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Riley makes Pipeline's Top 3B Prospects list

20-year-old has chance to be legitimate power threat, lands at No. 6
MLB.com

ATLANTA -- As some other interested clubs seemed to be leaning toward drafting Austin Riley as a pitcher, Braves director of scouting Brian Bridges sent special assistant Roy Clark to a tournament in LaGrange (Ga.) and told him not to report back until he saw the big Mississippi prep star hit and pitch over the entirety of the weekend event.

"When Roy called, he said, '(Riley was) at 88-92 (mph) with his fastball, but,'" Bridges said. "I said, you don't need to say any more, I'm right there with you."

ATLANTA -- As some other interested clubs seemed to be leaning toward drafting Austin Riley as a pitcher, Braves director of scouting Brian Bridges sent special assistant Roy Clark to a tournament in LaGrange (Ga.) and told him not to report back until he saw the big Mississippi prep star hit and pitch over the entirety of the weekend event.

"When Roy called, he said, '(Riley was) at 88-92 (mph) with his fastball, but,'" Bridges said. "I said, you don't need to say any more, I'm right there with you."

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

Three years after projecting Riley's optimal value would come via the bat, the Braves are continuing to reap the benefits of drafting Riley, who is ranked sixth on MLB Pipeline's latest list of baseball's top third base prospects.

Taken in the first round (41st overall) of the 2015 Draft, Riley has established himself as one of the most intriguing prospects within Atlanta's talent-rich system. The physically imposing 20-year-old prospect has quieted concerns about his defensive potential and provided indication he has the potential to be a legit power threat at the Major League level.

As Riley hit .273 with 20 homers and a .803 OPS over 129 games for Class A Rome in 2016, he benefited from a second-half surge that caught the attention of Chipper Jones, who enjoyed the chance to spend some time with the young third baseman during last year's Spring Training.

"I looked at his first-half numbers and thought, 'He's better than that,'" Jones said. "Then you saw the second-half numbers and it was obvious something clicked. ... Austin Riley could be Freddie Freeman's protection in the lineup within the next two to three years. That's what we're shooting for."

After having a chance to talk about his approach and the mental aspect of hitting, Riley once again finished strong last season. He continued to acquaint himself with breaking balls and changeups as he hit .252 with 12 homers and a .718 OPS over 81 games for Class A Advanced Florida. But when challenged with a mid-season promotion, he hit .315 with eight home runs and a .900 OPS over 48 games with Double-A Mississippi.

The Braves will determine whether Riley will begin this upcoming season with Mississippi or Triple-A Gwinnett. But the club's decision makers are well aware of the possibility he could be ready for the Majors at some point during the 2019 season.

Riley's progress this year will influence how aggressively the Braves might pursue Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson once they become free agents after this season.

MLB Pipeline ranks the Blue Jays' Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as its top third base prospect. The next four players on this list are Nick Senzel (Reds), Miguel Andujar (Yankees), suburban Atlanta product Michael Chavis (Red Sox) and Christian Arroyo (Rays).

Following Riley on the second half of this Top 10 list are Ryan Mountcastle (Orioles), Colton Welker (Rockies), Brian Anderson (Marlins) and Jake Burger (White Sox).

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

 

Atlanta Braves

Inbox: Will Braves deal top pitching prospects?

Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers fans' questions
MLB.com

There are so many rumors about trading some of the top Minor League pitchers. Why not be patient and see if they turn into the next Steve Avery, Tom Glavine or John Smoltz? We don't want another Adam Wainwright or Alex Wood type of trade.
-- Oscar V., Waterford, Calif.

It must be remembered that the Braves are in a much different position than they were during the Wainwright and Wood trades, and courtesy of their deep pitching crop, they have insurance that didn't exist when those deals were made.

There are so many rumors about trading some of the top Minor League pitchers. Why not be patient and see if they turn into the next Steve Avery, Tom Glavine or John Smoltz? We don't want another Adam Wainwright or Alex Wood type of trade.
-- Oscar V., Waterford, Calif.

It must be remembered that the Braves are in a much different position than they were during the Wainwright and Wood trades, and courtesy of their deep pitching crop, they have insurance that didn't exist when those deals were made.

When Atlanta traded Wainwright in the J.D. Drew deal before the 2004 season, it was left with Bubba Nelson, Dan Meyer, Kyle Davies and Anthony Lerew as its top starting pitching prospects. Given how their careers developed, it's pretty easy to say that group doesn't compare to the Braves' current one. But for now, let's remember Nelson and Meyer were both considered Top 100 prospects when the deal was done.

:: Submit a question to the Braves Inbox ::

Atlanta has six pitchers -- Kolby Allard, Kyle Wright, Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson, Luiz Gohara and Joey Wentz -- listed among MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects. Anderson and Wentz are the only members of this group who likely won't be considered candidates for the Braves' rotation this year.

Who will fill Braves' final rotation spots?

Video: Top Prospects: Kyle Wright, RHP, Braves

To gain a quality return, a team must part ways with value, and pitching prospects certainly hold significant value. This is the first time Atlanta has had this much quality starting-pitching depth in its system since the late 1980s, when Derek Lilliquist was consistently considered a better pitching prospect than Smoltz.

Lilliquist made his Major League debut in 1989, and he was traded to the Padres midway through the following season for reliever Mark Grant. Had then-general manager Bobby Cox known exactly how things were going to pan out for Avery, Smoltz, Glavine, Kent Mercker and Pete Smith, he might have pulled the trigger a year or two earlier and gained a more significant return for Lilliquist.

