Inbox: Braves settled on Gattis in left field?
Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers questions from fans
Do you think the Braves will trade Evan Gattis?
-- Dusty P., Brookhaven, Miss.
When the Braves dealt Justin Upton to the Padres, I still felt like they would eventually complete the major phase of their reconstruction by trading Gattis. But as the past few weeks have elapsed, I have started to get the sense that "El Oso Blanco" will remain in Atlanta to navigate left field and provide Freddie Freeman with some much-needed protection in the middle of the lineup.
While the flurry of moves this offseason has certainly enriched the club's future, the Braves feel like they can still be competitive in 2015. But if they were to trade Gattis, there would be even more reason to be concerned about their offense.
Gattis was awarded a minus-10 Defensive Runs Saved while playing just 342 1/3 innings in left field during the 2013 season. That would approximately equate to a minus-30 DRS over the course of an entire season. He also created 25 more runs than the average player when you account for the 125 wRC+ he compiled in 401 plate appearances last year.
If Gattis distances himself from this past season's back injury and remains healthy, there is a chance he could compile approximately 200 more plate appearances in 2015 and potentially have a greater impact on the club's offensive output. But if his offense doesn't compensate for his defensive limitations, there would be reason to second-guess the decision to keep him in Atlanta.
Everyone knows that Gattis is best suited to be in the American League, where he could be a designated hitter. There is also reason to understand why the Braves would want to keep him around for at least one more year, while he's still making less than $1 million.
If Gattis approaches the 30-homer mark and finds some comfort in left field, the Braves will certainly be happy with the decision to keep a guy they can control through 2018. But if his value diminishes over the next year, they will regret being hesitant to deal him this winter.
Do you really think 2015 will be a rebuilding season for the Braves or do you think they can still contend in the National League East?
-- Kenny K., Elyria, Ohio
If the Braves are able to use the $10 million to $13 million they have remaining to secure another starting pitcher and a proven pinch-hitter, there is certainly a chance they could keep things interesting. With Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller, Alex Wood and Mike Minor, they already have the base for a strong rotation. If pitching coach Roger McDowell can work his magic with Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson, the bullpen could be an asset yet again. Many are wondering how they will score runs. This also seemed to be a lingering concern throughout this past summer. Replacing power potential with contact might prove to be beneficial to an offense that would have to struggle mightily to match the ineptitude witnessed in 2014.
Why were the Braves trying to trade Chris Johnson?
-- Tony H., Los Angeles
This had nothing to do with Johnson's personality and everything to do with the questionable three-year, $23.5 million extension that he was given in April. Had he not been given this deal based simply on what he had done in 2013, he likely would have been non-tendered after compiling a .653 OPS last season. So the Braves unsuccessfully tried to package Johnson in a few deals. Now they can only hope that he proves to be something in between what he was the past two years.
Which prospect are you most excited about for next year?
-- Brent W., Kailua, Hawaii
When Spring Training begins, all eyes will obviously be on Jose Peraza, who could become Atlanta's second baseman at some point this season. I'm also interested to see how Lucas Sims bounces back from a rough year and how Ozhaino Albies performs after he makes the jump to the Class A ranks. But the guy who intrigues me most is Tyrell Jenkins, the high-upside right-hander who could join the Braves' rotation within the next two years.