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'Long-term picture' influencing decision-making

MLB.com

LAS VEGAS -- Having seen their talented young core prove to be advanced enough to win the National League East in 2018, the Braves understand signing Michael Brantley or paying the prospect price necessary to obtain one of the Tribe's starters may help counteract what their division rivals might gain from their additions in '19.

But while the Braves remain committed to doing whatever necessary to defend their division title, they also understand the need to protect the potential value of their rebuild beyond the upcoming season.

LAS VEGAS -- Having seen their talented young core prove to be advanced enough to win the National League East in 2018, the Braves understand signing Michael Brantley or paying the prospect price necessary to obtain one of the Tribe's starters may help counteract what their division rivals might gain from their additions in '19.

But while the Braves remain committed to doing whatever necessary to defend their division title, they also understand the need to protect the potential value of their rebuild beyond the upcoming season.

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"I think every front office weighs that, short term and long term," Braves assistant general manager Perry Minasian said. "There's a cause and effect. In our situation, we feel we have the makings of a club that can be competitive for a long time. We're very cognizant of what we did last year, and we're going to try to do it again next year with the long-term picture always in the back of our minds.

"We walked into a really good situation with a quality young system and quality young players on the big league club. To go all in for one specific year for how we're set up, we don't think is the best way to go. But we're working hard and trying to improve this club. We feel it's a competitive club. We've got a chance to win here."

Video: Snitker on optimism surrounding Braves' young roster

Because general manager Alex Anthopoulos traveled to Denver to attend Liberty Media Corporation meetings that were scheduled long before he arrived in Las Vegas for this week's Winter Meetings, Minasian handled Wednesday's media session. But Anthopoulos remained in constant contact with his aides, who continued to meet with agents and rival executives in an effort to fill the team's need for a front-line starting pitcher, an outfielder and bullpen depth.

While Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer might both be available for the right price, the Indians seem more willing to deal Bauer, who projects to be more expensive than Kluber in 2020 and '21. But the Braves are not currently engaged in talks regarding either of these two Cleveland starters.

In order to acquire three years' worth of Kluber, an industry source has suggested the cost may be top prospects Cristian Pache, Austin Riley and Touki Toussaint. Yes, it's intriguing to place a two-time American League Cy Young Award winner in a rotation that currently counts Mike Foltynewicz as its top starter. But the Braves must weigh the effect of removing Riley and Pache from their plans beyond the 2019 season. The two stand with Drew Waters as the organization's only top-flight position-player prospects.

Video: Anthopoulos open to trading for pitching, outfield

Looking to satisfy their wish to add a front-line starter, the Braves will continue to monitor what the Yankees would want for Sonny Gray. They'll also monitor whether the Blue Jays eventually become interested in moving Marcus Stroman. Any lingering thoughts about the potential of adding Madison Bumgarner have evaporated as the Giants now seem to think it would be better to deal him before next summer's non-waiver Trade Deadline.

As the Braves look for a starter and bullpen depth, they are cognizant of the fact their rotation or relief corps may benefit from the re-emergence of a healthy and seemingly committed Luiz Gohara, who has dropped more than 20 pounds this offseason. Freddie Freeman viewed Gohara as a potential All-Star before the young lefty began dealing with a rash of injuries influenced by last winter's lost offseason.

While the Braves checked in on Brantley during the early portion of this offseason, they do not seem willing to commit more than two years to the former AL MVP Award candidate, who has totaled more than 90 games just once in the past three seasons. Their search for an outfielder will lead them to continue evaluating trade options, which include Yasiel Puig. They will also remain open to the possibility of providing a one- or two-year deal to Nick Markakis or Carlos Gonzalez.

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

Atlanta Braves

Snitker: New additions, youth will boost Braves

MLB.com

ATLANTA -- As Braves manager Brian Snitker savored the memories from his team's unexpected postseason run this year, he also envisioned what has occurred over the past few weeks, as the Mets, Phillies and Nationals have all improved their bid to win the 2019 National League East title.

"Teams are going to continue to get better. That's the nature of the beast that we're in," said Snitker. "And we're going to have to continue that, too. The work is just beginning for us. I don't feel we're a finished product at the Major League level. Our players are not finished products yet."

ATLANTA -- As Braves manager Brian Snitker savored the memories from his team's unexpected postseason run this year, he also envisioned what has occurred over the past few weeks, as the Mets, Phillies and Nationals have all improved their bid to win the 2019 National League East title.

"Teams are going to continue to get better. That's the nature of the beast that we're in," said Snitker. "And we're going to have to continue that, too. The work is just beginning for us. I don't feel we're a finished product at the Major League level. Our players are not finished products yet."

Since producing the NL East's best record over the season's final three months, the Mets have added Robinson Cano and fortified their bullpen with Edwin Diaz. The Phillies are primed to build on their additions, which include Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura, who should help shape a defensive reformation. The Nationals' bid to bounce back from a disappointing season has been enriched by the addition of Patrick Corbin, who joins Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg in the starting rotation.

The Braves have been quiet since signing Brian McCann and Josh Donaldson, who will team with Freddie Freeman to give Atlanta two legit NL MVP Award candidates. More moves will be made to strengthen the rotation and fill an outfield void. But Snitker believes the experience Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies and other young players gained in 2018 will be the foundation of his team's bid to defend its division title.

Video: Snitker on adding veterans McCann and Donaldson

"We talked about [winning the division] last year, but it was just kind of talk," Snitker said. "Now it's kind of like we've experienced it and we know where we want to get and what we want to do."

Lineup
Snitker is intrigued by the idea of starting his lineup with Acuna, Donaldson and Freeman. But before making a decision, he'll see which outfielder is acquired and get a better feel for whether it's best to keep Acuna in the leadoff role or drop him to the cleanup spot.

"I'm going to wait until I get down [to Spring Training] the first of February and see who we've got," Snitker said. "I play with it all the time. That's what managers do. They sit at home and doodle, you go out to dinner and you're writing on a napkin and things like that. And we envision it.

"It might be something we play with over the entire spring. I don't think we're going to -- when we open the Grapefruit [League] season, I don't think I'm going to have a lineup that's set yet."

Video: Snitker on best lineup spot for Acuna Jr. in 2019

Albies factor
Blessed with power and speed, Albies has the tools to be a leadoff hitter. But as the young switch-hitter struggled from the left side and hit .226 with a .282 on-base percentage after the All-Star break, he showed that he did not yet have the plate discipline or experience to fill the role.

Depth leads to rest
After Albies earned an All-Star selection with his first-half credentials, he said that fatigue did not influence his second-half decline. But in a conversation with general manager Alex Anthopoulos after the season, the 21-year-old second baseman admitted that he started to wear down near the end of his first full Major League campaign.

