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Braves not ready to part with pitching prospects

MLB.com @mlbbowman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Courtesy of the tremendous young pitching crop that exists within the Braves' organization, general manager Alex Anthopoulos can confidently look toward the future with hope to be able to use these assets to consistently form strong rotations and also strengthen his club via significant trades.

Each of the Braves' top six pitching prospects -- Kolby Allard, Kyle Wright, Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson, Luiz Gohara and Joey Wentz -- rank within MLBPipeline's top 100 Prospects list. Ranking seventh on the team's impressive list of pitchers is Max Fried, who has already tasted the Majors and provided at least reason to argue he has a chance to be the best of this bunch.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Courtesy of the tremendous young pitching crop that exists within the Braves' organization, general manager Alex Anthopoulos can confidently look toward the future with hope to be able to use these assets to consistently form strong rotations and also strengthen his club via significant trades.

Each of the Braves' top six pitching prospects -- Kolby Allard, Kyle Wright, Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson, Luiz Gohara and Joey Wentz -- rank within MLBPipeline's top 100 Prospects list. Ranking seventh on the team's impressive list of pitchers is Max Fried, who has already tasted the Majors and provided at least reason to argue he has a chance to be the best of this bunch.

"The strength of this team and the depth of this team is on the mound in terms of the long-term," Anthopoulos said. "From afar, it looks like there are some guys that might [not yet have lived up to their potential] that are capable of doing more."

As Anthopoulos moved near the completion of his first full month as the Braves' GM, and experienced the second day of this year's Winter Meetings on Tuesday, he possessed the assets that will likely lead rival executives to continue checking in with him about potential trade opportunities.

Video: Anthopoulos' mindset headed into 2018

But for now, Anthopoulos seems content to patiently progress through this Hot Stove Season and possibly wait for the opportunity to see these young pitchers with his own eyes before defining their trade value.

"The goal is to get back to where this organization was before, where you're annually contending," Anthopoulos said.

Anthopoulos has not ruled out the possibility of trading for a controllable frontline starter who could immediately provide stability and experience within what currently stands as a young rotation. But before giving up the significant prospect haul that would likely be necessary to complete this kind of trade, he must also assess exactly where his team stands.

If the Braves were to trade for the Rays' Chris Archer, they would upgrade their rotation, but not necessarily become legit postseason contenders for the 2018 season. This desired status will be more significantly influenced by the development and progression of some of the team's top young starters, namely Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb and Gohara, who will all likely begin '18 in Atlanta's rotation.

Looking specifically at Archer, the Braves would acquire three years of control. Without the addition of another proven starter this winter or significant strides made by at least two of three aforementioned young starters next summer, the likelihood of Archer helping Atlanta reach the playoffs each of these three seasons seems slim.

Thus, it might be wise for Anthopoulos to wait for another opportunity to arise, possibly after he has a chance to assess those starters that are already Major League-ready and the next wave of prospects, which includes Soroka and Allard, a couple of 2015 Draft selections who have the potential to join Atlanta's rotation at some point this summer.

Video: Top Prospects: Mike Soroka, RHP, Braves

At some point within the next year, it would seemingly be beneficial for the Braves to add value and experience to their rotation. But for now, Anthopoulos might continue preserving and cultivating his pitching crop much like John Schuerholz did during the early 1990s, when teams were expressing interest in Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Atlanta Braves

Anthopoulos getting feel for new staff, markets

Braves GM not ready to wheel and deal just yet on Day 1 at Winter Meetings
MLB.com @mlbbowman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Once Alex Anthopoulos becomes even more familiar with the organization he acquired when he was named the Braves' general manager a month ago, there's a strong possibility he will once again become the aggressive wheeler and dealer he was when he seldom shied away from trading or acquiring top players during his tenure as the Blue Jays' GM.

But the man who dealt Roy Halladay to Philadelphia and brought Josh Donaldson to Toronto has maintained a patient and methodical approach as he has spent a significant portion of the past few weeks developing and familiarizing himself with the front-office staff that will aid him in his attempt to help the Braves distance themselves from their rebuild as soon as possible.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Once Alex Anthopoulos becomes even more familiar with the organization he acquired when he was named the Braves' general manager a month ago, there's a strong possibility he will once again become the aggressive wheeler and dealer he was when he seldom shied away from trading or acquiring top players during his tenure as the Blue Jays' GM.

But the man who dealt Roy Halladay to Philadelphia and brought Josh Donaldson to Toronto has maintained a patient and methodical approach as he has spent a significant portion of the past few weeks developing and familiarizing himself with the front-office staff that will aid him in his attempt to help the Braves distance themselves from their rebuild as soon as possible.

"I don't know the evaluators yet," Anthopoulos said. "I don't know all of the internal analysis we have. That's just going to take some time. I'm discovering there are some really talented individuals in baseball operations. I would say my thought for Year 1 would be a more cautious approach. That doesn't mean we don't want to be active or we don't want to do things. But you're not comfortable if you don't have comfort with the information yet. That's just going to take some time."

