Inbox: Are Braves seriously considering Moncada?
Atlanta beat reporter Mark Bowman answers fans' questions
Will the Braves pursue Yoan Moncada?
-- Trever A., Roy, Utah
Though the Braves certainly have shown interest in Moncada, it seems safe to say they will be among the teams that will shy away from the stiff penalty that would accompany signing the five-tool Cuban infielder. Because Moncada is under 23 years old and has not played at least five years of professional baseball, his bonus would count against the signing club's international bonus pool.
The latest belief is that Moncada will receive a signing bonus of at least $40 million, which would be at least five times higher than the largest bonus pool assigned to any club. If a team exceeds its pool by 15 percent, it would incur a 100 percent tax on every dollar spent above its allotted amount and surrender the ability to sign an international free agent for more than $300,000 for the next two seasons.
In other words, if a club gives Moncada a $40 million signing bonus, the total cost would essentially be $80 million. This is why many of the industry experts believe he will end up with either the Yankees or Dodgers, a pair of teams that have the financial means to incur this risk on the unproven 19-year-old phenom.
Who are the favorites to win the final available 25-man roster spots during Spring Training?
-- John G., Richmond, Va.
The Braves are still evaluating the possibility of acquiring a left-handed hitter who could strengthen the uncertain makeup of the lineup they will use against right-handed starting pitchers. Regardless of whether they satisfy this desire, they will enter this year's camp with plenty of intrigue surrounding their Opening Day roster.
It appears there will be at least three available spots (assuming Phil Gosselin is essentially guaranteed to begin the year in Atlanta) for position players. Kelly Johnson's recent struggles against right-handers might hurt him in his bid to platoon with Jonny Gomes in left field. But his ability to play second base, third base and left field (three areas of concern) certainly enhance his candidacy.
Zoilo Almonte has been mentioned as a favorite to platoon with Gomes. But because he is essentially best suited for a corner outfield spot, Eury Perez or Todd Cunningham might gain a roster spot to serve as B.J. Upton's backup in center field.
If the Braves carry two backup outfielders, Jace Peterson and Johnson would battle to determine who would begin the season as Atlanta's second backup infielder -- a role that gains importance when you consider a third-base platoon might be utilized because of Chris Johnson's struggles against right-handers. However you cut it, Johnson's success during camp will heavily influence final roster decisions.
Eric Stults and Mike Foltynewicz are the early favorites to win the fifth spot in the rotation. Wandy Rodriguez will intensify this battle if he proves he's healthy. And don't forget Mike Minor must prove he has truly distanced himself from his shoulder problems. Michael Kohn, Arodys Vizcaino and Luis Avilan will likely battle for the final bullpen spot.
Are the Braves one of the teams talking to Andruw Jones about a comeback?
-- Jonathan B., Christchurch, New Zealand
The Braves spoke to Andruw Jones, but it does not seem like there is a fit for him to make a comeback with his original club. As mentioned earlier, there is currently a greater need for a left-handed hitter who could provide help in the outfield.
Did the exits of Brian McCann, Tim Hudson, and Reed Johnson create a leadership void in the Braves' clubhouse?
-- Gary R., Arlington, Texas
Their exits, combined with the fact that Kris Medlen was hurt, zapped much of the energy that had previously existed in the clubhouse. So too did the fact that the club went 62-76 after April 27. For those who believe the club did not collapse until its disappointing September, it should be pointed out that the Braves went 54-58 from April 28-Aug. 30.
As things crumbled last year, the young players in Atlanta's clubhouse were not able to lean on Hudson, McCann, Michael Bourn, Eric O'Flaherty and some of the other leaders they had looked to in recent years. The additions of Nick Markakis, A.J. Pierzynski and Gomes should at least provide the club with some of the attitude and guidance that it lacked last year. The examples set by these veterans could prove quite beneficial to Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons and some of team's other young members who have already shown signs that they could develop into clubhouse leaders.