Braves decline Billy Hamilton’s $7.5 million option
This one was a no-brainer. Hamilton was a quality addition that the Braves ended up needing a lot more than they hoped due to injury, but he never had a spot on the future of this team, especially at that number. With players like Johan Camargo and Charlie Culberson returning to health to begin next season, Hamilton will be searching for a new home this offseason.
Braves decline Tyler Flowers option, but re-sign him to a one-year, $4 million contract
Alex Anthopoulos did a little accounting with the first announced move of the Braves’ offseason. He started by declining Tyler Flowers’ $6 million option and buying him out for $2 million. Then they re-signed him for $4 million for next season. Either way, Flowers gets $6 million, but this way, only $4 million is counted against the 2020 payroll.
Even though a large chunk of Braves Country was in disarray after this news dropped, it was a rather obvious decision. Brian McCann retired and Francisco Cervelli is a free agent with a laundry list of injuries in his past. The Braves weren’t going to enter the offseason without a backstop, especially since there are so few quality options available on the market. Their next move will be to find someone to pair with Flowers. They could be in on the Yasmani Grandal sweepstakes. He’s by far the sexiest option on the market, but most likely, they will continue with a two-man platoon for at least one more season.
Braves decline Nick Markakis option, but re-sign him to a one-year, $4 million contract
No, this isn’t déjà vu. The Braves did the same thing with Nick Markakis as they did with Tyler Flowers. They had the same deals ($6 million option with a $2 million buyout). By doing this, Atlanta prevented another $2 million from counting against their 2020 payroll.
Not too long after the move was announced, David O’Brien of The Athletic provided some clarity on how the Braves plan to use Markakis. They no longer view him as their everyday right fielder. They want to platoon with him in left field.
There are a few ways this could go. The Braves could move Acuña to right and stick Ender Inciarte back in center. That would leave them with Nick Markakis and Austin Riley as a potential righty/lefty platoon in left field. If Riley continues to struggle, Atlanta will also have the option to keep Adam Duvall in arbitration. Of course, Anthopoulos will continue to monitor the trade and free-agent market for an opportunity to upgrade as well. Although, if they do that, I’d expect it to be a short-term deal. The Braves top-two prospects – Drew Waters and Cristian Pache – are both outfielders that could be ready at some point in 2020.
Braves decline Julio Teheran’s $12 million option
This was the one significant loss the Braves suffered today. After an up-and-down career in Atlanta, Julio Teheran appears to be on to greener pastures finally. The long-time Brave was no longer viewed by the organization as a player that could be relied on in the playoffs – even after an impressive regular season. Because of that, he wasn’t worth the $12 million left on his contract. The Braves haven’t completely ruled out a reunion on a smaller deal, but I see a team paying Teheran much more than Atlanta will be willing. He may not be an ace, but he’s a more than capable starter that has helped the Braves to NL East titles in back-to-back seasons.
For Atlanta, they want to upgrade their rotation this offseason. Julio Teheran is gone, and Dallas Keuchel is probably next. There is a healthy crop of starting pitchers set to hit the market. Expect Alex Anthopoulos to be putting out feelers on all of them, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up for one of the top guns. Names like Zack Wheeler and Madison Bumgarner are likely at the peak of the Braves price range. Don’t expect Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg to land in Atlanta.
Braves extend a qualifying offer to Josh Donaldson
Lastly, the Braves extended a qualifying offer to Josh Donaldson, which is a one-year contract worth $17.8 million. It goes without saying, Donaldson will not be signing that. He’s fresh off a one-year, $23 million deal that he outperformed and will be looking for multiple years this time around. The Braves have reiterated there is mutual interest in an extension, but there are going to be a lot of competing teams making a run at him. At the very least, if another organization swoops in and steals Donaldson, Atlanta will receive a compensation pick.