With Johan Camargo and Charlie Culberson available as super utility players, Snitker will have the bench depth necessary to fulfill Anthopoulos' wish that the everyday players get regular rest. In other words, the days of Freeman aiming to play all 162 games are over.

"I don't think we need anybody to play 162 [games]," Snitker said. "Because there's been a lot of talk about how so and so slacked off. I'm the reason why. I'm the one that played their legs off. But with that being said, I felt like that's what we had to do to get where we wanted to go."

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

Atlanta Braves

Anthopoulos: 'We're going to have to be patient'

MLB.com

LAS VEGAS -- When the Phillies reached an agreement with Andrew McCutchen on Tuesday, Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos erased an outfield target from his wish list and saw next year's National League East race become even more intriguing.

After spending most of this decade as a GM, Anthopoulos has developed a patient approach that allows him to be comfortable with the possibility he may not satisfy his wish to land a starting pitcher, improve his bullpen or fill his outfield void by month's end.

LAS VEGAS -- When the Phillies reached an agreement with Andrew McCutchen on Tuesday, Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos erased an outfield target from his wish list and saw next year's National League East race become even more intriguing.

After spending most of this decade as a GM, Anthopoulos has developed a patient approach that allows him to be comfortable with the possibility he may not satisfy his wish to land a starting pitcher, improve his bullpen or fill his outfield void by month's end.

"We're obviously having a ton of dialogue, but I just think we're going to have to wait things out a little bit," Anthopoulos said. "From where we value things and with the price points we want both with free agency and trade, I just think we're going to have to be patient right now because it's just not there for us this month."

Video: Bowman on the Braves' offseason pitching targets

Still influenced by his ill-fated late offseason signing of Francisco Cordero in 2012 with Toronto and motivated by one of his favorite Warren Buffett quotes, "Price is what you pay, value is what you get," Anthopoulos remains focused on sticking to his plan without being swayed by unexpected market influences.

"I wouldn't expect by the time we leave the Meetings we won't have anything done for a starter or a reliever," Anthopoulos said. "You know that can change fast. But right now, I don't think we have any momentum towards with the way things are heading for guys, whether it be trades or free agents."

How about outfielders?

"We have definitely vetted the landscape of free-agent outfielders, and we haven't found a deal that works for us yet," Anthopoulos said.

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The three-year, $50 million contract McCutchen will reportedly receive from the Phillies is much more significant than anything he'd have gotten from the Braves, who viewed the former NL Most Valuable Player Award winner, Carlos Gonzalez and Nick Markakis as potential outfield targets with a one- or two-year deal.

As the Braves wait to see how the market develops for Markakis and Gonzalez, they'll do the same for Michael Brantley, who will likely only become a potential target if the offseason evolves to the point where he's willing to accept less than a three-year deal.

While Ender Inciarte has drawn interest from other clubs and stands as a valuable trade chip, the Braves' desire to keep the three-time Gold Glove Award winner is rooted in the fact his presence allows them to widen their scope for an outfielder.

Video: Freeman, Inciarte, Markakis win Gold Gloves

Markakis' rise from being a below-average defender in 2017 to a Gold Glove Award winner in '18 was heavily influenced by improved positioning. But it should be noted Inciarte's presence led the Braves to comfortably have Markakis play deeper and closer to the right-field line.

"Ideally, you want an average to above-average defender, but we have talked about the fact we have Ender in center. And he's such a good defender, [we feel] we have a center fielder and a half," Anthopoulos said. "Knowing we have him in center field allows us to at least discuss taking on a defender who is not as strong [but attractive] because the bat is that much better."

Realmuto update 
Much of the recent chatter regarding J.T. Realmuto has centered around the Mets' strong pursuit of the veteran catcher. Before signing Brian McCann, the Braves gained the sense the Marlins were not willing to deal Realmuto to an NL East rival.

Anthopoulos chose not to comment on the possibility the Marlins' thought process has changed. Instead, he indicated he is comfortable with the likelihood of entering 2019 with McCann and Tyler Flowers as his catchers. At the same time, Anthopoulos seemed to indicate it's his responsibility to at least continue to monitor the market for what stands as one of this offseason's top available assets.

"We're happy with what we have behind the plate," Anthopoulos said. "If any great players are available via trade, we're not doing our job if we don't explore that. I just don't know if it's fair for me to comment on what Miami [is thinking]. I certainly wouldn't want them going on the record with what I was talking about with them."

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

Atlanta Braves

Braves offer experiences in charity auction

MLB.com

LAS VEGAS -- An opportunity to visit Walt Disney World while attending Spring Training and the chance to receive instruction from infield guru Ron Washington are among the items the Braves have made available during this year's Winter Meetings charity auction.

This year's auction will support the Jackie Robinson Foundation and the Negro Leagues Museum, two important institutions that educate future generations of young people through honoring significant moments and individuals of baseball's past.

LAS VEGAS -- An opportunity to visit Walt Disney World while attending Spring Training and the chance to receive instruction from infield guru Ron Washington are among the items the Braves have made available during this year's Winter Meetings charity auction.

This year's auction will support the Jackie Robinson Foundation and the Negro Leagues Museum, two important institutions that educate future generations of young people through honoring significant moments and individuals of baseball's past.

Bid now on Braves charity auction items

The auction is live on MLB.com/wintermeetingsauction through Thursday at 10 p.m. ET. Items include special baseball experiences, including meetings with some of the game's biggest stars, along with unique items donated by MLB and the 30 clubs.

This year's Braves items for auction include:

• A Spring Training package: Along with receiving four Walt Disney World Park Hopper tickets, the winner will receive four tickets to a Braves Spring Training home game and four field passes that will provide access to batting practice before the game. Travel and lodging are not included.

• An infield session with Washington: The highest bidder will receive a 30-minute infield instruction from the Braves' third-base coach, who has established himself as one of baseball's top defensive gurus. After the session, the winner and three guests will be given four field passes for batting practice and four tickets to that night's game at SunTrust Park. Minimum age to participate is 14 years old.

• Becoming a Brave for a day: The winner of this auction will learn hitting, fielding and pitching skills while interacting with some former Braves at SunTrust Park. After this session, the experience will be enriched by the chance to share a catered lunch with these alumni members within the SunTrust Club.

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

Atlanta Braves

Braves open to trade 'conversation' at Meetings

GM Anthopoulos discusses rumors surrounding Inciarte, Foltynewicz as club looks to make moves before 2019
MLB.com

LAS VEGAS -- As Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos explores ways to add a front-line starting pitcher, an outfielder and bullpen depth, it appears unlikely he'll deal any of his Major League assets.

But to get a feel for exactly what might be available on the trade market, Anthopoulos has at least allowed himself to be open to internal and external discussions regarding Ender Inciarte and the other Major Leaguers who have drawn interest from other teams.

LAS VEGAS -- As Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos explores ways to add a front-line starting pitcher, an outfielder and bullpen depth, it appears unlikely he'll deal any of his Major League assets.

