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Braves Mailbag: Lockout concerns, 2022’s breakout player and more

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Baseball Lockout Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

Thanks to everyone who sent in questions for this week’s mailbag. Let’s get to it!

Are you concerned about the lockout?

At this point you have to be concerned. It is important to note that there is still time to get a deal finalized but given the animosity between both sides, it is hard to be confident. I’m still not ready to say that the regular season will be impacted as both sides simply have too much to lose. However, as each day passes, it seems as though Spring Training could be impacted and could see somewhat of a delayed start. Let’s hope that today’s meeting spurs additional talks. The most alarming thing so far in this saga is how little both sides have discussed the issues since the lockout began.

Two questions. What is the biggest concession that you see the MLBPA giving MLB whenever the new CBA is agreed to? What is the biggest concession that you see MLB giving the MLBPA whenever the new CBA is agreed to?

Good question. I believe that the league and ownership’s view in this is about 180 degrees from where the players are. The one stated ask by the league is an expanded postseason. I suspect that will be part of any final deal. Honestly, after swaying things in their favor over the last two CBA’s, the league would have been very happy to just carry on under the old CBA. The real question is how much are they going to be willing to give?

The players on the other hand have a long list. There is no way that they are going to get everything that they are seeking but it is imperative from their view that they make some progress for future CBAs. Ultimately I think that minimum salaries will rise along with the Competitive Balance Tax. There will probably be some other things around the edges but those are the two big issues that I think they can get in this negotiation.

Do you think that it is time to give Drew Waters and or Cristian Pache a long look in the outfield due to Michael Harris and others starting to climb the minor league levels?

I don’t think the status of Drew Waters or Cristian Pache will be impacted by any other player. The Braves were ready to give Pache a long look last season but he showed that he wasn’t ready. I’m as big a believer in Waters as anyone, but his struggles at Triple-A last season showed that he isn’t ready either. It will be interesting to see what the outfield looks like once the lockout is over. I’m not overly excited about the idea of an Adam Duvall/Guillermo Heredia everyday solution for centerfield and I think there is still moves to be made there. With where the roster stands currently, I think Pache will get another hard look during the spring.

Harris has gotten a lot of buzz this offseason and is shooting up prospect lists everywhere. He put together a great season in 2021 but it is important to remember that he hasn’t played a game above High-A and the Braves have zero incentive to rush him.

Instead of paying Freddie about $30MM a year for ages 32 – 38, wouldn’t paying someone like Carlos Correa about $30mm a year for ages 27 – 37 make more sense?

I don’t think the hang up in the negotiations with Freddie Freeman is as much about the annual salary as it is about the contract length. If the Braves were willing to go for a sixth year, then he probably would already be signed. In my mind that also applies to someone like Carlos Correa. There are enough injury concerns around Correa that I am more concerned about how he will age than I am with how Freeman will.

Whether it was bad timing with the pandemic or something else, the hometown discount ended the moment that the Braves allowed Freeman to reach free agency. More than likely it is going to cost them more money and more years. That is the price of doing business on an open market. It seems that some of Correa’s options may now be off the board and I am not sure where he is going to end up but I think Freeman makes more sense.

Who is the breakout player from within the organization that is going to have a major impact on the roster?

I think it has to be a pitcher and there are a number of options. Could be a starter like Kyle Wright, Bryce Elder or Kyle Muller. My pick would be Spencer Strider who I think will get moved to the bullpen and will become a pretty important piece in 2022.

Have the Braves already spoken to Rizzo’s agent about a possible free agent contract before the lockout?

Even if it is nothing more than due diligence, I would be surprised if the Braves haven’t had contact with Rizzo. I still think that Freeman is the target but if we know anything about Alex Anthopoulos, it is that he is capable of pivoting quickly and I suspect that they have explored a number of options.

Where is Mike Soroka in his rehab process now? Roughly when may he be able to throw off a mound assuming no further setbacks?

One of the unfortunate byproducts of the lockout is that it has limited the updates on guys like Soroka. The last thing we heard was that he was progressing. It is still unclear when that might include throwing off a mound. If I had to guess, I would say the best case scenario would be a late summer return, but as we said in this space a few weeks ago, it is probably smart on Atlanta’s part not to be counting on anything from Soroka and to be surprised if he is able to contribute.