As GM Alex Anthopoulos attempts to upgrade different areas of his team over the next year, he'll look to deal from his team's area of strength, which is obviously starting-pitching prospects. It's never easy to deal young starting pitchers, but it's a lot easier to do so when depth in that department provides the insurance the Braves possess.

Video: Top Prospects: Luiz Gohara, LHP, Braves

Why did Mauricio Cabrera stay at the Minor League level throughout the 2017 season?
-- Mark C., Manilla, Philippines

Those who were aware of the control problems Cabrera has had throughout much of his pro career had reason to be skeptical about his attempt to extend the success he had in 2016, when he posted a 2.82 ERA and issued 19 walks over 38 1/3 innings for Atlanta. But I don't think anybody expected him to spend the entire '17 season in the Minors, let alone experience a midseason demotion to Double-A Mississippi.

Cabrera struggled to find consistency with his mechanics during Spring Training, and he just never found a groove. There is still some hope that he and his 100-mph heater might return to the Majors. But for now, I don't think anybody is assuming he'll find a spot on the Opening Day roster.

When will the Braves get another catcher like Brian McCann, who hit for power, was a clutch hitter and controlled the pitching staff?
-- James P., Hampton, Ga.

As the Braves prepare to induct Tim Hudson and Joe Simpson into the team's Hall of Fame this weekend, let's look at why McCann will be getting this same honor once he retires. While playing nine seasons (2005-13) for Atlanta, McCann posted a .277/.350/.473 slash line and hit 176 home runs. His .823 OPS in that span ranked second among all Major League catchers, trailing only former Yankee Jorge Posada (.841). (While serving as a catcher, McCann tallied more than 1,800 more plate appearances than Posada during that time period.)

Video: SD@ATL: McCann belts his 20th home run of the year

Simply put, guys like McCann don't grow on trees, and developing a top-notch homegrown catcher might be one of the most difficult challenges teams face on an annual basis. So as questions continue to linger about Alex Jackson's capability of developing into a big league catcher, there is certainly reason for the Braves to continue evaluating the possibility of acquiring J.T. Realmuto and other legit backstops who could provide stability at the position over the next few years.

Do Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair still have a future with Altanta?
-- David F., Rock Hill, S.C.

While it might be best for Wisler to have a chance elsewhere, I'm sticking with my belief that the Braves should remain patient with Blair and give him a chance to prove himself as a reliever.

It's a very small sample size, but it's worth noting that in Blair's two most recent Major League appearances, he has shown great potential with his breaking ball.

Per Statcast™, the Tigers missed 39.39 percent of the curveballs Blair threw as he notched a career-best 10 strikeouts on Oct. 1, 2016. Blair didn't have much success during his only appearance last year (July 26 in Arizona), but the D-backs did swing and miss on 42.31 percent of the curveballs he threw.

Video: DET@ATL: Watch all 10 of Blair's K's in 10 seconds

Blair's long-term future as a successful starting pitcher might be in doubt, but it seems wise to at least see how he might fare when given the chance to feature that curveball one inning at a time.

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

 

Atlanta Braves

Braves land 3 on top 10 lefty prospects list

Gohara (No. 4), Allard (7), Fried (10) give Atlanta strong talent in Minors
MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Alex Wood, Eric Stults and Manny Banuelos were the only left-handed pitchers to make a start for the Braves during a two-season span that began in 2015. Wood accounted for 20 of those 34 starts before being traded to the Dodgers as part of the massive rebuild that has seemingly made it unlikely for Atlanta to experience a similar southpaw shortage over the next few years.

Three of the young starting pitchers -- Luiz Gohara, Kolby Allard and Max Fried -- acquired during this rebuild rank among baseball's top 10 left-handed prospects, per the rankings MLB Pipeline released Wednesday.

ATLANTA -- Alex Wood, Eric Stults and Manny Banuelos were the only left-handed pitchers to make a start for the Braves during a two-season span that began in 2015. Wood accounted for 20 of those 34 starts before being traded to the Dodgers as part of the massive rebuild that has seemingly made it unlikely for Atlanta to experience a similar southpaw shortage over the next few years.

Three of the young starting pitchers -- Luiz Gohara, Kolby Allard and Max Fried -- acquired during this rebuild rank among baseball's top 10 left-handed prospects, per the rankings MLB Pipeline released Wednesday.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

Gohara ranks fourth, sitting behind the Padres' Mackenzie Gore, who was the third overall pick in last summer's MLB Draft, the Athletics' A.J. Puk, who was taken with the sixth pick in the 2016 Draft, and the Yankees' Justus Sheffield, who was taken by the Indians in the first round of the 2014 Draft and later traded to New York in exchange for Andrew Miller.

Sean Newcomb ranked among the game's top left-handed prospects at this time last year, but he no longer qualified for this list after making 19 starts for Atlanta last season. The Braves actually had a surplus of lefty starters by the end of last season, as Gohara and Fried were both given a chance to make a handful of starts in September.

One of the next newcomers to Atlanta's rotation could be Allard, the rising 20-year-old southpaw who ranks seventh on this updated list of the game's top left-handed pitching prospects. Fried ranks 10th.

Video: Top Prospects: Max Fried, LHP, Braves

As Gohara prepares to go to Spring Training with a strong possibility of opening the season in Atlanta's rotation, it remains impressive how far he has come since beginning last year with Class A Advanced Florida. The big lefty continued to draw comparisons to CC Sabathia as he constructed a 2.62 ERA and registered 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings over the 26 appearances (25 starts) he combined to make for Florida, Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett.

Gohara completed at least six innings in four of the five starts he made after getting his first call to the Majors in September. The 21-year-old hurler surrendered just one earned run in two of those outings and opened some eyes as his fastball averaged 96.5 mph -- the fifth-highest velocity among all MLB pitchers who threw at least 200 fastballs last year.

