What If The Braves Didn’t Rebuild (Part 2)

From the end of the Part 1:

At this stage, the 2015-2016 offseason, it gets far off from reality where I feel it best just to highlight the condition of the team based on the payroll, roster, and prospects they have at these junctures and pause here to let you decide what they should have or should not have done. I personally think that it wasn’t a slam dunk to rebuild. I think had they made some smart trades, found some relievers here and there, and developed a reclamation project or two, they would have still been competitive in 2015, and they would use their resources to continue to keep the team competitive.

So here we are at the 2015-2016 offseason. Jason Heyward and Justin Upton have left for free agency. The Braves will have the draft position based on their 2015 finish, but they’ll have the picks from those free agency departures. Julio Teheran had a step back at the age of 24, but Alex Wood (who was not traded, of course) has sort of a breakout year. And in our scenario, they pretty much emptied what was left of the farm to acquire the third cost-controlled starting pitcher. Otherwise, the rotation is in a rough spot. The outfield lineup is pretty much non-existent other than BJ Upton’s slight recovery in 2015. You also don’t have a third baseman, but you have Evan Gattis, Freddie Freeman, Tommy La Stella, and Andrelton Simmons. Not a bad core, especially if the Braves would have followed through and still signed AJ Pierzynski for the 2015 season. While his age would show and his career would fade quickly in 2016, they undoubtedly re-sign him for 2016. BJ Upton is still under contract, and after his recovery in 2015, they’re going to obviously run him out there.

The farm is actually in better condition than you might think. Ozzie Albies would be your #1 prospect, and Kolby Allard, who would still be drafted with the 14th pick in the 2015 draft, would be your #2 prospect. But since they probably had to trade Lucas Sims and/or Jose Peraza to acquire the cost-controlled starter, Mike Soroka is your #3 prospect. From there, it’s bleak. Braxton Davidson, Manny Banuelos (his acquisition is probably a deal Coppy makes, contending or rebuilding), Ricardo Sanchez, Lucas Herbert, Jason Hursh, and Mauricio Cabrera form a heavy portion of your top 10 list. But one of our presuppositions is, of course, that Coppy is the GM, so you have to assume there will still be some AA/AAA low ceiling guys traded for higher ceiling guys that are lower down the system. They probably don’t take injured guys like Jacob Lindgren or Daniel Winkler in the Rule 5 and instead settle for less talented but healthy relief types. A guy like Andrew Thurman undoubtedly gets traded for a higher ceiling pitcher. So the philosophy is still there except they don’t have the benefit of consolidating so many resources in the minor league system; more major league talent is necessary.

The amount committed in 2016 payroll is interesting. They wouldn’t have traded for Carlos Quentin’s contract, Dan Uggla’s contract expires, they probably don’t trade Chris Johnson’s contract for Nick Swisher’s and Michael Bourn’s, and Nick Markakis and Matt Kemp don’t exist. So realistically, they only have about $55M committed. So while they have holes, they have ample resources with which to replace them. You could re-sign Justin Upton if you want to. Sign a free agent third baseman. Sign a starting pitcher because, after all, only Julio Teheran is making any money. The bullpen consists of Craig Kimbrel will make $13M in 2016, and there’s no other long-term money committed to the bullpen. What makes the prospects of 2016 look bleak is the moves they made after they decided to rebuild: the trade for Hector Olivera and then Matt Kemp, the money still owed to Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, and the signing of Nick Markakis. If those monies are uncommitted, the only significant salaries they’re on the hook for are Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, BJ Upton, Chris Johnson, Julio Teheran (still only $3.3M in 2016), and Craig Kimbrel. So while no one can realistically speculate how exactly the Braves would field a competitive team in 2016, it’s easy to say that there are resources with a few top prospects and a stout draft class coming up in 2016.

The point of this is not to say whether or not the Braves should have rebuilt. There are so many factors that influence how things would play out. Perhaps the strongest statement I would make is that the rebuild’s completion was delayed at least a year because of the moves after they decided to rebuild. Oh well, there’s always 2019.

