Winter Meetings could bring more moves for Braves
ATLANTA -- Though it might have been painful for some fans to watch as the Braves began their massive reconstruction process last year, many of the significant trades that were made were either anticipated or understandable. This offseason has created a little more uncertainty as Atlanta's front office has continued to show it is more than willing to trade some of its most popular players to enrich the future.
At some point, the Braves will need to create some stability to allow their future to take shape. But for now, first-year general manager John Coppolella has shown no signs of slowing down. Thus, when the Winter Meetings open Monday in Nashville, Tenn., Coppolella will likely once again garner plenty of attention from his peers, who have come to recognize his willingness to be aggressive on the trade market.
The Braves have made it clear they are not willing to trade Freddie Freeman. But while the return would need to be significant, they have not closed the door on the possibility of trading either of their only two front-line starting pitchers -- Shelby Miller or Julio Teheran.
"I think we have shown we are not afraid to be creative and do whatever it takes to help us a better organization," Coppolella said. "We don't want to go through what we did this year again. We are doing whatever we can to become better for the upcoming season and beyond."
MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2015 Winter Meetings from the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, with the Network launching 35 hours of live Winter Meetings coverage on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET. Fans can also catch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, as well as the announcement of the Hall of Fame Pre-Integration Era Committee inductees on Monday at 11 a.m. ET and the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 10 at 10 a.m. ET.
Much of the early buzz surrounding the Braves at this year's Meetings will likely center around Miller, who has garnered interest from at least 15 clubs. Teheran finished this season in impressive fashion. But his early struggles significantly influenced his current value on the trade market.
Concerned about the costs at the back end of Andrelton Simmons' contract, the Braves began this offseason by trading the defensive wizard to the Angels in exchange for veteran shortstop Erick Aybar and two pitching prospects, including Sean Newcomb, who could reach Atlanta by next summer. This deal was certainly a little more surprising than the one that recently sent Cameron Maybin to the Tigers in exchange for two lefty relievers and, more importantly, $6.5 million in financial flexibility.
Even with this payroll savings, the Braves are believed to have a little less than $15 million left to address their remaining offseason needs. As they have spent the past week providing a one-year, $2.5 million deal to both veteran starting pitcher Bud Norris and right-handed reliever Jim Johnson, they have proven they are still willing to shop in that low-risk, high-reward discount aisle.
The Braves have said they would like to add another setup man and a left-handed reliever. This would seemingly provide some insurance in the event that Jason Grilli (torn Achilles) or Shea Simmons (Tommy John surgery) struggled in their attempt to return to Atlanta's bullpen.
With Maybin gone, the Braves will now allow Michael Bourn to serve as their everyday center fielder until Mallex Smith is deemed ready at some point next summer. They are looking for a right-handed-hitting outfielder who could occasionally spell Bourn in center.
A.J. Pierzynski agreed to return for the 2016 season, but the Braves still have not decided who will share the catching duties with him. They had shown some interest in Chris Iannetta and Brayan Pena. But now that both have signed with other teams, there is a chance Christian Bethancourt will be given another chance to prove himself in Atlanta.