Allard will likely open this season with Triple-A Gwinnett, but there is a chance he could reach the Majors at some point this summer. His stock rose last year as he skipped the Class A Advanced level and then proceeded to produce a 3.18 ERA over 27 starts for Mississippi. He pitched most of the season at 19 years old and did not face a single batter who was younger than him.

Video: Top Prospects: Kolby Allard, LHP, Braves

Fried hasn't necessarily produced eye-popping statistics since returning from Tommy John surgery during the 2016 season. The 23-year-old lefty posted a 5.54 ERA over 21 combined starts for Mississippi and Gwinnett last year. But after making four relief appearances for Atlanta in August, he displayed the potential of his curveball during four late-season starts. He limited the Cubs to one run over five innings at Wrigley Field on Sept. 3 to earn the win in what was his first start.

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

 

Atlanta Braves

After '17 progress, Allard excited for next step

Braves' No. 2 prospect confident after overcoming challenges last season
MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Kolby Allard breezed through the early portion of last season, and he finished with a flurry that strengthened his status as one of baseball's top pitching prospects. But his most beneficial stretch occurred midway through the season, when he struggled for a couple of weeks and then provided a glimpse of his mental resolve.

"I think [the rough stretch] made me a better player, and I'm super excited about the way I matured," Allard said. "After I struggled, I said to myself, 'There are two ways you can go about this. You can roll over and coast the rest of this year, or you can make some adjustments and battle through it.' I was really happy about how I finished the year."

ATLANTA -- Kolby Allard breezed through the early portion of last season, and he finished with a flurry that strengthened his status as one of baseball's top pitching prospects. But his most beneficial stretch occurred midway through the season, when he struggled for a couple of weeks and then provided a glimpse of his mental resolve.

"I think [the rough stretch] made me a better player, and I'm super excited about the way I matured," Allard said. "After I struggled, I said to myself, 'There are two ways you can go about this. You can roll over and coast the rest of this year, or you can make some adjustments and battle through it.' I was really happy about how I finished the year."

A little less than three years removed from graduating high school and being selected by Atlanta in the first round (14th overall) of the 2015 MLB Draft, Allard ranks as MLB Pipeline's No. 22 overall prospect and the No. 2 prospect in the Braves' talent-rich farm system. The 20-year-old southpaw overcame challenges as one of the youngest players in the Southern League last summer, and he'll likely open this season with Triple-A Gwinnett.

"I'm a completely different guy this year," Allard said. "I can't give enough credit to [Braves director of player development] Dom Chiti and [Double-A Mississippi pitching coach] Derrick Lewis. I learned more about myself this year than I did during any previous year. That's kind of what pitching is, knowing your strengths and weaknesses and ultimately going out and getting outs. If you can execute and know who you are, that's the ultimate."

Video: Top Prospects: Kolby Allard, LHP, Braves

Allard and his close friend Mike Soroka have developed a strong bond since being selected by the Braves in the first round of the 2015 Draft. They were not fazed when given a chance to skip the Class A Advanced level last year, and next month, they'll come to Spring Training knowing either one of them could be just a few months away from pitching in the Majors.

Soroka, who ranks as MLB Pipeline's No. 34 prospect and the No. 4 prospect in Atlanta's system, welcomed Allard to his western Canada home in November, and the two were reunited last weekend as they participated in MLB's Rookie Career Development Program in Washington. They have spent this week together at Allard's Southern California home.

"It's really nice to go through it with somebody, especially somebody who is a good guy and a very hard worker," Soroka said. "I think we feed off each other, both on the mound and during those days between starts. I know he's done a lot to help me, and I hope he can say the same [about me]. I'm glad we can go through this together, and hopefully we can pitch in Atlanta for a long time together."

Allard posted a 1.23 ERA through his first eight starts for Mississippi last year, but he began struggling with his command near the end of May. The young southpaw posted a 5.55 ERA over his next 12 starts. But after making some mechanical adjustments, he proceeded to produce a 1.83 ERA while recording 43 strikeouts and issuing just six walks over his final seven starts (44 1/3 innings).

"I'm not going to say I'm going to go out and dominate this or dominate that, but I'm confident in what I do as a pitcher," Allard said. "I'm super excited about getting to camp, and hopefully I'll throw the ball pretty well. We have a lot of good arms. So it's fun to get to camp, where everyone is on the same field. It ultimately pushes you to be a better pitcher."

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

 

Atlanta Braves

Braves hope young rotation steps up in 2018

Teheran, McCarthy only projected members with more than 65 career starts
MLB.com

ATLANTA -- There are a number of questions surrounding the eventual makeup and capability of the Braves' rotation, and the answers will significantly influence how soon the club might once again be considered a postseason contender.

Julio Teheran and Brandon McCarthy, who was acquired from the Dodgers in December, stand as the only members of the projected rotation who have spent an entire season at the Major League level. They will be tasked with providing stability in a young rotation that should also include Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb.

ATLANTA -- There are a number of questions surrounding the eventual makeup and capability of the Braves' rotation, and the answers will significantly influence how soon the club might once again be considered a postseason contender.

Julio Teheran and Brandon McCarthy, who was acquired from the Dodgers in December, stand as the only members of the projected rotation who have spent an entire season at the Major League level. They will be tasked with providing stability in a young rotation that should also include Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb.

Luiz Gohara, Max Fried, Lucas Sims, Mike Soroka and Kolby Allard will come to Spring Training with a chance to either open the season as the fifth starter or at least prove how close they are to establishing themselves as mainstays in Atlanta's rotation.

