Atlanta Braves (72-90), 3rd in the NL East
Free Agents: SP R.A. Dickey, RP Jason Motte, RP Ian Krol
The Braves may have had a fourth straight losing season, but they spent 2017 gearing up for the future. The Braves brought up some of their highly-touted prospects, namely Ozzie Albies, Johan Camargo, Sean Newcomb and Luiz Gohara, to get them big league experience and learn from veterans such as Freddie Freeman, Ender Inciarte, Matt Adams, Brandon Phillips and Julio Teheran.
The youth movement in Atlanta has been part of a larger plan to get the organization back to being postseason contenders year in and year out. The Braves are still in the process and there are a few things they have to address as they hit the offseason.
First, they need to find a way to get their No. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna on their roster — possibly as soon as Opening Day next year, according to Mark Bowman of MLB.com. Acuna, a five-tool outfielder who is ranked No. 5 overall in MLB.com’s Top 100, is coming off a 2017 season in which started at SIngle-A Advanced Florida and ended with Triple-A Gwinnett, where he hit nine home runs and slashed .325/.374/.522 in 54 games. Acuna, who will turn 20 in December, has been compared by many to former Braves great Andrew Jones.
To get Acuna in Atlanta, Bowman says the Braves will have to try to deal “one of their corner outfielders — Matt Kemp or Nick Markakis.” Kemp, who hit 19 homers and had 64 RBI in 115 games, has two years and $43.5 million left on his contract and Markakis, who played 160 games and hit .275, is set to make $11 million in 2018. But, the Braves would probably rather have another team take on one of their contracts so they can begin Acuna’s time in the bigs and look for other needs.
One of those needs is a bullpen. Bowman says the Braves believe they need a veterans “who are capable of serving as either a closer or primary setup man.” After all, their MLB-best farm system is loaded with future starters and most championship-caliber clubs nowadays have a strong bullpen. Bowman mentions experienced arms such as Wade Davis, Greg Holland, Matt Belisle and Addison Reed as possible targets because the Braves “are serious about upgrading the bullpen.”
Another need is a third baseman. They did see the emergence of 23-year-old Johan Camargo this season and he looks as if he could handle the hot corner if need be. But, the Braves could go after possible free agents Mike Moustakas or Todd Frazier — as Bowman suggests — and get not only an experienced third baseman, but one with power. If they can get either player or another top third baseman via a trade, they may try to make Camargo into a utility player in order to get the most out of him.
If they go after anyone via a trade, the Braves’ biggest chip will be first baseman Matt Adams. After Freeman went down with a broken wrist in May, the Braves acquired Adams from the Cardinals and he flourished, hitting 19 home runs with 58 RBI while slashing .271/.315/.543 in 100 games. Adams’ resurgence came at a good time for him, as he is eligible for arbitration this offseason. But, the Braves may try to deal him before this process so they can save money and get the most pieces they can at his current value.