75 thoughts on “What If The Braves Didn’t Rebuild (Part 2)”

  1. Melvin Upton doesn’t “rebound” in Atlanta, and even if he did that dead cat bounce was short lived. He’s a gaping hole in CF. And Tommy La Stella is a 98 career OPS+ backup middle infielder.

  2. His only moment of dead cat bounce was in San Diego. As soon as he left he cratered to a 50 OPS+ again in Toronto. Call in an affinity for San Diego’s coaches. Call it needing a zero pressure environment. Call it what you want. Melvin never even dead cat bounces in Atlanta. I guarantee that.

  3. Yelich a Brewer?
    the odds against get fewer and fewer
    the Fish though still likely discern
    it’s only the Braves that have prospects to burn.

  4. We overlook AJ Minter
    who runs a hundred miles each winter
    his verbals though are never modest
    a comparison with Charlemagne among the oddest.

  5. I find it a bit amusing that Rob assumes – when discussing the putative 2016 Braves no-teardown-alternative-universe budget – that the team’s payroll would be in good shape because they wouldn’t have made any dumb decisions during the 2015 season/off-season that would have unproductively eaten into payroll space… “They wouldn’t have traded for Carlos Quentin’s contract, Dan Uggla’s contract expires, they probably don’t trade Chris Johnson’s contract for Nick Swisher’s and Michael Bourn’s, and Nick Markakis and Matt Kemp don’t exist…”

    You’re giving the Braves’ front office staff a *lot* of credit if you assume that they wouldn’t have acquired Kemp, Cakes or any other underwhelming/overpaid vets in an environment where they had money to burn and no farm system to fill the roster gaps. The Braves have a spotty history of success at FA acquisitions and there’s no reason to assume otherwise in this “what if” scenario.

    PS – I appreciate your work for Braves Journal, Rob!

  6. Yeah, in the alternative timeline, they would still make bad decisions. In my alternative timeline I fire everyone in the building when Wren goes. Where that would lead is pretty much beyond speculation. We’d be losing a lot and getting draft picks either way. The long term result depends on who you bring in to run things.

  7. I’ll pile ion and point out that Freddie Freeman didn’t become a top of the league 1B until they picked up Kemp to hit behind him. There’s no one in this lineup who is going to give him any help at all.

  8. I can live with the rebuild as long as it’s a once in 20 to 30 year thing. The Astros went through a rebuild and it paid off nicely. I wonder how long they can sustain it. Worst case scenario is we become the Marlins or Pirates and are in a perpetual rebuild. I don’t think that will happen.

  9. Maybe a good question to ponder: if it’s generally accepted that all franchises go through cycles of contention and rebuilding — even the teams with the highest payrolls are not necessarily immune — why should the Braves be any different?

  10. Rob @ 2,

    Melvin was used as a right handed hitting platoon centerfielder (mostly) in San Diego.
    He had a left handed hitting caddy. He ops’d about the same thing against lefties in his 3 bad Atlanta years as he did in San Diego.

  11. The Allard Drop
    has now been explained as a sop
    drops in velocity
    infuriate those who adhere to pomposity.

  12. at 12,

    I saw some people debating the ZIPS numbers around 9 this morning on Talking Chop and it wasn’t up on FanGraphs (maybe it was to “paying members”)w I was aware that one of their people had used a rough estimate of 79 wins and said he got it from a preliminary on ZIPS.

    Remember ZIPS is a computer projection based on previous stats. They do massage the playing time and innings pitched based on things not known from the stats. It is usually accurate within 5 games up or down.

    To the naysayers,

    1. They functionally project a near 2 WAR platoon value for Ruiz and Camargo (not able to get the splits. Could be higher and should be since both Ruiz and Camargo are held back by their “bad side”). They also indicate if Riley played this year, on a full time basis, he would be a 1 WAR player (so, another minor league year could continue a breakout). This is why I don’t want a 3B on more than about a 2 year contract.