Below is a look at how the Braves' rotation might look at the start of the season:

ROTATION IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Julio Teheran, RHP
Mike Foltynewicz, RHP
Brandon McCarthy, RHP
Sean Newcomb, LHP
Luiz Gohara, LHP

STRENGTH
Though the rotation lacks a legitimate frontline starter, it will include a few young pitchers capable of earning that description. This will be an important season for Foltynewicz, who has spent the past three years mixing growing pains with encouraging productive stretches. Newcomb and Gohara will attempt to build off of last year's big league experience while knowing Fried and Sims have also shown they are capable of pitching in the Majors. Waiting in the wings will be Soroka and Allard, who are arguably the top two pitching prospects the organization has developed since the rebuild began after the 2014 season.

Video: MIA@ATL: Foltynewicz fans eight through six frames

QUESTION MARK
McCarthy and Teheran are the only rotation pieces who have made more than 65 career starts, and Foltynewicz is the only other projected member who has made at least 20 starts. McCarthy has totaled just 29 starts over the past three seasons, and injuries prevented him from staying in the Dodgers' rotation for last season's final two months. But the Braves remain hopeful he can provide approximately 150 innings this year. Teheran notched a 3.63 ERA over his inconsistent past four seasons, but the 4.11 Fielding Independent Pitching mark he's produced in that span seems more indicative of his potential value.

Video: PHI@ATL: Teheran tosses 5 K's in seven strong frames

WHAT COULD CHANGE
General manager Alex Anthopoulos has not ruled out adding another starting pitcher, and there remains a possibility Teheran could be traded at some point this year. If the Braves are going to become serious contenders in 2019, they will need to either acquire a frontline starter within the next year or have a couple of their young starters make significant strides this season.

Though it appears Newcomb and Gohara are the most likely candidates to fill the final rotation spots out of Spring Training, manager Brian Snitker has said he is looking forward to the competition that will unfold. Sims and Fried both got a taste of success at the big league level last year. Soroka might not be deemed ready at the start of the season, but the polished 20-year-old Canadian will likely make it hard to keep him at the Triple-A level past the end of May.

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

 

Atlanta Braves

Braves hope to exceed expectations in 2018

Top prospect Acuna's debut, Freeman's production among questions ahead of season
MLB.com

ATLANTA -- As the Braves enter the fourth season of their rebuild, they will do so under the direction of their new leader, general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who has already created reason to be excited about what may transpire over the new year.

Atlanta will have the financial means necessary to be a significant player in next year's free-agent market, but before that, the Braves are hoping to exceed expectations during the 2018 season and prove they are capable of being legit postseason contenders a year earlier than many are projecting.

ATLANTA -- As the Braves enter the fourth season of their rebuild, they will do so under the direction of their new leader, general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who has already created reason to be excited about what may transpire over the new year.

Atlanta will have the financial means necessary to be a significant player in next year's free-agent market, but before that, the Braves are hoping to exceed expectations during the 2018 season and prove they are capable of being legit postseason contenders a year earlier than many are projecting.

Over the next year, Atlanta will introduce top prospect Ronald Acuna to the Major Leagues and gain a better feel for the value in its crop of young starting pitchers, who will significantly influence how successful this season proves to be.

Below are the five primary questions the Braves will face in 2018:

When will Acuna make his MLB debut?
While Acuna appears to be MLB-ready and could force the Braves to make a tough decision during Spring Training, it seems like the club is leaning toward delaying his service clock by keeping him off the Opening Day roster. This might create some disdain among those looking forward to seeing the 20-year-old phenom.

But by delaying Acuna's arrival by a few weeks or a couple of months, the Braves would have an opportunity to stall his arbitration eligibility and could gain an additional season of control. If the team was in position to be a postseason threat in 2018, there would seemingly be more reason to anticipate Acuna earning a spot on the Opening Day roster.

How will the starting rotation be filled throughout the season?
With the recent addition of Brandon McCarthy, the Braves gained an experienced starter to add to a rotation that will likely include Mike Foltynewicz, Julio Teheran, Luiz Gohara and Sean Newcomb. There is a chance Teheran could eventually be moved to create a spot for Max Fried, Lucas Sims or a member of the next wave of pitching prospects who could reach Atlanta this summer.

If Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard and Kyle Wright -- the Braves' 2017 first-round Draft selection -- continue living up to their potential, there is a chance each of them could be deemed MLB-ready at some point this summer. Their respective arrivals will be influenced by the strides made this year by Foltynewicz, Gohara and Newcomb.

The rotation is the most intriguing component of the 2018 Braves. The development and evolution of this group will influence this season's success and provide a better feel for whether this club will indeed be legit contenders in '19.

Can Freddie Freeman duplicate the success he had before he fractured his wrist?
Freeman was fashioning what might have been the most impressive season in Atlanta history before his MVP-caliber production was halted when he fractured his left wrist on May 17. When he began his seven-week stint on the disabled list, he had a 1.210 OPS and was on pace to hit 60-plus homers. During the 80 games played after returning, he posted an .890 OPS with a pace that would have equated to something closer to a 25-homer season.

Instead of being concerned about the drop in production and power, Braves fans should have been encouraged that Freeman was able to continue providing impressive production after missing significant time.

Video: Freeman joins Jones, Blauser in rare company

Before Freeman was injured, he produced an average exit velocity of 92.3 mph with the 104 balls put in play, per Statcast™. After returning from the DL, he produced an average exit velocity of 88.5 mph with 243 balls in play. This drop seemingly had more to do with the fatigue that developed in August than any potential lingering structural concerns.