Video: Anthopoulos steadily fortifies Braves' front office

Anthopoulos' right-hand man is assistant GM Perry Minasian, a longtime confidant who joined the Braves' organization on Sept. 19, just two weeks before former Braves GM John Coppolella was forced to resign. Anthopoulos added two more former co-workers this weekend when he hired Alex Tamin to serve as his director of Major League operations and Jason Pare to head the research and development department.

As Anthopoulos progressed through the first day of this year's Winter Meetings on Monday, he brought Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox, current manager Brian Snitker and recently hired bench coach Walt Weiss to his suite to formulate plans and analyze opportunities that could arise during and beyond this four-day event.

Anthopoulos has extended discussions with teams about potential trades and met with player representatives about free agents. He remains thankful the trade and free-agent markets are going slow as he has attempted to make up for the planning time he lost before being named Atlanta's GM on Nov. 13.

"I don't think we've moved the ball forward at all," Anthopoulos said. "We're probably at a similar place to where we were before we came to the Meetings. Clearly, we're not at a place we like yet. But that can change fast."

The Braves haven't provided any surprises, as they have told teams they are possibly seeking a controllable starting pitcher, at least one reliever and a third baseman. But at the same time, they have made it clear they are looking to improve their defense in an attempt to enhance the value of their young pitching staff.

This revelation creates further reason to anticipate that the Braves might attempt to part ways with their two corner outfielders -- Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis. Among the 125 MLB outfielders who tallied at least 100 opportunities last year, Markakis ranked 105th with -5 Outs Above Average (Statcast™'s recently developed defensive metric) and Kemp ranked last with -17.

"If we can improve in just one area defensively, we're going to make 12 or 13 guys on that [pitching staff] a lot better," Anthopoulos said. "I can't tell you it's going to get done. There are some hoops to jump through to do some of those things."

It won't be easy for the Braves to move Kemp and his approximate $36 million cost over the next two seasons. But if their efforts to trade him (an American League club seems to be the most likely suitor) are unsuccessful, the club could be forced to at least discuss eating the remainder of his two-year contract.

Anthopoulos did not specifically reveal this year's payroll figure, but he indicated it will likely stand close to the approximate $130 million figure utilized this past season.

"I'm really happy with the resources that we have," Anthopoulos said. "I'm not one to [worry about it]. To me, if this is what we have to work with, we're going to make it work, whether it's a high number or a low number. I'm certainly happy with the number we have to work with. It's plenty to do what we need to do."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Atlanta Braves

Lunch with Braves' GM part of WM auction

MLB-wide event supports Katharine Feeney Memorial Scholarship Fund
MLB.com @mlbbowman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- An opportunity to have lunch with general manager Alex Anthopoulos or receive a one-on-one catching tutorial with Kurt Suzuki stand as two of the packages the Braves are offering as Major League Baseball, MLB Advanced Media, MLB Network and all 30 clubs have organized a charity auction that is taking place during this week's Winter Meetings.

This year's auction will support the Katharine Feeney Memorial Scholarship Fund, which has been established to honor the memory of the late pioneering executive who positively impacted the game, its players and media members who had the pleasure to work with her at some point during her 40-year career.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- An opportunity to have lunch with general manager Alex Anthopoulos or receive a one-on-one catching tutorial with Kurt Suzuki stand as two of the packages the Braves are offering as Major League Baseball, MLB Advanced Media, MLB Network and all 30 clubs have organized a charity auction that is taking place during this week's Winter Meetings.

This year's auction will support the Katharine Feeney Memorial Scholarship Fund, which has been established to honor the memory of the late pioneering executive who positively impacted the game, its players and media members who had the pleasure to work with her at some point during her 40-year career.

The auction (MLB.com/wintermeetingsauction) launched Monday morning and will run through Thursday at 10 a.m. ET.

The Braves' offers include:

Lunch with Anthopoulos: The highest bidder will dine with the Braves executive at a restaurant within The Battery and then receive tickets to that night's Braves home game on a mutually agreed upon date, excluding Opening Day.

Catching Lessons with Suzuki: The winning bidder will receive a one-hour catching lesson with Suzuki, four tickets to a mutually agreed upon 2018 Braves home game and the chance to be on the field for batting practice before that specific game.

Braves' Spring Training Special: The winning bidder will receive four one-day "park-hopper" passes to Disney World, as well as four tickets to a mutually agreed upon Braves Spring Training home game, with a pregame batting practice experience and a meet-and-greet photo opportunity with manager Brian Snitker and various players.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Atlanta Braves

Drew-Wainwright deal highlighted '03 Meetings

MLB.com @mlbbowman

ATLANTA -- As the first full day of the 2003 Winter Meetings came to a close in New Orleans and some of the attendees were enjoying a Friday night on Bourbon Street, then-Braves general manager John Schuerholz and then-Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty found a comfortable spot to converse and share a glass of wine at the hotel lobby's bar.

With media members, scouts and fellow executives within sight and wondering what these two highly regarded men might be discussing, Schuerholz and Jocketty were extending a conversation about J.D. Drew, the outfielder the Braves sought to add to their depleted lineup.

