Braves offseason: Moving on

Scott Cunningham

The Braves might be moving on from a few franchise icons this winter, but they can still compete in 2014 without them.

The Braves steamrolled their way throughout the regular season. They outpaced the World Series-winning Red Sox for most of the year, but didn't have quite enough left in October -- losing to the Dodgers three-games-to-one in the NLDS. Despite a dissatisfying end to the 2013 season, the Braves have a lot to build on from the season. Evan Gattis briefly emerged as a superior power threat and then regressed.

It's fair to assume Gattis' career will look a little more like the second half than the first. Still, a .400+ slugging percentage and a useable glove behind the plate could keep him in the Braves catching rotation, though the outfield experiment is likely over.

The Braves dealt with a few injuries, leading to an effort to get Gattis' bat in the lineup by playing him in left field -- where he was "worth" -10 DRS (defensive runs saved) in 342.1 innings.

Atlanta is hoping for less trips to the DL for their talented outfield. Though that doesn't mean Gattis is destined to to see fewer at bats in 2014. Longtime catcher Brian McCann is a free agent and offers are rumored to potentially reach nine figures. The Braves have Christian Bethancourt waiting for a chance at the job, but they may not feel as though he's ready for an extended stay in the majors, though a timeshare with Gattis is possible.

More Braves stuff from Talking Chop: Amazing Andrelton Simmons highlights

Free agents

Brian McCann, Tim Hudson, Scott Downs, Freddy Garcia, Paul Maholm, Eric O'Flaherty, Luis Ayala, Kameron Loe, and Reed Johnson

Two-fifths of their rotation, their franchise catcher, and a good chunk of their bullpen is set to hit the open market, so the Braves might be busy plugging the holes this winter. Garcia was a briefly valuable fill-in starter, but with Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, and Julio Teheran, Atlanta has a solid, young trio at the top of their rotation. Alex Wood and Sean Gilmartin might be the next wave of talent to blossom at Turner Field. Reed Johnson's option has already been declined.

Letting McCann and Hudson walk will be hard for Atlanta fans at first, but if the team uses the money that could be spent on aging veterans to acquire players entering their prime, they could benefit significantly in the future. Signing McCann especially might be tempting, but this team can still compete without him and what is sure to be a lucrative -- and more importantly, long -- contract.

Needs

2B, SP, RP

GM Frank Wren might be content to keep Dan Uggla in the starting lineup...well, not content -- resigned. Uggla hit .179 and unless the Royals decide they want him, he'll still be in Atlanta in 2014. The bullpen will still be strong with Craig Kimbrel, Anthony Varvaro, David Carpenter, and Luis Avilan, but Wren might want to add a veteran or two into the mix. In July, he said he "was willing to pay for [pitching]." If that is still the case, the Braves could end up making a splash in free agency for a starting pitcher.

Trade Pieces

Pitching prospects

Atlanta has several arms brushing up against the majors. In addition to Gilmartin and Wood, J.R. Graham, Cody Martin, and David Hale could see big league innings in 2014. In fact, eight of the top ten players on John Sickels' 2013 prospect list for Atlanta are pitchers, so they might feel comfortable parting with a few to improve for another postseason run next year.

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