After missing significant time in 2015 because of a wrist ailment, Freeman did not feel strong enough to begin taking swings until the end of January. He began his tee work a few weeks ago, and he did not seem bothered by any lingering effects.

Who will serve as the closer and primary setup men?
While Anthopoulos may add some experience to the depth of his young bullpen, there's certainly reason for him to pass on the cost of signing a closer or top setup man. So it seems wise to project Arodys Vizcaino as the closer at the beginning of the season, and A.J. Minter will be waiting in the wings. Jose Ramirez faded as he seemingly fatigued late this past season, but he too has shown he can provide some late-inning value.

Minter struck out 17 of the final 31 batters faced, and he certainly has the stuff to be a closer. But the Braves would be wise to show some caution with the talented young southpaw, who has just two months of big league experience and some recent ailments that developed as he distanced himself from Tommy John surgery.

Video: SEA@ATL: Minter earns his first Major League K

Will Johan Camargo spend most of the season as the primary third baseman?
Atlanta hasn't ruled out adding a third baseman this offseason, but it has limited funds and arguably a greater need to add experience to the bullpen. Now with the addition of Charlie Culberson to the bench mix, there is greater reason to think Camargo will be given a chance to fill the hot corner on a regular basis during the upcoming season.

Video: TEX@ATL: Camargo makes a slick play on the run

Camargo might be best suited to serve as a utility player throughout most of his career, but he has earned a shot to prove himself, and this seems to be a good year for the Braves to get a better feel for his potential to be an everyday player. He's the best defensive infielder in the system, and he could end up back at shortstop if Dansby Swanson's struggles extend into this season.

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

 

Atlanta Braves

Benefits abound from Braves' big trade

Kemp swap clears path for prospect Acuna, payroll and more
MLB.com

ATLANTA -- If everything goes according to plan, the most significant benefits of Alex Anthopoulos' first move as the Braves' general manager will not be felt until the start of the 2019 season. But there are also some obvious upsides to his successful attempt to trade Matt Kemp and his burdensome contract.

Anthopoulos set the stage for what the remainder of this offseason might bring and also improved the club's future financial position on Saturday, when he traded Kemp to the Dodgers in exchange for right-handed pitcher Brandon McCarthy, left-hander Scott Kazmir, utilityman Charlie Culberson and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who was designated for assignment upon completion of the trade.

ATLANTA -- If everything goes according to plan, the most significant benefits of Alex Anthopoulos' first move as the Braves' general manager will not be felt until the start of the 2019 season. But there are also some obvious upsides to his successful attempt to trade Matt Kemp and his burdensome contract.

Anthopoulos set the stage for what the remainder of this offseason might bring and also improved the club's future financial position on Saturday, when he traded Kemp to the Dodgers in exchange for right-handed pitcher Brandon McCarthy, left-hander Scott Kazmir, utilityman Charlie Culberson and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who was designated for assignment upon completion of the trade.

Ironically, Anthopoulos' first big trade as the Braves' GM cleaned the lingering mess created by the Hector Olivera trade, which was fueled by former GM John Coppolella and former top international scout Gordon Blakeley. Coppolella and Blakeley were the first two forced out in the midst of the investigation that led Anthopoulos to leave the Dodgers in November to run Atlanta's reconstructed baseball operations department.

Hot Stove Tracker

In an attempt to right a wrong before the 2016 Trade Deadline, the Braves sent Olivera's unwanted contract to the Padres in exchange for Kemp's unwanted contract. The initial returns were encouraging, but as Kemp's conditioning habits and hamstring issues became more of a concern this past summer, there became a greater desire to move him and the $36 million the Braves would have owed him over the next two seasons.

Video: Feinsand analyzes Acuna's likely role with Braves

Here is a look at how the Braves could benefit from this financially motivated trade:

The Acuna effect

There was no doubt the Braves were going to bid adieu to one of their veteran corner outfielders this winter to create a lineup spot for top prospect Ronald Acuna, who is expected to make his Major League debut early next season. It was seemingly easier to deal Nick Markakis, but it was always more desirable to move Kemp and his contract.

While there is a chance Acuna could be in Atlanta's Opening Day lineup, it seems the club may opt to delay the start of his service clock until later in the season. This sets up the possibility of him debuting a few weeks into the season or possibly early June.

If the Braves were in position to be legit postseason contenders in 2019, it would be easier to justify placing Acuna on the Opening Day roster. But as things stand, it seems more prudent to stall his start and extend his controllable years in Atlanta.

Financial effect

The Braves were willing to add approximately $30 million to this year's payroll to position themselves better next winter, when they could have at least $80 million worth of financial flexibility to be major players on a free-agent market that will include Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, Manny Machado, Craig Kimbrel and a slew of other All-Stars.

Video: ATL@WSH: Folty whiffs Turner on three offerings

Once the Braves evaluate the progress that Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb, Luiz Gohara, Max Fried and some of their rising prospects make this season, they'll have a better understanding of the team's needs and how to best use their financial resources.

Next year will mark the first time since the 2008-09 winter that the Braves have had the financial flexibility to be significant players on the free-agent and trade markets. They pursued CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett before having to settle on the five-year deal given to Derek Lowe, who at least provided a greater return than Kenshin Kawakami.

It's nice to have money to spend, but it always comes down to how that money is spent.

Defensive benefit

Among the 125 MLB outfielders who tallied at least 100 opportunities last year, Markakis ranked 105th with minus-5 Outs Above Average and Kemp ranked last with minus-17.

Video: ATL@NYM: Markakis doubles home Inciarte in 1st

Anthopoulos has made it clear he wanted to improve the club's defense in an attempt to enhance the potential value of his young pitching staff. There's a chance he could still attempt to trade Markakis, too. But for now, it's safe to say he has already parted ways with his most significant defensive liability.

