3 Key Additions for 2017 Atlanta Braves

Mar 7, 2016; Dunedin, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves shortstop Ozzie Albies (87) works out prior to the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

For whatever reason, there’s always talk about 3 areas of need for teams at this time of the year (likely due to a slow news time throughout the MLB), and the Braves are no exception.

In MLBTradeRumors latest piece on the Atlanta Braves, they listed the team’s needs as 3rd Base, Catcher, and the Bullpen. And while I agree on all somewhat, I don’t think that all have to be addressed via Free Agency.

In today’s piece I’ll discuss what I think are 3 key pieces to make the Braves a serious competitor, 2 of which come internally, and the last coming via free agency.

As we know it, the Braves seem to have a loose plan in place to use Sean Rodriguez at both 2nd base and 3rd base in semi-platoons with  Adonis Garcia and Jace Peterson making Sean nearly an everyday player.

That sounds nice as Sean had a good year last year, Jace was solid after being recalled from Gwinnett, and Adonis likewise after he was called back from Gwinnett (where he was sent down to learn to play left field of which he didn’t play upon the callup).

However, the plan seriously falters should 1 of these guys really struggle, and gets blown up by a bazooka should 2 struggle. Furthermore, having Jace or Adonis in the everyday lineup weakens a bench that would likely end up having to carry fringe players that would be forced to be used in pinch-hitting situations.

This happened way too often in the past few years and the Braves have really missed the days of Omar Infante and Martin Prado who provided a beautiful problem of good bench players forcing the manager’s hand to find them playing time. In my opinion, that should be the roles of Adonis and Jace.

With the following moves, the team could be set up so deep and interchangeable that, if performing, Snitker could have a tough decision to make on a daily basis: Who starts? Who sits?

That is a good problem, ladies and gents. It’s the problem that faced Joe Maddon nearly every day in 2016 with the Cubs.

Let’s get to the moves.

Jul 8, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros third baseman Luis Valbuena (18) hits a three run game winning home run against the Oakland Athletics in the ninth inning at Minute Maid Park. Astros won 10 to 9. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Move #1: Ozzie Albies, your 2017 Atlanta Braves starting Second Baseman

If healthy enough to play every day and with a good showing during Spring Training, I really do think the Braves should be bold and give Albies the job as Opening Day 2nd Baseman. One simple move makes this team so much deeper, the lineup so interchangeable, and the defense so much stronger.

His offensive skill-set makes him an easy choice the Braves future leadoff hitter, but letting him adjust to big league pitching down in the lineup makes sense for the beginning of his career.

It just seems right that Dansby and Ozzie should be together in the bigs out the gate the first year at Suntrust Park.

Move #2: Sign Luis Valbuena (laugh it up, fuzzball!)

Yes, I know! Again! Dang right, again! I’m on the record saying that I’ll stop talking about Luis Valbuena when Luis Valbuena is no longer a free agent. He’d look extraordinary over at 3B against right-handed pitching and a beautiful bench piece when the Braves are squaring up against a left-handed starter.

Oh, and FanRagSports made my day when they predicted Valbuena to the Braves on a 1 year/7MM deal. Where does Coppy sign?

Move #3: Be Bold with A.J. Minter

A.J. Minter might be our answer to the dominant left-handed closers like Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman. Sure, that’s bold, but dare to compare their Minor League numbers and you’ll see that Minter mows ’em down just as rapidly and efficiently.

The Braves were being cautious with Minter this year, not allowing him to pitch on consecutive days, but having him put up 50 innings on the big league team is no different than him doing it in the minors, as far as health goes.

Furthermore, with a Tommy-John surgery already in-tow, the clock could be ticking on his career.

May 31, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves interim manager Brian Snitker (43) watches from the dugout in the fourth inning of their game against the San Francisco Giants at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

What does this do for the Atlanta Braves 25-man roster?

Rumor has it the Braves could be looking at a 4-man bench, and while I LOATHE the idea of a 4-man bench, here’s what it could look like should Braves do the above additions.

Versus Right-handed Starting Pitching

Lineup: 1. Ender Inciarte  2. Dansby Swanson  3. Freddie Freeman  4. Matt Kemp 5. Luis Valbuena  6. Tyler Flowers  7. Nick Markakis  8. Ozzie Albies

Bench: Jace Peterson, Adonis Garcia, Sean Rodriguez, Anthony Recker

With a 5-man bench: same 4, add either a 3rd catcher, Mallex Smith, Chase D’Arnaud, or any other Spring Training invite that forces his way on the team.

Versus Left-handed Starting Pitching

Lineup: 1. Ender Inciarte  2. Dansby Swanson  3. Freddie Freeman  4. Matt Kemp 5. Sean Rodriguez  6. Tyler Flowers  7. Nick Markakis  8. Ozzie Albies

Bench: Adonis Garcia, Jace Peterson, Luis Valbuena, Anthony Recker

Looking at the Relief Core

Man oh man…adding the “After Dinner Minter” to the back of the bullpen sure sweetens Snitker’s options, leaving Krol to be purely a lefty specialist, and having Minter available in late innings. Heck, if the Braves go with 8 relievers, all of Paco Rodriguez, Ian Krol, and Minter could be on the squad. I think we’ll be seeing Snitker  rushing through some dinners!

Going Further?

While it’s not my favorite option, if we’re talking a 4th move, Matt Wieters on a 1-year deal could be ideal for the Braves should they go to a 5-man bench. Having 2 good hitting catchers on the bench leaving 1 of them available for pinch-hitting duties could provide serious flexibility for those late and close situations.

That’s a wrap, folks. News should be picking up now that the front offices are back in full-swing and surely we will be hearing news about Braves future plans and the fate of both Wieters and Valbuena.

Let’s say it together! 1, 2, 3…

Go Braves!

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