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Inbox: Could Braves deal for Opening Day arm?

Braves reporter Mark Bowman answers questions from fans
December 5, 2017

Is the Braves' Opening Day starting pitcher currently on the roster or do you get a sense a trade will bring a frontline starter? -- @ChatelainJC We can assume the Braves will add a bench piece and at least one reliever. We can also expect they'll attempt to part ways

Is the Braves' Opening Day starting pitcher currently on the roster or do you get a sense a trade will bring a frontline starter?
-- @ChatelainJC

We can assume the Braves will add a bench piece and at least one reliever. We can also expect they'll attempt to part ways with either Matt Kemp, Nick Markakis or both. But it's harder to guess whether general manager Alex Anthopoulos will stumble onto a trade attractive enough to satisfy his wish to add some quality experience to what is now a rather green rotation.
Anthoupoulos said he won't rush the rebuild process, but at the same time, there's no doubt the club could benefit from the addition of a controllable frontline starter. This isn't a case like last year when the Braves added arms just to bridge a gap to the future.
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The future started to come last year with the arrivals of Sean Newcomb, Luiz Gohara, Max Fried and Lucas Sims. It could become brighter this summer if Mike Soroka and Kolby Allard continue their quick ascents. So, there's no reason to simply add experience at the expense of blocking a higher-quality arm.
But if the Braves are looking to become contenders within the next two years, they need to gain some proven quality within their rotation. Julio Teheran, who has started on Opening Day in the last four seasons, is the only projected starter who has made more than 65 career starts and he joins Mike Foltynewicz as the only pitchers on the staff who have made more than 20 starts at the big league level.

At the same time, these past three seasons have simply fortified the thought that Teheran should not be viewed as anything more than a No. 3 starter. His value within the rotation could continue to diminish if Gohara, Newcomb and Foltynewicz make strides and the likes of Fried, Soroka and Allard begin living up to their potential So, it might be in Anthopoulos' best interest to once again gauge the trade market for Teheran, who stands among the pitchers whose current value may be enhanced by the lack of quality free-agent starters available.
Even if the Braves were to add a top-notch starter this winter, the pace of their ascent toward becoming a legit contender will be heavily influenced by the progress made by Foltynewicz, Gohara, Newcomb and Fried.
From a development perspective, it might be fun to project how many potential frontline starters the Braves already possess in their system. But from a realistic perspective, we know it would be more comforting to guard against the uncertainty possessed by these young starters with the addition of the legit frontline starter Atlanta has lacked over the past few seasons.
What would the Braves' return for a Markakis or Kemp trade be and would it be worth it?
-- @ComRao2

As Markakis enters the final year of his four-year, $44 million contract, there's certainly reason to believe he could net a decent prospect. I get that many of you are going to point out his Wins Above Replacement (WAR) figure, per FanGraphs, hasn't exceeded 1.5 any of the past three seasons (and has trended downward) and his Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) has been below 100 both of the past two seasons. But while the metrics might show him to be below average, he still has produced a .357 on-base percentage over the past three seasons and he stands as a widely respected figure who could positively impact any clubhouse.
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Any return for Kemp would depend on how much of his remaining contract the Braves would have to eat. The veteran outfielder's rash of hamstring injuries this year combined with the fact he's owed $36 million (his salary minus the Dodgers' financIal commitment) over the next two seasons will make it difficult for the Braves to find a suitor.

Is there any chance the Braves could acquire Martin Prado to serve as a third-base stopgap and tutor to Johan Camargo and Ozzie Albies?
-- @D_Rock9799

As Prado comes off a season in which a hamstring injury limited him to just 37 games with Miami, there may be some hesitance to trade for him and the $28.5 million he is owed over the next two seasons. But given his history and reputation, I think you definitely have to look into the possibility of bringing him back to Atlanta.
There's a reason Chipper Jones and others have said Prado is the best teammate they've ever had. He sets a great example for young players with his work ethic and his high energy, friendly persona provides him the ability to unite a clubhouse as well as any other player I've ever covered.
Camargo possesses many of the same attributes and certainly could benefit from Prado's leadership. At the same time, the latter's presence would likely push the former to a backup role and strengthen the Braves' bench. Yes, there are some concerns with Prado as he comes off an injury-plagued season. But it's certainly worth checking to see what it would cost to bring him home.

What are some ways the Braves plan to creatively inject the system with young talent?
-- @buzzard_sam

If simply looking at how the Braves can still gain value as they face international-market restrictions for each of the next three years, I think they'll attempt to make more deals like they did with the Angels last week. In exchange for bonus pool money, they were able to rid themselves of the $5 million still owed to Jim Johnson.
Moving forward, when they once again have available international bonus pool money, they could once again attempt to make similar deals. The return is seldom significant with these kinds of deals. But the value gained through cost savings or some other creative deal could certainly exceed that which they could gain with the money they can spend on international prospects.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001.