Inbox: Will Braves bolster bullpen for 2016?
Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers fans' questions
Do you see the Braves making any more moves to bolster the bullpen?
-- Casey C. Greenbrier, Tenn.
Over the past couple months, the Braves have repeatedly made it clear that acquiring relievers would serve as their top priority this winter. We know that Arodys Vizcaino will be targeted to record outs in either the eighth or ninth inning again next year. We also know that Daniel Winkler (a Rule 5 selection) will be a part of Atlanta's bullpen for at least two months.
Other than that, we don't know a lot about the potential makeup of next year's bullpen. The Braves coaches who saw Chris Withrow throw last week in Orlando, Fla., were confident he'll be ready to serve as a setup man at the start of next year. But we still don't know exactly what to expect from Jason Grilli (Achilles) or Shae Simmons (Tommy John surgery).
Mike Foltynewicz would certainly be capable to fill one of those vacant late-inning relief roles. But as Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey have guided the Mets to the World Series, I think there is even more reason to give Folty at least a few more months to show whether his power arm fits in the rotation.
The Braves will monitor the markets for right-handers Joakim Soria, Jonathan Broxton (assuming the Cardinals don't exercise his 2016 option), Tyler Clippard and Darren O'Day. They'll also keep tabs on Tony Sipp and some of the other free agents who could fill their need for at least one left-handed reliever.
Why has the team completely abandoned Christian Bethancourt?
-- Levi H. Wynne, Ark.
I did not agree with the decision to take the primary catching role away from Bethancourt less than two weeks into this season. But by the time he lost his starting gig again in early September -- a little more than a week after being recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett -- there wasn't much reason to continue fighting for him.
As Bethancourt was being celebrated as a top defensive prospect over the past few years, at least two former catchers were telling me that they did not think he would be successful at the Major League level. Then, of course, you have the 14 passed balls he has collected through the first 617 1/3 innings of his career. A.J. Pierzynski had five passed balls in the 909 2/3 innings he worked behind the plate for the Braves this year alone.
With limited attractive options on the free-agent market, you'll continue to hear the Braves tout Bethancourt as a young catcher who could still grow into something special. While that might be the case, given what transpired this year, I think it would be in his best interest to be given a chance to prove himself in a different environment next year.
Will the Braves sign a lower-tier free-agent starting pitcher this winter?
-- Aaron K. Cumming Ga.
The Braves will attempt to bring Mike Minor back at a cost lower than the approximate $5 million they would have to pay if he went through the arbitration process again. Still, even if Minor agrees to return, there is seemingly a need to add that strong veteran presence that Atlanta's rotations have lacked since Tim Hudson departed.
You'd just be looking to spend $3-5 million on a guy who could eat innings and give the likes of Shelby Miller and Julio Teheran somebody to turn to at different points during the season.
Those young Mets pitchers preparing to pitch in the World Series have spent the past six months looking at Bartolo Colon much the same way John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Steve Avery looked at Charlie Leibrandt back in the day.