But to get a feel for exactly what might be available on the trade market, Anthopoulos has at least allowed himself to be open to internal and external discussions regarding Ender Inciarte and the other Major Leaguers who have drawn interest from other teams.

• Hot Stove Tracker

"I think we encourage conversation," Anthopoulos said. "We say, 'Don't be afraid to ask about anybody, because we're not going to get offended.' I'd rather have the conversation. We encourage ideas, thoughts or free-flowing conversations. We'll consider anything. I know we're not afraid to ask at the same time about other players [from other teams]."

Still, those teams that have expressed interest in Mike Foltynewicz have seemingly learned that minus a substantial return, the Braves aren't going to trade the closest thing they have to a front-line starter.

The Braves also seem hesitant to deal Inciarte. But because Ronald Acuna Jr. is available to play center field, they can at least contemplate dealing their 28-year-old, three-time Gold Glove Award winner, whose contract runs for $29 million over the next four years.

Video: Bowman on the Braves' offseason pitching targets

While there may be some concern about a potential defensive decline, Inciarte is an attractive trade piece who could draw interest from the Indians, who possess a couple starting pitchers -- Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer -- that satisfy exactly what the Braves would like to add to their rotation.

If the Braves were to deal Inciarte without getting an outfielder in return, the only MLB-ready outfielders within their system would be Acuna and Adam Duvall, who was a non-tender candidate two weeks ago.

Still, while it might be uncomfortable to deal Inciarte, the Braves have to at least remain open to ways to creatively improve their roster. Johan Camargo and Dansby Swanson are among Atlanta's other MLB-ready assets who have drawn interest from other clubs.

"We're talking about some things," Anthopoulos said. "I wouldn't say we're close. But we've definitely had some conversations about taking some players off the big league team."

Other potential outfield targets
With seven pitchers in MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list, the Braves have the kind of young arms sought by the Rangers, who may be willing to deal outfielder Nomar Mazara, who has hit exactly 20 homers each of the past three seasons.

Given the value the Braves place on defense, the Braves might be hesitant to take a chance on Mazara, who Statcast™ credited with -9 Outs Above Average this year (79th among 87 qualified outfielders) and -4 Defensive Runs Saved in 2017.

Ruiz claimed
Looking to create the option to make a selection during the Major League phase of Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, the Braves placed Rio Ruiz on waivers and then lost him when he was claimed by the Orioles.

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

Atlanta Braves

Fall League unveils Top Prospects team

MLB.com

Braxton Davidson's dramatic walk-off homer in the 10th inning back on Nov. 17th lifted the Peoria Javelinas to back-to-back Arizona Fall League titles and signified the end of the AFL season.

However, here at MLB Pipeline, coverage of the AFL is constant. Following the on-the-field play, we have released our top 10 breakout prospects, the top 25 prospects of the AFL and our All-Arizona Fall League Team.

Braxton Davidson's dramatic walk-off homer in the 10th inning back on Nov. 17th lifted the Peoria Javelinas to back-to-back Arizona Fall League titles and signified the end of the AFL season.

However, here at MLB Pipeline, coverage of the AFL is constant. Following the on-the-field play, we have released our top 10 breakout prospects, the top 25 prospects of the AFL and our All-Arizona Fall League Team.

Of course, there's always room for more accolades and that's just what we have below as the Arizona Fall League announced its 2018 Top Prospects team on Monday morning.

The team, selected by league managers and coaches, recognizes players who distinguished themselves against other top prospects throughout the AFL. Voters were asked to consider not only a player's AFL performance, but also their Major League projectability.

Catchers

Daulton Varsho, D-backs No. 5 prospect: Varsho, who put together four multihit efforts over a five-game span, hit .262 and drove in nine runs in 18 games.

Keibert Ruiz, Dodgers No. 2 prospect (No. 39 on Top 100): Ruiz played in just 13 games, but left a strong impression on the league's managers and coaches. The 20-year-old hit .286 with six RBIs and also drew six walks while striking out just twice.

Video: Top Prospects: Keibert Ruiz, C, Dodgers

First Base

Tyler Nevin, Rockies No. 11 prospect: Nevin hit a career-best .328 over 100 games during the regular season and carried that momentum with him into Arizona. Nevin got off to a fast start in the AFL, opening play with a 10-game hitting streak. From there, it was more of the same. The 21-year-old was the AFL's only .400 hitter and ran away with the batting title, slashing .426/.535/.593 and also finished third in the league with 20 RBIs.

Video: SRR@PEJ: Nevin recovers nicely to end the 3rd

Evan White, Mariners No. 5 prospectWhite, who collected 14 RBIs over 18 games, hit .257 with a pair of homers in the AFL. White put together a nine-game hitting streak from late October to early November and also stole two bases after stealing just four during the regular season.

Second Base:

Keston Hiura, Brewers No. 1 prospect (No. 30 on the Top 100): Hiura's ability to hit was no secret -- something his 70-grade hit tool clearly indicated. However, just because it was known that Hiura can hit doesn't mean that watching him do so was any less impressive. The Brewers top prospect went to Arizona to work on his defense and while he made strides in that department, it was his offense that led to him MVP honors. Hiura, who hit .323, led the league in hits (31), RBIs (33) and total bases (54). He also hit the only grand slam of the AFL, put together 11 multihit games and turned in two five-RBI performances.

Jahmai Jones, Angels No. 4 prospect: Jones, coming off a season during which he hit just .239 over 123 games, hit .321 with two homers and 11 RBI in 19 AFL contests.

Third Base:

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays No. 1 prospect (No. 1 on Top 100): Guerrero entered the AFL as the most talked-about prospect and certainly didn't disappoint. Guerrero picked up a trio of hits on Opening Day and kept the hits coming as he began the season with a 13-game hitting streak. The 19-year-old also impressed on the league's biggest stage, hitting a 117 mph double in the Fall Stars Game and concluded his stint in Arizona with a .351 batting average.

Video: Chisholm on Vlad Jr.'s Fall League performance

Yu Chang, Indians No. 6 prospect: Chang, who also played in the 2017 Fall League, put together a strong offensive showing. The shortstop hit .337, thanks in large part to a stretch where he strung together eight multihit efforts over 12 games. Chang also finished tied for third in total bases (45) and fourth in hits (29).

Shortstops:

Cole Tucker, Pirates No. 5 prospect: Tucker's .370 average certainly jumps off the page, but the 22-year-old impressed defensively as well. Tucker's 11 multihit games tied for the league lead (Hiura) and his 30 hits left him tied for second. Tucker also impressed off the field, reguarily staying after the game to take photos and sign autographs and was honored with the league's sportsmanship award.

Video: Cole Tucker talks about his Fall League experience

 Lucius Fox, Rays No. 9 prospect: Fox, who hit .326 over 21 games, put together an eight-game hitting streak in mid-October and tied for second in the league with 10 multihit games. Fox also drew 16 walks and stole seven bases.

