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Braves plotting course for Hot Stove season

Staff considers options for improvement via trades, free agents during GM Meetings
MLB.com @mlbbowman

PHOENIX -- After spending the past week in Arizona analyzing ways to improve their club, the top members of the Braves' recently-overhauled baseball operations department returned to Atlanta on Thursday with the sense that they had at least gained a better feel for how the remainder of this offseason might unfold.

Braves president of baseball operations John Hart and assistant general manager John Coppolella spent last weekend leading the annual organizational meetings, which this year included the club's top Major League scouts, the player development staff and three members of the field staff -- manager Fredi Gonzalez, bench coach Carlos Tosca and pitching coach Roger McDowell.

PHOENIX -- After spending the past week in Arizona analyzing ways to improve their club, the top members of the Braves' recently-overhauled baseball operations department returned to Atlanta on Thursday with the sense that they had at least gained a better feel for how the remainder of this offseason might unfold.

Braves president of baseball operations John Hart and assistant general manager John Coppolella spent last weekend leading the annual organizational meetings, which this year included the club's top Major League scouts, the player development staff and three members of the field staff -- manager Fredi Gonzalez, bench coach Carlos Tosca and pitching coach Roger McDowell.

Once these organizational meetings provided a chance to analyze where the club stands internally, the Braves went through this week's General Managers Meetings getting a better feel for the improvements they might make via trades or free-agent signings.

"I think we've made a lot of progress with a lot of teams and gained a better feel for the different ways that we could go," Coppolella said. "We feel like while you're [at the GM Meetings], you kind of lay the foundation for the Winter Meetings and the rest of the offseason."

Hot Stove Tracker

By the time the Winter Meetings begin in San Diego next month, it will likely be easier to project which direction the Braves might go throughout the remainder of the Hot Stove season. Hart said on Wednesday that it is too early know whether the Braves will attempt to contend or rebuild during the 2015 season.

Hart and his aides face the daunting task of attempting to replenish their starting pitching department with very limited financial flexibility. At the same time, this group finds itself working with a Minor League system that currently stands as one of the least impressive in all of baseball.

With the need to fill a starting rotation that currently possesses just four Major League-ready internal options -- Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Mike Minor and David Hale -- and the need to add some promising prospects to the farm system, the Braves have the option to make significant trades with Evan Gattis, Jason Heyward and Justin Upton.

Video: John Hart talks Braves' offseason on MLB Now

If the Braves choose to keep Gattis, who is drawing attention from American League clubs, and both Heyward and Upton, who are both eligible for free agency after the 2015 season, they could opt to make improvements by dealing right-handed reliever Jordan Walden, second baseman Tommy La Stella or some of their other Major Leaguers, who have drawn interest on the trade market.

Hart has explored all of these options and made it clear that Gattis would likely play left field if he returns next year. But Hart won't know exactly how this offseason will unfold until he gains a better feel for how he might best address his need for starting pitching.

"I think you always feel better when you get more information," Coppolella said. "We'll feel better if we can get back value, whether it's with a free-agent signing or with a trade. It isn't necessarily about going one way or the other -- that we're all in or that we're sellers. If there is a way we can add value, whichever way we go, we'll feel better."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.

Atlanta Braves