ATLANTA -- As the first full day of the 2003 Winter Meetings came to a close in New Orleans and some of the attendees were enjoying a Friday night on Bourbon Street, then-Braves general manager John Schuerholz and then-Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty found a comfortable spot to converse and share a glass of wine at the hotel lobby's bar.

With media members, scouts and fellow executives within sight and wondering what these two highly regarded men might be discussing, Schuerholz and Jocketty were extending a conversation about J.D. Drew, the outfielder the Braves sought to add to their depleted lineup.

"My conversations with a good friend like Walt didn't normally start in a room or a private setting," Schuerholz said. "We were usually one-on-one in a social setting. We had a great friendship and mutual respect for one another. It was a setting where we could cordially talk about a potential deal."

Hot Stove Tracker

A little more than 12 hours later, the subject of their conversation was revealed when it was announced the Braves had acquired Drew and Eli Marrero from the Cardinals in exchange for Adam Wainwright, Jason Marquis and Ray King.

Before going to New Orleans, the Braves had expressed interest in Drew. The Cardinals had countered by making it known which players they might want in return. But it was not until Saturday morning, a few hours before the deal was complete, that Jocketty mentioned Wainwright's name.

"Their strategy was to wait until the last part of the conversation to mention Wainwright's name," Schuerholz said. "I figure they wanted to gauge our interest [in Drew] and willingness to move one of our top prospects. They knew what they were looking for and where our team stood."

Upon hearing Wainwright would need to be included in the deal, Schuerholz summoned then-manager Bobby Cox and his top lieutenants for a meeting in his suite. The lone dissenting vote was issued by scouting director Roy Clark, whose strong bond with Wainwright dated back to the pitcher's days as a multi-sport athlete at Glynn Academy, which is located in rural Brunswick, Ga.

It should be noted Clark also expressed a dissenting vote the following year when asked whether to include Dan Meyer (who replaced Wainwright as Atlanta's top pitching prospect) in a deal with the A's that netted the Braves nine seasons' worth of Tim Hudson.

"It was unanimous minus one," Schuerholz said of the Wainwright/Drew vote. "If I tell these guys that I honor their work and analysis of players and don't act on the information or opinions they provide, then I'm just speaking out of both sides of my mouth. Still, the decision rests with the general manager, and it happened to be me at the time."

Video: FLA@ATL: Drew blasts two homers in five-RBI night

Fourteen years later, it is easy to declare a victor. The Cardinals have won two World Series and captured four National League pennants. Wainwright has remained in St. Louis throughout a 12-year career highlighted by four seasons as an NL Cy Young Award finalist.

Drew passed on the opportunity to continue playing in his home state after just one year with the Braves, who were eliminated by the Astros in the 2004 NL Division Series. But the Hahira, Ga., native's presence was significant enough to argue the Braves would not have won a 13th consecutive division title without him. The 8.6 FanGraphs WAR figure he produced that season ranks second in Atlanta history (trailing only Darrell Evans' 9.7 in 1973) and his 162 Weighted Runs Created Plus ranks 10th.

Wainwright was a beloved homegrown product whose rural Georgia upbringing further endeared himself to Braves fans who had closely monitored his progression since being taken in the first round of the 2000 Draft.

But the young pitcher was still a couple years away from being Major League-ready when the Braves ended the 2003 season needing to fill the tremendous offensive void created by the free-agent departures of Gary Sheffield and Javy Lopez. Hall of Famer Greg Maddux left that winter, too. But at the time, there was at least hope Mike Hampton and a promising young Horacio Ramirez would prove healthy enough to stabilize the starting rotation for many years to come.

"We believe we got exactly the player that fit our bill to fill our offensive needs and put us where we wanted to be as a playoff team with a chance to win a World Series," Schuerholz said. "We knew [Wainwright] was a high-quality, high-character guy, and we hated to lose him."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Atlanta Braves

Check out SunTrust Park covered in snow

An early December cold stretch tore through the southern United States on Friday, leaving snow in some unexpected places like Atlanta. A town that normally sees less than three inches of snow through the entire winter was getting close to that much in one day. So, while children got the benefit of early school cancellations, the rest of us got to see SunTrust Park under a snowy cover: 

Braves' roster quietly undergoing changes

MLB.com @mlbbowman

ATLANTA -- This has certainly been a unique offseason for the Braves, who were neutralized by the lengthy MLB investigation that led them to gain new leadership within the baseball-operations department.

But though general manager Alex Anthopoulos has been in place to run this department for less than a month, the Braves have continued to do business and keep up with the unavoidable annual offseason ritual of reconstructing the roster.

ATLANTA -- This has certainly been a unique offseason for the Braves, who were neutralized by the lengthy MLB investigation that led them to gain new leadership within the baseball-operations department.

But though general manager Alex Anthopoulos has been in place to run this department for less than a month, the Braves have continued to do business and keep up with the unavoidable annual offseason ritual of reconstructing the roster.

