LAS VEGAS -- As the Braves exited this year's Winter Meetings without adding to the flurry of significant moves being made within the National League East, they remained committed to avoiding overpay risk associated with doing a deal just to do a deal.
"I think the biggest mistake we could make is to try to force a deal to sign somebody to three, four or five years that we like, but we don't love," Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said.
In terms of what the Braves are evaluating on the free-agent market, this comment applies to the current cost it would take to acquire outfielders Michael Brantley or A.J. Pollock. But this line of thinking also extends to the hesitance to dig too deep into a talent-rich farm system to satisfy what the Indians want for either of their two potentially available starting pitchers -- Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer -- or what the Yankees have previously wanted for Sonny Gray.
"The landscape is going to constantly change and we have to be careful not to lock ourselves into something we're not excited about," Anthopoulos said.
With the Yankees nearing the completion of a deal with J.A. Happ, Gray now officially becomes the odd man out in New York's rotation. So Anthopoulos may find a different tone within future conversations shared with Yankees GM Brian Cashman. As time passes, the asking price for Kluber, Bauer and possibly even J.T. Realmuto could drop.
While the Braves have continued to monitor Realmuto's market, they have not viewed him as a priority target since signing Brian McCann to team with Tyler Flowers as their 2019 catching duo. Thoughts of Realmuto landing in Atlanta will remain on life support as long as the Marlins remain insistent on the inclusion of a Major League-ready player at the caliber of Ozzie Albies.
BIGGEST REMAINING NEEDS
1. Front-line starter: Gray was a bust in the Bronx, but the 2.84 ERA produced in 18 road starts while wearing pinstripes strengthens the argument he might just need a change of scenery. It seems unlikely Kluber will be dealt and it must be remembered Bauer never posted a sub-4.00 ERA before this year. Madison Bumgarner likely won't be dealt this winter, and the Braves have never shown interest in the cost it would take to sign Dallas Keuchel or acquire Zack Greinke from the D-backs.
2. Outfielder: The Braves had interest in Andrew McCutchen, but they weren't interested enough to provide the three-year, $50 million deal the former NL MVP got from the Phillies. They like Brantley, but are not interested in providing more than a two-year commitment to a guy who has played more than 90 games just once over the past three seasons. Nicholas Castellanos' bat is intriguing, but Ender Inciarte's tremendous range is not enough to offset the defensive inefficiencies of Castellanos, who ranks as the game's worst outfielder per Statcast™'s Outs Above Average metric.
3. Bullpen: Of the three remaining primary targets, adding a reliever is the one that can best qualify as more of a wish than a need. Edwin Diaz, who was traded from the Mariners to the Mets, was the primary target to fill a closer's role that may now be handled by Arodys Vizcaino or A.J. Minter. The Braves would like to add a quality setup option, but they may have to rely on the possibility that Luiz Gohara or one of their other top young starting-pitching prospects becomes a valuable bullpen asset.
RULE 5 DRAFT
The Braves chose not to make a selection in the Major League phase of Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. They added to their organizational depth by making these selections in the Triple-A phase: righty Jason Creasy (D-backs), righty Jose Rafael De Paula (Reds) and shortstop Riley Unroe (Angels).