ATLANTA -- Though this might not be the best year to have the financial flexibility to be significant players on the free-agent market, the Braves certainly have the means to improve their roster this winter and realize their goal of competing for a postseason spot in 2017.
There might be some hesitancy to part ways with some of the prospects acquired as part of a massive rebuilding phase that played out over the past two seasons. But, at the same time, as the Braves look to add at least two starting pitchers, a catcher and possibly a third baseman, there is certainly reason to believe they'll at least be tempted to make a deal in order to gain a return that is more attractive than what is available via free agency.
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Below is a list of the Braves' free agents and arbitration-eligible players. There will obviously not be any need for them to extend a qualifying offer to any of their free agents, each of whom will likely not return to Atlanta next season.
Free agents: C A.J. Pierzynski, LHP Eric O'Flaherty, OF Emilio Bonifácio
Arbitration eligible: OF Ender Inciarte, RHP Arodys Vizcaíno, RHP Chris Withrow, LHP Paco Rodríguez, C Anthony Recker, LHP Ian Krol
Inciarte, Vizcaino and Krol are the only members of this group who are essentially locks to be tendered a contract. Health issues will influence the decisions made about Withrow and Rodriguez.
Biggest potential FA loss: Pierzynski will likely retire if another team does not sign him and O'Flaherty's return to Atlanta this year was plagued by disappointment and a season-ending elbow surgery. The Braves will not be focusing on any of their own free agents.
Potential FA targets: A quick look at the list of free-agent starting pitchers provides reason to believe the Braves will at least monitor what it might take to acquire Chris Archer or another controllable top-flight starter via trade. They would like to pair another top-of-the rotation starter with Julio Teheran and Mike Foltynewicz. But they'll also attempt to add depth to their rotation by targeting short-term solutions (1- to 2-year deals). Veteran innings eater R.A. Dickey is among the options the club has discussed.
It does not seem likely the Braves will satisfy their need for a catcher by making a trade for the Yankees' Brian McCann. They might have at least been tempted to stay in the Wilson Ramos market before the veteran catcher tore his ACL. As for Matt Wieters, there has never seemed to be any interest shown by Atlanta's front office. Thus, general manager John Coppolella may need to assess other trade options or possibly whether it would be best to simply enter next season with Tyler Flowers as the starter and either Recker or another free agent as the backup.
Wild card scenario:Martín Prado's decision to re-sign with the Marlins forced the Braves to begin looking at other ways to improve at third base. Though Adonis García improved this season, Coppolella will still look for ways to upgrade the hot corner and possibly lengthen the lineup with a solid bat that could provide some protection to Nick Markakis, who will likely once again bat in the fifth spot.