Braves Try to Follow the Yankees Blueprint from Last Fall

Braves Try to Follow the Yankees Blueprint from Last Fall

(This was cross-posted at The Sports Daily. Click here for our direct Walk-Off Walk page. Soon, when you head to WOW.net, you will automatically be moved over to that page. Also, check out some of the content we have posted over there.)

The idea that a team can come from the brink of elimination after dropping the first two games in a best-of-five series seems daunting, but it has happened more than you might think. Cliff Corcoran provided an informative article at about this time last year for SportsOnEarth.com. In it, he detailed the nine comebacks from a 2-0 hole in the playoffs. That included instances when the Championship Series was five games or the split-season 1981 season – the first time there was a division series.

The article was timely not only because it was playoff baseball, but when it was published, the Yankees and Red Sox were both in 2-0 holes. Both teams staved off elimination in Game 3, but the Red Sox lost against Justin Verlander and the Astros in Game 4. The other ALDS? Well, that’s the tenth time a team has come roaring back to win a best-of-five playoff series while down 2-0.

Let’s re-consider that series between the Indians and Yankees, by the way. For much of 2017, the Indians were considered the best team in the American League. They were the reigning AL Champs, having pushed the Cubs to a memorable seven-game Fall Classic in 2016. They followed that up by leading the AL with 102 wins in 2017. The Indians could pitch – their team ERA was 40 points lower than second place. They could score runs – third most in the AL. If they had a bit of an Achilles Heel, it came down to defense.

On the other hand, the Yankees surprised a lot of people to even make the playoffs. After being one of the oldest teams in baseball during a fourth-place finish the previous season, the Yankees invested into the future behind Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, and Aaron Judge. Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery, a pair of starters under the age of 25, led their staff. These weren’t your father’s Yankees and many thought 2017 would go down as a rebuilding season for the Bronx Bombers. But the Yankees didn’t care. They shook off the cobwebs after an average run from June-to-August to win 20 of their final 29 games. They then won the Wild Card play-in game over the Twins.

But the Indians were something else. At the end of August, New York was swept right out of Cleveland over a three-game set. A year after coming up one game short of a World Series title, Cleveland was a favorite to win it all and it looked like they would cruise into the ALCS after beating the Indians 4-0 and winning Game 2 on a walk-off single by Yan Gomes in the 13th.

The Yankees didn’t roll over in Game Three. Masahiro Tanaka outdueled Carlos Carrasco until Greg Bird hit a solo homer off Andrew Miller in the seventh. It was the only run of the game as New York won 1-0 in the Bronx. In Game Four, using a four-run second off Trevor Bauer, New York pushed the series back to Cleveland with a 7-3 win. And in Game Five, the Yankees never trailed, winning 5-2.

Now, I’m not saying the Braves are definitely going to win the NLDS and a part of me dies when I compare them with the hated Yankees, but let’s be honest here – there are some parallels. Like the Yankees, the Braves were a young team led by a likely Rookie of the Year outfielder. Also quite like the Yankees, the Braves weren’t supposed to be in a contender this quick. The Yankees certainly had extra financial assistance, but they were coming off a year in which they traded off Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran, and Ivan Nova. Every one of these trades was focused on the future, not necessarily 2017.

Both the 2017 Yanks and 2018 Braves faced off against defending league champions who were coming off legendary Fall Classics the previous year. Both the 2017 Indians and 2018 Dodgers were seen as World Series favorites before their respective seasons begun and while the Dodgers struggled out of the gate, by the end of the season, both were still World Series favorites.

The young squads opened their first playoff series on the road and both lost two straight. Both won a dramatic Game Three. And both turned to their young ace in Game Four to force a fifth and deciding game.

With any luck, the comparison between the two teams will continue through Game Four and into Game Five and beyond. Maybe, just maybe, the Atlanta Braves can dethrone a defending league champion with three consecutive victories in win-or-go-home games.

If you’ve watched the 2018 Atlanta Braves for very long and you don’t think there is a chance – not a single chance – that the Braves can do this, you haven’t been paying attention. Again, I’m not saying they will. I am too entrenched in science to make such a claim.

I’m just saying that it’s possible.

5 Comments

Tommy…. I’ve been a Die Hard Braves Fan since 1982 (I was 10 years old growing up in Arkansas when I first started following The 1982 Braves on WTBS). I’ve been ‘hooked’ ever since (through THICK and THIN, lol).

