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Braves winter meetings mailbag: Day 2


The Braves are still quiet after another day at the winter meetings. They expect it to remain that way, perhaps even into January.

While we’re waiting to see where the team eventually lands, here’s another set of Q&As from Las Vegas:

@Jr22944310: Outside of Acuna and Freeman, who are the untouchables within the organization that AA (Alex Anthopoulos) has been reluctant to include in any potential deals? Hoping #Braves hold on to Touki

A: This is a popular question, and the Braves’ stance remains “nobody is untouchable.” Logically speaking, Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna are safe, but it seems no prospects will receive that label.

Mike Soroka and Touki Toussaint are their most coveted young arms. Perhaps they’d move one in the right deal, but they might be better served to see if either/both emerge into a frontline starter. Catching prospect William Contreras is valued extremely highly by the organization, and it’s hard to envision them relinquishing their lone prized backstop.

The Braves are willing to move players from their major league roster, as general manager Anthopoulos acknowledged Monday, but such a move would require immediate help in return. It’s hard to imagine trading Ozzie Albies, for instance, and coming out ahead given the hole created. They’re trying to build sustainable success, but as Anthopoulos once noted, you have to taste the success before continuing it.

Rumors ran wild of trades involving key players such as Ender Inciarte, but the Braves want to supplement their core in place, not alter it. Their willingness to entertain conversation resulted in overreactions across the internet. They’re still not likely to make a trade involving their regular players. Listening doesn’t mean action.

@Str8StatsMLB: Do you think tendering a contract to Duvall was a mistake? Do you think AA tendered a contract to him bec(ause) he thinks he could trade him? Imo If Duvall gets at-bats with the big league club he’s only going to hurt us. He’s a AAAA player.

A: It was absolutely not a mistake. Adam Duvall is a better player than he showed with the Braves, when he hit .133 across 33 games and quite frankly might’ve been somehow worse than his atrocious numbers.

Duvall was a gold glove finalist and stood out as a true power threat before joining the Braves. He didn’t adjust well to inconsistent playing time, going from a regular in Cincinnati to a pinch-hitter in Atlanta. The Braves understand the difficulties that transition can provide.

From a depth standpoint, retaining Duvall was valuable because the team lacks other internal options. They don’t want to enter camp with him slated to start, but in a “break glass in case of emergency” situation, at least they have a player with some track record to fall back on.

It was also a form of asset management. If he doesn’t rebound, he’ll be on a non-guaranteed deal. There was some trade interest in Duvall, meaning the Braves protected an asset with little cost and essentially no risk by tendering him. If it doesn’t work out in spring training, they can cut him loose at a fraction of his cost or even flip him to another team.

@kyledawson8090: What prospect has the best chance to make his debut in 2019?

A: Barring extreme circumstances, Austin Riley will debut in 2019. The Braves will have him playing some left field in spring training, attempting to diversify his repertoire. Theoretically, it accelerates Riley’s path to the bigs, especially with the crowded infield. It also helps the Braves in the event of an injury.

They want Riley to trim his strikeout numbers (he struck out 95 times in 291 at-bats in Triple-A last year). And the reality remains, there isn’t a logical place to play him on paper. But the Braves will want to know what they have, and those types of situations have a way of sorting themselves out.

Some have wondered if outfielder Cristian Pache could debut next year, but 2020 feels more realistic (if not optimistic). The Braves are being patient with his offensively development, and they hope to have a veteran outfielder join Ronald Acuna and Inciarte.

@23Cooperd: What’s the news on JT Realmuto?

A: Ah yes, the J.T. Realmuto rumor mill that’s replaced Chris Archer, Chris Sale, A.J. Burnett and the many others to dominate past offseasons. The Braves were strongly interested, but they ultimately pivoted to Brian McCann. That happened for a number of reasons, from the Marlins’ asking price to Miami’s reluctance to trade him within the National League East.

Reports linked Realmuto with the Mets on Monday night, indicating perhaps they’ve softened on their NL East embargo. The Braves, meanwhile, are satisfied with their catching situation.

“We’re happy with what we have behind the plate,” Anthopoulos said. “If any great players are available in trade, we’re not doing our jobs if we don’t explore that. I think generally, I just don’t know if it’s fair for me to comment on Miami. … All I can say is I like Miami, I like (president of baseball operations) Mike Hill a lot. I think they’re great to deal with. They’re very direct, very upfront. But to get into specifics of what they would and wouldn’t do is not fair to them.”

Does that rule a deal out? Nope. The Braves were happy with their infield just weeks before signing Josh Donaldson. But for now, they are probably more invested in the outfielder and starter markets than Realmuto. As a result, the Marlins might’ve overplayed their hand. 

@RockyTopSkiBum: The #Braves need Puig

A: This isn’t a question, but there’s been enough dialogue among fans that it’s worth addressing. Yasiel Puig could be had at a reasonable cost from the Dodgers, but the Braves – as things stand today – have zero interest.

As usual, maybe something changes, but all indications point towards the team excluding Puig on their list of outfield options. Puig is a bit of an enigma, but he’s productive and only under contract for another season. It’s understandable that speculation would link the Braves with Puig, but that isn’t under current consideration.

Joc Pederson, if available, is more realistic if the Braves and Dodgers matched on a deal. Pederson, 26, has hit 25 or more homers in three of the past four seasons. Anthopoulos has familiarity with all the Dodgers outfielders after spending a couple seasons in the front office.

“There’s no upside for me to get into who we talk about or target. Best thing I can say is we have a good read on the outfielders that are available, whether it’s trades or with teams,” Anthopoulos said.

Maybe the Braves’ outfield solution lies in Los Angeles, but I suspect that won’t be their first preference. The trade market thus far has been too expensive for them to truly make a play, be it with the Dodgers or elsewhere.

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