On Friday night, we as Braves fans received the new we’d been waiting for all offseason. Near triple crown winner and Mix-it-up artist known as Marcell Ozuna re-signed with the Braves. It’s a 4 year contract, 65MM guaranteed with a $16MM option for 2025. However Ozuna will only get $12MM for the 2021 season. In the corresonding roster move, Kyle Garlick, who I “picked to click” in my last piece, was DFA’d. If you’ve started listening to me for your Braves predictions, you’ve made an unwise decision.
It was quite pleasant watching Ozuna and Anthopoulos chatting with one another via a Zoom call. Ozuna questioned why it took so long to sign him and why didn’t Alex just get it done right after the season. As good GMs do, Alex deflected and said all that matters is to get it done before spring training. Anthopoulos compared Ozuna’s clubhouse presence to the great Martin Prado, which is high praise considering Chipper Jones himself called Prado the best teammate he ever had. Watching the 2020 Braves, I can believe it. In 2019, Josh Donaldson brought some much needed swagger and, shall I say spirit, to the clubhouse. Ozuna’s presence was equally effective, but the magic potion was exuberance and the players, both Latin and American born loved him for it. It was a beautiful clubhouse and was the most fun I personally ever had watching a team.
With Ozuna signed, the roster is taking shape. At this point of the offseason, as the Hobbits would say, we’re “filling in the corners”of the roster. Yes, there are still whispers of the Braves checking in on a top name from the guy that broke the Ozuna trade, but for the sake of this exercise, we’ll continue on the belief that the regulars around are pretty much set with:
- Freddie Freeman
- Ozzie Albies
- Austin Riley
- Dansby Swanson
- Travis D’arnaud
- Marcell Ozuna
- Cristian Pache
- Ronald Acuna Jr.
It’s at least worth nothing that Anthopoulos said something about looking for an outfielder just in case Acuña has to play CF for a while. There are a few ways to read that piece of information:
- This means service time manipulation for Pache (May 3rd would be the day he could be brought up and gain an extra year of control).
- Pache could be part of a trade package.
- It’s just worst case scenario speech from AA if Pache shows poorly in spring.
I’m hoping it’s 3. I have to believe it’s 3.
Braves Budget and Needs
I’ve openly questioned how much access David O’Brien has to the team and/or Anthopoulos, so I’m not sure why I’m using his numbers, but he guesses the Braves have $10-12 million to work with after the Ozuna signing. The needs seem to be a backup catcher, backup infielder, backup outfielder, and a right-handed relief pitcher. Surely the Braves will fill some of these holes internally, with catcher seeming to be the most likely, but we’ll at least discuss each position and how the Braves could spend on filling out the roster.
Robinson Chirinos (36)- An offensive first catcher, Chirinos had an awful 2020 season, but will be cheap. Could be a good clubhouse fit for cheap.
Tyler Flowers (35)- The most obvious candidate on the list and most likely if he wants to continue playing.
Matt Wieters (35)- The choices are slim when Wieters makes this list, but he’s a body but I’m not sure his knees can handle squatting anymore.
Breakdown: Familiarity…if we’re going solely from this list, Flowers is the obvious choice. However, I feel like this is the most likely position the Braves fill internally and we finally get to see William Contreras catch 40-50 games/ season.
I’m going to make 1 assumption and that is the Braves will want someone that can play multiple positions, but not necessarily just shortstop. With a 26-man roster, the Braves will have a 5 man bench and that bench will likely consist of a true backup SS (Ehire Adrianza?) and maybe a bat first utility type. That shopping list:
- Marwin Gonzalez– Gonzalez has gone downhill and doesn’t come with the positional flexibility he once had. Still, he’s a decent bat and could provide some depth from the left side of the plate.
- Jed Lowrie– Wouldn’t it be awesome to get Lowrie for next to nothing after the Mets got nothing from him? Yeah…I’d like that.
- Asdrubal Cabrera– He’s aged well as a hitter, but is a bit of a statue in the field. Still, he’s a switch hitter with good numbers from both sides of the plate. I also think he’d be a great fit in the clubhouse.
- Brad Miller– A personal favorite of mine that deserves more recognition. He can still fake SS, but can also play nearly anywere.
- Travis Shaw– resurged a bit in 2020 and exit velo numbers look good. Riley platoon?
- Brock Holt– Scrappy when he was with the BoSox, but remove the S and it’s more accurate in 2020 with the Brewers. Only 33 and can still play multiple positions.
Breakdown: I think there are a lot of attractive options here, but my personal preference is Miller or Cabrera.
Free Agent Backup Outfielders
For now, I’m going to assume that Ender Inciarte is Marcell Ozuna’s caddy for 2021 and if the Braves are looking for a backup OFer, it’s more for the bat, not for the glove. I’m throwing glove first OFers out of this scenario and also potential starters, as Braves won’t be buying one of those.
Breakdown: Like the infielder list, these are decent bench bats. Joyce or Duvall would likely be my first pick, but I’m guessing Duvall still wants a regular gig and with last year’s numbers, he should get it. Jay Bruce might be entering the PH’ing phase of his career and the Braves could do worse than Bruce pulling a Hinske and socking dingers off the bench. Still…I’ll go with Joyce.
Free Agent Right Handed Relief Pitchers
I’m going to factor out the high end guys and the low end and focus on the $3-4MM relievers left on the market. Too many to do writeups, so I’ll just list.
Brad Boxberger (33)
Steve Cishek (35)
Tyler Clippard (36)
Shane Greene (32)
Tommy Hunter (34)
Jeremy Jeffress (33)
Keone Kela (28)
Brandon Kintzler (36)
Collin McHugh (34)
Mark Melancon (36)
Yusmeiro Petit (36)
David Phelps (34)
AJ Ramos (34)
David Robertson (36)
Sergio Romo (38)
Pedro Strop (36)
Ryan Tepera (33)
Nick Tropeano (30)
Breakdown: There could be some MILB deals in here the Braves could pull off, but I think familiarity will play a role here. Mark Melancon on a 1 year $4MM deal makes a lot of sense, but I’d love for the Braves to give David Robertson, who’s coming off of elbow surgery, a deal in that vicinity to prove himself worthy of one last multi-year contract. He’s from Birmingham so I’d guess there’d be mutual interest.
Thoughts? Who’s your picks of the litter?