My dream offseason obviously involves Liberty Media actually opening their checkbooks. This team just watched their biggest division go up 2-1 in the World Series after they blew the NLDS multiple times. The time to push the chips in is now with Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña on absurdly cheap deals. You have two generational talents on possibly the best contracts in all of sports. My offseason plan is a pricey one, but we’d be giving up minimal prospect talent now and opening up opportunities for trades down the line. This plan keeps the best pieces of the core together and supplements equally from trades and a very thin free agent market. Spending is always scarce around these parts, but I want to flip the script.
DFA Luke Jackson & Trade RHP Mark Melancon
Look, this is not me dogging on Luke Jackson. He’s fine. This is a setup for other moves to be made. Strictly business, moving on. I do want to attach a prospect to Mark Melancon to free up the money we’ll be paying him. I think a guy like Huascar Ynoa or Jaseel De La Cruz attached to him to could get the job done with a bad club. You’ll see why I’m doing this later on.
Get Hech & Billy Hamilton on Minor League Deals
I love both of these guys. They don’t have much room on a contending club, but if nobody comes calling I’d love to have them in Gwinnett ready to go if the injury bug bites the Braves again. Hech seemed to love Atlanta, and Hamilton’s speed can’t be undervalued. They both had revivals with the Braves which will make this tough, but I think it could also incline them to stay with us, even when we buy out Hamilton.
Re-Sign 3B Josh Donaldson, C Francisco Cervelli, RHP Chris Martin, RHP Darren O’Day, & LHP Jerry Blevins to the Major League Roster
These are the guys I’m really keen on bringing back. With Camargo, Culberson, and Riley coming back to start 2020 we have minimal room. Jacob Webb will likely be back from injury after the start of the season, so he’s not included. I feel like all of these guys are either worth their cost or are invaluable pieces we can’t replace on the market. Donaldson and Martin fall into the first category, the rest of the guys into the latter. We badly need Donaldson’s bat in the 4 hole. We gave up Kolby Allard in exchange for Martin, we need to keep him, plus he showed a lot of promise this season and I’d like to have him around. He’s got a good fastball and nasty stuff. Blevins was a solid bullpen piece all season and one of our only two pen lefties. O’Day showed me enough during the regular season to warrant a cheap deal. If not, let him go. I don’t think anyone will be opening their checkbook for him after throwing only 5.1 innings. Teheran, Keuchel, Markakis, Joyce, Flowers, Swarzak, in my opinion, will be playing elsewhere. Hech, Hamilton, & Ortega will all be packing their bags for AAA (hopefully). So far, that leaves the 25 man roster like this:
Rotation: Soroka, Fried, Folty
Bullpen: Greene, O’Day, Blevins
SS: Swanson, Camargo
3B: Donaldson, Riley
OF: Acuña, Duvall, Inciarte, Culberson
I’m slotting Riley to 3rd just for the sake of balance. Call him a Left Fielder if you want. That leaves us with 8 spots to play with. Let’s fill them.
Acquire C James McCann from the White Sox or C Tucker Barnhart from the Reds
I think I speak for everyone when I say with Tyler Flowers’ option & Cervelli becoming a free agent and Brian McCann retiring, the Braves need to upgrade the catcher position in the worst kind of way. We’ve addressed the backup role, but it would be wise for Alex Anthopoulos to look to the trade market and spend a little prospect capital on a backstop since the market is so bad. Both of these guys would make me very happy. McCann was an All-Star last season and Barnhart has a gold glove on his resumé. Barnhart has been more consistent over his career but had a down year in 2019, McCann is the opposite. He had a breakout 2019 after being pretty average his whole career. Let’s break down the numbers.
McCann 2019: .273/.328/.460/.789, 18 HR, 60 RBI, 118 GP, 31% CS Rate
Barnhart 2019: .231/.328/.380/.708, 11 HR, 40 RBI, 114 GP, 23% CS Rate
McCann Career: .247/.297/.387/.683, 58 HR, 237 RBI, 570 GP, 36% CS Rate
Barnhart Career: .250/.328/.371/.699, 39 HR, 200 RBI, 590 GP, 33% CS Rate
Barnhart has some experience at first base, which would have come in handy with Freeman ailing this postseason. Barnhart is only 28 and posted a silly 44% CS rate in his 2016 Gold Glove season. He’s a defensive factor behind the plate, and no doubt is a big part of Luis Castillo’s progression and Sonny Gray’s resurgence. McCann is only 29 and is more of an offensive guy, but his defensive numbers compare well to Barnhart’s. He’ll also more than likely cost a little more. This is a trade where I think we see someone like Kyle Wright or Kyle Muller dangled as a centerpiece with added pieces like William Contreras and Bryse Wilson to make this one work. If I had my pick, I’d take McCann. He found new life after coming over to Chicago from Detroit and was no doubt a big help in getting Lucas Giolito turned around. Barnhart will be a free agent in 2023, McCann in 2021. He fits the Shea Langeliers timeline a lot better.
