ATLANTA -- Now that the World Series has concluded, Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos can accelerate his efforts to upgrade his roster and fortify a lineup that may include a new primary catcher and a different right fielder next year.
Nick Markakis, Kurt Suzuki and Anibal Sanchez were among the nine Braves who officially became free agents Monday morning. Markakis is the only member of this group who might warrant at least slight consideration of a qualifying offer, which must be extended by Friday at 5 p.m. ET. But the potential return does not justify the risk that would accompany this offer, which this year amounts to a one-year, $17.9 million deal.
Markakis earned his first All-Star selection with the .877 OPS produced in the season's first half. But the .701 OPS constructed in the second half created some concerns about the outfielder, who will turn 35 in November. If the Braves were to re-sign him this winter, this offer would likely be closer to a one- or two-year deal with an average annual salary around $10 million.
Look for the Braves to scour the trade and free-agent markets before seriously entertaining bringing Markakis back. So, for now, the Braves are in the market for at least one outfielder. The Braves should have at least $60 million available to address their multiple needs. Just how much financial flexibility they have will be influenced by whether they emerge victorious in their attempt to trade for Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, who has seemingly drawn the interest of numerous organizations.
Armed with a plethora of pitching prospects within their talent-rich pipeline, the Braves have the capability to be strong players for Realmuto, who is much more talented and far less expensive than Yasmani Grandal, the top available free-agent catcher.
To get two years of Realmuto at a cost of approximately $15 million, the Braves would likely have to part ways with at least two of their top 10 prospects. Right-handed pitcher Mike Soroka and third baseman Austin Riley were part of the discussions the Braves had with the Marlins in July. But given Atlanta's impressive prospect depth, it certainly could be worth paying a steep price for a catcher, who would upgrade the defense and provide the lineup some much-needed right-handed power potential.
The landscape is different than the one the Braves encountered last year, when the Marlins were insistent Ronald Acuna Jr. be included in any deal for Christian Yelich. When the Braves extended Tyler Flowers through next season, the immediate assumption was he'd likely fill a more traditional backup role and Suzuki would likely play elsewhere in 2019. The Braves haven't ruled out the possibility of re-signing Suzuki. But it seems unlikely they'll opt to triple down by using these same over-30 veterans to form a catching duo for a third straight season.
While Sanchez, 34, certainly added value to the rotation as he resurrected his career this year, the Braves would also be taking a risk by doubling down on him. Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb and Kevin Gausman are already in place to fill three of the rotation's five spots. There's also a chance the Braves could keep Julio Teheran around if they can't find anybody willing to take responsibility for his $11 million salary in a trade package.
But even if there are two rotation spots available, there's reason to think one of those could be filled by one of the rising prospects, and another might be filled by the front-line starter the Braves will attempt to get via trade or free agency. So for now, Sanchez's return seems to be questionable at best.
The other Braves who are now free agents include right-handed reliever Brad Brach, infielder Lucas Duda, infielder Ryan Flaherty, right-handed starter Brandon McCarthy, catcher Rene Rivera and right-hander Peter Moylan. McCarthy revealed his plan to retire in August.