This Braves team has not only A LOT of talent on The MLB Roster (ESPECIALLY young talent) but also A LOT of MILB high upside potential prospects who will be knocking on the door in the next year or two. Our GM, AA, will have A WEALTH of talent to choose from (whether to put into The Starting Rotation, The Bullpen, on The AAA Staff (to be there, on a moment’s notice; to be summoned up to Atlanta to fill a need in our Pitching Staff…….OR, even as ‘trade bait’).

I bring all this up, because I feel that The Braves have MORE than ENOUGH young/cheap/high upside Starting Pitching Talent…to BOTH build a potentially GREAT Starting 5 that can excel in BOTH The 2019 Season…AS WELL as potentially in The 2020 Season AND beyond. In other words, I see LITTLE NEED to bring in any ‘outside’ pitching talent. The Braves have what it takes to build a VERY STRONG BULLPEN in 2019 as well! Buying bullpen parts via Free Agency..is a VERY DICEY proposition! Given how variance plays a HUGE ROLE in how effective bullpen parts are in any given year (there are obviously ‘exceptions to the rule’..however ‘the exception to the rule DOES NOT make it ‘THE RULE”, lol)….I’d rather see The Braves put prospects who are not ready to be a starter..in our bullpen (as other teams have done with high upside prospects who eventually transition to The Starting Rotation in the next year or two).

Where I want to see The Braves SPEND MONEY..is addressing the lack of power in the middle of the lineup! A team CANNOT win playoff games…when 1. Nick “NOODLE BAT” Markakis is hitting cleanup (NO HOMERS in his last 177 regular season at-bats)….2. Tyler ‘batted .227 with ONLY 5 homers’ as your #5 hitter (as happened in Games 1 & 2 of The NLDS against The Dodgers…AS WELL as throughout a big chunk of The Regular Season).

It would be A BIG TIME WASTE…to ‘go cheap’ when it came to addressing the lack of middle of the order power. I’m SICK AND TIRED of hearing ‘uh….we need to save payroll flexibility when it comes to re-signing our CHEAP young prospects in 2019 and 2020….who in 2021 and beyond become MORE EXPENSIVE’. First of all…there is NO GUARANTEE that our best young prospects…will even be receptive to signing on a potential ‘team friendly’ contact extension.

However, what I DO KNOW…is that it would be MUCH EASIER to get our young prospects to possibly ‘buy into’ signing long term contract extensions with The Braves…IF we can GO HELL DEEP in The Playoffs YEAR AFTER YEAR! The Braves NEED some serious power in our lineup…..which can ONLY be address via The Free Agency Offseason (UNLESS AA wants to overpay with prospects via The Trade Market).

Keep our prospects (especially THE PLETHORA of young pitching prospects we have…to build BOTH a Rotation AND Bullpen (not only in 2019…but also in future years…when The Braves will still have prospects working their way up to possibly replace ‘potentially pricey’ arbitration eligible pitchers who arent exactly ‘worth what they will command via arbitration’ come 2021-2020 and beyond)!

Before addressing who I feel The Braves should go after….let’s take a look at what I feel are ‘The Locks’ to be on The Braves in 2019 (and their salaries/position).

