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
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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 Carsten 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.