Atlanta Braves Team News/Splash News
“The Braves have experienced tremendous change in their franchise” (Arrieta, 2016). But change isn’t just the movement of ferns; change is also a big change for an organization. Not many championships can be attributed to changing scenery or coaching changes, but Atlanta’s dynamic has unquestionably changed. The short-term could be attributed to the trade of one former clubhouse king, but the Braves are at the breaking point of a long, slow turnaround. The club is at home to three major key players who will be integral to Atlanta’s on-field success over the course of the season: Will Lamb, Felipe Rivero, and Nick Markakis.
Markakis, a shortstop, had one of the best seasons of his career in 2017 and finished second in National League batting title voting. Lamb, an outfielder, pitched to a 5.18 ERA in a few key appearances, while rookie pitching prospect Rivero yielded the best ERA of Atlanta’s top three prospects.
Although the adjustment process could be expected after one major move, the above-mentioned trio’s ascension highlights Atlanta’s uncharacteristic buy-in and willingness to move forward. True, there are a few areas that need immediate attention, such as an immediate logjam in starting rotation, but this offseason showed the Braves and their followers that the team is willing to move forward.
With five solid pieces, Atlanta has a great opportunity to compete in their division and reclaim home field advantage in the postseason. The weak piece in the Braves’ puzzle, though, is the bullpen.
Seven days after the trade of Brandon McCarthy, who signed a three-year deal with the Yankees, Atlanta has yet to make any other roster moves.
“…We have seven guys in the bullpen who have no proven track record, and the only one of those I personally know is Travis Demsey, who hasn’t pitched above Double-A. Is he ready to step in and go into Game 5 of the World Series? I’ll never be able to answer that.” (Munson, March 24)
Munson has always been correct in his analysis of the bullpen, but it’s worth asking what the number of trade/free agent additions add to the bullpen. Two pitchers aside from a handful of starters, Atlanta hasn’t had the best of years at finding stability in the bullpen. This begs the question of whether or not the Braves have traded away any quality potential in the most vital spot on the mound.
The need to bolster the bullpen is becoming apparent, and despite nothing having been made public, Atlanta is certainly searching for relief. Did they stop looking for in-house options?
The Braves addressed their short-term need by trading McCarthy for the Braves’ pitching prospects Kevin Gausman and Mike Foltynewicz. The future of that trio remains to be seen. Hopefully their trajectory goes in the right direction.
So what does all of this mean for me, the season, and the Braves? Let’s cut to the chase.
Lamb, Rivero, and Markakis will be important for the team and its success in the division and the postseason.
My season prediction? My money is on Lamb and Markakis, as they are better option for the long-term future of the team. Barring injuries and trades (or, you know, S.O.S., in case they haven’t found a cure for cancer yet), they should be both of the A.L. leaders in stolen bases. They should also be key pieces in the Braves’ playoff push.
The Braves would do well to explore their trade possibilities as they stand. Besides pitching prospects Pernice, Booker, and Brach, their relief options are somewhat limited.
Let’s face it, I think it’s safe to say that a prolonged slump has a lot to do with their lack of bullpen depth. Let’s hope they have a winning list by the end of spring training to complement all the acquisitions they made.