1. Freddie Freeman….1st…..($21 mil)
2. Ozzie Albies……………2nd…($600k…pre-arbittation/one more year)
3. Dansby Swanson…SS….($600k….pre-arbitration/last year)
4. Johan Camargo…..utility ($600k…pre-arbitration/one more year)
5. Tyler Flowers………..C………($4 mil.)
6. Charlie Culberson…utility….($1..5 mil….1st year arbitration estimate…possible trade chip IF AA cant get that figure a little lower).
7. Ronald Acuna……RF…..($600k…..pre-arbitration/2 more years)
8. Ender Inciarte….CF……($5 mil.)
9. Michael Reed….OF….($600k….pre-arbitration/3 more years)
10. Mike Folty…..SP…… ($6 mil….2nd year arbitration/2 more years before Free Agency)
11. Sean Newcomb….SP ($600k….pre-arbitration/1 more year)
12. Kevin Gausman…SP ($9 mil….1 more year before Free Agency….could be traded IF he wants ‘too much’. He could sign some type of 2 year contract that pays him something like $20 mil over 2 years…kind of like how The Braves did with Jason Heyward when he was 2 years away from Free Agency).
13. #4 starter……SP………($600k….pre-arbitration/3 years away….the last 2 spots of The Rotation, will come from our PLETHORA of young pitching prospects who stand out/earn one of those 2 spots during Spring Training 2019)
14. #5 starter…….SP……..($600k…..pre-arbitration/3 years away….read #13’s prediction).
15. Darren O’Day…..RP….($9 mil. last year before becoming a Free Agent. While he’s coming back from a hamstring injury…at least it isnt arm related. Prior to his injury, he’s a VERY EFFECTIVE late inning option. If AA didnt have to absorb his 2019 salary in order to get Gausmann WITHOUT having to sacrifice any of our top pitching prospects…I would LOVE to see AA go after Craig Kimbrel. However, I dont see ANY MLB team taking a flyer on O’Day WITHOUT seeing him pitch meaningful games first. So The Braves are pretty much stuck with O’Day for 2019…meaning that he’s our ‘defacto closer’ for 2019).
16. Adrodys Vizcaino…..RP……..($5 mil….last year before Free Agency. Vizcaino will help form a ‘bullpen-by-committee’ likely approach by Braves Management for 2019).
17. AJ Minter……RP……..($600k……pre-arbitration/2 more years. He’ll be the main lefty come closing time…part of what I believe will be a 3-headed-bullpen-by-committee-closer).
18. Dan Winkler….RP…..($1.5 mil…..arbitration/1 more year before Free Agency. Great bullpen arm. Need to not overuse him in 2019).
19. Johnny Venters….RP…..($1.5 mil…..arbitration/1 more year before Free Agency. Another good BP arm. Also need to not overuse him in 2019).
20. Max Fried….RP……($600k….pre-arbitration/2 more years. A lefty who can BOTH pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen/get tough lefties out in high leverage situations).
21. Chad Sobotka…..RP…..($600k…..pre-arbitration/3 more years. Tough on righties who can throw gas. Hopefully he’ll continue to develop).
22. Bullpen piece….RP….($600k….pre-arbitration/3 more years. The Braves have A PLEHTORA of options to fill the long relief role/spot starter-type to pitch on short notice/if one of our starters gets knocked out in the first couple of innings. Also, if any of our above relief pitchers OR starters get hurt….AAA will have A PLETHORA of options to turn to who can come up and fill those roles)!

I understand that BOTH Julio Teheran (at $11 mil for 2019 with a $1 mil 2020 buyout/$12 mil 2020 salary) and Adam Duval (arbitration eligible/$3 mil salary estimate) are on The Books for 2019. However I feel that there is NO WAY that Teheran doesnt get traded in the offseason (The Braves have cheaper/more talented options coming up than Teheran…..however Teheran will have value for other teams, given the contracts routinely signed by BUMS who are worse than Teheran, lol. I dont expect The Braves to get much in return for Teheran….what’s important…is that his $11 mil 2019 salary is REMOVED from the books). Also, Duval is an obvious DFA candidate. He simply LOST IT (reminds me of what happened to Austin Kearns years ago).

Assuming that AA takes my advice on trading Teheran/DFAing Duval…that would leave The 2019 Braves needing 1. a starting catcher (Flowers is the backup)…2. A starting Left Fielder (bye-bye Nick ‘NOODLE/CUCKOLD BAT” Markakis)…3. A 3rd baseman (Camargo should be our ‘super-sub/Ben Zobrist-type’ bench player for 2019).

My contention is that The Braves should have NO PROBLEM with a $150 mil Opening Day Payroll (with the option of increasing it by another $10-$15 mil SHOULD a need arise by The July 2019 Trade Deadline). I’m SICK AND TIRED of hearing how ‘the max’ Opening Day Payroll was $122 mil a year ago (implying that The Braves ‘only’ have around $30-$35 mil available to add to the current payroll)!

According to my math….The 5 Starting pitchers of Folty/Newcomb/Gausman/4th/5th starters coming from our PLETHORA of high upside pitching prospects…will total $16.9 mil in 2019.

The 8 man bullpen of O’Day/Vizcaino/Minter/Winkler/Venters/Sobotka/Fried/Long-Relief-Type from our PLETHORA of high upside young pitching talent….will total $19.4 mil in 2019.

The 4 man Bench of Camargo/Flowers/Culberson/Reed…..will total $6.7 mil in 2019.