    2. They move wins projection to that 79. This shows no influence from any acquired players not on roster. They have Markakis the whole year at just under 1 WAR.

    3. They have Swanson at 2 WAR. Almost every prospect analyst and the computers say he is half decent. No, we don’t KNOW that, but it is more likely than not that he is at least o.k.

    4. Other than Swanson, are there any other position players you can dispute as significantly off?

    5. They have both Kazmir and McCarthy around a half year of innings, but at essentially league average. The over on McCarthy and the under on Kazmir seem likely on that.

  13. ZIPS simply projects playing time from previous inputs. Kazmir and McCarthy are projected for lower innings totals because they were hurt last year.

  14. Interesting from Kiley’s FG chat today.


    How many prospects would you NOT trade one-for-one for Christian Yelich?

    Kiley McDaniel:

    Another good idea for an article. Rosenthal wrote something smart about this today. Essentially with every free agent seemingly have a reduced price and prospects thus having an inflated price, that means solid, market-value-ish players are now a little below market. That means Yelich is worth a little less than normal (with all kinda of alternatives on the FA market at the moment) and prospects (who you can only get via trade) are worth even more than usual. So that list of prospects not on the table is probably bigger at this moment than it would normally be.

  15. @6

    Are you comfortable with AA having this much money to spend in the 2018-2019 offseason? Why or why not?

    But that’s why I said that a lot of the problems really occurred after they decided to rebuild. They would have had lots of money to spend after 2015, so it’s a justifiable suggestion that they should have not rebuilt. Because they ultimately made some really bad FA/trade moves after they rebuilt has nothing to do with whether they should have or not. Frankly, it sounds like they were incompetent and doomed either way, hence the question of whether or not you’re ok with the new guy being able to spend all the money.

    No thanks necessary. If I’m wrong, blast me with fury.

  16. Chipper Jones is a Hall of Famer. Andruw lives to fight another day. Today is a good day, folks.

  17. They would have had lots of money to spend after 2015, so it’s a justifiable suggestion that they should have not rebuilt.

    Well, don’t leave us hanging. Git r dun, Copey, and spend that $70 mil or so on LF, RF, 3B, and a couple SP. Or is that part 3?

  18. Fine, Adam, fine. No, no, I don’t have the energy (nor people who want to read it) for a third part. But for kicks:

    Bartolo Colon, 1 YR/$7M
    Yoenis Cespedes, 3 YR/$75M
    Rajai Davis, 1 YR/$5.25M
    Sean Rodriguez, 1 YR/$2.5M (tell me you didn’t see that coming)
    Dexter Fowler, 1 YR/$13M
    Trevor Cahill, 1 YR/$4.25M
    Hisashi Iwakuma, 1 YR/$12M


    Rotation: Teheran/Wood/Cost-controlled 3rd starter you traded for/Colon/Iwakuma
    Lineup: Gattis/Freeman/La Stella/Andrelton/Rodriguez/Cespedes/Fowler/Upton
    Bench: AJP/Davis/Castro/D’Arnaud/Frenchy
    Bullpen: Kimbrel/Cahill/MoCab/Roe/Ramirez/Chevanka/Another lefty

    And that’s just 10 minutes of quick research. They would have an entire offseason to figure it out. Could you have built around the core of the team if you had $70M to spend? Maybe. Probably. Was it obvious the you had to rebuild? No. Am I mad we rebuilt? No. Do I wish it was over by making better decisions? Yes. Do I resent being force-fed that this was the only option? Yes. Am I done asking yes or no questions? Yes.

  19. Rob, your series has convinced me that the Braves were in fact correct to go into rebuilding mode. There just wasn’t much quality on the roster at this point other than Freeman, Simmons, and a couple of starting pitchers who have question marks. You still have Acuna and Albies, yes, but one would have to assume the drafting position would not have been the same. There is no way to know if the Braves would have been able to draft some of the same guys in a presumably lower draft position.