Acquire RHP Blake Treinen from Oakland
This is a perfect buy-low rental opportunity for the bullpen. Blake Treinen has nasty stuff and posted a 0.78 ERA in 80.1 Innings and notched a 6th place finish in the AL Cy Young in 2018. So why is he a buy-low candidate? Well, 2019 wasn’t as kind to him in the bay.
Blake Treinen 2019: 6-5, 4.91 ERA in 58.2 IP, 16 Saves, 59 K
Not great.. but hey, it’s Oakland. They’ll probably want some weird prospect we don’t care about and taking a gamble on a guy like this is what championship teams do. Not many guys can make a baseball dance like this, this or this
Sign OF Starling Marte or OF Hunter Pence
This one is a doozy. Starling Marte has been one of the most criminally underrated players in baseball over these past few years going into his age 30 season. This all depends on his club option being turned down which probably won’t happen. Hunter Pence has been a resurgence of late. Marte is the best option if Alex isn’t feeling Pache or Waters coming to the bigs anytime in 2020. Pence would be an amazing stopgap between them if one of them IS going to be ready. I’m going to go with the latter, Pence will be much cheaper and I think Drew Waters is going to be the one to step up and break into the bigs after a month or two of AAA to get ready. However, here are both of their numbers:
Marte 2019: .295/.342/.503/.845, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 25 SB
Pence 2019: .297/.358/.552/.910, 18 HR, 59 RBI, 6 SB
Marte Career: .287/.341/.452/.793, 108 HR, 420 RBI, 239 SB (All-Star in 2016, GG in 2015/2016)
Pence Career: .280/.335/.462/.797, 242 HR, 936 RBI, 120 SB (All-Star in 2009/2011/2014/2019, 2x WS Champion)
Pence was almost out of baseball after 2018 but saved his career with Texas this season. He’s a low risk, low reward signing because he won’t cost much at all. If he’s the bad Pence again, we have other options like Duvall to stop the bleeding until help arrives. He also has loads of playoff experience and a career .254 average in October. Marte would likely command a larger and longer deal but would open up opportunities to trade one of Waters or Pache. He is as dynamic as they come and a true 5 tool player. Another note about Marte, he did serve a suspension for PEDs but has seen 0 drop-off in play. I’d go with Pence. He’s 6 years older but he’s the perfect bridge moving on from Markakis.
Sign RHP Nate Jones
Normally this would cause a problem with roster spots, but Jones tore his forearm last season and probably isn’t going to be ready for Opening Day 2020. I think signing him on a minor league deal would be a great move, he’s been super consistent throughout his career and would be an excellent call-up option along with Jacob Webb. Someone else might outbid us for his services, but I’d like to have him in Gwinnett ready to go in Atlanta. He’d make a great insurance policy after trading Melancon.
Jones 2019: 3.48 ERA & 10 K in 10.1 IP, 1 Save
Jones Career: 3.12 ERA & 318 K in 291.1 IP, 9 Saves
Low cost, high reward for a guy who is very injury prone.
Sign RHP Daniel Hudson, RHP Will Smith, or RHP Dellin Betances
For once Atlanta, please go get a big name relief pitcher. All of these guys could become an elite closer or setup man with our club, something we’ve been sorely missing since… *squints* Craig Kimbrel? Jordan Walden? O’Flaherty? Venters? I’m sure I’m forgetting some names, but all 4 of these guys would be a welcome replacement over Luke Jackson/Anthony Swarzak/Melancon and would pair very nicely with Blake Treinen or take over as closer. Betances is interesting. He suffered a partial Achilles tear and will likely miss some time, but I think he’s the most talented of this bunch. He’s 6’8″ but has seen a velocity dip, he’s definitely the biggest gamble of the group. Hudson has had a crazy 2019 but has stabilized Washington’s pen since coming over from Toronto. Comparing these guys, here’s how they stack up.
Hudson 2019: 2.47 ERA, 71 K in 73 IP, 8 Saves (0.82 ERA in June, Didn’t Allow a Run in September, 8.8 K/9)
Hudson Career: 3.83 ERA, 616 K in 692.9 IP, 17 Saves (8.0 K/9)
Smith 2019: 2.76 ERA, 96 K in 65.1 IP (!!!) 34 Saves (13.2 K/9)
Smith Career: 3.53 ERA, 494 K in 410.2 IP, 49 Saves (10.8 K/9)
Betances 2019: 0.00 ERA in 0.2 IP, 2 K, 0 Saves (27.0 K/9 Lol)
Betances Career: 2.36 ERA 621 K in 381.2 IP, 36 Saves (14.6 K/9)
Personally, give me Smith on a 2-year $18m deal to be our closer. Betances has been struck with one of the worst injuries an athlete can have, and the Newnan native will hopefully be welcome to a return to Braves country even after this incident.
