Braves: My dream plan to salvage the 2020-2021 offseason

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The MLB offseason is always exceptionally boring, and outside of signing Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly before Thanksgiving, Alex Anthopoulos has been quiet. He has earned my full trust that he knows what he’s doing, so I will relax a little bit. It’s tough to see guys like Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario, Kirby Yates, Darren O’Day, and Brad Hand sign for peanuts, and the Cardinals are on the verge of acquiring Nolan Arenado for next to nothing. Teams like the Padres and Dodgers have only improved, and as it stands now, the Braves have taken a step back. The Phillies, Mets, and Nationals have all improved within the division as well, so you can’t help but feel like the Braves are falling behind.

After the MLB’s latest proposal is being rumored to be rejected and the universal DH not in play for 2021, things get even cloudier. Chase wrote here that Anthopoulos probably has about $20 million left to spend, but hopefully, Liberty opens their wallets to actually push with a championship team. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and estimate $25 — $30 million. I still trust AA, but regardless, this would be my ideal finish to what has been an uncertain and nerve-racking free agency period.


Re-Sign Shane Greene & Mark Melancon

This is at the top of my list — even over bringing Marcell Ozuna back. I wrote about this last week, but Atlanta finally had a bullpen that was a strength instead of a weakness. Both guys were nails for all of 2020 and especially during the postseason with a banged-up rotation. Melancon is probably less of a priority than Greene, considering the Braves gave up Joey Wentz to get Greene, but both guys need to come back.

Melancon 2020: 22.2 IP, 9 ER, 23 K, 11 SV, 1.42 WHIP

Outside of these stats, Melancon dominated the 2020 playoffs. He gave up one untimely run over 6.1 innings but struck out five and only surrendered two hits. Melancon’s hefty $17 million salary in 2020 won’t be matched on his next contract, but the Shark is a vital piece to this Braves bullpen. While Melancon doesn’t HAVE to be the closer for the Braves, he presents a lot of versatility as a righty with AJ Minter’s resurgence and Will Smith finishing last season strongly.

Shane Greene cost a pretty penny in 2019 with Joey Wentz going back to Detroit, but after a slow start, Greene was lockdown for the Braves. He only gave up eight earned runs over 27.2 IP. His 1.12 WHIP in high leverage situations undoubtedly led to a lot of wins in a tight division race with only 60 games. Considering the prospect cost given up to acquire him, bringing him back is critical in my eyes.

With Darren O’Day gone, the only notable righties outside of newly signed Carl Edwards Jr are Luke Jackson and Chris Martin, who unfortunately seem to get injured at the worst times.


Dream scenario:

Shane Greene Re-Signs for two years, $16 million

Mark Melancon re-signs for one year, $9 million

Remaining estimated spending: $8 million to $12 million


Trade Ender Inciarte 

I put together a few trade packages before the offseason began, but after seeing how many players had their options declined, it’s difficult to see anyone taking Inciarte’s $9 million for 2021. However, this is my dream offseason, so I’ll use one of the trades to get us some extra money to play with. This isn’t likely, but this is the best-case scenario.

Red Sox Receive: OF Ender Inciarte, RHP Jaseel De La Cruz (#10), RHP Daysbel Hernandez (#16), C Alex Jackson (#21)

Braves Receive: LHP Chris Murphy (#26)

Boston makes the most sense here; as bad as they are, Ender could probably get a few starts next to Verdugo, especially if they don’t re-sign JBJ. As it stands, Boston has the 8th highest projected payroll for 2021 (Spotrac). When you’re picking 4th in the draft — that isn’t ideal. Boston is starving for pitching prospects, and they get two live arms in Hernandez & De La Cruz. De La Cruz provides help now with an MLB ready arm, and Hernandez is a project loaded with potential. Take Murphy’s ranking with a grain of salt — Boston’s system is very weak, and I’m more than willing to take any warm body that gets the deal done and Ender off of the books. Murphy posted a 1.08 ERA in 33.1 innings in Low A in 2019, and I think he’s a fair return for his upside.

Remaining estimated spending: $17 million to $21 million


Option A: Acquire Jose Ramirez or Kris Bryant in a trade

Option B: Re-Sign Marcell Ozuna or sign Justin Turner


With Ender off of the books, Atlanta has a little bit of flexibility. The question is do you want to give up a boatload of prospect capital for Jose Ramirez, roll the dice on Kris Bryant with less prospect cost, or spend what you have. You have to consider a Freddie Freeman extension is on the horizon, so you’re playing a dangerous game locking up Ozuna with the future of the universal DH being uncertain. Personally, I think it will be included after the 2022 CBA negotiations conclude. For now, let’s break down both options.


