The Braves have resolved their manager decision for 2018 in bringing back Brian Snitker, but who will be their next general manager isn't the only major decision on the horizon.
MLB Trade Rumors unleashed its arbitration projections for this winter, and with those forecasts, it's clear Atlanta has a number of questions to answer with arbitration-eligible players ahead of the Jan. 12 date for salaries to be exchanged. Historically, the Braves have been a file-and-trial team, -- meaning they won't negotiate one-year deals after figures are swapped -- which could put further interest on the Jan. 29-Feb. 16 hearings in Phoenix.
The Braves went 14 years between appearing in a hearing -- from John Rocker in 2001 to Mike Minor in '15, which they lost -- and avoided one of those meetings this past offseason, striking late deals with relievers Arodys Vizcaino and Ian Krol.
Those two arms are again part of the equation as Atlanta has to figure out whether to tender/non-tender a number of players. They are (ranked via MLB service time) Matt Adams, Vizcaino, Krol, Danny Santana, Sam Freeman, Jace Peterson, Danny Winkler and Mike Foltynewicz.
The aforementioned MLB Trade Rumors projections for the Braves are below, with service time in parenthesis. For a list of all the projections, CLICK HERE.
• Matt Adams (5.033) – $4.6MM • Arodys Vizcaino (4.168) – $3.7MM • Ian Krol (3.149) – $1.3MM • Danny Santana (3.111) – $1.1MM • Sam Freeman (3.067) – $1.2MM • Jace Peterson (3.024) – $1.1MM • Dan Winkler (3.000) – $800K • Mike Foltynewicz (2.163) – $2.7MM
Foltynewicz could potentially be held off this list if the Super Two cutoff (the top 22 percent of players with between two and three years service time) is above 2.163, but it seems unlikely given that it has been between 2.139 and 2.131 the past eight years.
Could the Braves follow the model they did with Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward in 2014 and Ender Inciarte in 2016 with a 26-year-old who hasn't reached his ceiling yet?
Foltynewicz had a 3.77 ERA in 17 games (16 starts) from April 7-July 6, but his August included three straight outings with at least six earned runs in ending the year wiht a 4.79 ERA, and 4.33 FIP.
Extending him now in a somewhat similar deal to the one Julio Teheran received in 2014 (six years, $32.4 million) or at least buying out his arbitration years through 2021 could put the Braves in an enviable position with a club-friendly deal if Foltynewicz reaches his expected potential. Or, they could get him at around $2.7 million this year and possibly see him put i it all together in '18 and command a much heftier figure in '19, along with a loftier extension if the Braves were to go that route a year from now.
Meanwhile, Adams may be the most intriguing piece given his positional limitations (despite 129 1/3 innings in left field, the man is a first baseman). While the .274/.319/.522 hitter is a valuable bat, he's much more viable in the starting lineup with 129 wRC+ as a first baseman compared to 96 as a pinch hitter.
Moving him before salaries are exchanged would seem to be the most viable move for both Adams and the Braves. Although, as a controllable piece that can provide pop off the bench, will the Braves' new GM instead see him as a sense of security should Freddie Freeman have continued wrist problems? The expectation here is that Atlanta moves him given his value and the limited number of impact first baseman on the free agent-market, but keeping him would certainly have a major impact on Atlanta's reserve corps, which brings us to ...
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The versatility of Peterson (177 wRC+ as a bench piece) should keep him around, but if the Braves again go with a four- or five-man bench, does Santana fit into the equation? Peterson fills the same roles as Santana and Lane Adams (128 wRC+ in the second half) was a better option than Santana (51 wRC+). Add in Kurt Suzuki at catcher and Atlanta may have just one more spot on its bench, and we haven't even discussed how the roster could change whenever Ronald Acuna makes his ascension.
Among those relievers, Vizcaino and his 14 saves and 2.83 ERA in 62 games would seem a lock and Freeman, who led the Braves' bullpen with a 3.34 FIP, makes a strong case. Winkler, though, is an interesting case.
The former Rule 5 pick has thrown just 18 1/3 innings over three seasons and had to rehab twice, first from Tommy John surgery in '15 and then in '16 he fractured he elbow. As a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies, the Braves had to keep him on their disabled list in '15, then move to the 25-man for at least 90 days during the '16 season of he would have gone back to Colorado.
He was on the roster for just over a week in '16 before the elbow injury and made his return Aug. 21, 2017 in appearing in 16 games with a 2.51 ERA, 18 strikeouts and six walks, along with 14 outings at the minor league level. But because he built up service time while on the DL, Winkler is arb-eligible with just 21 games under his belt for the Braves.
That small sample size could make it difficult for the Braves to bring him back, even if it is for the projected $800,000 -- which is $255,000 more than the MLB minimum for '18 -- given the amount of bullpen talent they saw bubble up late in 2017.
Winkler, though, is a more intriguing case given his service time/playing time ratio compared to the heavier decisions with how the Braves proceed with Adams and Foltynewicz, in particular.
How whoever steps into the role vacated by John Coppolella answers those -- namely in the progress shown by Foltynewicz and Adams' value on this team and in the open market -- will be riveting.