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Inbox: Will the Braves deal for bench bat?

March 6, 2017

Do you foresee a trade for a bench bat or any other significant piece before Opening Day? -- @baldheaded1der Yeah, given the number of teams seeking bullpen depth, there's reason to anticipate the Braves might move one of their relievers to gain a bench piece who might not fit on

Do you foresee a trade for a bench bat or any other significant piece before Opening Day?
-- @baldheaded1der

Yeah, given the number of teams seeking bullpen depth, there's reason to anticipate the Braves might move one of their relievers to gain a bench piece who might not fit on another team's Opening Day roster. If we are looking at an exchange of out-of-option players, Atlanta would have to decide whether to move Ian Krol, Chaz Roe or Jose Ramirez. Roe hasn't necessarily cooperated with this possibility, as he's struggled in his first two spring appearances. But it's early and teams are well aware of what he did late last year with his impressive slider.
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There might have been a slight possibility the Braves would have been willing to deal Arodys Vizcaino for a higher-value bat. But that ship seemingly started to sail once a healthy Vizcaino arrived and started popping the mitt with 98-mph heaters and the slider that fooled many hitters through last season's first two months.
If the Braves are going to add a bench piece, I would expect the addition to come via trade. And I think it's safe to say the club is well aware that the bench is the area that currently creates the most concern.
How many Opening Day roster spots/position battles are up for grabs?
-- @cowetarealtor

Any final roster-related decision will be based on whether Braves stick with their plan to go with an eight-man bullpen, which would consequently leave them short on an already-suspect bench. Given they added three veteran starters to eat innings, there are reasons to argue against this preference, but for now, we'll base this answer on the assumption they'll carry the extra arm.
For now, we'll project these seven relievers -- Vizcaino, Jim Johnson, Mauricio Cabrera, Ramirez, Krol, Paco Rodriguez and Josh Collmenter -- in the bullpen. The top candidates for that final spot would be Roe, Blaine Boyer and Luke Jackson, the hard-throwing righty acquired from the Rangers who has at least proven he has legit big league stuff.
Jace Peterson and backup catcher Kurt Suzuki are the only candidates who can currently be considered locks for spots on what would be a four-man bench. Chase d'Arnaud's candidacy has been threatened by the arrival of Johan Camargo, a talented defender who now has some offensive potential. Rio Ruiz has also made strides, but his lack of versatility may hurt his bench bid.
Though Peterson and d'Arnaud are capable of playing each of the outfield spots, Emilio Bonifacio or Micah Johnson might be carried as a fourth outfielder. But if it does come down to whether to carry Bonifacio or Johnson, the Braves will likely look for Option C, which would be available on the trade market.
With Collmenter and Eric O'Flaherty having good springs, what are the odds of them making the team and who do they replace?
-- @gwatt14

Collmenter has essentially been a lock to open the season as Atlanta's long guy, but O'Flaherty could certainly make things interesting if he extends the success he's had while retiring nine of the past 10 batters faced. It would certainly be a feel-good story if O'Flaherty rebounds from four seasons of elbow frustration and proves successful while now featuring a fastball that sits between 87-89 mph with good sink.
But O'Flaherty's bid will obviously be influenced by the evaluations made on the two lefty favorites -- Krol, who is out of options, and Rodriguez, who hasn't pitched in the Majors in nearly two years. Krol has four strikeouts through two innings, but he also surrendered a three-run homer to Miami's Destin Hood on Saturday. If Rodriguez remains healthy, there's a strong chance he'll be the lefty specialist.
What should we expect from Nick Markakis this year?
-- Don B. Tifton, Ga.

No two bodies or surgeries might be exactly alike, but given what David Wright has endured since undergoing a similar major neck surgery, there should be a greater appreciation for the unselfish dedication and production Markakis has provided since returning to everyday action less than four months after his procedure was completed in December 2014.
While Wright will likely miss Opening Day as he attempts to return from the procedure he underwent to repair a herniated disc in June, Markakis stands as one of 24 Major Leaguers who have made at least 300 defensive starts since the beginning of the 2015 season. More impressively, over the past two seasons, he's logged the fourth-most innings as an outfielder -- trailing only Kole Calhoun, Andrew McCutchen and Kevin Pillar.
Though Markakis hit .296 with 109 Weighted Runs Created Plus in 2015, we seemed to see greater value as he regained more strength and mobility as last season progressed. He hit 11 homers, slugged .459 and produced a 115 wRC+ over his final 75 games last year. He's certainly capable of extending this successful stretch and possibly gaining more benefit if Brandon Phillips provides come consistency in the middle of the order.
What genre of music would be your walk-up music before you hit a ball to the upper deck?
-- @skirtybird12345

I'll go country with Brantley Gilbert's "Bottoms Up" -- the T.I. remix version.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001.