With the 2019 season now in the books for the Atlanta Braves, the focus shifts to the offseason, where the team will have a number of questions that will need to be answered in regards to their 2020 roster. We will be examining many of those decisions in close detail over the next few weeks but here is a snapshot of those decisions along with what the current 40-man roster will look like heading into the offseason.
Free Agents (11): Jerry Blevins, Dallas Keuchel, Chris Martin, Darren O’Day, Anthony Swarzak, Josh Tomlin, Francisco Cervelli, Brian McCann, Josh Donaldson, Adeiny Hechavarria, Matt Joyce
The Braves will have 10 players that will file for free agency at the conclusion of the World Series. Brian McCann would have also been in this group had he not decided to retire. Josh Donaldson is the big name here and will likely be given a qualifying offer by the team, which he will reject. This group includes several bullpen arms in Jerry Blevins, Chris Martin, Darren O’Day, Anthony Swarzak and Josh Tomlin. Martin and O’Day would seem to be players that the team might be interested in re-signing. Matt Joyce played a key part for the team this season and could be another candidate to return.
Team Options (4): Julio Teheran ($12 million, $1 million buyout), Tyler Flowers ($6 million, $2 million buyout), Nick Markakis ($6 million, $2 million buyout), Billy Hamilton ($7.5 million, $1 million buyout)
Atlanta also has four players with club options for next season. The Braves have the choice of picking up those options or declining and paying the buyout. The only player of this group that is certain to have his option declined is Billy Hamilton. Teheran once again turned in a solid regular season but was once again an afterthought in the postseason. He is valuable in his ability to eat innings during the regular season and has tossed at least 174 2/3 innings in seven straight seasons. Flowers is still a quality pitch framer and his chances of returning probably improved with McCann’s retirement.
Markakis will once again be a polarizing decision. While he reportedly brings plenty to the team’s clubhouse, his performance on the field slipped. Markakis’ fate probably depends on what the front office’s plan for the outfield is. Ronald Acuña Jr. is the only for certain starter in the group. Ender Inciarte will be back as well. Austin Riley could move back to third base if Donaldson doesn’t return but is also a candidate in the corner spots. Adam Duvall is arbitration-eligible and would seem to be like a good right-handed platoon compliment for either Markakis and Joyce. With Cristian Pache and Drew Waters on the way, the Braves may not want to block either with external options.
Arbitration (9): Grant Dayton, Mike Foltynewicz, Shane Greene, Luke Jackson, John Ryan Murphy, Dansby Swanson, Charlie Culberson, Adam Duvall, Johan Camargo
The Braves will have until December 2 to tender contracts (or not) to their nine arbitration-eligible players. John Ryan Murphy is the only one of this group that seems certain to be non-tendered and could be off the roster before then.
60-Day IL (4): A.J. Minter, Jacob Webb, Alex Jackson, Charlie Culberson
Atlanta has four players currently on the 60-day injured list that will have to be added back to the 40-man roster.
DFA Candidates: John Ryan Murphy, Rafael Ortega
I already mentioned Murphy as a candidate to be DFA’d and Rafael Ortega looks like another. Ortega came up with some big moments but he likely won’t hang onto his 40-man spot this offseason. I could see him returning with as a non-roster invite to spring training.
If you subtract the pending free agents and add back the players on the 60-day injured list, the Braves will have 33 players on their 40-man roster. They can further subtract from that number by declining team options, non-tendering arbitration-eligible players, or by designating a player for assignment. Hamilton, along with the aforementioned Murphy and Ortega, seems like a prime candidate to free up another spot.
League minimum players + Guaranteed contracts + Team options + Arbitration-Eligibles = 33
Rule 5 protection: Jonathan Morales, Luis Marte, Sean Kazmar Jr. Cristian Pache, Tucker Davidson, Phillip Pfeifer, Jose Rafael De Paula, Corbin Clouse, Jason Creasy, William Contreras, Braxton Davidson, Ryan Casteel, Ray-Patrick Didder, Riley Unroe, Jasseel De La Cruz, Thomas Burrows, Josh Graham, Kurt Hoekstra, Justin Kelly, Bradley Roney, Jeremy Fernandez, Odalvi Javier, Brandon White, Jon Kennedy, Nicolas Shumpert
That number is important because Atlanta will also have some players that they will have to add to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. Four players jump off the list in outfielder Cristian Pache, catcher William Contreras and pitchers Tucker Davidson and Jasseel De La Cruz. The Braves have occasionally made surprising moves to protect certain members of their organization from the Rule 5 Draft, but in this case it seems like at least three or four spots will definitely be necessary, and the Braves may choose to select the contracts and add to the 40-man some other players as well.
Arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason. Appeared in 14 games in 2019 while posting a 3.00 ERA but a 6.21 FIP in just 12 innings.
Foltynewicz endured a roller coaster season that ended on a sour note. The Braves will hope that a full and healthy spring training will return him to 2018 form.
Made 30 starts in 2019 but was also successful as a reliever in the postseason. Has the ability to excel in either role, but limiting him to a one-inning relief role seems like it would be a waste at this point.