    And as it has been pointed out, the rebuild probably would have been over earlier without the Wood, Simmons, and Kemp trade screwups. It isn’t like every move made during the rebuild was a good one, but in the overall scheme it was the right thing to do IMO.

  20. 6 new HOF players. Chipper, Vlad, Thome, Hoffman voted in by the writers; Morris and Trammell voted in by the VC.

  21. If you go on YouTube, MLB has a ton of Chipper Jones highlights they put up about a week ago.

    There are definitely worse ways to spend an hour. It’s nice to hear from Skip and Pete again too.

  22. @24, Heh. *applause*

    I don’t know why you’re so averse to helping the rotation. Fowler and Cespedes (even with the opt-out that we know he takes) are the obvious values, but IRL I’d have given Cueto the moneys first.

    Also, you gotta figure you have to actually outbid the highest offer for these guys, so they’re each pricier than listed.

  23. I think the best you can say in an alternative approach to rebuilding is that you sign FAs, reclamation projects, convert prospects to bench players/relievers, and try to stay as competitive as you can until the inevitably better drafts of 2015/2016 took shape. You still have Allard, Soroka, and Minter from your ’15 class, and while you would lose draft position, you’d add 2 comp picks. So I think you go into 2017 with a much worse but still very good couple of drafts since Coppy came on, and if 2016 ends up being a really bad team anyway, you get a high position and you keep Wright/Waters/Tarnok. And with Acuna and Albies, I think you end up with a really good farm whichever route you take. But it’s the much easier and much safer decision to hit the reset button and rebuild.

  24. Watched a documentary on Sandy Koufax last night. How on earth is Sandy Koufax a Hall of Famer (first ballot, 87% of ballots) and Andruw Jones is not? It’s the same argument! Koufax had an incredible peak where he was the absolute best player at his position (and all of baseball, sure), but he wasn’t even good until 25 and he was literally gone from baseball at 30! He had no “good” seasons before his peak, a 5 year peak, and then literally no decline. He went from being Mike Foltynewicz to the GOAT to appearing to up and vanish like a fart in the wind. With that said, that’s not to say that Sandy Koufax is not a Hall of Famer. I’m saying Andruw Jones is.

    Also interesting to note: in his retirement press conference, he said he was taking Cortisone every other start and he had stomach pain from pain killers. Also said they made him high during his starts. That’s not good.

  25. Sandy Koufax played for the Dodgers in his prime. Andruw Jones played for the Dodgers and put up a 501 ops. He then had a few decent years for the Yankees, but he was well past his prime and his defense was a shell of his former self. The power of a large market like LA and NY shouldn’t be underestimated.

  26. 3 Rings and 2x WS MVP helps.

    His WAR in the two seasons preceding his peak 5 years was 5.7 and 4.4. I would consider those “good”

    At the end of the day though, I think it’s the recency bias. We saw the same thing with Kirby Puckett. Would that Andruw Jones was in a car wreck after the 2007 season and wasn’t able to play anymore, I think it’s more likely he’s in as the memory of him being Eric Hinske for 5 years isn’t the last one we have of him playing. It’s definitely not fair, but that’s my theory.

    Koufax is an interesting comparison though. From an impact off-the-field standpoint, Sandy gets a lot of credit as a mainstream Jewish athlete (ie: The Yom Kippur WS sit), but I would argue Andruw is equally deserving for his impact on Curacao baseball and the wave of subsequent players since then.

  27. ‘You’re simply the best
    Better than all the rest.’

    We should all follow Mr Minter. He is good value in any Q and A situation. No Rocker ranter he but always a firm confidence – he knows where he is going. Listen to his answers(Most recently with his home town paper about a couple of weeks ago via TC).

    His stated goal is simple. To become the best arm in the bullpen. The closer. The last 3 outs. Respectful of all his competition he is utterly focused. We could use a few more like that. Do you know of one?

    i will close
    now you knows.