With much of the recent focus centering around Anthopoulos' arrival and the sanctions delivered at the conclusion of the investigation, it might have been easy to forget all that has occurred since the Braves concluded the 2017 season.

Hot Stove Tracker

So with the Winter Meetings beginning next week, here is a recap of how the roster has changed over the past two months.

Option decisions
R.A. Dickey was hinting at retirement before the Braves opted in October to not exercise his $8 million option for the 2018 season. The 43-year-old knuckleballer led Atlanta in innings pitched and posted the best ERA among the team's qualified starters in '17. His leadership and experience will be missed within a young rotation that has lacked a legit frontline starter over the past couple seasons.

While announcing the Dickey decision, the Braves confirmed they had exercised the $4 million option for catcher Tyler Flowers, who hit .281 with 12 homers and an .823 OPS this past season. The suburban Atlanta native will once again share the catching duties with Kurt Suzuki, who hit a career-high 19 homers in 2017 and signed a one-year deal in September to remain with Atlanta.

Free agents
Dickey joined the free-agent market just ahead of Jason Motte, a veteran reliever who produced a 3.54 ERA and limited opponents to a .199 batting average over 40 2/3 innings in 2017. If the price is right, it might be worth bringing Motte back to provide leadership and some middle-inning stability to what currently stands as a young bullpen.

A potential return is likely not in the cards for Ian Krol, who opted for free agency when he didn't accept being outrighted to Triple-A Gwinnett in October. Krol constructed a 5.33 ERA over 49 innings and spent and most of August on the disabled list with what was termed a strained oblique. The team sent him to its Spring Training complex with a stern message to get in better shape.

Waiver wire
The Braves also lost Minor League catcher David Freitas, who was claimed off waivers by the Mariners, and infielder Micah Johnson, who has been claimed off waivers by three teams (Reds, Giants and Rays) this offseason.

The Braves also used the waiver wire last week to claim right-handed reliever Chase Whitley from the Rays. Whitley will be among the multi-inning options as Atlanta will likely utilize an eight-man bullpen, primarily to guard against the inexperience within its rotation.

Left-handed reliever Grant Dayton was claimed off waivers from the Dodgers, but he is expected to miss most of the 2018 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Trades
Anthopoulos hasn't made a blockbuster trade since becoming GM on Nov. 13, but he did at least cleanse his bullpen last week when Jim Johnson was traded to the Angels. The Braves included international bonus pool money to entice the Angels to assume the $5 million Johnson is owed next season.

Anthopoulos also added to the organization's bullpen's depth when he sent the Dodgers cash in exchange for right-handed reliever Josh Ravin on Nov. 20. The 29-year-old reliever is essentially a lottery ticket, as he has made just 33 career appearances.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Atlanta Braves

The Braves' Triple-A affiliate is now the Stripers

Marine life is a go-to for baseball team names. There's the Marlins, natch, but also the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, Beloit Snappers, Biloxi Shuckers, Charlotte StoneCrabs, Erie SeaWolves and Hickory Crawdads, to name a few. 

The former Gwinnett Braves, the Triple-A affiliate of the Braves, are jumping on board. They will now be known as the Gwinnett Stripers. 

Anthopoulos gears up for 1st WM with Braves

Former Blue Jays GM getting better feel for how to address club's needs
MLB.com @mlbbowman

ATLANTA -- Alex Anthopoulos has maintained a patient and thorough approach as he has spent the past few weeks devouring information and evaluating the organization he inherited when he was named Braves general manager and executive vice president on Nov. 13.

As the Winter Meetings begin Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Anthopoulos will have an opportunity to extend trade conversations he's already had with fellow executives and also get a better feel for who might be available on the free-agent market. There's a chance he could strike a deal, but his primary focus will be to continue getting a better feel for how to best address his club's needs.

ATLANTA -- Alex Anthopoulos has maintained a patient and thorough approach as he has spent the past few weeks devouring information and evaluating the organization he inherited when he was named Braves general manager and executive vice president on Nov. 13.

As the Winter Meetings begin Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Anthopoulos will have an opportunity to extend trade conversations he's already had with fellow executives and also get a better feel for who might be available on the free-agent market. There's a chance he could strike a deal, but his primary focus will be to continue getting a better feel for how to best address his club's needs.

Hot Stove Tracker

While none of Atlanta's needs might be deemed definitive, there are a number of items on the wish list as Anthopoulos aims to move the club away from the tough portion of the rebuilding process that began after the 2014 season.

The Braves could benefit from the addition of a proven reliever, and if the right deal materializes, there could be a desire to trade for a top-flight starting pitcher. From an offensive perspective, Anthopoulos will keep his eyes and ears open for ways the club can improve at third base.

Video: Snitker looks forward working with Alex Anthopoulos

The only definitive need the Braves have this offseason is to create a lineup spot for outfielder Ronald Acuna, who could stand as MLBPipeline's top overall prospect when he makes his expected debut early next season. The spot would be created by parting ways with either Matt Kemp or Nick Markakis.

Though it does not appear the Braves have had any serious discussions regarding Kemp or Markakis, the Winter Meetings may at least provide an opportunity to get a better feel for their respective trade markets.

