The Braves’ season ended almost two weeks ago. They’ve since extended the contract of their manager Brian Snitker and most of his staff, while deciding to bring in a new pitching coach.
Here’s the latest in offseason musings:
General manager Alex Anthopoulos answered a popular fan inquiry during his Monday news conference: The payroll will increase for 2019.
“The payroll will go up for the current year,” Anthopoulos said. “There’s been a lot of debate about where we’re going to be, what the number is going to be, how much we have available. I don’t think anyone in this room knows because I don’t know. We don’t have a payroll number set for next year yet.”
Trades vs. free agency
Anthopoulos added the team is more likely to add difference-makers through the trade market rather than free agency, an expected route for a team in the Braves’ position.
Despite financial flexibility, likely over $50 million, the Braves aren’t a franchise that dumps unprecedented funds into an individual. That means Bryce Harper or Manny Machado aren’t much more than wishful thinking – but you never know.
The Braves don’t have a timeline for finding their new pitching coach. Chuck Hernandez, who was relieved from the position, could rejoin the franchise in a different capacity later in the offseason, Anthopoulos said, though that’s just a possibility, not a likelihood.
Anthopoulos hadn’t yet assembled criteria for the new coach. He ensured that internal and external candidates will be considered, but for now the smart money is on bringing a fresh face into the organization.
“Anyone internally who wants to be considered, we’ll be open-minded to that,” Anthopoulos said. “We’ll look externally as well. Just the opportunity to go through the process, I want to take advantage of that. We might go internally, but we’re not really married to any one decision. We’re just going to open it up and see where it goes.”
Catcher Kurt Suzuki and outfielder Nick Markakis are both free agents. Anthopoulos expressed interest in retaining both, though there’s no indication of any negotiations.
With or without Suzuki, the Braves are seeking a catcher. He doesn’t necessarily have to team up with Tyler Flowers – if the Braves add a full-time backstop, Flowers would be a more traditional backup – but they need another veteran nonetheless.
Markakis will be an interesting situation. It would make sense to pursue a younger option, perhaps one with more pop. But Markakis was vital to the clubhouse and among the Braves’ premier leaders. By the same token, bringing back the same lineup doesn’t sound like an avenue for improvement, though several younger players could take steps forward.
The Dodgers are one win from the World Series again. They were an ideal experience for the Braves, in a way, because the players saw what it takes to reach the peak of the mountain. Few expected the Braves to upend L.A. in the National League Division Series, and that proved correct thinking.
But the Dodgers are THE measuring stick. Their series with Milwaukee has only validated that. The Braves have the potential top-end talent, but their depth and bullpen will be important focuses of the winter as they try to reach that class of the NL.
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