  28. According to Fangraphs, he has a 6-year peak (so I was wrong on that), and Fangraphs has that first good season at 2.7 fWAR, which is not fair for me to say that’s not good. But he has 1 good season, 6 peak seasons (three of which are bonkers: 9.1, 9.2, and 10.0 fWAR), and done. I think you’re right that Andruw’s career has been unfairly viewed. I listened to Chris Russo, who is just absolutely putrid and yet has shows on 3 (!!!) networks, say that because Andruw got pulled in the middle of an inning for being lazy that he was lazy. What was he, 19 or 20? He’s just flat out stupid and ruins MLB Network’s early afternoon slot.

    But don’t get me wrong; Braves fans are to blame for a little bit of this. Didn’t Mac have the whole “blame Andruw” joke for when Braves’ fans would attribute team problems unfairly to the fact that Andruw wasn’t Willie Mays? We probably didn’t even know what we had until mainstream baseball started taking a dump on him.

  29. Kofax at his peak was probably the greatest pitcher ever.

    His last six years is probably the best run any player ever had.

    The Braves haven’t even retired Andruw’s number. I think that will have to happen before his HOF percentages go up.

  30. @42, True. Koufax’s peaky was the peakiest peak. Legit 10 WAR player, which Andruw was not.

    The Braves haven’t even retired Andruw’s number.

    We could help out with this by sending Peanut/DOB some questions to get the conversation started.

  31. @40

    Chris Russo
    there’s some who rue so
    I happen to like
    the unfettered voice, the dance with the mic.

    Hawk Harrelson (they scored)
    ‘You can put it on the Board’
    as fine an epithet
    as any Pale Sox is likely to get.

    PS Is he still alive, thus employed, the Hawk?

  32. @43

    Good idea. If he was elected to the HOF, it would be as a Brave and they don’t think enough of him to retire his number.

    I think it hurts his case.

  33. I’ve said before it was silly that the Braves didn’t retire Andruw’s number when they inducted him into the team HOF.

  34. Kofax at his peak was probably the greatest pitcher ever.


    Koufax Peak by ERA+ (1962-1966): 143, 159, 186, 160, 190
    Pedro Peak by ERA+ (1999-2003): 243, 291, 188, 202, 211

    The WAR values match the pattern as well. Petey’s WORST year in that run was equal to Koufax’s BEST year in his HOF induction run. And the two seasons prior to that peak for Petey he was also better than peak Koufax.

    Pedro Martinez was a god for a minute or two there.

  35. There is a combination of factors limiting Andruw’s HOF respect from the general community.

    1. People, even very smart baseball people, don’t really understand how good he was defensively. And when presented with the facts of his game-historic levels of defensive wizardry, they make excuses for why he couldn’t “really” have been that good. This is true of both laymen fans and high end stats geek types. (Chris Dial is literally the worst about this.)

    2. People hold his falling off the cliff against him. As mentioned above, if Andruw had died in a fire or retired due to debilitating arthritis, he’d get more of the angels glow given to Kirby Puckett and Sandy Koufax. But he didn’t. He took a big payday and failed miserably out west, so people ignore the fact that his peak is otherworldly.

    3. Regardless of how much lip service they give it when they talk, voters still completely dismiss OF defensive value when the rubber meets the road of HOF voting. They require CF’ers to hit like corner outfielders, and in Andruw’s case, they demand he hit like the chemically improved candidates they then turn around and refuse to consider because of the roids.

    It is, however, as you guys point out, a fucking travesty that Andruw’s home team continues to deny him his clear due and retire his number with the other greats of the franchise.

  36. Also worth noting, on a Braves forum no less, that peak Greg Maddux (1992-96) was also notably better than peak Sandy Koufax.

  37. Generally, how far in advance do fans know when their team is going to retire a player’s number?

    Like, is it realistic that the Braves could retire Andruw’s number this season, or are all their big promotions lined up/printed on brochures/etc by now?