Club needs

Bullpen: Anthopoulos took a step toward cleaning out his bullpen when he traded Jim Johnson and his $5 million cost to the Angels last week. Now, he may look to add some experience to a bullpen that will once again be led by closer Arodys Vizcaino, A.J. Minter, Jose Ramirez, Sam Freeman and Dan Winkler. The Braves also recently acquired Chase Whitley, who stands as one of the multi-inning options that will exist as Atlanta plans to primarily utilize an eight-man bullpen.

Video: TB@CWS: Whitley strikes out the side in the 8th

Starting pitching: Sean Newcomb made his Major League debut in June and already owns the third-most career starts (19) among the current projected starters. Julio Teheran is the only member of this group who has made more than 65 career starts, but his inconsistencies create reason to question his future in Atlanta. Newcomb, Luiz Gohara and Mike Foltynewicz all have the potential to become legit front-line starters. But if the Braves are going to be legit contenders by 2019, they likely need to add a potential ace at some point within the next year.

Third base: Johan Camargo is capable of serving as the primary third baseman next season, and in 2019, there's a chance Austin Riley could be positioned to get a call to the Majors. But if the Braves would rather utilize Camargo as a versatile bench asset, they could look to add some experience to their lineup with the addition of a short-term third baseman. There may also be a desire to remain flexible with Camargo to keep him available to serve as the shortstop if Dansby Swanson's struggles extend into '18.

Video: PHI@ATL: Camargo puts Braves up with two-run double

Who can they trade if necessary

RF Markakis: Though the preference would be to trade Kemp, the Braves may have to settle on moving Markakis, who is financially much more attractive as he enters the final season of his four-year, $44 million contract. Markakis' production has dipped over the past few seasons, but he still gets on base consistently and is highly respected throughout the game. He could certainly draw some interest.

Anybody not named Acuna or Freeman: OK, maybe the list of untouchables extends slightly beyond Acuna and Freddie Freeman, but it shouldn't go far beyond this duo. A year ago, the Braves halted their pursuit of Chris Sale when the White Sox made it clear any return needed to include Swanson. Swanson still has the potential to have a distinguished career, but he stands as one of the latest examples of how quickly a prospect's value can diminish within the span of just one year.

Video: Bowman on expectations for Swanson in 2018

The Braves have a number of top quality pitching prospects, and it wouldn't necessarily be easy to part ways with any of them. But in order to get a top-flight starting pitcher, it might be necessary to eventually part ways with at least one of these young arms.

Top prospects

Per MLBPipeline.com, the Braves' Top 10 prospects are Acuna, LHP Kolby Allard, RHP Kyle Wright, RHP Mike Soroka, RHP Ian Anderson, LHP Gohara, LHP Joey Wentz, LHP Max Fried, 3B Austin Riley and OF Cristian Pache.

Gohara and Fried could both start the season in Atlanta's rotation, and there's a chance Soroka and Allard could join them at some point during the summer. Riley will likely garner a lot of attention next summer, and Pache has the potential to make a meteoric rise similar to the one Acuna experienced this year.

Video: Bowman on Acuna possibly starting on Opening Day

Rule 5 Draft

The Braves have 37 players on their 40-man roster and thus could make a selection in next week's Rule 5 Draft. They already have to carry Winkler through most of May to satisfy the requirement that existed when he was taken in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. But given the expectation Winkler could be a mainstay in the bullpen, this likely won't be a deterrence if the Braves want to choose a player this year.

Payroll

The Braves have not revealed an exact payroll projection, but if it stands where it did this year, they will have approximately $40 million available to spend this offseason. Even if they were to trade Kemp, they would likely need to eat a sizeable portion of the $36 million (accounts for his salary minus the Dodgers' financial commitment) he is owed over the next two seasons.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Atlanta Braves

Braves sign infielder Colon to Minors deal

Former Marlin, Royal may fill role as versatile backup
MLB.com @JoeTrezz

The Braves had a need for a versatile infielder after non-tendering Jace Peterson and Danny Santana last week. They filled the void by signing utility man Christian Colon to a Minor League deal, a source told MLB.com's Mark Bowman.

Robert Murray of FanRag Sports was the first to report the deal, citing a source.

The Braves had a need for a versatile infielder after non-tendering Jace Peterson and Danny Santana last week. They filled the void by signing utility man Christian Colon to a Minor League deal, a source told MLB.com's Mark Bowman.

Robert Murray of FanRag Sports was the first to report the deal, citing a source.

Hot Stove Tracker

Colon, 28, appeared in 24 games with the Royals and Marlins last season, providing a defensive backup at second and third base. Colon can also play shortstop. Once a top prospect in Kansas City's system, Colon hit just .263/.323/.329 over 125 games for Kansas City across four seasons. But he'll always have a place in franchise history thanks to one big hit. Colon drove in the winning run in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series against the Mets, sparking a 13th-inning rally that clinched the Royals' first championship in 30 years.

