After a week off it’s time to fire up the ‘ole stove because it was a cold holiday period for baseball news. However with only 5 weeks until the opening of camps there’s been some thaw in the market and some interesting reporting involving the Braves
Phillips Vetoes Trade to Braves in November
The big news coming out of this week was that Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, for the third time in the last two seasons, invoked his 10-and-5 rights to veto a trade. Last off-season he turned down trades that would have sent him to the Diamondbacks and the Nationals. This time it turns out the Braves had a deal in place with Cincinnati that was nixed by the 15-year veteran and Stone Mountain native.
The would-be trade would have occurred back in November, before the Braves signed Pirates free agent Sean Rodriguez. If the trade had gone through, Phillips would likely have been a platoon-mate for Jace Peterson at 2nd base. Phillips is owed $14 million in the last year of a six-year contract extension, so it was highly likely that the Reds would have kicked in some amount money to off-set the salary. In the end it probably worked out for the Braves, as Rodriguez figures to be a more flexible player. Phillips has also slowed down quite a bit defensively according to both sabermetric and traditional defensive measurements, and Rodriguez had the better offensive season in 2016 as well.
Rumors, Gossip, and Innuendo
- Before the 2016 season even ended, Braves GM John Coppolella was making noises about upgrading the major league catching position by getting a better hitter to complement and take some of the load off of incumbent Tyler Flowers. Since then catchers Jason Castro, Brian McCann, Wilson Ramos, Derek Norris, and Welington Castillo have all switched teams, but the Braves are still looking at a duo of Flowers and either Anthony Recker or Tuffy Gosewisch. The biggest name left on the free agent market is Orioles mainstay Matt Wieters, and national writers such as ESPN’s Jim Bowden continue to link Wieters and Atlanta. The official line from Coppolella is that while Wieters is a talented player, the years and dollars would have to “make sense for both sides”. Clearly this means that Wieters is asking for a longer and more lucrative contract than the Braves may be comfortable with, despite having a series of performances that have diminished in all facets over the years.
- Just before the end of the year, FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported that the Braves were “kicking the tires” on Minnesota second baseman Brian Dozier. Within a few hours however, Heyman tweeted out a correction that the Braves were “not in on Dozier”. This week however, Twins beat writer Mark Berardino tweeted:
Was told by source w/direct knowledge not to rule out #Braves as stealth landing spot for Dozier. Excess young arms (Wisler, Blair) w/upside
— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) January 6, 2017
Like happened with Heyman however, within a few hours, Berardino was backing off the reporting, tweeting that “source with direct knowledge insists match with Twins would be a ‘long shot.'” With rumors that the Dodgers, long rumored to be the team most heavily interested in Dozier, not going beyond an offer of their top-ranked pitching prospect José De Leon, it seems that perhaps the Twins themselves may be pushing these rumors to try to create a more robust market for Dozier. (Look, innuendo. Boom.)
Ronald Acuna, Mallex Smith Leave Winter Ball Teams Early
Winter league play ended early for two Braves centerfielders, but for different reasons. Acuña left the Melbourne Aces to return to his home of Venezuela in order to make sure he could secure his work visa so he could report to Braves spring training in Orlando without any kind of delay. The Aces issued a mournful press release to announce the departure of the 19-year-old Braves prospect, whom the team had nicknamed “The Answer To Everything” for leading the Australian Baseball League in batting average and stolen bases and leaving in the top 3 in on-base percentage and slugging.
Mallex Smith got a much different send-off after leaving the Mayaguez Indians of the Puerto Rican League. The Braves pulled Smith after he had re-injured a tender oblique muscle. Indians manager Frankie Thon told media that Smith had abandoned the team and was in breech of contract after leaving the team without permission. According to the AJC’s David O’Brien, Smith wanted to continue playing for the team. All-in-all it was another frustrating episode in what has turned into a tough off-season for Smith. Earlier in the off-season, Smith was released by a Mexican League team after he got off to a slow start, in part due to injury.
Happenings Scheduled For SunTrust Park
On Thursday, the Braves announced that Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famer Billy Joel would be The Entertainer for the first-ever concert at SunTrust Park, scheduled for Friday, April 28. Advance tickets can be purchased by A-list members starting Wednesday, January 11 with wider distribution opening for schlubs like me on January 13.
On Saturday, the Braves released their popular bobblehead give-away schedule.
- May 19: Ender Inciarte (game-ending catch pose)
- June 9: Bartolo Colon (pitching motion pose)
- June 16: Dansby Swanson (“with life-like locks”)
- July 14: Matt Kemp (batting stance pose)
- August 15: Freddie Freeman (batting stance pose)
Braves Beat Writer Grant McAuley Gives Top 30 Prospect List
Another week, another prospect list, this time from FM 92.9 The Game and CBS Atlanta’s Grant McAuley. Of all of the Braves beat writers, McAuley gives the most attention to and demonstrates the best handle on Braves prospects, discussing them frequently in his “Around the Big Leagues” podcast (highly recommended).
Braves Prospect Ranking Comparison
|Player||Outfield Fly Rule Rank||Gondeee/Chop County's Rank||Benjamin Chase's Rank||Grant McAuley's Rank||Talking Chop Rank||John Sickels Rank||Baseball Prospectus Rank||Baseball America Rank|
|Dansby Swanson, SS||1||1||1||1||N/A||1||1||1|
|Ozzie Albies, IF||2||2||2||2||1||2||3||2|
|Kolby Allard, LHP||3||5||4||3||3||3||6||3|
|Mike Soroka, RHP||4||7||9||8||7||4||5||4|
|Sean Newcomb, LHP||5||4||3||4||5||5||4||8|
|Kevin Maitan, SS||6||3||6||5||6||8||8||7|
|Touki Toussaint, RHP||7||12||11||10||9||10||9||N/A|
|Max Fried, LHP||8||13||7||7||4||6||10||10|
|Ian Anderson, RHP||9||6||8||6||8||7||7||5|
|Ronald Acuña, OF||10||14||5||12||2||9||2||6|
|Austin Riley, 3B||11||9||15||9||10||11||N/A||N/A|
|Luiz Gohara, LHP||12||15||10||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Dustin Peterson, OF||13||8||13||14||15||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Patrick Weigel, RHP||15||11||12||20||13||15||11||9|
|Alex Jackson, OF/C||16||10||23||16||14||N/A||N/A||N/A|