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Inbox: Do East moves put pressure on Braves?

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

Does the increased player movement in the National League East make the Braves more active or passive in their search for replacements?
-- @RandalEtheredge

Like a pitcher who is not being completely honest when he says he's not affected by who he's matching up against in a particular start, baseball executives have long provided canned answers when asked about their reaction to what the competition is doing on the free-agent and trade markets.

Does the increased player movement in the National League East make the Braves more active or passive in their search for replacements?
-- @RandalEtheredge

Like a pitcher who is not being completely honest when he says he's not affected by who he's matching up against in a particular start, baseball executives have long provided canned answers when asked about their reaction to what the competition is doing on the free-agent and trade markets.

The Mets produced the NL East's best record over the final three months of this past season and they now have been strengthened by the additions of Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano. There's a chance Bryce Harper could return to the Nationals, who highlighted the offseason flurry by signing Patrick Corbin, or he might end up with the Phillies, who at least started to address their defensive woes by acquiring Jean Segura.

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The Braves are well aware of all that is transpiring in their division and the competitive drive may increase the motivation general manager Alex Anthopoulos has to get a deal done. But for now, he must simply remain focused on filling his needs -- starting pitcher, potential closer and outfielder -- while responsibly protecting the organization's future.

When will you announce Corey Kluber?
-- @Mooneypie13

It currently seems the most likely Indians starting pitcher to be moved would be Trevor Bauer, who has said it might be best to wait at least a year to deal him. It might also be a year too early for the Braves to comfortably satisfy what Cleveland would want for Kluber.

The Indians would like to gain a Major League-ready outfielder, but with Cristian Pache still a year away from fitting that description, the Braves aren't in position to comfortably deal Ender Inciarte, nor do they project Pache to fill a lineup spot at any point during the 2019 season.

Top 30 Braves prospects 

If not Kluber or Madison Bumgarner, then who would be the next 2-3 guys the Braves probably target for a top-of-the-rotation starter?
-- @Pacman453323

Contrary to recent reports, the Braves have not expressed interest in Dallas Keuchel. Nor have they checked in on Charlie Morton. J.A. Happ is seeking a three-year deal which currently includes a cost that would extend well above what Atlanta would be willing to give a 36-year-old starting pitcher.

So, it seems most likely the Braves will satisfy this need via the trade market, where it takes two to tango. So far, the Blue Jays have not necessarily seemed willing to allow Marcus Stroman to dance with Atlanta. There are obvious concerns about Sonny Gray, but it might be worth taking a shot on him with a buy-low deal. Any reports linking Zack Greinke to the Braves should be considered fake news.

If the Mets are indeed willing to move Noah Syndergaard, he has to be considered a candidate. But the Braves may once again find another NL East rival unwilling to trade within the division. Atlanta has previously shown interest in Michael Fulmer, but it does not appear they have talked to the Tigers about him this winter.

At some point, Stroman might become available, or Gray might become more attractive. But while the Braves will most likely fill this need via the trade market, it's not clear exactly which way they will turn.

Did the Braves ever consider Diaz? He's arguably one of the best young closers and he's still cheap and under team control. It's disappointing that they let him go to the Mets.
-- @djelrod

The Braves had strong interest in Diaz, and they made a concerted effort to acquire him before the Mariners dealt him to the Mets. But Seattle was looking for at least three of Atlanta's top pitching prospects in return. Even if you project Diaz to be the game's best closer over the next few years, that would be quite a gamble on a closer.

Who is the most likely outfield target for the Braves?
-- @jtimm684

As a plus defender with power potential, Mitch Haniger would be the perfect fit. But it appears he's one of the few assets the Mariners are not currently willing to move.

So, the best guess is the Braves will look to fill their outfield need via trade or wait to see how the market materializes for Nick Markakis, Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Gonzalez. There's a chance at least one of these veterans might be willing to accept an affordable short-term deal at some point within the next two months.

Marwin Gonzalez stands as another attractive free agent, and is someone who could help fill the outfield void while adding to the Braves' defensive versatility. But like reliever Adam Ottavino, the buzz surrounding Gonzalez has likely extended his cost well above his projected value.

Who do you consider the untouchable prospects?
-- @lukep419

Throughout the offseason, I've answered this question by saying Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr. should be considered the only untouchables in the organization. William Contreras might not necessarily fit the untouchable category. But because he is the only legitimate catching prospect in the organization, the Braves aren't going to part with him unless the value of a return includes another highly-touted young backstop.

If you had to predict one move that the Braves will make during the upcoming Winter Meetings, what would it be?
-- @ericbrewer1240

Anthopoulos has attempted to stay away from making deals during the Winter Meetings because he does not like the negotiating environment that exists within the event. Instead of appeasing an eager agent who comes to Las Vegas looking to strike it big for a client, Anthopoulos would rather take the same methodical approach at any other point during the offseason.

Plenty of interesting storylines and angles will develop next week. But it seems more likely the information gained during the event will lead to a deal that is completed once everyone has left Las Vegas. Two of the most significant trades the Braves have made this century -- acquiring Tim Hudson from the A's in 2004 and trading Justin Upton to the Padres in '14 -- were heavily discussed during the Winter Meetings and completed during the week that followed.

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

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