Atlanta Braves: Winter meetings primer, what to expect

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 17: The grounds crew pulls the tarp over the infield prior to a rain delay in the game between the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago Cubs at SunTrust Park on July 17, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JULY 17: The grounds crew pulls the tarp over the infield prior to a rain delay in the game between the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago Cubs at SunTrust Park on July 17, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
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Atlanta Braves winter meeting trade chips

With bench depth and reliable innings being the primary targets, the Braves may want to use some current roster members in order to target players they want to fill those spots. Let’s look at some guys who could be on the move:

Veteran Outfielders
The discussion after Shohei Ohtani signed with the Angels was less about whether he should be considered a prospect for this year’s prospect rankings (most have come to accept that methodology, even if flawed for just one year) and more about whether he should be assumed the #1 prospect. The Braves have one of the two guys most frequently mentioned to supplant Ohtani in that top spot in Ronald Acuna, and after a dominant performance in the Arizona Fall League and impressive play at both AA and AAA in partial seasons, he’s knocking hard at the major league door.

The issue are two statue-esque veterans in the outfield. No, seriously, they play defense like they’re statues! Okay, terrible humor, but you’re not reading for the punch lines.

Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis represent just under half of the money on contract to players for the Braves in 2018 with $30 million owed to them by the team. However, neither is really an asset to a rebuilding club. Kemp would be best served as a DH with an American League club, and certainly he’s the priority for the Braves to move with another season beyond 2018 on his deal.

Markakis is owed $11 million in 2018 on the last of his 4 year, $44 million deal that he signed with the Braves in the 2014-2015 offseason. His ability to make contact is still present, but he is not a power hitter (and really never has been), and his defense has slipped to the point where it’s a liability with both he and Kemp in the outfield. However, if Kemp were moved, Markakis would be much more palatable with uber-defender Inciarte in center along with natural center fielder Acuna playing a corner.

The Braves do have a depth of third basemen, none of whom are overwhelming favorites to take the third base job for 2018 and beyond, so it would not be surprising if they were used in a deal to acquire another piece, even another 3B.

The least likely to be moved is probably Camargo as he does provide the team with options off of the bench with his ability to handle short and second. Ruiz is young enough that the team could get something nominal by putting him into a trade package, but Garcia is likely a throw-away piece in a deal.

Young arms
Last, but absolutely not least, the Atlanta Braves have built their entire rebuild around the strength of their young pitching. In doing so, they built up the team with waves of pitching.

The first wave of pitching was less than successful for certain with Mike Foltynewicz really being the only one who’s stuck. That’s left Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair still young (under 26 on opening day) and really out of the team’s plans. Both would benefit from a change of scenery, though neither would really anchor any sort of major deal.

The second wave has really just begun in earnest last season as Sean Newcomb established himself in the rotation, and Lucas Sims, Fried, and Gohara each got extended looks in the rotation while the bullpen saw the emergence of a handful of young arms.

The next part of that second wave will start pushing more from the bullpen in 2018, however guys who were really supposed to be part of the “third wave” for the Braves have now pushed themselves forward and become elite prospects and feasibly etched themselves into the future of the team.

While “Folty” would likely have very good trade value, without bringing back a veteran starter (or the Braves signing a veteran arm), losing Folty from the rotation would take away one of the three arms (Teheran and Newcomb being the others) who the team are likely certain will give them 150+ innings, injury notwithstanding.

The most likely place for young arms to be moved from would be the plethora of arms in the minors, of course, but also from that second wave which still has plenty of trade value and really has more arms than spots to put them at the major league level.

So we know who could be on the move if a deal were to happen, who could the team be targeting to bring in this week?

Next: On the radar