In Atlanta, Colon would get a chance to win a utility role due to his ability to play up the middle. The club is more comfortable with the two other backup infielders on the its active roster, Rio Ruiz and Adonis Garcia, playing on the corners.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Atlanta Braves, Christian Colon

Inbox: Could Braves deal for Opening Day arm?

Braves reporter Mark Bowman answers questions from fans
MLB.com @mlbbowman

Is the Braves' Opening Day starting pitcher currently on the roster or do you get a sense a trade will bring a frontline starter?
-- @ChatelainJC

We can assume the Braves will add a bench piece and at least one reliever. We can also expect they'll attempt to part ways with either Matt Kemp, Nick Markakis or both. But it's harder to guess whether general manager Alex Anthopoulos will stumble onto a trade attractive enough to satisfy his wish to add some quality experience to what is now a rather green rotation.

Is the Braves' Opening Day starting pitcher currently on the roster or do you get a sense a trade will bring a frontline starter?
-- @ChatelainJC

We can assume the Braves will add a bench piece and at least one reliever. We can also expect they'll attempt to part ways with either Matt Kemp, Nick Markakis or both. But it's harder to guess whether general manager Alex Anthopoulos will stumble onto a trade attractive enough to satisfy his wish to add some quality experience to what is now a rather green rotation.

Anthoupoulos said he won't rush the rebuild process, but at the same time, there's no doubt the club could benefit from the addition of a controllable frontline starter. This isn't a case like last year when the Braves added arms just to bridge a gap to the future.

:: Submit a question to the Braves Inbox ::

The future started to come last year with the arrivals of Sean Newcomb, Luiz Gohara, Max Fried and Lucas Sims. It could become brighter this summer if Mike Soroka and Kolby Allard continue their quick ascents. So, there's no reason to simply add experience at the expense of blocking a higher-quality arm.

But if the Braves are looking to become contenders within the next two years, they need to gain some proven quality within their rotation. Julio Teheran, who has started on Opening Day in the last four seasons, is the only projected starter who has made more than 65 career starts and he joins Mike Foltynewicz as the only pitchers on the staff who have made more than 20 starts at the big league level.

Video: Must C Clips: Foltynewicz takes no-hitter into 9th

At the same time, these past three seasons have simply fortified the thought that Teheran should not be viewed as anything more than a No. 3 starter. His value within the rotation could continue to diminish if Gohara, Newcomb and Foltynewicz make strides and the likes of Fried, Soroka and Allard begin living up to their potential So, it might be in Anthopoulos' best interest to once again gauge the trade market for Teheran, who stands among the pitchers whose current value may be enhanced by the lack of quality free-agent starters available.

Even if the Braves were to add a top-notch starter this winter, the pace of their ascent toward becoming a legit contender will be heavily influenced by the progress made by Foltynewicz, Gohara, Newcomb and Fried.

From a development perspective, it might be fun to project how many potential frontline starters the Braves already possess in their system. But from a realistic perspective, we know it would be more comforting to guard against the uncertainty possessed by these young starters with the addition of the legit frontline starter Atlanta has lacked over the past few seasons.

What would the Braves' return for a Markakis or Kemp trade be and would it be worth it?
-- @ComRao2

As Markakis enters the final year of his four-year, $44 million contract, there's certainly reason to believe he could net a decent prospect. I get that many of you are going to point out his Wins Above Replacement (WAR) figure, per FanGraphs, hasn't exceeded 1.5 any of the past three seasons (and has trended downward) and his Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) has been below 100 both of the past two seasons. But while the metrics might show him to be below average, he still has produced a .357 on-base percentage over the past three seasons and he stands as a widely respected figure who could positively impact any clubhouse.

Hot Stove Tracker

Any return for Kemp would depend on how much of his remaining contract the Braves would have to eat. The veteran outfielder's rash of hamstring injuries this year combined with the fact he's owed $36 million (his salary minus the Dodgers' financIal commitment) over the next two seasons will make it difficult for the Braves to find a suitor.

Video: ATL@WSH: Kemp crushes a grand slam to left field

Is there any chance the Braves could acquire Martin Prado to serve as a third-base stopgap and tutor to Johan Camargo and Ozzie Albies?
-- @D_Rock9799

As Prado comes off a season in which a hamstring injury limited him to just 37 games with Miami, there may be some hesitance to trade for him and the $28.5 million he is owed over the next two seasons. But given his history and reputation, I think you definitely have to look into the possibility of bringing him back to Atlanta.

There's a reason Chipper Jones and others have said Prado is the best teammate they've ever had. He sets a great example for young players with his work ethic and his high energy, friendly persona provides him the ability to unite a clubhouse as well as any other player I've ever covered.

Camargo possesses many of the same attributes and certainly could benefit from Prado's leadership. At the same time, the latter's presence would likely push the former to a backup role and strengthen the Braves' bench. Yes, there are some concerns with Prado as he comes off an injury-plagued season. But it's certainly worth checking to see what it would cost to bring him home.

