Now that the Braves have already allocated what is believed to be half of their budget this offseason to Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann, the team will be taking a more frugal approach to free agency.
Of course, when you do this, a lot of the players have baggage. They may have had injuries in recent memory or are coming off a down year. This applies to former Braves Shelby Miller and Evan Gattis, both of whom will struggle on the open market this offseason. They may not make total sense at first glance, but hear me out.
Ever heard of the term you can never have enough pitching?
The Braves are reportedly involved in talks with other teams, though nothing is close to fruition. However, we are likely talking about an ace pitcher in these talks. In Miller, we are talking about a guy who may be had on a minor league contract. Miller has had serious injury problems since being dealt away from Atlanta, and there is a good chance his career is a wash. However, he is still just 28-years old. He was non-tendered by the Diamondbacks last week.
Given the fact that Miller had his career-best year in a Braves uniform, perhaps a minor league deal would not be such a bad idea. The Braves have a lot of arms at their disposal but could see if he could return to form in the minors or perhaps transition him into a reliever. The upside is there, the question is whether his body will give. Regardless, in this scenario, there would be no risk. The problem would be getting him to return to a team that traded him away and will likely have a full rotation. However, Miller’s career is on a thread and returning to a team where he has had success such as the Braves or Cardinals could be his safest option as he tries to rebound from a horrid stint in the desert.
El Oso Blanco was a fan favorite who was dealt away because he was better suited for the AL. This may still be true, but there are only 15 DH openings in the MLB, and he is coming off a bit of a down year. I would expect him to net around a 1-year $4 million pact.
Last year, the Braves biggest weakness heading into the postseason was their lack of bench depth. Adam Duvall was a huge disappointment, though he is definitely worthy of one more chance given his past performance. This year, the bench will feature Johan Camargo and Charlie Culberson, who can play anywhere on the diamond. Now, the focus should be bringing in a guy who can change the game with one swing of the bat. Gattis could return in a pure pinch-hitting role, though that may not be so appealing to him. It would also give the Braves a third option at catcher if an emergency strikes, and more importantly, give Brian Snitker a bit more peace of mind pinch hitting Tyler Flowers or Brian McCann throughout the season. Gattis is far from a perfect fit, but would undoubtedly complete the Braves bench plans. Of course, if his price tag gets any higher than that, he is a stay away.
Are these guys perfect fits? Not at all. However, they are two of the highest upside free agents that could be had for nickels. Braves fans should not be mad if the team takes a flier on either of these guys. Chances are some team will reap the benefits of a bounce-back season from one of the two.