LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After serving as aggressive sellers during the first full year of their rebuild in 2015, the Braves transitioned more toward a buyer/exchanger role in '16 as they dumped Hector Olivera for Matt Kemp and then spent more than $30 million this offseason to upgrade their
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After serving as aggressive sellers during the first full year of their rebuild in 2015, the Braves transitioned more toward a buyer/exchanger role in '16 as they dumped Hector Olivera for Matt Kemp and then spent more than $30 million this offseason to upgrade their starting rotation with three veterans -- Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia -- on short-term deals.
Though they are in just the third year of a massive rebuilding process that should provide its greatest benefits over the course of the next few seasons, the Braves believe they have the capability to exceed expectations in 2017 and possibly contend for a postseason spot. Kemp's August arrival influenced last season's late success and enhanced the optimism the club has felt since the start of Spring Training.
Looking ahead to what could transpire before this year's non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Braves certainly aren't planning to assume a seller's role. But at the same time, they aren't necessarily at a point in the rebuilding process where they would be willing to serve as buyers and take some of the riches from what has become the game's best farm system to complete a significant trade for somebody like the White Sox Jose Quintana.
This doesn't mean the Braves won't at least continue to monitor the cost it would take to acquire Quintana or another controllable top-flight starter, but at this moment, they seem more interested in cultivating the top crop within their fertile farm system. For now, it would be best to say the Braves are in a wait-and-see mode. Their moves over the course of the next few months and year will obviously be influenced by the success of the Major League team. But at the same time, as they aim to certainly become contenders by at least the 2018 season, their decisions will also be based on the success of some of those top Minor Leaguers, who have the capability to reach the big league level within the next year.
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There's certainly a chance Ozzie Albies could become Major League-ready at some point this year, and when that time comes, the Braves will have to decide what to do with Brandon Phillips. There will also be reason to watch left-hander Max Fried and outfielder Ronald Acuna to get a better feel for whether it truly is realistic to expect both to be Major League-ready at some point in 2018.
Though the Braves want to win this year, they also have to keep their focus on the long-term plan. They don't want to block Sean Newcomb, Aaron Blair or Matt Wisler if at some point this year any of them provide strong indication they deserve a spot in the starting rotation. Their respective developments will influence the decisions made regarding Colon, Dickey and Garcia, whose health history has certainly made him a potential flip candidate if he is successful during the early portion of this season.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.