Video: PHI@ATL: Camargo puts Braves up with two-run double

What are some ways the Braves plan to creatively inject the system with young talent?
-- @buzzard_sam

If simply looking at how the Braves can still gain value as they face international-market restrictions for each of the next three years, I think they'll attempt to make more deals like they did with the Angels last week. In exchange for bonus pool money, they were able to rid themselves of the $5 million still owed to Jim Johnson.

Moving forward, when they once again have available international bonus pool money, they could once again attempt to make similar deals. The return is seldom significant with these kinds of deals. But the value gained through cost savings or some other creative deal could certainly exceed that which they could gain with the money they can spend on international prospects.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Atlanta Braves

Moves provide window into Anthopoulos' plan?

Claiming of right-hander Whitley off waivers indicates Braves could opt for eight-man bullpen in '18
MLB.com @mlbbowman

ATLANTA -- Hours before non-tendering Matt Adams, Jace Peterson and Danny Santana on Friday, the Braves claimed versatile right-handed reliever Chase Whitley off waivers from the Rays.

The combination of these decisions provided a glimpse of how general manager Alex Anthopoulos might structure Atlanta's bullpen and bench for the upcoming season.

ATLANTA -- Hours before non-tendering Matt Adams, Jace Peterson and Danny Santana on Friday, the Braves claimed versatile right-handed reliever Chase Whitley off waivers from the Rays.

The combination of these decisions provided a glimpse of how general manager Alex Anthopoulos might structure Atlanta's bullpen and bench for the upcoming season.

Adams, Peterson, Santana become FAs

Though the Braves might acquire a veteran starting pitcher this winter, the inexperience that currently exists within the projected rotation will likely lead the club to structure the roster around the makeup of an eight-man bullpen, which could include a couple of long-relief options like Whitley -- who completed more than one inning in 18 of 41 appearances for Tampa Bay this past season.

With the use of an eight-man bullpen, the Braves would once again commit to utilizing a four-man bench, which would likely include backup catcher Kurt Suzuki, backup outfielder Lane Adams and two to-be-determined players.

Hot Stove Tracker

Exactly who the Braves target to fill the open spots on their bench will be determined by whether they opt to open the season with Johan Camargo as their primary third baseman. Camargo stands as the top internal candidate for this role, but he could fill one of those bench spots and be utilized as the primary backup infielder if Anthopoulos opts to acquire a veteran to handle the hot corner.

Video: Austin Riley on hitting for the cycle in Fall League

With intriguing prospect Austin Riley -- the Braves' ninth-ranked prospect -- soaring quickly and possibly in line to become Atlanta's primary third baseman at some point during the 2019 season, the Braves would likely be looking for a short-term option who could provide more power potential than any of the three current internal candidates -- Camargo, Rio Ruiz and Adonis Garcia.

If the Braves commit to utilizing Camargo as their primary third baseman, there will be a need to acquire a versatile backup infielder capable of spelling either second baseman Ozzie Albies or shortstop Dansby Swanson. Peterson served as the primary backup middle infielder most of last season and Santana was primarily used as either a backup option in the outfield or at third base.

Video: Brian Snitker on expectations for Dansby Swanson

By non-tendering Matt Adams, Peterson and Santana, the Braves parted ways with three of the five players who compiled more than 15 pinch-hit plate appearances for them this past season. The other two members of this group were Lane Adams and Emilio Bonifacio, who logged 30 pinch-hit plate appearances before being released upon June's arrival.

Matt Adams provided legitimate power potential, as he spent most of last season's final two months serving as Braves manager Brian Snitker's top pinch-hitting threat. But his limited defensive versatility combined with the struggles he's had against left-handed pitchers throughout his career made him a potential payroll liability. MLB Trade Rumors projects he could have received $4.6 million via arbitration.

Anthopoulos has the option of re-signing Matt Adams, Peterson or Santana. But given the fact the Braves already passed on the possibility of committing approximately $1 million to Peterson or Santana, there's certainly reason to think they'll look elsewhere for bench pieces.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Atlanta Braves

Poulis named head trainer as part of reshuffle

MLB.com @mlbbowman

ATLANTA -- Longtime Braves head athletic trainer Jeff Porter will move away from his daily responsibilities and remain with the club as a senior advisor. He will be replaced by George Poulis, who spent the past 15 seasons as the head athletic trainer for the Blue Jays.

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos served as Poulis' boss during his time as the Blue Jays' GM from 2009-15. The opportunity for this reunion was influenced by Porter's desire to cut back on his travel and the time commitments he has made while spending the past 33 seasons serving as either Atlanta's head or assistant athletic trainer.

ATLANTA -- Longtime Braves head athletic trainer Jeff Porter will move away from his daily responsibilities and remain with the club as a senior advisor. He will be replaced by George Poulis, who spent the past 15 seasons as the head athletic trainer for the Blue Jays.

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos served as Poulis' boss during his time as the Blue Jays' GM from 2009-15. The opportunity for this reunion was influenced by Porter's desire to cut back on his travel and the time commitments he has made while spending the past 33 seasons serving as either Atlanta's head or assistant athletic trainer.

