With players' options a factor, Anthopoulos' focus on constructing Braves' best lineup for entirety of season
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Braves have options. They have them in terms of the makeup of the 25-man roster, and also in the way they use the minor league options to make their decisions.
That was the message from general manager Alex Anthopoulos during Wednesday's first workout with pitchers and catchers in camp.
The team that Atlanta breaks camp with may not be the best version of the team for Opening Day nor the players that performed the best at spring training. He's focused on developing the best team for a six-month haul.
"Part of (creating) depth is, there might be times where the out-of-options guys is going to get the nod," Anthopolous said. "Those kids, those guys that are out of options, they've had that conversation where they were the guys with options going down. But we'll be very transparent with all that."
This could be a key factor in the makeup of the bullpen, where the Braves have what appear to be locks in Arodys Vizcaino, A.J. Minter, Sam Freeman and Jose Ramirez (who is also out of options). But they also have four relievers who can no longer be sent down without going through waivers in Mauricio Cabrera, Luke Jackson, Josh Ravin and Chase Whitley.
Cabrera and his 103-mph fastball haven't been in the majors since 2016 when he had a .282 ERA in 38 1/3 innings. He struggled with control issues last season with a 6.20 ERA in 45 innings across four levels. Meanwhile, Jackson threw 50 2/3 innings for the Braves with a 4.62 ERA and 4.24 FIP and Ravin -- acquired from the Dodgers for cash considerations in November -- fanned 10.26 per nine in 16 2/3 innings for the Dodgers in '17.
Whitley, who had a 4.08 ERA and 3.56 FIP over 51 1/3 innings with 6.75 strikeouts and 2.51 walks per nine innings out of the Rays' bullpen in 2017, began his career as a starter and could be in the mix for one of either spots.
They all figure to be competing with left-hander Rex Brothers (.282 wOBA) and Akeel Morris (1.23 ERA, 2.34 FIP) and all or any of Max Fried, Lucas Sims, Aaron Blair and Matt Wisler, should they fall out of the starting rotation race. Brothers, Fried and Sims each have two options remaining, while Blair, Morris and Wisler all have one left.
The Braves also have to factor in the Rule 5 standings of two righties in Dan Winkler -- the oft-injured 2014 pick, who must be on the major league roster for the early part of the season or they'll forfeit his rights -- and Yanelo Gomez, taken from the Yankees this past draft.
In terms of position players, outfielder Lane Adams and utility man Danny Santana are also out of options. The exclusion of Adams -- who had 110 wRC+, including 132 with men in scoring position -- would be stunning as he stand as a Matt Kemp-less outfield's best bridge to Ronald Acuña's arrival.
The impressions made during camp and the spring games themselves will matter, but as the new GM pieces together the roster, he isn't letting either of those factors set the course.
"You're already going to form some opinions watching guys, but I've been through enough spring training and made enough mistakes in spring training and check myself," Anthopoulos said. "I'm going to have an opinion and an impression of each guy, but we're going to let the games play, (weigh in) their track record, the staff, we're not going to overly weigh spring training. It's part of it, but we're not going to put too much weight into it."
Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney and Facebook. His books, 'Tales from the Atlanta Braves Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Braves Stories Ever Told,' and 'The Heisman Trophy: The Story of an American Icon and Its Winners.' are now available.