Outfielders:

Luis Robert, White Sox No. 4 prospect (No. 44 on Top 100): Robert missed a little bit of time with a minor injury during the AFL, but still hit .324 over 18 games. The winner of the week five Player of the Week Award, Robert put up a 14-game hitting streak from Oc. 9 to Nov. 9. The hitting streak was the longest in the AFL since 2014.

Cristian Pache, Braves No. 6 prospect (No. 68 on the Top 100): Pache hit .279 and turned in four straight multihit games in late October, but the 20-year-old may have been even more impressive defensively. Pache showed off his 60-grade arm and his 70-grade speed on numerous occasions in the outfield and also used that speed to steal three bases.

Ryan McKenna, Orioles No. 12 prospect: McKenna hit .315/.410/.457 over 127 games during the regular season, his best season since the Orioles picked him in the fourth-round of the 2015 Draft, and continued the breakout campaign in Arizona, where he hit .344/.474/.590.

Sam Hilliard, Rockies No. 9 prospectHilliard played in just 16 games, but the small sample size didn't keep him from producing. Hilliard had multiple hits in nearly half (seven) of the games he played and finished with two homers and a .328 average.

Daz Cameron, Tigers No. 8 prospectCameron stole 24 bases in the regular season and then swiped nine bases, which tied him for fourth, during the AFL. The son of former Major Leaguer Mike Cameron hit .342 over 20 games.

Nick Heath, Royals: Heath posted a .427 on-base percentage and once he got on base, he made the most of the opportunities. The Royals prospect led the AFL in stolen bases (13) and runs scored (21), while batting .338 over 21 games.

Designated Hitters:

Peter Alonso, Mets No. 2 prospect (No. 58 on the Top 100): Alonso tied for the Minor League home run lead with 36 during the regular season and then tied for the AFL lead with six. In addition to his six homers, Alonso also hit seven doubles and often showed off his power with eye-popping exit velocities.

Video: EAST@WEST: Alonso lays out for impressive diving stop

Will Craig, Pirates No. 16 prospectCraig tied with Alonso and Davidson for the home run title, while also hitting .304 over 21 games.

Starting Pitchers

Nate Pearson, Blue Jays No. 4 prospect (No. 90 on the Top 100): Pearson racked up 23 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings and although his ERA sat at 6.20, he did spin three scoreless outings. What's more, Pearson garnered plenty of attention during the Fall Stars Game when his fastball was clocked at 104 mph.

Video: EAST@WEST: Pearson flashes 101 mph+ with regularity

Erick Leal, Cubs: Leal nearly finished the AFL with a perfect 0.00 ERA, but gave up seven runs (six earned) in his final start. The right-hander began the AFL with a 19 1/3-inning scoreless streak and finished 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA over six starts.

Relief Pitchers:

Melvin Adon, Giants No. 19 prospect: Adon, a hard-throwing right-hander, was consistently missing bats out in Arizona. Adon notched 21 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings and limited opponents to a .163 batting average against. He was particuarily tough on right-handers as they managed to hit just .091 against him.

Justin Lawrence, Rockies No. 16 prospect: Lawrence tied for the AFL lead with three saves and used a nasty fastball-slider combo to strike out 13 batters in 10 2/3 innings.

William Boor is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.

Braves could look internally to fill closer's role

MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Though the Braves will continue to monitor what appears to be a high-risk free-agent bullpen market, adding a reliever stands as their one offseason want that could at least somewhat comfortably go unsatisfied.

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos had his eyes set on Edwin Diaz before realizing he would have to part ways with at least three of their top pitching prospects to get the closer, who the Mariners ended up dealing to the Mets.

ATLANTA -- Though the Braves will continue to monitor what appears to be a high-risk free-agent bullpen market, adding a reliever stands as their one offseason want that could at least somewhat comfortably go unsatisfied.

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos had his eyes set on Edwin Diaz before realizing he would have to part ways with at least three of their top pitching prospects to get the closer, who the Mariners ended up dealing to the Mets.

With Diaz out of the picture and Craig Kimbrel's asking price still far above the Braves' comfort zone, Anthopoulos does not see many free agents or potential trade targets who could be confidently handed the closer's role.

Hot Stove Tracker

"There aren't too many guys who we think who can be a clear-cut closer," Anthopoulos said. "I think we're just looking for the best bullpen arms we can get for the best value we can come up with. Diaz is obviously someone anybody in the division would love to have. The Mets got a lot better with him. He would have fit us and a lot of other clubs. He's arguably the most impactful reliever signed or traded or acquired this offseason, so great job by the Mets."

So now the Braves have to look at the possibility of assigning the closing duties to one of their internal options. A healthy Arodys Vizcaino has proven capable of handling the role, but there's reason to doubt his durability (right shoulder). The better long-term option would be A.J. Minter, who posted a 3.23 ERA, 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.2 walks per nine innings over 65 appearances in 2018. He also converted 15 of 17 save opportunities during his first full Major League season.

Video: Must C Conclusion: Vizcaino holds off Dodgers in 9th

Diaz burst on the scene in 2016, then posted a 3.27 ERA, 12.1 K/9 IP and 4.4 BB/9 IP over 66 appearances in '17. The Mariners did not necessarily envision him becoming arguably the Majors' best closer this year; the Braves don't know exactly how good the 25-year-old Minter can be in '19.

"I'm not comparing [Minter] to Edwin Diaz at all," Anthopoulos said. "But Edwin Diaz in 2017 had solid numbers, and when he was 23 [in '18], he took a step. So why can't A.J. Minter take a step now that he's been through it? He's talented enough to do it. I'm not saying we're counting on that or banking on that. I don't want to put that on him. But similar to when I got this job and we said we might be better than people think because we have all this young talent, we won't be shocked if any of these guys have good years because they're talented."

Video: LAD@ATL Gm3: Minter retires Puig, strands tying run

Like Diaz took his game to another level by improving his slider, Minter may realize better results now that he has added a changeup to an arsenal that has primarily consisted of four-seamers and cutters. The Braves lefty threw 32 changeups in 2018, 23 of which were recorded in September.

Minter is still a work in progress, but he's more experienced than Chad Sobotka, who looked like another potential closer when he came out of nowhere to produce a 1.88 ERA and limit opponents to a .104 batting average over the first 14 1/3 innings of his career this season. Armed with a 96.6 mph fastball and an effective slider that averaged 85.9 mph per Statcast™, the 25-year-old right-hander earned a postseason roster spot when he recorded eight strikeouts and issued just one walk over his final four regular-season innings.

Video: LAD@ATL Gm3: Sobotka retires Machado in the 7th

It might be too early to project Sobotka for the closer's role, but his presence combined with the fact Minter and Vizcaino have already shown they can handle the job may lead the Braves to pass on the likes of Adam Ottavino or Jeurys Familia and focus on allocating those funds to simply add depth to the bullpen or address other needs.

