With the Atlanta Braves’ 2017 season entering the final stretch, many fans have turned their attentions to the upcoming offseason. Much has been written about a potential impending roster crunch for the Braves, as they have many players eligible for the Rule 5 Draft in December, and many players that other teams would be willing to take a flier on. In addition, the Braves have obvious holes that need to be filled around the roster, and the team has been vocal about their wish to continue to acquire a top of the rotation starting pitcher. As a result, the Braves will need to make difficult decisions regarding roster management in the upcoming weeks and months.
Let’s take a look at some of the roster moves that are, in my opinion, the most likely to happen.
Atlanta Braves 40-Man Roster
As of this writing (8/20/17), there are two open spots on the Atlanta Braves 40-man roster.
60-day DL Considerations
I believe one spot will be filled by Daniel Winkler when he is activated from the 60-day DL and added to the active roster when rosters expand in September. Baseball America’s JJ Cooper has already suggested this will happen:
Winkler will get a Sept. callup, but can't reach 90 days on active roster this year. So '14 Rule 5 pick could be under R5 rules in 2018!
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) August 16, 2017
Side note: Daniel Winkler will be an arbitration-eligible ROOKIE. Let that sink in for a minute.
That will take the team to 39 roster spots filled. Two other players, Jacob Lindgren and Armando Rivero, would be remaining on the 60-day DL. Those players will likely automatically be added to the 40-man roster when DL “dissolves” after the World Series ends.
I don’t believe the Braves will keep Rivero. He hasn’t pitched at all this season. I’m surprised they haven’t already sent him back to the Cubs, to be honest. Removing Rivero from the roster is a little convoluted, but more so for other teams who may want him.
If the Braves want to remove Rivero from the 40-man, he has to placed on Outright Assignment waivers (that is, assignment to the minor leagues). Any other team can claim him for $50K, and the Rule 5 restriction requiring that he spend the year on an active roster would transfer to the team claiming him. If no other team claims him, he has to be offered back to the Cubs (the team Atlanta claimed him from in the 2016 Rule 5 draft for $100K) for half of what the Braves paid to draft him. If the Cubs don’t want him, the Braves can then assign him to a minor league team and the Rule 5 restrictions are gone (they also can simply release him). If the Cubs DO take him back, he would still be Rule 5 eligible this winter and they would have to add him to their 40-man roster to protect him, which they did NOT do last season.
Status: The 40-man roster is now full, with the additions of Winkler and Lindgren.
Pending Free Agents
The Braves have three pending free agents on the 40-man roster now – Brandon Phillips, Jason Motte, and Kurt Suzuki. Boom. There are three additional spots cleared. You could argue there are actually five spots, because Tyler Flowers and Dickey have options for 2018. I believe Flowers’ option will be picked up (it would be the best money spent by the Braves this off-season, IMO). I’m not sure about Dickey. I am ready to go with the youth movement in the starting rotation, but Dickey’s recent performance, veteran leadership, and excellent beard lead me to think the front office could make the decision to keep him. Let’s play conservative with roster spots and say both options are picked up.
Status: 37 roster spots filled, leaving three open spots on the 40-man roster.
Rule 5 Protection Considerations
The Atlanta Braves have four players ranked in the MLB Pipeline (and the OFR Mid-Season Top 30) who will be be Rule 5 eligible this off-season: Luiz Gohara (#8), Travis Demeritte (#14), Dustin Peterson (#16), & Ricardo Sanchez (#26). I think you easily protect three of them – Gohara, Demeritte, & Peterson. I believe you can roll the dice with Sanchez because there are better starting pitchers in the Braves system who are further along in their development than he is.
One thing to keep in mind with protecting Rule 5 players: just because a team doesn’t protect them doesn’t mean they will be drafted by another team. Keep in mind that the drafting team has to keep the drafted player on their 25-man active roster for the entire season (unless he’s injured), or give him back to the Braves. If you’re the GM of another team, are you going to draft a 20-year old LHP who has never pitched above high-A, and has a career MiLB ERA of 4.75, albeit with pretty good peripherals?
There are some other Rule 5 eligible guys that could be worth taking a look at: Jacob Webb, Tyler Pike, Caleb Dirks, and Ray-Patrick Didder are the most notable names, or at least the ones you could make reasonable arguments for protecting.
For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume the Braves protect Gohara, Demeritte, Peterson, and one other player.
Status: Three spots available, with four players to protect (ruh roh!). Roster would be at 41. Someone has to go, but we’ll come back to the roster in a moment.
- Jace Peterson – he’ll be out of options and first time arbitration eligible this winter, Camargo is a better, cheaper option. He gone.
- Danny Santana – he’s out of options and first time arb-eligible as well. The Braves seem to like him, but he’s overall kind of ‘meh’ to me. I’m not sure if they’ll keep him, but he’s definitely a non-tender candidate.
- Lane Adams – he’ll be out of options but is pre-arb eligible and controlled thru 2023. He’s a tough call because of the team control. He could be kept as a 4th OF.
- Rex Brothers – he will have one option year remaining and will be arbitration-eligible for the 2nd time. He also will be 30-years old next year. A big, fat maybe.
- Sam Freeman – he’ll be out of options and first time arbitration-eligible. Another big fat maybe, but probably more likely to stay than Brothers.
- Adonis Garcia – He gone.
- Ian Krol – Let’s do some math: Second time arbitration-eligible + out of options + very poor performance = he gone.
- Micah Johnson – pre-arb, controlled thru 2022, out of options
- Enrique Burgos – pre-arb, controlled thru 2022, out of options
- Mauricio Cabrera – pre-arb, controlled thru 2023, out of options
Being conservative, I believe three of these ten are non-tendered: Peterson, Garcia, and Krol. I think Brothers and Burgos have a better than 50% chance of being non-tendered as well. Cabrera’s poor performance this season makes him a DFA candidate.
Status: A minimum of three non-tenders, possibly six. Combined with the three spots from the “Pending FA Section”, conservatively, that’s 6 roster spots available. The 40-man roster sits at 34 after non-tenders and free agent departures.
For this exercise, we’re protecting four from the Rule 5 draft, which means only two spots are available on the 40-man roster. Which, coincidentally, is the same number of spots available at the time of this writing. That number could go as high as five spots available (non-tender Brothers and Burgos, DFA Cabrera), or six if Danny Santana is DFA’d or non-tendered. This gives the Braves the room to sign two to five players in free agency, barring any trades of players on the 40-man roster.
While there is somewhat of a roster crunch if the Atlanta Braves wanted to keep everyone, the fact is that some players will not be brought back, and the roster will sort itself out.
(Editor’s Note: Braves Options Guy has taken a sabbatical from Twitter, but you can send any comments or questions to him at @OFRSports or in the comments section below.)