In the previous section of this three-part story, I broke down the rift between the owners and players and how each side, right or wrong, is interpreting the current situation. In this, the final part of the series, I’ll wrap up my thoughts on the potential strike as it currently stands and what it all means for the Atlanta Braves.
PART THREE: BRAVES’ PERSPECTIVE & FINAL THOUGHTS
The trucks are packed. Some of the players are in route, preparing to report. All of the long dreary days of winter are on the verge of coming to an abrupt end. Spring Training has almost arrived…err, sorta.
The current air that exists in baseball is one of uncertainty.
“Who will give in first, the MLBPA or the owners?”
“Will I have a job by breaking of camp? Will my family have to move last minute?”
“Was it worth waiting for a better deal than the one my agent and I sat aside and declined?”
So many questions for these players unfortunate enough to be Free Agents in this tumultuous offseason. We discussed the flawed market, rise in fiscally responsible GM’s, and the owners’ ideas of revenue distribution compared to what players ask for.
We’ve talked about the big market teams dominating the system and scaling back slightly due to the luxury taxes. We’ve talked about the trend in baseball of the rebuilding club completely tearing down their big league roster in order to win long-term.
Just about every aspect I could think of in regards to this crazy winter, we’ve brought it up. All except how in the world all this plays out for your Atlanta Braves.
In the wake of this offseason, Atlanta was shaken to it’s very core by scandals involving the mishandling, and downright treachery of the former GM John Coppolella and a few of his colleagues. The resulting punishment handed down by Commissioner Manfred levied a hefty loss of top prospects the Braves had procured in the International Market, including the prize of the 2015 draft class, switch hitting SS Kevin Maitan. In the aftermath of the gutting that took place, the Braves hired Alex Anthopoulos, former stalwart GM of those recent Toronto Blue Jays playoff teams, and recently an asst GM for the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 2017 NL Champions.
Farewell, Coppy. Enter “AA.”
We’re told upon his arrival that, first off, we still have one of the top farm systems in baseball after the removal of those top prospects; second of all, we are very close to competing. After the genius trade of the seemingly immovable Matt Kemp, the Braves appeared to have created a small bit of extra salary space to add a piece or so. Alex had been public about a few things, mainly, 3B, pitching help in both the rotation and bullpen. Some reports hinted towards a bigger piece added at any of those positions, but Alex mostly brushed them aside and focussed on depth pieces or less-than-star players for right now. After all, don’t forget about that insane class next winter, including Anthopoulos’ former MVP from north of the border…
Anyway, time passes…the Braves sign no one. There are SO many players left! If not Moustakas, who would penalize us a draft pick, then perhaps Todd Frazier for 3rd, someone like Lance Lynn or Cobb for the rotation if he asks for less. And look at all those relievers left! Its gonna be a busy offseason!
And the Braves sign NO one…
Players leave the board, yes. But still, so many left. Many have said an all-star team could STILL be fielded from the available guys. In the maelstrom of it all, the possible collusion, or maybe a mutual realization that teams don’t want to go all in on this weaker class when the biggest selection of powerhouse players that has been seen in years could be available, there are still so many actual impactful big leaguers available. But still, why haven’t the Braves simply just filled a hole or two? It wouldn’t take much, in the minds of the fanbase, to shore up the bullpen and even the rotation. Sure, Camargo could be a good piece at 3B, but really? Why not at least a stop gap type?
And STILL…you know the rest.
There’s reason, I’m afraid, as to why this has happened. And when it concerns the Braves and Liberty Media, I don’t believe there’s collusion to conspire against the players. However, I do believe the reasoning for such a freeze of salary flexibility is no less nefarious…just toward the fans instead of the players.
When Kemp was traded, some reports trickled out that the payroll on the field went from it’s original total of 90 plus million dollars, as far down as 50 mil. Think about it: Freeman, Teheran and Inciarte the only big leaguers on the books for 2019. That’s it. The rest are pre arbitration eligible or currently in the arb window. Shouldn’t there be room to go make a signing? Well technically there could be, but there’s reason to believe that is not the case. You see, after taxes and fees, the Battery Atlanta and other areas of revenue in the stadium won’t be nearly as large for the players on the field as previously believed by fans. The Battery won’t put the Braves over the top among their peers…I’ve heard it put that it will simply just be one of nearly all the mixed use parks in just a decade or so from now. So, in retrospect, had it not been for that Kemp trade there may not have been any money to work with at all this year or next.
Along with not having a substantial amount to spend now on free agency, AA failed to acquire Christian Yelich, a Marlin outfielder who had been basically available since the trade of Giancarlo Stanton, and another reason attributed to aiding the lengthening of this offseason of inactivity. A premium talent under a very team friendly deal longterm was what the Braves appeared to be looking for, and could have led to aiding in the cause of attracting the “Big Dogs” next offseason. The principle reason for the failure of the deal was Alex Anthopoulos’ lack of desire to trade his young prospects away before getting a closer look at them. A key sidenote here would be that in Toronto and LA, each club either previously had or had developed under AA very large and well developed scouting departments. That was a huge part of the Dodger method that Alex spoke of very highly early on after he was first hired by Atlanta. He doesn’t have this in his current situation and could have lost his nerve to make a potentially franchise-altering move in his first year on the job without his hands and eyes on the young men he’d be trading.
There have been several rumors about other big league FA still on the market that Atlanta has reached out to in the past week or so, so we will stay tuned to any new rumors and especially if there is breaking news. They may even have a slight leg up on the non-Boras free agents who will train at the union-provided “free agent spring training facilities” in Bradenton FL, becsuse they will be lead in spring by their de facto manager of ST, Braves Asst to the GM Bo Porter. He could definitely get a better view of some guys whom Anthopoulos may be interested in and perhaps even make a good enough impression on the young men that they will choose Atlanta.
All this, of course, if the players mentioned who are available don’t decide, along with some currently active and signed players, to strike. It will be very interesting to see how the next couple weeks play out, leading up to when whole teams normally are in camp are prepping for intersquad games. If those players who attend the Boras/union camps begin to inch closer to the regular season without a job, I’ll wager many of them take deals. If they go into the season in that position, there could seriously be a work stoppage.
Lets hope nothing of that sort happens and the Braves can jump on a few key pieces that would come in handy this season and maybe the next. If there is any money left, and all this is posturing to see if they can take advantage of an insane market at the last second to save money, I think you could see a move in the next few days. If not, I’m content witb the team they plan on fielding in March.
Remind of me of the this during Spring Training, please?