If Markakis is still around when Acuna debuts, there is a chance he could transition to left field. But given the configuration of SunTrust Park, it might be more beneficial to have Acuna cover the more cavernous left field and keep Markakis in right.

Immediate benefits

With the additions of McCarthy and Kazmir, the Braves have seemingly satisfied their desire to add experience to their rotation. There is a chance they could still attempt to trade Julio Teheran this winter, but for now they feel they have the depth necessary to protect the development of their young pitchers.

Video: ATL@MIA: Teheran fans Peters and strands two

While Kazmir's health history makes him a wild card, McCarthy proved healthy enough by the end of this past season for the Braves to feel he will begin the 2018 season within their rotation. If he can provide around 150 innings, he'll give the Braves exactly what they are seeking in the form of a short-term cog.

Culberson is out of options and thus seemingly has a good chance to be on Atlanta's Opening Day roster. His presence gives Anthopoulos some flexibility as he progresses through the winter debating whether to primarily use Johan Camargo as a third baseman or utility player.

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

 

Atlanta Braves

Braves land 4 for Kemp; Acuna's path cleared

Kazmir, McCarthy, Culberson join Atlanta; A-Gon designated for assignment
MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Alex Anthopoulos leaned on some familiarity as he creatively found a way to part ways with Matt Kemp in exchange for benefits that will provide both an immediate impact and the opportunity to be a significant player on next offseason's star-studded free-agent market.

Kemp was traded to the Dodgers in exchange for right-handed pitcher Brandon McCarthy, left-handed pitcher Scott Kazmir, utility man Charlie Culberson, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and $4.5 million in cash. The financially motivated deal was announced by both clubs Saturday afternoon.

ATLANTA -- Alex Anthopoulos leaned on some familiarity as he creatively found a way to part ways with Matt Kemp in exchange for benefits that will provide both an immediate impact and the opportunity to be a significant player on next offseason's star-studded free-agent market.

Kemp was traded to the Dodgers in exchange for right-handed pitcher Brandon McCarthy, left-handed pitcher Scott Kazmir, utility man Charlie Culberson, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and $4.5 million in cash. The financially motivated deal was announced by both clubs Saturday afternoon.

Video: ATL@LAD: McCarthy fans Inciarte, the side in the 2nd

When Anthopoulos became the Braves' general manager on Nov. 13, he knew one of his greatest challenges would be finding a way to move Kemp and the two years remaining on his bulky contract. But having served as Los Angeles' vice president of baseball operations the past two seasons, Anthopoulos was also quite familiar with how this deal might also benefit the Dodgers from a financial perspective.

"We had a lot of different ideas and proposals," Anthopoulos said. "We talked to a lot of different teams about players with significant money coming back. The Dodgers definitely weren't the only team we talked to. We explored a lot of options. This was the one [deal] that got traction and to be candid, this was the only one that would work for us."

It was no secret the Braves wanted to cut ties with Kemp, and the baseball world also knew the Dodgers were ready to bid adieu to Gonzalez. The former All-Stars, both of which will earn a $21.5 million salary during the 2018 season, could soon be on the free-agent market.

Gonzalez agreed to waive his no-trade clause when the Braves guaranteed he would be designated for assignment upon completion of the trade. The Dodgers have not provided a clear indication of what they could do with Kemp, who could be flipped to an American League club or eventually released. The veteran outfielder battled multiple hamstring injuries this past season as well as regaining the weight he had lost the previous offseason.

Video: Gonzalez homers in first, final at-bats with Dodgers

With the addition of Gonzalez and one year of control of the other three acquired players -- McCarthy ($10 million), Kazmir ($16 million) and Culberson (not yet arbitration-eligible), the Braves added approximately $48 million worth of payroll for the 2018 season. The net effect on the payroll drops to approximately $30 million when the $18 million (accounts for the $3.5 million the Dodgers already owed via the terms of the December 2014 trade to the Padres) owed to Kemp is subtracted.

But the payroll addition does not simply consist of dead money as McCarthy and Culberson could certainly make an impact next season. Recognizing the Dodgers' desire to get under the luxury-tax cap, the Braves were willing to take on money this year and consequently enrich their financial position for the 2019 season. With Kemp's departure, the Braves now have an available lineup spot for No. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna, who could crack Atlanta's lineup early next season. This deal also satisfied Anthopoulos' desire to add experience to the rotation and acquire a potential bench benefit.

Video: Feinsand analyzes Acuna's likely role with Braves

But the most significant impact of parting ways with Kemp's contract may be felt next offseason when the Braves could have close to $100 million to play with on a free-agent market that could include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw and Josh Donaldson.

McCarthy is projected to open this season in Atlanta's starting rotation and Kazmir could gain a spot if he is able to avoid the injury woes that sidelined him this past season and affected him to some extent each of the past three seasons. Culberson provides the Braves the backup infielder they were seeking and could certainly be on the Opening Day roster as he is out of options.

"We filled two spots on the roster that we were going to look to do something with anyway if we could," Anthopoulos said. "We got somebody who can bridge the gap to the young [starting pitchers] and give us some innings and experience this year."

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
By dealing Kemp, Atlanta has created an opportunity for Acuna to earn a starting role in early April. The 19-year-old (20 on Dec. 18) may need time to improve his strike-zone command (0.3 BB/K ratio in '17), but he is coming off an incredible year in which he hit .325 with 21 homers and 44 steals across three Minor League levels before flourishing during the Arizona Fall League. Even in the shallowest of leagues, Acuna will warrant a notable draft-day investment given his incredible five-category potential.