Sign LHP Cole Hamels
Bring in the big guns. If the crafty vet would take 1 year $21 mil or 2 years $39 mil, I’d shake his hand before any other team got the chance. I’d rather give $21 million to Cole Hamels than give $12 million to Teheran or $22 to Keuchel. Hamels is as consistent as they come, and the best part is he has a 3.41 ERA in the playoffs to go along with an NLCS AND World Series MVP title under his belt. He’d provide a 2nd lefty to pair with Max Fried and compliment the guy we’re gonna talk about next. Hamels made $20 million with the Cubs this season, so I think $21 is a fair ask for his services. His age hasn’t shown yet, and at 36 I still think Hamels has plenty left in the tank.
Hamels 2019: 7-7, 3.81 ERA with 143 K in 141.2 IP
Hamels Career: 163-121, 3.42 ERA with 2558 K in 2694.2 IP (All Star in 2007, 2011, 2012, 2016. WS Champ, NCLS/WS MVP)
A big lefty with a lot of experience and a postseason track record to match? Yes please. He’d instantly become our 3 starter behind Mike Soroka and…
Sign RHP Gerrit Cole
You knew it was coming. It’s time to go all in for this team. Scared money don’t make money. You think the Nats regret the Max Scherzer deal? Zack Greinke is still chugging along. Stephen Strasburg is the highest paid pitcher in baseball and is 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA in these playoffs. Go. Get. Cole. A rotation comprised of Cole, Soroka, Fried, Hamels, and Foltynewicz would be the strongest the Braves have had since the Smoltz/Maddux/Glavine/Avery days. This guy is a superstar. He won’t be cheap, but look at these stats.
2019: 20-5, 2.50 ERA (1st in AL) with 326 K (First in MLB) in 212.1 IP
We have great pitchers on our staff, but we consistently cannot get over the hump. Cole is just DIFFERENT. He’s still throwing 100+ in the 7th inning of games. Look at the 2 rotations in the World Series. 4 of the highest 10 paid players in all of baseball (not even including Cole) are starting in these games. Mike Soroka is amazing. Max Fried is amazing. Mike Foltynewicz is good when he’s on. We need more. Give Gerrit Cole 5 years $197.5 million. Make him baseball’s highest paid pitcher. Our salary table can handle it. Open your checkbooks Liberty, the time to win is now. Will the contract suck in 4 years? It’s possible. Will he still be pitching at a high level in 4 years and still be worth the money? Equally as possible. If we win a World Series will it be worth it? 100000000%
So let’s take a look at my Dream Roster for 2020:
Starting 5: RHP Gerrit Cole, RHP Mike Soroka, LHP Cole Hamels, LHP Max Fried, RHP Mike Foltynewicz
Bullpen: LHP Jerry Blevins, RHP Darren O’Day, RHP Chris Martin, RHP Shane Greene, LHP Sean Newcomb, RHP Blake Treinen, RHP Will Smith (Closer)
Catcher: James McCann, Francisco Cervelli
First Base: Freddie Freeman
Second Base: Ozzie Albies
Shortstop: Dansby Swanson, Johan Camargo
Third Base: Josh Donaldson, Austin Riley
Outfield: Ronald Acuña Jr., Ender Inciarte, Hunter Pence, Charlie Culberson, Adam Duvall
So how does the salary table look? Not as bad as you’d think. For rough estimates and guesses on signings and trades..factor in $39.5M for Cole, $21M for Hamels, $9M for Smith, $8M for Treinen, $4M for Martin, $2M for Blevins, $1M for O’Day, $5M for James McCann, $2M for Cervelli, $25M for Donaldson, and $5M for Pence. Now don’t account for $22M for Keuchel, $12M for Teheran, $19M for Melancon, $9M for Swarzak, $2M for BMac, $6M for Flowers, $7.5 for Hamilton, $6M for Markakis, and about $4M in other salaries coming off of the books.
Checking the projected 2020 salary table and turning down the necessary club options, that’s a surplus of about $67.9 million for a team that is 10 times better on paper. That would put our team’s payroll at *ROUGHLY* (I was not an accounting major) $177.9 million. Do you know where that would rank in Major League Baseball currently? SEVENTH. The ranking right now is a little skewed because this is assuming every other team besides us gets all of their free agents back and make no other signings, which will not be the case. This also doesn’t factor in Nate Jones or other Minor League Contracts. However, this is all marginal when it comes to the big picture. We could drop in these rankings or rise, the Dodgers, Astros, Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies, and Cubs will all be in the mix along with the Angels and Nationals both making moves or having players get more expensive. The ranking itself is irrelevant. It’s time we start playing like a big market team and make moves like one. We’ll still miss the luxury tax by about $40 million, we could sign 2 Gerrit Coles and manage to miss it. We would have a reasonable salary table, elite players and a loaded farm, and actually field a club that can get us to the promised land. It all comes down to spending and letting go of good prospects who don’t fit the future. Pull the trigger, get us back to glory.