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Braves Mailbag: Trade rumors, left field questions and more

Our first mailbag of the offseason includes questions on how we cover trade rumors, the Braves’ search for a starter, who plays left field and much more

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MLB: JUN 06 Dodgers at Braves Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I want to thank everyone that took the time to send in questions for this week’s Atlanta Braves mailbag. We got so many good ones that I am going to split it into two parts. The next installment will be up later this week. Let’s get to it.

Why expend any effort when it comes to Braves’ rumors? AA’s ship is so tight that every Braves’ rumor should be taken as nothing more than the writer’s personal conjecture. Maybe it’s fun for some, but there never seems to be any hint of truth in any of them.

We are going to start this off today with the meta portion of this mailbag because this is a great question and one that we get from time to time. Any time we post an article about a rumor, there is inevitably at least one comment that mentions that the Braves don’t leak and therefore the rumor is untrue. I have seen a similar reaction on Twitter and other places as well.

First, the Braves do run a tight ship. I have been present on more than one occasion where Alex Anthopoulos has stated that his goal is for the media to find out about a signing or a trade at the same time everyone else does. I think there is another important distinction as well. Sometimes rumors are nothing more than due diligence. I’m sure most teams check in on every top free agent just to gauge the asking price. Teams also will call other teams to find out who is available and who isn’t. Sometimes that leaks out and we get the “The Braves are among the teams interested in X” report.

While leaking nothing is the stated goal for the Front Office, it hasn’t always happened that way. I have an example from each of the last four offseasons. The first one is my favorite because I remember making fun of it when it was reported. Atlanta was first linked to free agent Marcell Ozuna in mid-November of 2019. At the time, they had too many outfielders and it seemed far-fetched. Two months later, Ozuna agreed to a one-year deal.

On November 23, 2020, the Braves were said to be “aggressively” pursuing a deal with Charlie Morton. He signed a one-year deal a day later. A little over a month after winning the World Series in 2021, a report surfaced that the team had checked in on Matt Olson. The owners’ lockout delayed things, but Atlanta acquired him on March 14. Last offseason, a report at the start of the Winter Meetings suggested the Braves had checked in on Sean Murphy. Atlanta completed the three-team trade for Murphy 11 days later.

Now, there is a sizable list of deals that didn’t leak. There is also a long list of rumors that didn’t pan out, but there are four notable deals that happened that we at least had some rumblings about. Maybe the Olson report was just connecting dots. Maybe the initial Murphy report was just due diligence on Atlanta’s part. Still, it was out there.

So to answer the question about why we elect to cover rumors: my goal for this site has always been for it to be a one-stop shop for everything Braves. That is why we expanded our minor league coverage back in 2016 and have continued to cover the minors after the rebuild was over. The hot stove is a big part of every offseason, and I don’t want anyone to have to go elsewhere to find that type of coverage. We do our best to label rumors and be skeptical when appropriate. If you see “per report” or “reportedly” in a headline, then that is most likely a rumor. We try to vet them from the best sources, and we don’t run things that we don’t think are worth anyone’s time, based on the source and the lack of corroboration.

I understand it can be annoying for our commenting community at times, but you have to remember that the number of commenters we have are just a small fraction of the number of people that visit the site on a daily basis. A lot of people read those articles and I think the discussions that come from them are fun.

If the Braves trade for Dylan Cease, what could be their plan to fill the void in left field? What would be the most realistic option and what would you guys prefer?

I’m assuming that Vaughn Grissom would be part of any trade package for a starter, so I am not going to go too much in depth about him as a possibility here. I think landing a starter for the rotation is by far the biggest priority. There are a ton of free agent outfielders available and the Braves could grab one or two to cobble together the left field spot. Looking at the length of the free agent outfield list, I hate to even speculate because I have no idea. At this point though, I am thinking they go after someone serviceable that probably isn’t a needle mover. The strength of the rest of the lineup allows them to go that route.

Could you see the Braves buying low on a guy like Andrew Benintendi in a trade or Michael Brantley in a free agent deal, while bringing Pillar back to platoon against lefties?

Benintendi was a popular discussion last offseason and could probably be had for next to nothing as the White Sox would no doubt be interested in moving his contract. He is coming off of his worst full season in the majors and is still owed $64 million over four years. Even if the White Sox were willing to eat the majority of that contract, he might not even be as good as Eddie Rosario anymore. I have always thought that Brantley might fill a need for the Braves, but he is 36 and a shoulder injury has limited him to 79 games over the last two seasons. If he does continue his career, then he’s probably a DH at this point, and can’t be fully counted on. Brantley would’ve been a much more exciting addition back when he hit free agency and signed with the Astros.

Which Brave signed to a long term contract is the most likely to be traded?

None? I don’t think that is something that they would consider for any of the players that they have signed to extensions. I know people like to speculate, but I really don’t think they would entertain the thought of moving any of their core pieces.

Any chance we do anything (trade or signing) to have a decent starting rotation, or do we continue to waste the best lineup in baseball?

I might have missed something, but I don’t think pitching was the reason that the Braves lost in the Division Series. Atlanta has two pitchers that have finished in the top four of Cy Young voting over the last two seasons. Anytime you can start a rotation with Max Fried and Spencer Strider, that is already a good rotation.

Do the Braves need to add a starter? Definitely.

Do they have major question marks in the rotation beyond the 2024 season? Absolutely.

Did they win 104 games in 2023 despite Fried and Kyle Wright making just 21 starts combined? Also true.

They need to add at least one reliable starter and we have no reason to think that they won’t at this point. Still, it probably won’t matter if the “best lineup in baseball” doesn’t show up in the Division Series again.

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