Atlanta Braves (72-90)
RHP Chase Whitley (claimed off waivers from Rays), LHP Scott Kazmir (acquired from Dodgers), RHP Brandon McCarthy (acquired from Dodgers), INF Charlie Culberson (acquired from Dodgers), INF Ryan Schimpf (acquried from Rays), RHP Anibal Sanchez (signed to minor-league deal), OF Preston Tucker (acquired from Astros)
OF Matt Kemp (traded to Dodgers), RHP R.A. Dickey (Free Agent), RHP Jason Motte (signed minor-league deal with Cardinals), RHP Jim Johnson (traded to Angels), 1B Matt Adams (signed with Nationals), INF Jace Peterson (signed minor-league deal with Yankees)
The Braves opened up the offseason with the objective of shedding salary from veterans and continuing to build up the farm system that is currently ranked as one of the top ones in all of baseball. In doing so, the Braves did enough to field a competitive team in an otherwise weak NL East, but their window for competing for a division title still may be a few seasons away.
To begin, the Braves got rid of aging pitchers in Jason Motte, Jim Johnson, and R.A. Dickey, all of whom should not be missed too much in Atlanta. With Motte signing a minor-league deal, Dickey still searching for a team to play for in 2018, and Johnson being an aging middle reliever, all three may not find themselves on big league rosters come the end of this season.
In addition to those three, the Braves also got rid of the albatross contract of Matt Kemp, albeit taking on some salary in return while getting Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy from the Dodgers. This was the Braves’ signature move of the offseason, and with high-level outfield prospects in the minors and an underwhelming pitching staff, this was a solid move by newly hired Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos. In this deal, the Braves also got Charlie Culberson, who should be a versatile player to move around while the Braves continue developing their young talent.
The Braves also acquired a similar player to Culberson in their trade for Ryan Schimpf, though he will begin the season in the minor leagues as he has already been assigned to minor league camp. Schimpf has struggled to hit for a high average in limited appearances in the big leagues, but he has shown good pop at the plate with 34 home runs in 142 big league games, and should see his fair share of playing time in Atlanta. The Braves also made another low-cost move in acquiring Preston Tucker from Houston. The 27-year-old outfielder has struggled to hit consistently in two season with the Astros, and he could simply be a filler until the league’s top prospect Ronald Acuna is ready to make his mark at the big league level.
As for the remainder of the roster, the Braves will continue waiting for Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, and others to reach their potential. Both of the aforementioned players should begin the season in the majors, and the Braves will also rely on a number of other young talented players to carry the team in 2018. Many of the club’s top prospects in the minors are pitchers, and that is what makes the acquisitions of Kazmir and McCarthy make sense. Both arms should be valuable contributors to the Atlanta rotation this season, but with Kazmir in a contract year and McCarthy with one year remaining after this one, both could play just one season with the club.
Still, the Braves on paper appear to be in a better spot than their third-place finish in a weak NL East. The club flirted with a .500 record last season, and though the Phillies and Mets should bounce back a bit this season, the Braves could come even closer to reaching that mark this year. Still, it is clear that Anthopoulos sees the Braves window as 2019 and beyond, so the Braves could be tagged as early sellers this season, while they continue getting a younger core. Until then, expect more mediocrity from the Braves in 2018, while they prepare themselves to contend for the ensuing years to follow.