The current 5 man Starting Lineup of Freeman/Albies/Swanson/Inciarte/Acuna……will total $27.8 mil.

Those 22 positions….will total $70.8 mil….leaving $79.2 mil to fill the holes that Left Field/3rd base/Catcher presents.

If AA feels that Austin Riley is THE FUTURE…then The Braves should pencil him in as our Opening Day 3rd baseman/#5 or #6 hitter. His power from the right side would be HELLA WELCOME in our lineup.

However, if AA has ‘question marks’ concerning Riley…then AA should package Riley (along with one or two of our ‘2nd tier’ starting pitching prospects…Realmuto is only 2 years away from Free Agency….The Marlins ARE NOT going to get ‘a king’s ransom’ for Realmuto, lol. Riley has a lot of power…and is HELLA CHEAP for the next 3 years).

So either The Braves trade for Realmuto by sacrificing Riley/a couple of others (he’s in line to get a raise to around $6 mil in 2019)…..which would leave The Braves with around $73.1 mil to fill Left Field/3rd base…..OR…..The Braves keep Riley as our 2019 Opening Day 3rd Baseman (he’ll only be paid $600k)…which would leave The Braves with $78.6 mil to fill Left Field/Catcher.

If we trade for Realmuto….I would LOVE to see The Braves use that $73.1 mil…to make DUAL OFFERS to BOTH Manny Machado AND Bryce Harper (offering $35-$40 mil type deals to EACH of them)! If each were to agree to a $35 mil a year type deals with The Braves…that would only put The 2019 Opening Day Payroll at $146.9 mil (look,

Sun Trust Field/the surrounding Battery Properties are A PRINTING PRESS OF DOLLARS for The Braves Organization (with even more development in 2019 and beyond). Also, REGULARLY HOSTING Playoff Games at Sun Trust…for MULTIPLE ROUNDS….will also SIGNIFICANTLY add to team revenue. Also, with the added STAR ATTRACTION of Machado and Harper to The Braves….The Braves can charge more for THE RICH PEOPLE”s seats/suites at Sun Trust. If it were to take $40 mil a year to sign BOTH Machado and Harper…then The Braves should DO IT IN A HEARTBEAT. That would give The Braves a 2019 Opening Day Payroll of $156.9 mil (with $ left over to add at The July Trade Deadline should a need arise).

Depending on how much it would take to sign Machado and Harper (2019 Opening Day Payroll of between $146.9 mil-$156.9 mil)….just look at what this 2019 Starting Lineup would look like:

1. Acuna……RF
2. Albies……2nd
3. Freeman….1st
4. Machado….3rd
5. Harper…..LF
6. Realmuto…C
7. Inciarte…..CF
8. Swanson….SS

Johan Camargo would be The Super Sub to give a number of our players a day off each week (he would be fresher as well). Also, if Albies were to struggle in 2019….Snitker could put Realmuto in the #2 hole and Albies in the #6 hole. Regardless…that would be A POWERFUL Lineup….with NO ONE over 28 years old!

Not only is that a powerful offense…but also very good defensive lineup! This lineup could stay together for a number of years!

A good offense/defense….would give our Pitching Staff time to develop! I would rather AA stay away from acquiring an ‘Ace’ like deGroom…because their salaries would rise significantly (also because he’s only 2 years away from Free Agency). The Braves have LOADS of high upside starting pitching talent….why not give the likes of Mike Soroka, Touki Tousiant, Kyle Wright, Bryce Wilson, Joey Wentz and Ian Anderson (among others) a chance to be Long Term Aces for The Braves (especially at cheap prices while The Braves are paying the likes of Machado, Harper and Freeman lots of money)?

I’m sure that Machado and Harper would only sign with opt outs after years #3-#4 (which would be IDEAL for The Braves…ESPECIALLY if both were to really HIT during those years)…..giving both players another chance for a big payday before they are 30 years old (which again, would be ideal for The Braves…because hopefully by then we’ll have players like Christian Pache and other hitters that we drafted in 2018 and hopefully in 2019…who will be ready to play/fill in for those players….AS players like Albies and Acuna get ready for ‘big payday extension offers’ by The Braves.

