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Braves notes: Donaldson's future, bench options

@mlbbowman
December 16, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- Braves manager Brian Snitker developed a strong appreciation for Josh Donaldson this year, and he has spent the past couple of months exchanging texts with the free-agent third baseman, who is still waiting to see if he'll be back in Atlanta for the upcoming season. "I'd love

SAN DIEGO -- Braves manager Brian Snitker developed a strong appreciation for Josh Donaldson this year, and he has spent the past couple of months exchanging texts with the free-agent third baseman, who is still waiting to see if he'll be back in Atlanta for the upcoming season.

"I'd love to have Josh back just because I've had him before," Snitker said. "He's one of those guys that you kind of grow attached to because of what he brought and what he did for our club. But I understand how the business end of this works, too."

Donaldson has likely positioned himself to get at least a three-year deal with an average annual value around $25 million. But with the Braves, Nationals, Rangers, Dodgers and Angels all showing interest, there's certainly reason to think the demand for the 34-year-old slugger could lead to a four-year offer.

Familiarity stands as one of Atlanta's advantages. Donaldson became one of the most beloved figures within the Braves' clubhouse as this past season progressed. Snitker was among the many members of the organization who appreciated the veteran's talent and unique ability to keep things loose with a sense of humor that felt less brash as time passed.

"You go through the season with a guy like that and what he did, and like I say, he grows on you," Snitker said. "He's a good man. He's a bright player. I'm pulling for him no matter where he's at."

Alternatives
With uncertainty surrounding Donaldson, the Braves have continued evaluating other ways to satisfy their obvious desire to add a legit middle-of-the-order bat. There has been extended speculation about the possibility of trading for Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant or Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor.

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos has also continued to explore the possibility of filling his cleanup spot with an outfielder. This option could be filled via trade or the free-agent market, which does not offer much beyond Marcell Ozuna.

All of these options have kept Anthopoulos quite busy as he has met with agents and fellow executives during this week's Winter Meetings.

"It's been very productive," Anthopoulos said. "I don't see us completing anything here, but it feels like it's been very productive and very active. I know it's tough when I can't get into what those productive and active conversations have been. But to me, it's probably been my most enjoyable [Winter Meetings]."

Constructing the bench
The Braves checked in on Howie Kendrick before he opted to remain with the Nationals. Now Atlanta will extend its pursuit of a versatile veteran, preferably one who can be used as both an infielder and outfielder.

This doesn't exclude the possibility of outfielder Matt Joyce or infielder Adeiny Hechavarria returning to Atlanta. But even if both come back, there would still be a need to further add to a five-man bench, which currently consists of a catcher (Tyler Flowers or Travis d'Arnaud) and an outfielder (Nick Markakis or Adam Duvall).

The Braves will likely wait to address their pursuit of a middle-of-the-lineup hitter before completing their bench construction. Johan Camargo would fit one of those bench spots if Atlanta lands a third baseman.

"I think it's safe to say we're exploring guys that can protect us and play multiple positions," Anthopoulos said. "We know over the course of six months, guys are going to have dips in performance and get hurt. We want to be as insulated as we can be."

Injury updates
Snitker said Freddie Freeman told him he feels better than he has in a long time. Freeman underwent surgery in October to remove a bone spur and other debris from his right elbow, which significantly limited him in September and during the National League Division Series.

Anthopoulos said right-handed reliever Jacob Webb is expected to come to Spring Training without any restrictions. Webb posted a 1.39 ERA over 36 appearances before being shut down in August with a right elbow impingement.

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