"There is no one we're engaged with right now [on the free-agent or trade markets] who would be brought in and handed the ninth inning," Anthopoulos said.

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

Atlanta Braves, A.J. Minter, Arodys Vizcaino

Braves name Kranitz pitching coach

MLB.com

ATLANTA -- The Braves officially named Rick Kranitz as their new pitching coach on Thursday.

"I'm thrilled to add Rick to our coaching staff," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "Right from the start of the interview process, Rick stood out with his knowledge, credentials and experience. He has had a lot of success developing young talent, and he is going to have a big impact getting the most out of all of our pitchers."

Kranitz's one-season tenure as Philadelphia's pitching coach ended last month, when the Phillies removed him and gave the role to assistant pitching coach Chris Young. Young's promotion came as a result of the Braves and at least one other team requesting permission to speak to Kranitz about their pitching coach vacancy.

When general manager Alex Anthopoulos dismissed Chuck Hernandez as his pitching coach less than a week after Atlanta was eliminated from the postseason, he said he would conduct a long thorough search that may stretch into December. The process might not have played out exactly how it was envisioned, but Kranitz certainly shouldn't be viewed as a fallback option.

The Phillies ranked 11th among National League teams with a 4.14 ERA this season. But given they possessed a historically leaky defense, it's better to look at the fact they ranked second in the NL with a 3.79 Fielding Independent Pitching mark.

ATLANTA -- The Braves officially named Rick Kranitz as their new pitching coach on Thursday.

"I'm thrilled to add Rick to our coaching staff," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "Right from the start of the interview process, Rick stood out with his knowledge, credentials and experience. He has had a lot of success developing young talent, and he is going to have a big impact getting the most out of all of our pitchers."

Kranitz's one-season tenure as Philadelphia's pitching coach ended last month, when the Phillies removed him and gave the role to assistant pitching coach Chris Young. Young's promotion came as a result of the Braves and at least one other team requesting permission to speak to Kranitz about their pitching coach vacancy.

When general manager Alex Anthopoulos dismissed Chuck Hernandez as his pitching coach less than a week after Atlanta was eliminated from the postseason, he said he would conduct a long thorough search that may stretch into December. The process might not have played out exactly how it was envisioned, but Kranitz certainly shouldn't be viewed as a fallback option.

The Phillies ranked 11th among National League teams with a 4.14 ERA this season. But given they possessed a historically leaky defense, it's better to look at the fact they ranked second in the NL with a 3.79 Fielding Independent Pitching mark.

Kranitz inherits a starting rotation that currently projects to include Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb, Kevin Gausman and Julio Teheran. The Braves are searching for another top-flight starter and a closer to place at the back end of a deep and young bullpen that includes some health concerns.

While serving one-season stints as Philadelphia's bullpen coach, assistant pitching coach and pitching coach over the past three years, Kranitz influenced the development of Aaron Nola, who finished third in this year's NL Cy Young Award balloting.

Kranitz gained his first Major League job as a pitching coach with the Marlins in 2006. His rotation that season included the 22-year-old versions of Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez, who rejuvenated his career in Atlanta this past season. The 60-year-old Arizona native also served as a pitching coach for the Orioles (2008-10) and Brewers (2011-15).

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

Atlanta Braves

Each team's best 1st-rounder of the past decade

MLB.com

The release of the 2019 Draft Top 50 list had the MLB Pipeline staff thinking about Drafts in years past. Teams always want to get that first pick right, and there have been some real home runs hit in the first round.

Who were the best first-round picks for each team over the last decade? MLB Pipeline dug through the first rounds of the last 10 years (2009-18) and picked the top first-rounder for each organization. Only those chosen in what was the official first round each year were considered -- no supplemental picks were allowed. The 2014 Draft has been the most fruitful, with six players from that first round making the list. The Drafts from 2012 and 2009 are right behind with five selections, with the latter boasting the player who has to be the single best first-round selection over the last 10 years.

The release of the 2019 Draft Top 50 list had the MLB Pipeline staff thinking about Drafts in years past. Teams always want to get that first pick right, and there have been some real home runs hit in the first round.

Who were the best first-round picks for each team over the last decade? MLB Pipeline dug through the first rounds of the last 10 years (2009-18) and picked the top first-rounder for each organization. Only those chosen in what was the official first round each year were considered -- no supplemental picks were allowed. The 2014 Draft has been the most fruitful, with six players from that first round making the list. The Drafts from 2012 and 2009 are right behind with five selections, with the latter boasting the player who has to be the single best first-round selection over the last 10 years.

AL East

Marcus Stroman, RHP, Blue Jays, 2012 (No. 22 overall)
Stroman's profile scared away many teams in the 2012 Draft, but the Duke product has done his part to overcome the stigma associated with being an undersized right-hander. Though he regressed in 2018, while dealing with right shoulder fatigue and, later, a blister issue, Stroman posted back-to-back 200-inning seasons (2016-17) and has been worth 10.6 WAR over five seasons with the Blue Jays.

Manny Machado, SS, Orioles, 2010 (No. 3 overall)
Machado made the jump straight from Double-A to the Majors as a 19-year-old in late 2012, and quickly became a star. His 33.8 WAR is the highest among 2010 first-round position players, second only to Chris Sale, and after helping guide Baltimore to two postseason appearances as a four-time All-Star, Machado netted the organization five Top 30 prospects when it dealt him to the Dodgers this past July.

Ryne Stanek, RHP, Rays, 2013 (No. 29 overall)
Drafting in the first round has long been a problem for the typically savvy Rays, and even their selection of Stanek isn't a hands-down win for the organization, considering he was viewed as a starter (before needing hip surgery) out of the Draft. That said, the right-hander emerged as a legitimate late-inning weapon (and, at times, an "opener") for the Rays in 2018, when he compiled a 2.98 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings over 66 1/3 innings (59 appearances).

Andrew Benintendi, OF, Red Sox, 2015 (No. 7 overall)
Benintendi went from unheralded Arkansas freshman to consensus College Baseball Player of the Year as a sophomore, soaring up Draft boards in the process. The Red Sox had him No. 2 on theirs (behind Dansby Swanson), which he justified by becoming a regular in their 2018 World Series championship lineup just 13 months after signing.

Video: 2015 Draft: Red Sox draft OF Andrew Benintendi No. 7

Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees, 2013 (No. 32 overall)
Judge was the second of three Yankees first-rounders in 2013, sandwiched between Eric Jagielo (No. 26) and Ian Clarkin (No. 33), and lasting that long because there were questions about how well his massive raw power would translate into production. After only hitting 18 homers in three years at Fresno State and 56 in three seasons in the Minors, he exploded for a rookie-record 52 in 2017.

