We're inching closer and closer to the magical date of pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training (February 19th, to be exact), which means that burning questions are beginning to crop up when it comes to the 2016 season and the Atlanta Braves. Freddie Freeman's health, Hector Olivera's adaptation to left field, the strength of the pitching, and of course, the development of the prospects figure to be the most important questions for the Braves this season and whether or not they can achieve a relative level of success in the upcoming season.
Meanwhile, MLB.com's Cut 4 recently ranked the Top 10 traded players who could have a big impact on their new teams, and three former Braves were on the list. Shelby Miller, Andrelton Simmons, and Cameron Maybin (yeah, that trade happened. Feels like a million years ago after all the other deals) made this list, although I'm sure that most of you who are reading this are hoping that their replacements will eventually be able to make these trades worth it.
Last week, Kelly Johnson signed a one-year deal to return to the Atlanta Braves for a third stint, and he seems content with the decision to return to the team that drafted him. In fact, his family seems to be even more excited about KJ coming back to Atlanta -- particularly his son, Cole, who apparently was the driving force behind convincing KJ to make the return to the Braves.
This time, though, Cole didn't urge his dad to retire. Instead, he played agent to a degree, suggesting a return to the Braves. And that's where Johnson ended up signing another one-year deal this week.
"It was completely unprovoked," Kelly Johnson told MLB.com's Mark Bowman. "It wasn't as if I was like, 'Hey do you want me to play for the Braves?' It was more like he was just saying, 'Hey Dad, I want you to play for the Braves again."
What Cole wanted is what Cole got. Johnson is now back again with the organization that drafted him 38th overall in the 2000 draft and developed him into an everyday infielder. Johnson spent nine seasons in the Braves organization during his first go-round, a little less than half of which were spent in the big leagues. He ended up making Atlanta his home for his family, and now he's back for the third time in 2016.
We've talked a couple of times on this blog about Fred McGriff and his Hall of Fame credentials, and this time our friends at Beyond the Box Score decided to join in on the discussion. McGriff's Hall of Fame chances are basically nil at this point, but BtBS believes that McGriff deserves much better support on the ballot, at least.
I considered him a "Hall of Very Good" player, which I expressed on this podcast. Since then, it's become clear that McGriff deserves far more support than he's received thus far.
This most recent election process was McGriff's 7th appearance on the ballot, and he received just 18.6 percent of the vote. With only three years left for him to reach the 75 percent threshold, the chances of him making Cooperstown are essentially zero, but it's not because he isn't worthy. By the classic stats (slash lines, runs, RBI totals, and HRs), as well as the new advanced metrics (wOBA, wRC+, wRAA), McGriff is comparable to players already in the Hall of Fame and someone whom many expect to be voted in likely in the next couple years.
Marcell Ozuna may not be popular with the owner of the Miami Marlins -- which could still result in a potential trade of the outfielder -- but it appears that his new manager and hitting coach see a lot of potential in him. Don Mattingly and Barry Bonds believe that they have a gem of a player on their hands -- to the point where both Bonds and Mattingly believe that they can mold Ozuna into a 30-30 player.
As for Mattingly's and Bonds' assessment of Ozuna: The 30 home runs, he probably could do, considering Ozuna's .492 slugging percentage in 499 minor-league games. The 30 stolen bases might be a stretch. He's got 10 in 346 career major league games, and no more than 17 steals in any one minor-league season.
It also seems true that, if the Marlins trade Ozuna now, they're doing so from a position of weakness. If Mr. Loria can stand having Ozuna on the roster at all, he should rescind any "sell" demand to the front office and wait to see what Bonds and Mattingly can do with him.
Over the weekend, the Washington Nationals traded one of their relievers. However, it wasn't the literal choke artist Jonathan Papelbon. Instead, the Nationals dealt Drew Storen to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Ben Revere. Revere's move to the U.S. capital has left a void in the leadoff spot for Canada's team, and now they're trying to figure out how to replace Revere.