After the Braves spent $25 million of next year’s payroll in the form of Brian McCann and Josh Donaldson (mostly Donaldson), they are likely out of the buyer’s market for top-of-the-line starting pitching. That said, it is still their main priority. The Donaldson deal for one-year tells us one thing: The Braves are all-in for 2019, and the only way for them to truly look at themselves as Word Series contenders is if they acquire a standout guy to lead their rotation.
Sure, Mike Foltynewicz was fantastic for Atlanta last year, going 13-10 with a 2.85 ERA and finishing eighth in the NL Cy Young race. Hopefully, he can build off that, become even more consistently dominant and look like the top of the rotation pitcher the Braves need. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees, as progression is not always linear. Folty has been an inconsistent arm his entire career, and there’s no telling what he might cook up for us next year, good or bad.
There is also a bevy of young arms that could be ready to take the same step Folty took last year. Sean Newcomb was a first-half All-Star candidate but faded in the second half of the year. Touki Toussaint, Max Fried, Mike Soroka and Kyle Wright are all nipping at the bit for their opportunity. But even if one or two of them puts together a stellar campaign, they still don’t possess the veteran experience needed to win World Series trophies.
If anybody knows this, it’s Alex Anthopoulos. The Braves have showed their cards early on, and there is no time to stand pat now. Before spring training arrives, Atlanta will have a new face at the top of their rotation.
There are several names that have floated around. Corey Kluber is my personal favorite. The 2017 Cy Young Award winner has three years of control left on his deal, coming off back-to-back years with a WHIP south of one and five straight seasons of 220+ strikeouts. Not to mention, his deal actually comes at an astonishingly affordable rate for a pitcher of his caliber. Now the questions lie in whether the Indians are actually interested in dealing the two-time Cy Young Award winner.
Madison Bumgarner rumors have also reached an all-time peak. It was reported a couple days ago that the Giants are finally open to moving the greatest postseason pitcher of our time. Although, San Francisco may have waited a little too long to make him available. Bumgarner will be a free agent after 2019, which will cause several teams to shy away from dealing blue-chip prospects for him. Talk about a win-now move, though, and the Braves have a lot of quality prospects.
Perhaps the Braves can convince the Mets to deal one of their star pitchers within the division. It is unlikely, but these are the type of aces Atlanta will be in the market for from now until the 2019 trade deadline.
Right field is an important position to address as well, but the Braves are going to score runs. They were a powerful offense last year and that was before the acquisitions of Donaldson and McCann (who is an upgrade at the plate from Suzuki). Their main focus needs to be strengthening this starting rotation and finding the right guy to lead it.