AL Central

Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians, 2011 (No. 8 overall)
Cleveland landed perhaps the best player in a historically good first-round class, as Lindor has become one of the faces of game while totaling 23.9 WAR -- second to Mookie Betts (35.2) among 2011 draftees -- and leading the Indians to an American League title (2016) since his debut in '15, when he finished second in AL Rookie of the Year Award voting. Entering his age-25 season, he's garnered All-Star honors and finished Top 10 in MVP voting in each of the last three years.

Aaron Crow, RHP, Royals, 2009 (No. 12 overall)
The Royals haven't fared well in the first round during the last decade, though Crow made the All-Star Game as a rookie in 2011, and was an effective reliever for four seasons until he blew out his elbow shortly after a trade to the Marlins. Cristian Colon (No. 4 overall, 2010) didn't have as much sustained success but delivered the championship-winning hit in the 2015 World Series.

Casey Mize, RHP, Tigers, 2018 (No. 1 overall)
Perhaps this one is more aspirational because he's thrown only 13 2/3 career innings since being the top pick in last June's Draft, but Mize should be able to use his three plus pitches and his plus control to move quickly through the Tigers' system. Look for him in Detroit sooner rather than later.

Alex Kirilloff, OF, Twins, 2016 (No. 16 overall)
The rules for this story don't allow for a supplemental first-round pick to be chosen, otherwise Jose Berrios might be the guy. But after missing the 2017 season, Kirilloff erupted in '18, his first real full season, and is looking like one of the best hitting prospects in all of baseball.

Chris Sale, LHP, White Sox, 2010 (No. 13 overall)
After 2010's Big Three of Bryce Harper, Jameson Taillon and Machado, Sale should have been the next player taken. But teams psyched themselves out over worries about his low arm slot and desire for a big league contract (typical for top college arms at the time), allowing the White Sox to steal him at No. 13. He was saving games for Chicago by September and has been an All-Star in each of his seven seasons as a starter.

Video: WS2018 Gm1: Sale K's Dozier to start off World Series

AL West

Matt Chapman, 3B, A's, 2014 (No. 25 overall)
Chapman emerged as the A's next homegrown star in his first fully healthy season, as he ranked third in WAR (8.2) among all position players, finished seventh in AL MVP voting and took home the revered Platinum Glove award as baseball's best defensive player. His 11.7 WAR in 229 career games is tops among positional players from his Draft class -- ahead of even Trea Turner (10.4), who's played 360 games.

Mike Trout, OF, Angels, 2009 (No. 25 overall)
The teams that say they had Trout No. 2 on their board are sort of like the million people who say they were present for The Shot Heard Round the World. Their loss was the Angels' gain, obviously, as he's turned into one of the game's top stars, with seven All-Star appearances and two MVP Awards.

Carlos Correa, SS, Astros, 2012 (No. 1 overall)
George Springer (No. 11, 2011) and Alex Bregman (No. 2, 2015) can also make a case, but our choice is Correa. A series of impressive pre-Draft workouts gave him late helium and made him the first Puerto Rican taken with the top choice. He won AL Rookie of the Year Award honors in '15, then received All-Star recognition and won a World Series two year later.

Video: ALCS Gm1: Correa knocks go-ahead single in 6th

Mike Zunino, C, Mariners, 2012 (No. 3 overall)
Zunino struggled for several years after being rushed to the Major Leagues and hit .207 over 2,000 plate appearances with Seattle. His combination of right-handed power and strong defense behind the plate, however, became increasingly valuable, especially with the quality of the position on the decline across the Majors.

Lewis Brinson, OF, Rangers, 2012 (No. 29 overall)
The Rangers' 13 first-round picks from the last decade have produced only three big leaguers and a combined -0.4 WAR so far. An exceptional athlete who has yet to hit in the Majors, Brinson went to the Brewers in a deal for Jeremy Jeffress and Jonathan Lucroy in July 2016, and to the Marlins in a trade for Christian Yelich last January.

NL East

Kyle Wright, RHP, Braves, 2017 (No. 5 overall)
The Braves hoped Wright would move quickly when they took him with their first pick in the 2017 Draft out of Vanderbilt. Starting his first full season in Double-A was a good sign and reaching Atlanta before the year was over was ahead of schedule, even for a fast-tracker.

Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins, 2010 (No. 23 overall)
One of the 2010 Draft's better hitters as a California prep, Yelich reached the Majors in mid-2013 and received a seven-year, $49.57 million contract extension two years later. He hit .290/.369/.432 (18.6 WAR) over 643 games with Miami, and then helped the organization restock its farm system with four prospects, including Brinson and Monte Harrison, when they dealt him to Milwaukee last offseason. In his first year with the Brewers, Yelich won the batting title (.326) and powered the club to the National League Championship Series en route to MVP honors.

Video: NLCS Gm7: Yelich crushes solo homer to right-center

Michael Conforto, OF, Mets, 2014 (No. 10 overall)
It took the Oregon State product only a year to get to the big leagues, and while his performance has been a little up and down, he's hit 56 homers the last two years and has an All-Star nod already on his resume. Still only 25, he has already amassed nearly 1,400 Major League at-bats.

Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals, 2010 (No. 1 overall)
The Nationals' selection of Harper with the first pick in the 2010 Draft forever changed the course of the franchise, as it gave the club a player with near-immediate impact potential as well as generational-star upside worthy of building around. Over seven seasons with the Nats, Harper -- a six-time All-Star and the 2015 NL MVP -- hit .279/.388/.512 with 184 homers in 927 games, good for a 27.4 WAR.

Aaron Nola, RHP, Phillies, 2014 (No. 7 overall)
Nola took his combination of solid stuff and outstanding command and made a beeline to Philadelphia, joining the rotation in just over a year following his selection. And the 25-year-old is just getting going, making his first All-Star team and finishing third in NL Cy Young Award voting in 2018.

NL Central

Keston Hiura, 2B, Brewers, 2017 (No. 9 overall)
The Brewers' track record with first-round picks isn't great, but Hiura could soon help reverse that trend. After leading all Division I hitters in average (.442) as a UC Irvine junior, Hiura raked his way up to Double-A this past season and then took home MVP honors in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. He still needs some more time in the Minors, but it shouldn't be long before Hiura is driving in runs from the middle of Milwaukee's order.

Jack Flaherty, RHP, 2014 (No. 34 overall)
The Cardinals have had some solid back-half-of-the-first-round selections, like Michael Wacha and Kolten Wong, but Flaherty made it to the big leagues in 2017, then finished fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting in '18. Flaherty will be only 23 in 2019, so the best may be yet to come.

Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs, 2013 (No. 2 overall)
Bryant had a stunning junior season at San Diego, swatting 31 homers to not only lead NCAA Division I but also topping 223 of the 296 teams at that level. He raced to the big leagues, winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2015 and encoring with an NL MVP Award and World Series championship the next season.