  38. Given the different eras, it is very difficult to state objectively who had the most dominant 5 to 10 year stretch. However, Bob Gibson’s 1968 season with a 1.12 ERA, 304 innings pitched, 28 complete games, 13 shutouts, and a 22 and 9 record (how did he lose 9 games? ) has to go down as the most dominant single season of all time.

  39. on comparing pitchers in different eras:

    From approx. 1961 to 1969 MLB had a “mini deadball era.” They raised the mound and made the bottom of the strike zone lower. Offense collapsed. During Pedro’s era (and Maddux’) offense was huge.

  40. We need to flood the Braves beat writers and official Twitter account about retiring his number.

  41. @53

    Every player whose number they’ve retired recently (read: everybody after Murphy) has had their number retired on the day they have been inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame. As Andruw has already been inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame, I can only assume that there are no plans to retire his number.

  42. @6 I have to second this. After taking a little stroll through Wren’s final seasons and Coppy’s burn down of the team, well this team is a total friggin’ train wreck compared to what it was before the tear down. They most certainly would have made whatever deal they could have to make use of the available payroll, but the thing is that this team never had enough available payroll to acquire a true impact player, so we would have been left with spending a lot for a little, or gamble on a high risk big waste contract like Kemp.

    Until this team can spend its way into contention again, I don’t have much hope except to wait for another waive of decent arms like Minor/Beachy/Medlen/Wood. Where things really took a wrong turn for our team is when this collection of arms wore down and tore up. Up until that point, we had hope.

  43. Ugh, Tyler Flowers is #25. That makes this all harder.

    He was #21 on the White Sox. What gives?

    Flowers’ agent is based in downtown Tampa. Let’s send Rob in to negotiate.

  44. The #Brewers have acquired OF Christian Yelich from Miami in exchange for OF Lewis Brinson, OF Monte Harrison, INF Isan Diaz and RHP Jordan Yamamoto.

  45. Our lack of position player depth may have hurt us. But they sure didn’t get a Monacada- or Acuña-level prospect. Interesting to know we could have beat that but didn’t.

  46. You’d have to think at least one of Domingo Santana and Brett Phillips would be available now

  47. Again Braves sit with thumb up butt and let another NL team het better .. we could have beat Brewers offer without giving Acuna .. typical Braves

  48. Ahem…

    Poetry Department would like to point out, politely, they were the first to announce, on these pages, about a WEEK AGO, that Yelich was very likely Brewer bound.

    In a Clerihew starting…

    ‘Yelich a Brewer?
    the odds against get fewer and fewer.’

    we made our case, thanked our sources, paid them off.

    Guys, it’s the short lines that hold the gold. Verse wins, it’s hard to be humble.

  49. The thing that pisses me off is that it took the Brewers two years to bottom out. They were then above .500 last year, and now seem set to be better this year.

    And here we continue to slog along, hoping that maybe the stars will align and we’ll sniff .500, but knowing a fourth straight 90 loss season is eminently possible as well.

    Maybe AA will surprise me, but I get the feeling he’s afraid to trade the wrong guy, and Lord knows, I don’t have a lot of faith in Liberty being willing to spend.

  50. Can’t really blame him for not wheeling and dealing this first offseason. How much could AA really know about our system? He pretty much has no choice but to watch this farm develop for one more year.

    Acuna + others for Yelich and this place would be melting down.

  51. I think we could have gotten Yelich without giving up Acuna .. but if Fish were insistant then I dont blame Braves .. I would NOT give up Acuna for any reason .. like krussell said if that had happened .. #1 , #5 , #7 and #10 were given … and #1 was Acuna .. well like he said this place would have exploded .. but I would done a combination of 3 or 4 from top 15 in Braves Org .. just not #1 .. I think we could have done it with Allard or Gohara , Soroka or Wright, Riley and Pache

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