With 14 players slated for arbitration and a payroll that’s stayed under $90M for the last several years, the Braves are unlikely to make many big moves this winter. Their biggest decision is probably one of their easier ones. Longtime catcher Brian McCann is expected to pull a huge free agent contract. With Evan Gattis, Gerald Laird, and Triple A prospect Christian Bethancourt all available to take over behind the dish, McCann is a luxury that Atlanta can no longer afford.
Second base is a concern given Dan Uggla’s increasingly poor performance at the plate, but trading him and the $26M remaining on his deal won’t be easy. Any takers will likely demand a healthy dose of cash as well as one or more of Atlanta’s young pitchers.
B.J. Upton had an even poorer season than Uggla, but the remaining $60M on his deal makes him absolutely toxic. No team is going to consider trading for the elder Upton under any circumstances. That means the outfield is mostly set. The Upton brothers and Jason Heyward are automatics to make the 25-man roster and Jordan Schafer is almost a shoe-in for the fourth outfielder spot, probably manning center as many, if not more, games than B.J.
One of the more interesting roster decisions will be whether to look outside the organization for a fifth outfielder or not. Now that the Braves have rejected 36-year-old Reed Johnson’s $1.6M option, they could use one of their minor leaguers such as Joey Terdoslavich or they might pursue an upgrade via trade or free agency. If Atlanta chooses to try someone new in that reserve outfield position, there are several free agent and trade candidates they might want to consider.
Rajai Davis – An outfielder that plays all three positions, Davis swatted .260 last season in Toronto, contributing an impressive 45 stolen bases. While he’d probably demand a higher salary than the Braves would want to pay a reserve, that kind of speed would be a welcome addition to a Braves team that only pilfered 64 bags all year in 2013.
Khris Davis – Davis is a talented, young outfielder on a Milwaukee Brewers team that’s full of talented outfielders. What the Brewers don’t have is good pitching. Davis hit 11 home runs in just 136 at-bats in 2013 on his way to an impressive .279 average and .596 slugging percentage. If the Braves were willing to part with one of their young pitchers, Davis might prove to be a nice reserve next season with a chance to become a starter in the years to come.
Moises Sierra – Sierra smacked 13 doubles in just 35 games for the Blue Jays last season on his way to a .290 average and a .458 slugging percentage. Like Milwaukee, Toronto has outfield depth but very little in their rotation after starters R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle. They’re also in need of a good catcher. That sounds like a potential match for the Atlanta Braves if they’re willing to deal a young arm or one of their three backstops.
Christian Yelich – This one is probably a bit of a long-shot given that Yelich is just 21-years-old and plays for the division rival Miami Marlins, but the fish are another team that could use a starter or a reasonably priced veteran behind the plate. Yelich hit .288 in 240 ABs last year. His 10 stolen bases and .370 on-base percentage suggest he might make a solid lead-off hitter that could develop more power as he grows into his 6’4″ frame.