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Inbox: What are the Braves' greatest needs?

Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers fans' questions
@mlbbowman
October 29, 2019

How would you prioritize the Braves’ needs? -- @BSum94 Adding a catcher might be regarded as the only legitimate need, but the most significant need is adding (or maintaining) at least one middle-of-the-lineup bat. If the Braves are unsuccessful with their attempt to re-sign Josh Donaldson, they will absolutely need

How would you prioritize the Braves’ needs?
-- @BSum94

Adding a catcher might be regarded as the only legitimate need, but the most significant need is adding (or maintaining) at least one middle-of-the-lineup bat. If the Braves are unsuccessful with their attempt to re-sign Josh Donaldson, they will absolutely need to find a comparable power hitter capable of enhancing the significant value Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman are capable of providing at the top of the lineup.

If you’re wondering how important it is to fill the cleanup spot with high quality, think about the current options to fill the lineup’s fifth spot. They consist of Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte, the catching duo of Tyler Flowers and TBD and the potential platoon option of Nick Markakis and Adam Duvall.

Will Braves go all out to re-sign Donaldson?

Regardless of whether you’re in favor of exercising Markakis’ $6 million option, I think you would agree the Braves have to make every attempt possible to prevent entering the 2020 season with him projected to bat fifth on a regular basis.

It would be great if Austin Riley were to get back to where he was during his first month in the big leagues. It also would be nice to see Cristian Pache or Drew Waters make an impact at some point. But, for now, these potential developments have to be viewed as possible added benefits.

So the Braves must focus on doing whatever they can to maximize the value that will rest in the fourth and fifth spots in their lineup. This starts with attempting to keep Donaldson and extends toward contemplating a trade for Mookie Betts, Starling Marte or another high-value hitter who might be available.

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As for ranking the other needs, I would next prioritize adding a frontline starter and then adding a catcher. Like every other club every offseason, the Braves could attempt to improve their bullpen. But I think the other needs should take precedence.

What do people inside the Braves organization think about Riley's cold end to the year? Do people generally think it's fixable by Spring Training?
-- @backseatBraves

As I pointed out in the Inbox a couple weeks ago, some similarities can be made between Riley and the Twins’ Miguel Sanó, who hit 34 homers this year. Their learning curves might not prove to be the same, but there is great value in that kind of power potential. Riley most likely will get regular at-bats at the Triple-A level to begin the season. But barring the possibility of him being traded this winter, I’d say you’ll see him back on Atlanta’s roster at some point next year.

Do the Braves expect Kyle Wright to break camp as one of their five starting pitchers?
-- @DanielJStaub

Injuries could alter plans, much like they did this year when Wright and Bryse Wilson both unexpectedly found themselves starting during the season’s first series. But much like Riley, Wright seemingly needs a little more time at the Triple-A level. The 24-year-old right-hander has logged less than 300 innings since leaving Vanderbilt. His future remains bright, but it certainly doesn’t need to be rushed.

What would a Donaldson deal look like?
-- @MyNateDawg4590

A three-year deal likely would be worth $70 million to $75 million. The key likely will be whether a team is willing to offer a guaranteed fourth year or at least a very attainable option for that fourth season.

Any chance of going after Marte from the Pirates?

-- @JSeabs24

I nearly answered this one a couple weeks ago by saying that if the Pirates were going to trade Marte, they would have likely parted ways with their general manager. But now that they have opted to go a different direction without Neal Huntington, you do have to wonder if the new GM will engineer a rebuild that would be fueled by trading Marte.

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Plenty of you will say, understandably, I’d rather have Betts. No doubt. Betts is one of the game’s top five players, and via arbitration, he likely will cost at least $15 million more than Marte, who has a $11.5 million club option for 2020 and a $12.5 million club option for 2021.

Marte also would cost far less in terms of the prospect capital it would take to complete a deal. Let’s wait to see whom the Pirates choose as their general manager. But, yeah, there would be reason to show interest in Marte, whose 6.7 fWAR since the start of 2018 ranks in the top 10 among National League outfielders.

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