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Atlanta Braves Morning Chop: early free agent rumors

It’s still very early… and the rumors are mostly combinations of guesses and heresay, but here’s what others THINK the Braves need this off-season.

The free agent season for major league baseball is now underway.  Accordingly, there are lists of free agents and list of free agents being tied to the Atlanta Braves – whether they want to be ‘tied’ or not.

So this should be fun – a review of these lists and whether they make sense for Atlanta.

Let’s start with the MLB Trade Rumors site…


The link for their entire Top-50-With-Predictions list is in the header above, but right away I have to question their judgment:

  • #1:  Bryce Harper:  14 years, $420 million (Dodgers)
  • #2:  Manny Machado:  13 years, $390 million (Phillies)

Nobody in the history of the game has had a contract with this length… and suddenly we’re expecting new records twice for both length and for dollars.

So what do I think?

  • Harper:  11 years at $341m ($31m AAV)
  • Machado:  8 years at $216 million ($27m AAV)

I also think it will take a while (perhaps into January) before these deals happen.  I think Philadelphia is a reasonable landing spot for Machado, but Harper could end up in a couple of other places – Philly, Anaheim, and San Fran among them.  But let’s get back to the Braves…


…in the format of player name, excuse for listing/suggesting the Braves, estimated contract size.

  • HARPER – mentioned as “long shot” (yep – very long)
  • LHSP PATRICK CORBIN – “makes sense” (6 years, $129m)
  • RHRP CRAIG KIMBREL – “could get involved” (4 years, $70m)
  • C YASMANI GRANDAL – “could be suitors” (4 years, $64m; Qualifying Offer)
  • RHSP NATE EOVALDI – “could be in the mix (4 yrs, $60m)
  • OF MICHAEL BRANTLEY – to the Braves at 3 years, $45m
  • OF ANDREW McCUTCHEN – “could fit” (3 years, $45m)
  • 3B JOSH DONALDSON – “could be options” (1 year, $20m)
  • LHSP GIO GONZALEZ – “could be in the mix” (2 years, $24m)
  • RHRP CODY ALLEN – to the Braves (2 years, $16m)


Jim Bowden

Former GM of the Reds, Jim is an analyst for MLB Network Radio these days. This information comes via his post from TheAthletic (Subscription required).

For the record, he thinks Harper gets $32 million AAV for 10 years.  All of his connections to the Braves (or any other teams) are based on ‘best fit’ lists… he suggests contract sizes, but not a specific destination for each of 35 free agents explored.

  • KIMBREL (4 years, $68m)
  • DONALDSON (3 years, $54m)
  • EOVALDI (3 years, $42m)
  • McCUTCHEN (Braves listed 1st this time; 3 years, $45m)
  • MOUSTAKAS (3 years, $30m)
  • GRANDAL (4 years, $68m)
  • C WILSON RAMOS (2 years, $22m)
  • LHRP Zach Britton (3 years, $42m)
  • RHRP Kelvin Herrera (1 year, $11m)
  • RHRP Adam Ottavino (2 years, $20m)
  • RHRP Jeurys Familia (2 years, $20m)
  • RHRP David Robertson (2 years, $20m)
  • RHRP Joe Kelly (2 years, $16m)
  • RF Nick Markakis (2 years, $24m)
  • OF Adam Jones (1 year, $10m)
  • LHRP Andrew Miller (1 year $10m)
  • OF Carlos Gonzalez (1 year, $7m)
  • RHP Anibal Sanchez (only lists the Braves; 1 year/$12m)

Others pegs Marwin Gonzalez for a trip to Atlanta… he’d be an interesting pickup:  versatility with a contributing bat. rolled up a post on their site about something that former GM Steve Phillips uttered on MLB Network Radio this morning.  Here’s that quote – as tweeted – with audio:

Fangraphs didn’t do any destination predictions, but they did chime in with a Top 50 free agents list of their own.


Tomahawk Takeaways

Alex Anthopoulos said in a Sunday interview that with their ‘mid-level’ payroll structure, they can be “in” on any player, though the idea of getting engaged into extreme length deals is both risky and philosophically in opposition to his idea of getting ‘value’ from players that they might be seeking.

That’s the paraphrase of his statement… the actual quotes can be heard here, but you get the idea:  Harper and Machado are almost certainly  not happening.

The interesting part is in the volume of players that each site thinks that Atlanta might be involved in seeking via free agency.  This is noteworthy because…

  • Many believe that the Braves are going to be active in the market
  • Many believe that there are few – if any – spending limits that the Braves might be placing on themselves

Anthopoulos’ words speak for themselves about that, but I do think that the free agent market can be useful for Atlanta… when used wisely.


My Calls

Up to this point, I have personally refrained from a lot of specifics on who I think the Braves should pursue – other than J.T Realmuto as catcher.  So with the lists above being published, here are some of my thoughts about who the Braves should pursue this Winter:

  • J.T. Realmuto – yes, but there are limits to how far I’d go in the pursuit of him.  I fear that the Marlins are probably looking for well more than what Atlanta would be willing to spend.
    • Plan B for catcher?  Grandal or Ramos, with Suzuki as backup backstop to that plan.
  • Corey Kluber – if I’m going to spend premium prospects, I think I’d go here.  He’s the option (if truly available) that has the best track record.  He’s another Tim Hudson… maybe better.
  • Marwin Gonzalez – I can’t help it:  I like him.  If he’s coming in off the bench, he’s useful.  If there’s somebody hurt, he’s useful. Lord knows the Braves need both/either.
    • I will say this:  of the players in this list, Gonzalez is actually last on my shopping list.  While he OPS’d .907 in 2017, he slipped to a more typical .733 in 2018.
  • Pick a solid reliever not named Kimbrel.  I love Craig… but he’s gonna be too expensive unless he wants to come back home.  Otherwise, there are multiple very nice choices available.
  • Andrew McCutchen.  I didn’t realize that he still had a nearly .800 OPS in 2018 with a 120 wRC+… in cavernous AT&T Park.  If Gonzalez is around, you can afford to keep him rested and healthy, too.

Sleeper:  Josh Donaldson.  I’d really like to see whether he can get back into solid playing shape.  If so, he could be a real steal for somebody.

That probably spends a full $50 million… and maybe a little more.  But if the Braves can afford this group, then it would make them the NL favorites to open the season.

Next: Speaking of Kimbrel…

Good luck with your own shopping list, Alex.

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