Option A:

Clint broke down a fantastic piece regarding a Jose Ramirez trade here, but it’s so hard for me to let go of Drew Waters. I think he will be an elite player in the majors very shortly. Shea Langeliers is another tough player to let go of, as he is a lockdown defensive catcher. Possibly re-upping with Travis d’Arnaud and developing Willson Contreras is ideal for me, and Jose Ramirez is an elite talent at the position. I also still have faith that Austin Riley will have a big 2021 season. Kris Bryant would cost significantly less, but he’s also a flight risk in the next free agency period. I couldn’t possibly be mad about acquiring Ramirez, especially with him being so cheap for his caliber of play until 2024.


Option B:

At this point, I may actually prefer signing Turner and moving Riley to left field. He’s 36, but he has shown no signs of aging in Los Angeles. Every fan wants Ozuna back, but I think Turner’s consistency at a more premium position would make him a smarter signing. He’s got something left in the tank, and I think he would take a healthy one-year contract to protect Freddie Freeman in the order. He has killed the Braves for a long time, so maybe he exacts some revenge on the Dodgers in the playoffs.


Option A Dream Scenario:

Atlanta lands Jose Ramirez in a blockbuster trade

Remaining Spending: $7.6 million to $11.6 million


Option B Dream Scenario:

Justin Turner signs a one year, $16 million contract

Remaining Spending: $1 million to $5 million


Given a choice, I’d rather sign Turner as a stopgap to see what Austin Riley has in a full season. Drew Waters has 30/30 potential and would make Atlanta’s outfield one of the three best in baseball, and they may not be two or three. Shea Langeliers will be ready (hopefully) soon as a college product, and I think he has JT Realmuto potential on defense with serious pop in his bat.


Sign a solid bench piece or re-sign Adam Duvall

It’s a tough pill to swallow seeing Eddie Rosario sign for $8 million and Joc Pederson sign for $7 million. These are reasonable prices for guys that could be impact bats for Atlanta off of the bench — DH or no DH. There are still some good players left on the market; I’d have to say I would be happy with:

  • Kolten Wong, INF — 1.9 WAR 
  • Jonathan Villar, INF/OF — 0.7 WAR
  • Yasiel Puig, OF — 0.7 WAR
  • Brad Miller, INF — 0.7 WAR
  • Nomar Mazara, OF — 0.5 WAR
  • Marwin Gonzalez, INF/OF — 0.6 WAR
  • Jackie Bradley Jr., OF — 1.3 WAR

I won’t harp on Duvall; he is clutch, and Atlanta should not have non-tendered him. Off the bat, I’m assuming all of these guys can be signed for $10 million or less on a one year deal like Pederson or Rosario, which would offset the Inciarte savings while bringing in an upgrade.

Kolten Wong is an immediate upgrade over Johan Camargo defensively and on the basepaths. He may not be a switch hitter or have as much power, but he’s pretty solid gap to gap and legs out many extra-base hits. I would say the same for Jonathan Villar, he had a disappointing 2020, but he’s a year removed from 24 home runs, 33 doubles, and 40 stolen bases with a .792 OPS. He also plays a plethora of positions, so he’s my biggest target (that’s likely the most expensive).

Yasiel Puig is in some legal trouble at the moment, but there’s no reason for the Braves not to consider a reunion. Brad Miller is another versatile piece with some pop, he may likely never regain his 2016 form when he smacked 29 doubles and 30 home runs, but he’s certainly worth looking at with a cheap contract. Nomar Mazara had been disappointing, but he was good for 20 home runs over his first four seasons. He has a nice arm, but he isn’t that great defensively.

Marwin Gonzalez is another guy that may never recapture his best days, but he can play a handful of positions and is decent with the stick, even after a down 2020. JBJ had his best year at the plate in 2020, but it’s a pretty big outlier. Regardless, he’s a fantastic defensive center fielder.


Option A dream scenario:

Jonathan Villar signs a one-year, $8 million contract with incentives

Remaining money: -$400,000 to $3.6 million


Option B dream scenario:

Jackie Bradley Jr signs a one-year, $4 million contract with incentives


Adam Duvall re-signs for one year, $4 million with incentives

Remaining money: -$3 million to $1 million





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