Video: STL@CHC: Bryant belts a towering solo homer to center

Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pirates, 2011 (No. 1 overall)
Cole's 17.4 WAR is more than double any other Pirates' first-rounder in the last decade. Perhaps his tenure with Pittsburgh was up and down, but he made the All-Star team, finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting and made three postseason starts in 2015. He's also topped 200 innings in three of the last four years (albeit the last one coming for the Astros).

Mike Leake, RHP, Reds, 2009 (No. 8 overall)
Leake spent exactly zero days in the Minor Leagues between getting drafted and his Major League debut, breaking with the Reds' rotation on Opening Day in 2010. He's compiled more WAR than any Reds first-rounder in the last 10 years (15.6) and his trade to the Giants in 2015 netted them Adam Duvall (two years of 30-plus homers) and Keury Mella, who should contribute to the pitching staff in '19.

NL West

A.J. Pollock, OF, D-backs, 2009 (No. 17 overall)
When Pollock was coming out of Notre Dame, he was a solid college performer, but one who didn't have a plus tool, so some thought he might end up a bit of a tweener. There have been some injuries, but there's also been an All-Star appearance and a Gold Glove as an everyday center fielder, one who is currently coveted on the free-agent market.

Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers, 2012 (No. 18 overall)
After taking pitchers with their previous six first-round choices -- landing Clayton Kershaw and five non-impact big leaguers -- the Dodgers changed course and went for Seager, who was one of the better all-around high school bats but also came with some signability concerns in the first Draft with bonus-pool rules. He signed for $2.35 million ($400,000 above the assigned value at No. 18) and proved well worth it, earning the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2016 and All-Star recognition in each of his two full big league seasons.

Zack Wheeler, RHP, Giants, 2009 (No. 6 overall)
He wasn't a cornerstone of World Series championships like Giants 2006-08 first-rounders Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, but the guy who followed them has been a quality big league starter when healthy. Wheeler didn't last long with San Francisco, however, going to the Mets in a 2011 trade for Carlos Beltran.

Trea Turner, SS, Padres, 2014 (No. 13 overall)
Turner played the first half of his pro debut on borrowed time, as he'd already been dealt to the Nationals as part of a three-team trade with Tampa Bay (that netted the Padres Wil Myers) by the time the 2015 season began. He's emerged as one of the more impactful young players with the Nats.

Video: Draft 2014: Padres draft SS Trea Turner No. 13

Kyle Freeland, LHP, Rockies, 2014 (No. 8 overall)
The Rockies hoped for Kyle Schwarber or Nola, but the Cubs and Phillies foiled those plans and led them to Freeland, whose elbow worried some clubs because he had arthroscopic surgery as a Denver high schooler. He had bone chips removed from his elbow in 2015 but has been otherwise healthy, winning 11 games as a rookie in '17 and finishing fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting last season.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

Inbox: Do East moves put pressure on Braves?

Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers questions from fans
MLB.com

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.

Submit a question to the Braves Inbox 

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.

Atlanta Braves

Mock draft time! An early shot at 2019's top picks

MLB.com

With MLB Pipeline's Top 50 Draft prospects list out, all 30 teams should be ready to just have the Draft now, no?

OK, so maybe that's a tad premature, as most scouting departments will happily take the spring to continue to evaluate the top amateur talent available for the 2019 Draft. Teams won't truly try to line up their boards until much closer to June, but there is a good sense of who would be at the top if the Draft were today.

With MLB Pipeline's Top 50 Draft prospects list out, all 30 teams should be ready to just have the Draft now, no?

OK, so maybe that's a tad premature, as most scouting departments will happily take the spring to continue to evaluate the top amateur talent available for the 2019 Draft. Teams won't truly try to line up their boards until much closer to June, but there is a good sense of who would be at the top if the Draft were today.

:: 2019 Draft coverage ::

Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman, after a huge junior season and a very strong stint with USA Baseball, has separated himself at the very top, while high school shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. and Cal first baseman Andrew Vaughn aren't too far behind. Using that pairing to kick things off, here is a quick look at what the top 10 might look like. There are just two pitchers and eight hitters on the list, a reflection of what this class looks like at present.

One huge wild card not in this top 10 mock is Carter Stewart, the Braves' first-round pick from a year ago. If Stewart is healthy and goes on to East Florida State Junior College, as many expect, there's a good chance he'll show up in the top 10, if not the top five, of mock drafts this spring.

1. Orioles: Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State
Rutschman is the complete package, with the ability to hit for average and power, along with outstanding defensive tools behind the plate. The last time the Orioles took a college catcher in the first round (Matt Wieters), it worked out pretty well.

Video: Draft Report: Adley Rutschman, college catcher

2. Royals: Bobby Witt Jr., Colleyville (Texas) Heritage HS
The son of the former big league pitcher, Witt Jr. has a fantastic combination of tools and makeup. He's fresh off winning MVP honors at the Pan American Championship in Panama, helping USA Baseball's 18 and Under squad bring home a gold medal.

3. White Sox: Andrew Vaughn, 1B, California
Vaughn won the Golden Spikes Award as a sophomore and might be the best all-around hitter in the class with an advanced approach, the ability to hit for average and plenty of in-game power. The White Sox have taken college bats in the first round in each of the last three drafts and haven't taken a high school player first since 2012.

Video: Draft Report: Andrew Vaughn, college first baseman

4. Marlins: Josh Jung, 3B, Texas Tech
The Marlins have been much more high school heavy at the top, taking a prepster No. 1 five years running. But the chance to add an advanced bat with pop like Jung's could be too difficult to pass up as he could quickly advance to play the hot corner in Miami.

5. Tigers: Graeme Stinson, LHP, Duke
It's a weak crop of pitching, particularly among the college ranks, but Stinson is poised to be the top college arm (or any arm in this scenario) selected with his plus fastball and slider. The Tigers have taken a pitcher with their first selection four years in a row and went the college route last June and in 2017.

6. Padres: C.J. Abrams, SS, Blessed Trinity HS (Roswell, Ga.)
One of the toolsiest players in the Draft, Abrams has tremendous speed and that, along with his plus arm, give him the chance to stick at shortstop. Combine that with some serious offensive upside, there's no question he belongs in top 10 conversations.

Video: Draft Report: C.J. Abrams, high school shortstop

7. Reds: Shea Langeliers, C, Baylor
Given his outstanding defensive skills and power potential, a strong spring could move Langeliers up higher than this as the 1A to Rutschman's 1 on the college catching list. The Reds have taken a college bat in the first round in four of the six previous drafts.

8. Rangers: Riley Greene, OF, Hagerty HS (Oviedo, Fla.)
An argument can be made that Greene is the best pure hitter in the Draft class, high school or college. He can flat out rake with a smooth left-handed swing, one that will produce plenty of power in the future. That corner outfield profile is sure to come off the board early.

