Moves provide window into Anthopoulos' plan?
Claiming of right-hander Whitley off waivers indicates Braves could opt for eight-man bullpen in '18
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.
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.
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.