OR…..if The Braves were to keep Riley at 3rd…..then we’d have $78.6 mil to address left field/catcher….which 1. offering $35-$40 mil a year offer to Bryce Harper….and 2. Sign Yasmani Grandal to a $18-$20 mil a year type deal. That would leave The Braves with a 2019 Opening Day Payroll of between $124.4 mil and $131.4 mil.

Our 2019 Opening Day Lineup would be the following:

1. Acuna….RF
2. Albies….2nd
3. Freeman….1st
4. Riley……3rd
5. Harper….LF
6. Grandal…C
7. Inciarte….CF
8. Swanson….SS

I would bat Riley 4th (even though he’s a rookie)….because he has power AND because it would split up Freddie and Harper (both left handed hitters). In other words, having Riley hitting in between Freddie and Harper….would eliminate opposing managers from bringing in a tough lefty to face BOTH Freddie AND Harper…WITHOUT having to face a power righty bat like Riley.

Personally…..I like the first option (trading for Realmuto….going ALL-IN by signing BOTH Harper AND Machado). The Braves would be SERIOUS CONTENDERS for years to come with that lineup! If a team is making The Playoffs EVERY YEAR…..the payroll CANNOT stay the same. It HAS to go up! The young talent that The Braves have……would keep our pitching costs low (prime example….there’s a chance that Gausman, no matter how good he pitches in 2019…..will be a trade candidate next offseason…because The Braves have A PLETHORA of young, high upside Starting Pitching talent coming up The System! Heck, Gausmann may end up being traded by The July 2019 Trade Deadline….IF some of our AAA pitching studs ‘force the issue’. Why give Gausmann a raise on his already $9 mil 2019 Salary…IF a young prospect has the potential to pitch BETTER? That move there…is how money can be trimmed from The 2020 Payroll!

Other moves (whether after 2019 or 2020) would be to eventually trade Folty and Newcomb. By Opening Day 2021…I feel that the following will be our Opening Day Starting 5:

1. Mike Soroka…….($600k…could be a Super 2 IF he makes The 2019 Opening Day Roster. Regardless, he could very well be our ACE by then)
2. Touki Tousiant….($600k…..he’ll be in his last pre-arbitration year)
3. Kyle Wright……….($600k……same as Touki)
4. Ian Anderson……($600k…..he may not come up until sometime in late in 2019 or 2020..meaning that he’ll still be several years away from arbitration. Regardless, he has Ace-like potential)
5. Joey Wentz……($600k……same as Anderson. While not quite the upside as Anderson/Soroka…he’ll be a TOUGH lefty for opponents to face).

I know that it sounds CRAZY…however it is not impossible to imagine that THE ABOVE/Potential 2021 Starting Rotation…..leading The Braves to The 2021 Playoffs (in addition to being HELLA CHEAP)! That’s why AA SHOULD NOT trade any of our talented pitching prospects! That’s not even including the likes of Bryce Wilson, Patrick Weigel, Kyle Muller and Luis Gohara (2019 will be important for him….he has A TERRIBLE 2018…due to family deaths/issues..as well as injury issues. If he can live up to his potential….The Braves will have SICK depth).

It would be A SHAME…if The Braves decided to ‘nickel and dime’ the next few years……we have TOO MUCH CHEAP high upside talent….to NOT GO FOR IT during The 2018 Free Agent Offseason!

Based upon interview with DOB in Athletic yesterday (summarized by MLBTR), AA says basically that we’re dreaming if we think the Braves will sign either Harper or Machado. He has no intention of giving out any long large contracts that could hamstring the Braves in the future.

I’m all for Harper but just sayin’.

Signing Harper AND Machado and trading for Realmuto…WOULD NOT hamstring The Braves future payrolls! Prospects coming up would allow The Braves to trade NOT ONLY Teheran (and his $11 mil 2019 salary) and non-tender Duval this offseason….BUT ALSO possibly trade Gausman (and his estimated $9 mil 2019 salary, either at The July Trade Deadline OR during The 2019 Offseason)….AS WELL as Folty and Newcomb (either after The 2019 Season OR after The 2020 Season). In addition, Christian Pache, in the next few years, could make Ender Inciarte (and either his $7 mil 2020 salary or his $8 mil 2021 salary expendable).

Dude, I am SO RIGHT in that GOING BIG and signing BOTH Harper AND Machado…as well as trading for Realmuto…WOULD NOT hamstring future Braves Payrolls! Just read my DETAILED POST! I stated CLEARLY how the numbers can work!

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