9. Braves: Brennan Malone, RHP, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)
This is a compensation pick for the Braves not signing last year's first-rounder Carter Stewart. But don't expect that to mean Atlanta will be conservative here. The Braves don't shy away from high school pitching and Malone's combination of arm strength and velocity will be very intriguing.

Video: Draft Report: Brennan Malone, high school pitcher

10. Giants: Corbin Carroll, OF, Lakeside HS (Seattle, Wash.)
Carroll made as big a leap as anyone with his performances across several summer showcase events. He's one of the faster guys in the Draft, can really hit and has shown he has more pop than you'd think at first glance.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

These are the 10 best starting rotations

MLB.com

Tuesday, the Washington Nationals snatched up Patrick Corbin, the top starting pitcher on the free agent market, for the not-exactly-a-discount-price of $140 million over six years.

For all the talk of Bryce Harper and the rest of Washington's lineup, it was, as tends to be the case with the Nationals, a bet on pitching.

Tuesday, the Washington Nationals snatched up Patrick Corbin, the top starting pitcher on the free agent market, for the not-exactly-a-discount-price of $140 million over six years.

For all the talk of Bryce Harper and the rest of Washington's lineup, it was, as tends to be the case with the Nationals, a bet on pitching.

"That's how we've won," general manager Mike Rizzo said before the signing "When we put our guy on the mound [and he], each day, gives us a chance to win, you've created yourself a chance to have a really good ballclub and play deep into October."

RIzzo backed it up with the Corbin signing.

The Nationals now have one of the best rotations in baseball, and considering the combined $525 million they're paying Corbin, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, well, they better. But how do they rank among baseball's best rotations?

In the wake of Corbin's signing, here's a look at the 10 best rotations in the game at this particular moment. With Dallas Keuchel, J.A. Happ and others still out there unsigned, this list obviously is still subject to change, but here's how it looks right now:

1. Cleveland Indians
Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber

Assuming the rumors that the Indians would part with Kluber aren't true, this is still a rotation that'll keep the Indians atop the American League Central and holding the upstart Twins and White Sox at bay for at least one more season. Bauer was downright fantastic last year -- their best starter, really -- and Clevinger was the best starter in baseball you're pretty sure pitched in the '80s at some point. And Carrasco has been so good for them for so long you almost forget about him. Who knows, maybe Danny Salazar can return and be what he once was, too. But again: We gotta make sure they don't trade anybody.

Video: Bauer joins Hot Stove to discuss his surplus value

2. Los Angeles Dodgers
Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Alex Wood

Typical Dodgers -- they've got the second-best rotation in the game, and they're still looking to add. Bringing Kershaw back was always going to happen, and Buehler looks like a pitcher who's already ready to win a Cy Young Award. The Dodgers will shuffle pitchers in and out of the rotation as needed, and you can probably count on them being on the phone with the Indians pretty regularly these days. Whatever they lack, they'll end up getting.

3. Washington Nationals
Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Tanner Roark, Joe Ross

Adding Corbin obviously makes a formidable rotation even scarier, but third still seems about right for the Nats, top-to-bottom. Scherzer's the horse, and Strasburg, when healthy, has somehow become oddly underrated. If Corbin can keep up what he did in 2018, that's a daunting top three, but there's still some issues with the back of the rotation, particularly the No. 5 spot, which probably won't really end up being Ross. Erick Fedde? The Nationals, all told, could maybe use another pitcher.

4. Houston Astros
Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Collin McHugh, Josh James, Brad Peacock

The top two are both top-five Cy Young Award candidates, and you know they're going to add a free agent at some point this offseason, maybe Eovaldi. But having both Charlie Morton and Keuchel as free agents leaves some holes to fill. They've got Framber Valdez and Cionel Perez coming, not to mention Forrest Whitley, who might be one of their most important pitchers come September and October.

Video: Red Sox, Astros and Yankees interested in Eovaldi

5. Boston Red Sox
Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, Brian Johnson

It almost seems unfair that a team with an offense as overpowering as the Red Sox also has one of the top five rotations in the game, but hey, that's why they're the World Series champions. They'd like to keep Nathan Eovaldi around in Boston, though there are other teams -- some on this very list -- who are going hard after him. But with Sale as the guy atop the rotation who hasn't won a Cy Young Award, suffice it to say, the Red Sox will be fine either way.

6. New York Mets
Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Jason Vargas

Whatever other issues the Mets might have -- and that trade that Mets fans will be debating for generations to come -- it's impossible to argue with the top of their rotation. Syndergaard took a small step back in 2018, but he was still excellent, and Wheeler has become a better, more consistent pitcher than anyone has quite noticed. Matz put up 30 starts of sub-4.00 ERA, which you'll absolutely take from a fourth starter. The questions, still: Do they need to pick up a backend starter, and … Syndergaard's definitely staying, right?

7. Atlanta Braves
Mike Foltynewicz, Julio Teheran, Kevin Gausman, Sean Newcomb, Touki Toussaint

The Braves had the fourth-best starter ERA in baseball last year, and the second-best in the National League, thanks largely to a terrific season from Foltynewicz, excellent backend work from Newcomb and Teheran, and a surprisingly strong finish from trade acquisition Gausman. But the real excitement here comes from the young pitchers -- from those who are already here (Toussaint) to those who are about to arrive (Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright). The Bravs are only going to move up this list.

8. St. Louis Cardinals
Carlos Martinez, Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright

The Cardinals' strength isn't necessarily in their quality: It's in their quantity. In addition to those five names above, they have potential starters in Dakota Hudson, Austin Gomber, Daniel Poncedeleon, John Gant, Luke Weaver and Alex Reyes. Theoretically, St. Louis will trade some of that rotation depth in the offseason for some sort of upside bat, but the Cardinals have above-average starters everywhere, and in Flaherty, they have a potential ace.

Video: Mikolas on importance of throwing strikes, his 2018

9. Chicago Cubs
Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish

This unit was a little bit of a disappointment last season, but still, look at those five names. Hamels might have been the Cubs' best starter after he came over at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, Lester and Hendricks are proven veterans who still have plenty left, and Quintana took a step back but is still a solid starter capable of much more. And as for Darvish: He should be healthy in 2019, and even if he isn't his old self or quite worth his hefty salary … he can't possibly be worse than Tyler Chatwood was.

10. Pittsburgh Pirates
Jameson Taillon, Chris Archer, Trevor Williams, Ivan Nova, Joe Musgrove

Archer was the high-profile addition at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, but Taillon is the true ace of this staff, and he's also three years younger than Archer. Don't sleep on Williams, by the way, who actually had a lower ERA than Taillon and had a 1.38 ERA in the second half. They could probably use an upgrade on the backend, though.

Honorable Mention: Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays (the one starter they have, anyway!)

Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.