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

 

Atlanta Braves, Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy

Braves select righty Gomez in Rule 5 Draft

MLB.com

ATLANTA -- The Braves gained a bullpen candidate on Thursday morning, when they selected right-handed pitcher Anyelo Gomez with the seventh pick of the first round of the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft.

Gomez compiled a 1.92 ERA and recorded 87 strikeouts while totaling 70 1/3 innings within the Yankees' system last year. The 24-year-old reliever spent a majority of his season at the Double-A level before earning a September promotion that allowed him to pitch for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the International League playoffs.

ATLANTA -- The Braves gained a bullpen candidate on Thursday morning, when they selected right-handed pitcher Anyelo Gomez with the seventh pick of the first round of the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft.

Gomez compiled a 1.92 ERA and recorded 87 strikeouts while totaling 70 1/3 innings within the Yankees' system last year. The 24-year-old reliever spent a majority of his season at the Double-A level before earning a September promotion that allowed him to pitch for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the International League playoffs.

:: Rule 5 Draft coverage ::

While the Braves will continue to evaluate the possibility of adding experienced relievers this offseason, Gomez's presence enhances the organization's depth of relievers with power arms. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound hurler has occasionally created a triple-digit radar reading with his plus fastball. He recorded 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings over the 17 appearances he made at the Double-A level in 2017.

"We obviously like Gomez," Braves assistant general manager Perry Minasian said. "He has a good arm. [Major League scout] Rick Williams saw him multiple times and really liked what he saw. It's good. He's got a chance to be a quality reliever. We'll see how he looks during Spring Training."

If Gomez does not remain on Atlanta's active roster throughout the 2018 season, the Braves have to offer him back to the Yankees in exchange for a return of half of the $50,000 Atlanta will pay New York for this selection.

This marked the fourth straight season the Braves have taken a pitcher in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft. Evan Rutckyj was returned to the Yankees before the end of Spring Training in 2015 and Armando Rivero spent the entirety of this past season on the disabled list before being outrighted to Triple-A Gwinnett in October.

Right-handed reliever Dan Winkler was selected by the Braves in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft while he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. Winkler then fractured his elbow during the first week of the '16 season. He will need to remain on Atlanta's active roster throughout April before being eligible to be sent to the Minors before first being offered back to the Rockies and passed through waivers.

The Braves were pleased to escape the Major League phase of this year's Rule 5 Draft without losing outfielder Dustin Peterson or infielder Travis Demeritte, a pair of prospects who were not protected by inclusion on Atlanta's 40-man roster.

In the Triple-A phase, the Braves lost catcher Joe Odom to the Mariners. They also added organizational depth by taking first baseman Skyler Ewing from the Giants in the first round and shortstop Tyler Smith from the Rangers in the second round.

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

 

Atlanta Braves

Anthopoulos gears up for 1st WM with Braves

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

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.

 

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

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.

 

Atlanta Braves

Braves penalized for int'l signing violations

MLB.com

ATLANTA -- After spending the past two months investigating infractions committed by the Braves in the international market and in relation to the domestic Draft, Major League Baseball announced its finding and the resulting sanctions late Tuesday afternoon.

The Braves' penalties include the forfeiture of 13 international prospects, strict restrictions on the international market over the next three years and the loss of their third-round pick for the 2018 Draft.

ATLANTA -- After spending the past two months investigating infractions committed by the Braves in the international market and in relation to the domestic Draft, Major League Baseball announced its finding and the resulting sanctions late Tuesday afternoon.

The Braves' penalties include the forfeiture of 13 international prospects, strict restrictions on the international market over the next three years and the loss of their third-round pick for the 2018 Draft.

Commissioner's statement regarding Braves' violations

Most of the prospects lost, including shortstop Kevin Maitan (the No. 38 ranked prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline), were part of the much-hyped 2016 international class signed by former general manager John Coppolella and his former special assistant, Gordon Blakeley.

MLB also placed Coppolella on the permanently ineligible list and Blakeley has been given a one-year suspension. Both men resigned from their roles with the Braves on Oct. 2, when it was revealed MLB was in the midst of what proved to be a very thorough investigation that revealed significant wrongdoing.

As part of the shakeup that was set in motion by this investigation, John Hart stepped down from his role as president of baseball operations and left the Braves organization last week after team CEO and Chairman Terry McGuirk chose Alex Anthopoulos to serve as the club's general manager.

"The senior Baseball Operations officials responsible for the misconduct are no longer employed by the Braves," Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "I am confident that Terry McGuirk, John Schuerholz, Alex Anthopoulos and their staffs have and will put in place procedures to ensure that this type of conduct never occurs again and which will allow the Club to emerge from this difficult period as the strong and respected franchise that it has always been."

Braves officials chose not to speak about the ruling, but the team issued a statement that included: "The Braves cooperated fully throughout this investigation and we understand and accept the decision regarding the penalties that have been handed down."

Atlanta will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period and its international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent.

The reason for these penalties is that MLB found the Braves circumvented the international signing rules during each of the past three signing periods.

When the Braves exceeded their international bonus pool by more than $11 million in 2016, they gained what was considered to be that year's top signing class. They have now been forced to forfeit nine players from that class, including Maitan, a highly-regarded 17-year-old infielder who had been ranked the Atlanta's fifth-best prospect by MLB Pipeline, and catcher Abrahan Gutierrez, who had ranked as Atlanta's 30th-best prospect. At the time, Maitain received a bonus of $4.25 million and Gutierrez and bonus of $3.53 million.