Acquired from the Tigers at the Trade Deadline and arbitration-eligible for the final time this offseason. Due a hefty raise; a .238 BABIP allowed in 2019 is a bit of a concern. Still can’t imagine that he would be a non-tender candidate, in part because the Braves have had such trouble getting relief performances that they had to trade for him in the first place.
Struggled down the stretch but continued to post solid peripherals. Led team in K% at 33.7%. Held left handed hitters to .157/.222/.324 line in 2019. Arbitration-eligible for first time this offseason.
Acquired from the Giants at the Trade Deadline. Under contract for 2020 with a $14 million price tag. Was the team’s closer down the stretch posting a 3.86 ERA with a 1.83 FIP in 21 innings.
Came into the season in the mix to be the team’s closer. An injury in Spring Training set him back and never seemed to fully recover. Struggled in 36 games at the Major League level before finally going on the injured list due to shoulder inflammation.
Moved to the bullpen in 2019 and was successful. Will he stick there or get another shot as a starter?
Made a late impact in 2018 out of the bullpen but wasn’t able to carry over that success this season. Posted a 6.21 ERA and 5.56 FIP in 32 games for the Braves.
Emerged as the team’s best starter. Showed no ill effects from the shoulder injury that ended his 2018 season early.
Turned in his best season since 2016 with 1.6 fWAR. Made 33 starts and totaled 174 2/3 innings but was once again not a factor in the postseason.
Completed a disappointing 2019 season as he struggled with his command in the majors and at Triple-A. Will be looking to reset completely for 2020.
Began the year at Double-A but ended it in the majors. Had good results in six appearances and should go to Spring Training in the mix for a bigger role.
An elbow injury ended Webb’s season early but he was a factor for the Braves out of the bullpen appearing in 51 games. If healthy, he should be in the mix as well. Peripherals are concerning (5.15 xFIP) but seemed to manage contact well; need bigger sample to determine which skills are real and which are illusory.
Had a couple of stints at the major league level but never got into a game. Split time as a starter and reliever at Gwinnett in his first season back after Tommy John Surgery.
Put up good numbers at Gwinnett but didn’t have much success in the majors, posting a 7.20 ERA and 6.36 FIP in six appearances.
If there was a disappointing theme to the 2019 season it was that none Atlanta’s young pitchers really took a step forward. Kyle Wright was no exception. He posted an 8.69 ERA in 19 2/3 innings with the Braves and endured an up and down season for Gwinnett.
Moved fast through the system. Made two appearances for the Braves. Worked mostly as a starter at Gwinnett.
Has a $6 million team option for 2020. Once again graded out as a great pitch framer but struggled with passed balls at times in 2019. Didn’t see many opportunities in the postseason. Somewhat down year offensively, in part due to struggling mightily against lefties, whom he previously crushed. More chasing and more whiffs on pitches in the zone were a problematic combination.
Was 0-for-13 in four games at the major league level. Hit .229/.313/.533 with 28 home runs in 85 games at Gwinnett. Season ended early due to a knee injury.
John Ryan Murphy
Acquired at the trade deadline to add depth at catcher. Saw one at-bat in the majors. Arbitration eligible but a DFA candidate.
Put concerns about second-half slide in 2018 to rest. Finished third on the team in fWAR at 4.6.
Struggled while transitioning to a utility role. Season ended in the final week after taking a foul ball to the shin. Arbitration-eligible this offseason.
Posted career-highs in homers, runs scored and RBIs but struggled down the stretch due to bone spurs in his elbow. Placed fourth on the team in fWAR at 4.0.
Enjoyed a breakout season during the first half hitting a career-high 17 home runs. Suffered a heel injury in the second half and struggled at the plate although he rebounded in the Division Series. Arbitration-eligible for the first time and could be a candidate for an extension.
Ronald Acuña, Jr.
Put up an MVP caliber season in his first full season in the majors. Led team in homers (41), runs scored (127), stolen bases (37) and fWAR (5.6).
Got off to a scorching start but regressed in the second half. A scary injury where he was hit by a pitch in the face ended his season. Arbitration-eligible again this offseason.
Was a non-tender candidate in 2018 but stuck around and slugged 32 home runs at Triple-A before returning to the majors, where he hit .267/.315/.567 with 10 home runs in 41 games. Looks like an outfield platoon candidate for 2020.
Acquired off of waivers from the Royals in late August. Unlikely to have his option for 2020 picked up.
Suffered through injuries to his back and hamstring in 2019. Got off to a slow start at the plate and appeared in just 65 games.
Was unable to replicate his success from 2018. Turned in an average Markakis year posting a wRC+ of 102. Missed time due to a fractured wrist and struggled in the Division series. Has a team option for 2020.
Pressed into service after injuries to Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis and Austin Riley. Provided a couple of big moments but otherwise struggled at the plate. Hit really well in Triple-A, but not surprising given that it was his sixth stint there. Looks like a DFA candidate.
Burst onto the scene hitting .273/.326/.582 with 14 home runs over his first 43 games, but hit just .156/.210/.303 with four homers and 50 strikeouts in 119 plate appearances over his final 37 games. Will need to refine his approach but is a candidate to take over at third if Donaldson doesn’t return.