Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez is confident that his team can exceed expectations despite the deep roster turnover of this summer. MLB.com's Mark Bowman writes that while Gonzalez is entering the final year of his contract, he has been heavily involved along with John Hart and John Coppolella in reshaping the club.
"I like our club," Gonzalez said. "I like our pitching. I like the back end of our bullpen with some of the veteran guys. I think we went out and got some contact hitters, some guys who are going to put the ball in play. There were times [last year] where you were thinking, 'Somebody put a ball in play and we get a run.' We've got some mixing and matching we can do."
The subtractions of Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis will leave the Braves and manager Fredi Gonzalez with a lot of mixing and matching in terms of his lineup. Atlanta could feature more than one platoon situation in its lineup to start the season.
While the Braves will no longer have Upton, Gattis and Jason Heyward to aid their offense, Gonzalez will possess a roster that provides him more versatility than he had the past few seasons. The 51-year-old manager has said that right fielder Nick Markakis, shortstop Andrelton Simmons and first baseman Freddie Freeman might prove to be the only players in the lineup on a daily basis to begin the season.
The New York Post's Joel Sherman lists the Braves among the teams who he deems to have had a successful offseason. While the moves of this summer aren't likely to pay off right away, they put the team in position for future success. Trading the likes of Heyward and Upton might not have been popular moves in some circles but using them to obtain assets before they walked away in free agency was smart.
If so, they weren't re-signing as free agents with Atlanta after this season, so the Braves could get as much for them as possible now or play the season with them and get compensation in the 2016 draft, when they are desperate to have a contending nucleus in place to open a new stadium in 2017. So the Braves traded that duo plus Gattis, fixating on accumulating young talent, particularly young power-armed starting pitching talent. When the Rays do that, they are regaled for proactive genius. Atlanta reversed from a bottom-10 farm system to arguably a top-10.
SB Nation's Chris Cotillo reports that the San Diego Padres have reached an agreement with free agent pitcher James Shields on a four-year deal that contains a club option for a fifth-year. According to the report, the deal is pending a physical and could be announced early this week.
Jose Fernandez will begin throwing off of a mound in spring training and could be back in the Marlins rotation by June 15. Fernandez underwent Tommy John surgery last May.