During the 2015-16 international signing period, the Braves submitted signing bonus figures that were lower than the agreement that had been reached with the signed player. The players received the additional money via the inflated signing bonus given to another player exempt from the signing pool because he qualified as a "foreign professional."

If the Braves would have signed the five players to contracts including their actual bonuses, they would have exceeded their signing pool by more than 5 percent and thus would have been restricted from signing a player for more than $300,000 during either of the next two signing periods.

As a result, MLB determined that each of the nine players who signed for more than $300,000 should be declared free agents. This included Maitain; Gutierrez; pitchers Juan Contreras, Yefri del Rosario and Guillermo Zuniga; outfielder Juan Carlos Negret; and infielders Yenci Peña, Yunior Severino and Livan Soto.

Video: Jesse Sanchez on impact of Braves' international penalties

MLB also nullified the signings of Brandol Mezquita, Angel Rojas and Antonio Sucre after finding they were part of "package deals." Within such agreements, a player receives a reduced signing bonus and the additional money is filtered to the player's agent via inflated bonuses given to other clients.

There is some precedent for this type of penalty, as the Red Sox lost five prospects when they were found guilty of circumventing the bonus pool regulations during the 2015 signing period.

All of the international prospects affected by Tuesday's announcement will keep the signing bonuses previously provided and now could land another lucrative payday as free agents. The Braves were not fined, but they also can't recoup the approximate $15 million in signing bonuses provided these players who will likely soon land with other organizations.

The Braves announced the signing of Korean shortstop Ji-Hwan Bae in September and there is a good chance he could have soon been listed among their top 30 prospects. But MLB has disapproved the contract based on the findings of extra-contractual compensation.

The loss of the third-round selection in next June's Draft came as a result of MLB finding an offer made to a player in an attempt to persuade him to sign for a lower bonus. While there have been reports that this year's second-round selection Drew Waters was offered a car, the penalty did not necessarily relate directly relate to this infraction.

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

 

Atlanta Braves

Braves claim Dayton, acquire Ravin from Dodgers

Relievers among 4 added to Atlanta's 40-man roster
MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Alex Anthopoulos' first two transactions as the Braves' general manager were influenced by the familiarity he gained with the Dodgers' bullpen as he spent the past two years serving as Los Angeles' vice president of baseball operations.

The Braves claimed left-handed reliever Grant Dayton off waivers from the Dodgers on Monday night and later announced right-handed reliever Josh Ravin had been acquired from Los Angeles for cash considerations. These two hurlers joined left-handed pitchers Adam McCreery and Ricardo Sanchez as the latest additions to the Braves' 40-man roster. McCreery and Sanchez were added ahead of Monday's deadline for all MLB teams to announce which eligible prospects would be protected from the Rule 5 Draft.

ATLANTA -- Alex Anthopoulos' first two transactions as the Braves' general manager were influenced by the familiarity he gained with the Dodgers' bullpen as he spent the past two years serving as Los Angeles' vice president of baseball operations.

The Braves claimed left-handed reliever Grant Dayton off waivers from the Dodgers on Monday night and later announced right-handed reliever Josh Ravin had been acquired from Los Angeles for cash considerations. These two hurlers joined left-handed pitchers Adam McCreery and Ricardo Sanchez as the latest additions to the Braves' 40-man roster. McCreery and Sanchez were added ahead of Monday's deadline for all MLB teams to announce which eligible prospects would be protected from the Rule 5 Draft.

Hot Stove Tracker

Dayton underwent Tommy John surgery in August and thus will likely miss most if not all of the 2018 season. The 29-year-old Alabama native posted a 2.05 ERA as he made the first 25 appearances of his career last year. He opened this season with eight consecutive scoreless appearances and then began to struggle just before being placed on the disabled list in May. He pitched effectively throughout June, but he was sidelined again in July and never returned to Los Angeles' bullpen.

Ravin has produced a 5.05 ERA over 33 career relief appearances. The 29-year-old constructed a 6.48 ERA while making a career-high 14 appearances this year.

Video: MIL@LAD: Ravin fans Villar, side in the 8th inning

The most notable Braves prospects left unprotected were outfielder Dustin Peterson and second baseman Travis Demeritte. While there's a chance both could draw interest from other clubs, it's far from a guarantee a club would be willing to assume the accompanying requirement to carry either of them on a Major League roster over the entirety of next season.

Video: Top Prospects: Travis Demeritte, 2B, Braves

This year's Rule 5 Draft will be held on Dec. 14 at the conclusion of MLB's annual Winter Meetings. Players selected must remain on the selecting club's active roster over the entirety of the following season or be offered back to the previous club for half of the $50,000 selection price.

It is often more feasible for a team to keep a pitcher taken in the Rule 5 Draft because of the option to stash the selected player in the bullpen over an entire season. Now that most clubs are often using eight-man bullpens, it will be even harder for teams to justify using a bench spot on a position player taken via the Rule 5 Draft.

MLBPipeline.com ranks Demeritte as the 13th-best prospect within the Braves organization. Peterson is ranked 15th and Sanchez is considered the 23rd-best prospect within Atlanta's talent-rich system.

Video: Top Prospects: Dustin Peterson, OF, Braves

McCreery has never been considered a top prospect, but the late bloomer proved effective enough this year to warrant the need for protection. The 6-foot-8, 195-pound right-hander produced a 2.74 ERA while recording 90 strikeouts and issuing 38 walks over the 62 1/3 innings combined between Class A Rome and Class A Advanced Florida this year.

Sanchez produced a 4.95 ERA, surrendered 117 hits and recorded 100 strikeouts while issuing 46 walks over 100 innings for Florida this year. The 20-year-old has struggled with his command, issuing 4.1 walks per