The Atlanta Braves rebuild took another step forward during the second half of the 2016 season, but are they on the right track? We polled our staff for their thoughts on the Braves’ strategy and for how they feel the rebuilding process is shaping up.
Scott Coleman: For the most part, yes. The only thing that would sway me would be an awful trade or overpay for a free agent, and I can’t see Coppy doing that. The Braves are on the right track for next year, and I’ve been a fan of just about every move this winter. They should be able to score a few runs. The bullpen has plenty of options. If Jaime Garcia bounces back and Mike Foltynewicz takes another step forward, the club will push for .500. The playoffs aren’t happening, but 2017 won’t be a repeat of 2015 and 2016.
Demetrius Bell: I’d say so. With the way 2015 went and the way that 2016 started off, I think most reasonable fans figured that 2017 wasn’t going to be “the” year but it would hopefully be a transition/bridge year. They haven’t handed out any bad contracts, and they still have yet to be utterly swindled on any trades, and the farm system should continue to churn out decent talent. As long as this continues to be the case and the team continues to make steady improvement, then things should be fine.
Ben Poplin: I think the rebuild is certainly headed in the right direction. With the plethora of young talent acquired over the past two seasons, it’s say to say the future is a bright one for the Braves organization. Pitching has been and will continue to be a need. I think John Coppolella and John Hart are addressing that need accordingly. The acquisition of R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon may not look like beneficial moves, but their veteran presence will serve as a mentor program of sorts for all of the young arms. Matt Kemp patrolling the outfield for years to come, along with Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis makes for a solid and reliable group. The infield made strides last season as well, with the promotion of franchise face Dansby Swanson. Freddie Freeman put together the best season of his career thus far, and Adonis Garcia provided a possible option to man the hot corner until something better comes along. The Braves are in a good place looking towards the future.
Eric Cole: I think so, but there is inherent risk with the way in which the Braves have gone about their rebuild. Ultimately, they are betting on their scouting department to draft and sign guys into the minor league system that will both be assets to the big league club in the relatively near future as well as on the trade market which puts a lot of pressure on the farm system to produce. So far, so good on that front as the Braves appear to have the deepest farm system in the league and have some guys that have real potential to be big contributors going forward. This next season will be very telling in that regard as guys like Kolby Allard, Austin Riley, Max Fried, Ronald Acuna, Mike Soroka, Travis Demeritte, and Patrick Weigel will be up against consistently better competition in the minors so we should see who they really are. In addition, Dansby Swanson, AJ Minter, and Ozzie Albies (assuming his rehab goes well) should see time in the majors along with potentially Sean Newcomb and Lucas Sims so we will see what this first wave looks like. I expect the big league club to flirt with .500 for most of the season, but if the Braves want to take the next step forward, it will be up to this next wave of prospects. The influx of talent into the farm system has been exciting, but becomes much less exciting if no real impact guys come from it. I am glad the Braves decided not to go ham and trade for a starting pitcher this offseason as I don’t think their prospects have reached peak value and this trade market was absolutely abysmal for buyers given how bad the free agent market was/is. IF they changed their minds and made such a deal, I will likely feel very differently than I do right now, but I don’t foresee that happening. Coppy has shown no propensity to pay the other team’s price as it were and this offseason doesn’t feel like the right time for them to make such a move.
Ivan: To better answer that question, I’d have to have a better sense of what the “track” was. If the track was to be competitive in 2017, as was the impression I got from the public messaging from the Front Office in the 2014-2015 offseason, then it definitely isn’t. If the “track” is to be competitive in 2018, then maybe, though the Front Office has work to do to patch near-term lineup and rotation holes in a meaningful way. If the “track” is a timeline that delays competitiveness until even further away, then I guess they’re as on the right track as any team, though it’s very painful and disappointing to have to wait that long for your team to be good again, especially when they tossed away a chance at a decent season in 2015 just to have a four-plus year rebuild anyway.
Brad Rowland: I’m pleased with it. There is some worry in my mind about accelerating things too quickly given some of the way the team has been rumored to be positioning itself to compete in 2017, but not to the point where I am gravely concerned. I think they did exactly what they needed to do in “blowing it up”, and while I don’t love hitching the wagons to as much young pitching as they have, it appears (at least to me) as if Coppy understands that compiling those arms in trade is one of the best ways to improve the team moving forward. It is definitely fine to ask some questions concerning a move here or there, but I think the team is on schedule.
Kris Willis: I think the rebuild is where it needs to be at this point. They resisted the urge to try and accelerate things this winter to coincide with the move to SunTrust Park. The Braves worked really hard to replenish the farm system and knowing when to cash that in for pieces needed at the major league level is important. I have been impressed with the way that John Coppolella and the front office have navigated through this rebuild. They have a plan, a schedule and it looks like they are going to stick to it. The moves they make will be made on their terms and I think that sets them up for a bright future.