Atlanta Braves Browsing Not Shopping At GM Meetings

Atlanta Braves GM John Coppolella has a plan and he's sticking to it.

Atlanta Braves GM John Coppolella has a plan and he’s sticking to it.

The annual GM Meetings kick off in Scottsdale this week, a place where deals are always discussed and sometimes made. Braves GM John Coppolella has made it clear the Atlanta Braves are mostly browsing and definitely not shopping for a big-ticket pitcher.

There’s been much debate and conjecture about the path the Braves will take to reshape the roster this off-season. Debate is particularly intense when the subject of starting pitching comes up with fans dreaming on Chris Sale or Justin Verlander.

It’s been pretty clear all along than Coppy wasn’t going there but fans continue to think he’s posturing for a sneak attack of some kind. His latest interview with David O’Brien should add clarity and insight into his plans.

The Atlanta Braves Seek Pitching, Pitching and Pitching

Coppy’s said many times in the last two months that he wants to add a starter or two or three; that’s still the case

“The biggest needs for us, 1, 2 and 3? Starting pitching, starting pitching, starting pitching,” Coppolella said Friday. . . “

Okay nothing new there but he went to – as congress critters say – clarify and expand that point specifically about top end, ace starters.

“We weren’t going to go after those guys anyway. It was not efficient for us,” Coppolella said. “You don’t buy No. 1 starters, you grow them. You draft them, you develop them. For us, it’s not efficient for us to go out and buy a No. 1 starter. Unless something drastically changes, you won’t see us going after a No. 1 starter.”

That seems pretty definitive and makes perfect sense. There are only a handful of teams that can pay the outrageous salaries pitchers like Verlander can demand and the Braves are not among them and never will be.  Even if they were ready to spend like that, there’s no one in this year’s market in that class.

Acquiring one would mean a trade of the prospects he and Hart acquired as the seeds to grow their own number one guy. That directly contradicts their stated plans for wave after wave or prospects coming through the system. Prospect’s can’t grow into Braves if they get transplanted to a farm owned by someone else.

GM John Coppolella has plans for the Atlanta Braves this post season

GM John Coppolella has plans for the Atlanta Braves this post season

Trades Will Happen

That position doesn’t mean they won’t trade prospects. Mid-level prospects are going to be dealt to make the team incrementally better now. Things like trading for role player pitchers is always an option.

Dealing a potential impact arm isn’t on the table unless and until it’s a move that puts the team over the top for a championship. That’s not what the 2017 season looks like now.

Signing role player pitchers on one or two-year deals also allows those prospects to grow at their own pace. The Braves changed the pitching development system this off-season because they felt some of the seedling’s growth was stunted by being rushed to the big leagues too soon. The Tigers found out about that in the early 2000s.

His statements confirm my belief that they are shopping for undervalued free agents like the one’s I discussed a few days ago. Who those will be we’ll have to wait and see but we may not have to wait long.

Always Open

The John’s are not adverse to moving early to get a deal done and this years is no exception.

“We’re open (to moving early on a deal. . . There could be a great deal that we would have to explore further. If something makes sense for the Braves and will make us better in the short term and the long term. . . we’re not going to wait around for any type of artificial date. . . .The best time to make a trade is when a good trade is offered to you. We’re always trying to find ways to get better.”

In fact Coppy said during one of the final Braves TV broadcasts of the year that they had been discussing moves with other teams. Those deals may start to come to fruition this week or next week or may not happen at all but deals will be made.

It’s Only Money

Free agents are the preference because they only cost money but the thin free agent pitching and catching market may force the Brave to trade for both. I still believe they will add a catcher even though they keep saying they’ll be okay with keeping Tyler Flowers and Anthony Recker next year.

Coppy also said the outfield isn’t on his list to change

  “We really like what Matt Kemp, Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis did . . .We feel like we’ve got one of the best outfields in all of baseball and we don’t want to break that outfield up . . .somebody offers something crazy, do you have to listen? Sure. But we’re not out there shopping guys. In fact we’re not really even listening on guys. . . . we feel like they fit us well on the field as well as off the field.” (my emphasis)

Another reason for their reluctance to move an outfielder is uncertainty over the timetable for the arrivals of Mallex Smith and Dustin Peterson.  They will likely bring back Jeff Francoeur this off-season as a fourth outfielder. However, Frenchy hasn’t been an everyday player for a while so moving Markakis would create a gap they aren’t certain they could fill.

That’s a Wrap

Changes will come this off-season and undoubtedly some will be unexpected. After his open dissent on Friday the Cubs could look to move Miguel Montero and the Indians will have to decide whether Roberto Perez or Yan Gomes is there guy next year.

Maybe the Cubs decide to move on from John Lackey or Jays make a crazy good offer for Markakis and the Braves move him for Reese McGuire and sign Michael Saunders to play right.

Experience suggests that we are unlikely to predict much accurately other than change will come and that the Braves will nit have Just Verlander at the top of their rotation next year.

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