Inbox: Will Braves renew pursuit of Realmuto?

Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers questions from Atlanta fans

December 17th, 2018

With the Mets signing , how does it affect the Braves in relation to J.T. Realmuto?
-- @just_shaun_07

When informed Saturday night that the Braves had not discussed Realmuto over the previous few days and were planning to move on, my responsibility was to provide the update. But when writing such a story, you must remain cognizant of the fact the landscape can change -- as it did less than 24 hours later, when news broke that the Mets were signing Ramos.
:: Submit a question to the Braves Inbox ::
Exactly what this means for the Braves remains to be seen. But with the Mets no longer seeking a catcher, there is one fewer suitor for the Marlins, who have chosen to be selective with the one remaining piece that could garner them some of the long-term value they seemingly did not get with last year's trades of (a financially motivated move), , and Dee Gordon.
We touched on this about a month ago, but it bears repeating that despite not having a single prospect on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list, Miami has indicated it is hesitant to trade Realmuto to a National League East rival. In other words, a team that is more than two years away from contending is being selective about the landing spot of a player whose contract has only two more years of team control remaining.
Maybe the Dodgers will eventually give the Marlins the value they seek. Or maybe the Marlins eventually circle back to the Braves, who have 10 prospects (seven pitchers) on MLB Pipeline's list.
Whatever occurs, it seems highly unlikely the Marlins will receive what they could have gotten last offseason, when they demanded be part of any deal with Atlanta. With two additional months and a playoff run, Miami had more bargaining power this past summer when the Braves continued to show interest in Realmuto. Now, it's harder for teams to acquiesce to the Marlins' insistence on acquiring a high-value, controllable MLB asset in exchange for two years of Realmuto.
The Braves have the prospects necessary to make a significant deal and given that they spoke to the Marlins at the start of the Winter Meetings, there's at least some willingness to alter the current plan of entering the season with and Tyler Flowers as their primary catchers.
But for now, the Braves have moved on, in search of other fish in the sea.
If the Braves aren't getting Realmuto or one of the Cleveland starting pitchers, what impact player will they get? And by that I mean, we aren't seriously entertaining NOT trading significant prospects again this offseason, are we?
-- @efdrag

The Braves would not have inquired about Realmuto, or if they weren't seriously entertaining the thought of trading some of their top prospects. With that being said, they have remained committed to staying in their comfort zone, a stance informed by their relatively limited number of high-value position player prospects.
Of course, when you have a young core that already includes Acuna, Ozzie Albies, and Dansby Swanson, there should still be a willingness to part with, at the right price, an Austin Riley, Drew Waters or Cristian Pache. Because he's the only legit catching prospect in the system, William Contreras stands as the closest thing I'd consider to be an untouchable among Atlanta's prospects.
As for adding an impact player, let's not forget a healthy Josh Donaldson will team with Freddie Freeman to give the Braves two potential NL MVP Award candidates. The lineup could use one more power threat, and the rotation certainly could use the addition of a front-line starter. But now that there's further reason to believe Kluber will stay in Cleveland, it may be time to stop thinking about a potential ace and weighing the potential value of providing someone like a change of scenery.
Would the Braves ever consider having Albies only bat from the right side and stop being a switch-hitter?
-- @ctrim49

I had heard this was discussed in September, but general manager Alex Anthopoulos quickly denied it when I asked him last week. Concerns about Albies' left-handed swing mechanics date back to his Minor League days, and they only grew when he hit .192 with a .569 OPS against right-handers over the final three months of last season. But it must be remembered the young switch-hitter batted .262 with a .800 OPS against right-handers through the end of June.
It quite simply comes down to adjustments and discipline. Albies needs to get a better feel for how right-handers have adjusted to him and, maybe more importantly, he must focus on making sure he controls the severity of his left-handed leg kick.
Can be our ?
-- @DAck_34

Fried has the potential to be a bullpen asset, but I continue to consider the better bet to fill a Hader-like role. With that being said, given what we've heard about Gohara's weight loss and the dedication he has shown this offseason, I view him as a valuable wild card for both the rotation and bullpen.
When Gohara suffered one of his two Spring Training injuries last year, Freeman responded by telling Anthopoulos he really thought the big lefty was capable of making the All-Star team. Bold statement? Sure. But that's the kind of impression Gohara made during those five starts he made after debuting late in the 2017 season.
Gohara's four-seam fastball averaged 96.4 mph in 2017 and 94 mph during the limited time he spent at the Major League level this year. It's worth noting that Fried's four-seamer averaged 95.4 mph when he was used a reliever in September. It averaged 92.7 mph in the five starts he made this year.
We won't place either in Hader's category yet, but Gohara and Fried both have the capability of providing value as multi-inning bullpen assets.
Which prospect that hasn't been promoted has the highest upside to play with Atlanta in 2019?
-- @NeilShelat6

In terms of guys we haven't heard or seen much about, I'd say Jacob Webb is the one who has the chance to have the most significant impact in 2019. Webb has gotten off to a slow start in both of the past two seasons, but he made quite an impression as he posted a 0.96 ERA and limited opponents to a .203 on-base percentage while recording 20 strikeouts over his final 18 2/3 innings for Triple-A Gwinnett this year. He might not be on the Braves' Opening Day roster, but he has the capability to make an impact in Atlanta next summer.