Porter, who spent the past 15 seasons as Atlanta's head athletic trainer, plans to attend Spring Training and most of the team's home games during the regular season. But he plans to skip most of the road trips.

Poulis spent three seasons as Toronto's assistant athletic trainer before taking the head job in 2003. He spent 10 seasons as an athletic trainer in the Padres system before joining the Blue Jays.

The Braves also announced that Andrew Hauser will now serve as director of performance and assistant athletic trainer. Jim Lovell will also remain an assistant athletic trainer as he enters his 34th season within the Braves' organization.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Atlanta Braves

Braves get in spirit with tree lighting ceremony

Special to MLB.com

ATLANTA -- The weather outside was anything but frightful -- actually, it was a clear and quite pleasant low-60's Friday evening at The Battery Atlanta.

The fired-up fans were so delightful.

ATLANTA -- The weather outside was anything but frightful -- actually, it was a clear and quite pleasant low-60's Friday evening at The Battery Atlanta.

The fired-up fans were so delightful.

There was plenty of 'choppin' around the Christmas tree' as the Braves threw the first pitch of the holiday season, holding their inaugural Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony.

"Welcome to this wonderful ceremony, the first ever at The Battery Atlanta and SunTrust Park," Hall of Famer and Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz told the packed plaza. "You're a part of it. We're so excited."

The fans would be, too. A fun, holiday-spirit-filled evening began with singing by the Big Chicken Chorus then the Like the Dickens carolers, followed by a question-and-answer session with pitcher Mike Foltynewicz, led by Braves play-by-play announcer Jim Powell, a visit from Santa, the actual tree lighting, and, finally, a showing of "How The Grinch Stole Christmas," starring Jim Carrey.

Foltynewicz was impressed.

"This is a great turnout," he said. "To have The Battery getting all these people to show up like this, it's something special. Look at all these people. For me to be a part of it, it's pretty cool."

This holiday season is special for the 26-year-old right-hander, as Foltynewicz and his wife, Brittany, are expecting the arrival of their first child in February -- he refers to it as their belated Christmas present.

"It's like a little Valentine's Day present for her, too. [Brittany's] birthday is the seventh so maybe it will be around hers," he said. "I'm excited for him to arrive and start the future, and start the family. It's an exciting process. We're nervous and excited."

Foltynewicz was cool, calm and in great spirits as he anticipated Powell's questions, taken from young fans' emails.

"You never know what to expect when you get questions from kids," Foltynewicz said, breaking into a smile. "I expect a lot of things along the lines of 'What was your favorite Christmas present?' It's going to be a fun thing. I'm excited to hear what they ask."

Powell warned he would pull no punches.

"I was just telling Mike, 'This is my one chance to really grill you in front of all the fans out here,'" he deadpanned. "So I'm really going to ask him some tough things like, 'What is your favorite holiday tradition?' 'What was the best gift you ever got for Christmas?' Mike is starting a young family of his own -- he's got a baby coming this winter. He's going to find out that Christmas is a really special time the bigger your family gets."

Foltynewicz survived the grilling -- for the record, his most memorable gift was a Playstation when he was about eight (he also got a guitar, although he now admits he now plays the drums, making him "The Big Drummer Boy").

Foltynewicz then settled back with Brittany, and their adorable Great Dane, "Rookie," as Schuerholz spread more holiday cheer by reading "Twas The Night Before Christmas In Braves Country."

After a visit from Santa, it was time for the lighting of the tree.

"I hope it lights when I click that bad boy on," Foltynewicz said, with a laugh, prior to taking the stage. "It makes me feel like Clark Griswold ("National Lampoon's Vacation" character, played by Chevy Chase) out here. I've been watching them ever since I was five years old with my dad."

The lighting went off without a hitch and the tree lit up the plaza.

Foltynewicz expects that next year at this time, he'll be celebrating his first Christmas as a father and looks forward to future ones, and creating memories for his family.

Having addressed his spirits of Christmas Presents Past (the Playstation) and Christmas Presents Future (his and Brittany's son, they plan to name Michael Jett) he turned to Christmas Presents Present. That list is a short one.

"There's nothing right now," he said, after a pause. "I've got everything I need. I've got a little baby boy on the way, I've got a beautiful wife, I've got a little family coming. I love dogs -- I've got three of them -- and life's good right now. Really all I can ask for right now is health going into next year and just a healthy 2018."

There is one thing that the Braves are asking of their fans. That is to participate in The Braves Foundation toy drive for less-fortunate children in the Atlanta area which is taking place through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET. Fans are encouraged to bring new, packaged gifts to The Battery.

"We want to get a lot of gifts to kids who otherwise won't get them," Powell said.

Powell believes the holiday spirit is alive in Atlanta for what promises to be a new Braves tradition.

"I got here early and was just amazed at car after car after car. It was just endless," he said. "They were all coming in and it was a mom, it was a dad, it was two or three kids. They were all dressed for Christmas. Then you get out here on the green and it's just beautiful. The Battery's been transformed. This has got to be about the best place to come celebrate Christmas and the holidays of any place in Atlanta."

Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Atlanta Braves