could wait to “see what they have”, but I think at least with the names who have seen the majors, they kind of have a feeling of who has that potential to take that next step and who doesn’t. Couple that with the saying…nay, the fact, that you can’t have too much pitching and this is a prime place for the Braves to still add to the rotation.

All that said, the Braves focus should probably not be on anyone in the middle tier or below it. I won’t go into details over it, but based on that…there are only two pitchers worth pursuing. One costs a draft pick, has arguably been in decline since his one big year in 2015 and showed an alarming near-2 mph drop in velocity. The other doesn’t cost a draft pick, has already returned successfully from Tommy John, is throwing just as hard as ever and has shown more consistency. You figure it out for yourself to see which one I’d lean towards.

And despite my desire to go get that pitcher, I don’t see the need to do it unless it’s on the Braves’ terms–like no no-trade clause or opt outs, etc. After all, unlike what we’re praticing in this scenario, in real life…trades ARE an option, and so is being patient and waiting for the right frontline starter to become available.

Alas….now that I’ve finally gotten to reply, I guess what I have to say is that this year’s free agent class, while featuring some flashy names, does not feature the positions that fit with the organiztional strategy. There may be additions via free agency, but short of one of the big two starting pitchers, there is no one likely to be worthwhile to the Braves.

After some long drawn out thinking and recent news from Todd Frazier himself saying that he’d play anywhere for a club when asked if he’d play 2B if he had to, I’m going to amend what I posted just last night in my third base section.

In the above post I lumped Todd Frazier into the same category as Mike Moustakas. The type of longer term contract that the Braves should likely avoid at third base.

However, after reading of Frazier’s willingness to move positions, he has actually shot way back up the pecking order in terms of not only free agents, but trade options as well. While he may not be my absolute favorite option at the moment, his willingness to change positions if needed is going to make me include him in the category of longterm deals for a veteran who will shift away from 3B if/when Austin Riley is ready to debut.

That said, here’s the conundrum that this will present. Frazier’s always been a pretty solid defender at third base. Austin Riley, while supposedly adequate, has been known more for his bat and offensive ceiling than his defense. Would the team shift Riley to left if he implodes defensively on a Brooks Conrad/Mark DeRosa-like level or would they remain patient and allow the kid to iron things out?

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