Atlanta Braves – MLB Trade Rumors 2019-04-24T18:01:04Z WordPress Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Angels Select Contract Of Sam Freeman]]> 2019-04-24T00:32:03Z 2019-04-24T00:30:31Z 7:29pm: The move is now official. Justin Upton was shifted to the 60-day injured list to clear a 40-man roster spot. That doesn’t seem to reflect upon his outlook, as he was already expected to be sidelined for the first two to three months of the season with a turf toe injury.

5:59pm: The Angels will select the contract of lefty Sam Freeman in order to activate him for tonight’s game, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times was among those to tweet. It’s one of several pitching moves for the Halos this evening.

Righty Justin Anderson was recalled to join the roster along with Freeman. Right-handers  Taylor Cole and Luke Bard were sent down on optional assignment to clear space on the 25-man.

Freeman, 31, caught on with the Angels just before the start of the season after he was released by the Braves. He wasn’t at his best in 2018, pitching to a 4.29 ERA. Though he managed a 52.1% groundball rate and rung up 10.4 opposing batters per nine innings on strikes over his 50 1/3 frames, Freeman also permitted an unhealthy number of walks (5.7 BB/9).

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Latest On Braves’ Bullpen]]> 2019-04-18T04:34:26Z 2019-04-18T04:34:26Z After losing closer Arodys Vizcaino to season-ending shoulder surgery Wednesday, Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos unsurprisingly acknowledged that his club will consider multiple avenues to improving what was already a struggling relief corps (links via’s Mark Bowman and Gabe Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). Atlanta, per Anthopoulos, is going to look to “do what we can … both internally and externally.”

Vague as the comment may be, the minds of all Braves fans are zeroed in on one name: free-agent Craig Kimbrel. However, both Bowman and Burns suggest that a match between Kimbrel and the Braves remains unlikely, as the team isn’t keen on inking its former closer to a multi-year pact. Cognizant of upcoming restrictions on their international spending abilities, the Braves are apparently also placing an extra emphasis on the draft pick they’d forfeit to sign Kimbrel. It’d be a surprise if that were a primary factor in their thinking, though. Atlanta already has a deep farm, and they recently ensured that their two brightest young stars will be on the roster for upwards of a decade. Stockpiling depth and trade capital is an ever-important endeavor, but draft forfeitures shouldn’t be the primary roadblock if the two sides eventually land in the same ballpark in terms of years and dollars.

It seems there’s still a gap, although Kimbrel’s precise asking price isn’t clear. A weekend report from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal pegged Kimbrel’s price point at something in the vicinity of the three-year deals received by Wade Davis ($52MM) and Zack Britton ($39MM) over the past two offseasons, but even those contracts have a fairly notable range between them. For Atlanta, the annual value isn’t a sticking point so much as the length. A three-year deal, per Burns, “is a commitment the Braves won’t make.”

The question for the Braves, if Kimbrel isn’t the solution, becomes one of where they can turn for improvement. The free-agent market is rather bare beyond him at this point. Old friend Bud Norris remains unsigned but, like Kimbrel, wouldn’t be ready immediately. Veteran Ryan Madson is without a team, but as of early February, he was reportedly pondering whether he even planned to pitch in 2019. He’d need even longer to get up to speed.

The mid-April trade market isn’t likely to be any better, as most teams will be reluctant to sell off veteran assets so early. The Blue Jays made a pair of early moves to ship out Kendrys Morales and Kevin Pillar, but financial motivations and a desire to clear space for younger players fueled those deals. Their bullpen isn’t in the same situation. There’s sure to be some depth hitting the waiver wire in the coming weeks, but Atlanta doesn’t have a strong waiver priority, and the preference would presumably be to add more stability than someone who’d recently been designated for assignment anyhow.

Barring a drop in Kimbrel’s asking price, the likeliest outcome looks to be that the Braves try to patch things from within. To this point, none of their vaunted young starting pitching prospects have been tried out as a reliever (with the exception of a lone Touki Toussaint long-relief appearance following a short Sean Newcomb start). It’s worth seeing whether someone like Toussaint, Kyle Wright or Bryse Wilson can step up in the late innings as the team looks for ways to help a relief corps that entered play Wednesday with a 5.43 ERA before being saddled with its second loss in as many days.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Arodys Vizcaino Undergoes Season-Ending Shoulder Surgery]]> 2019-04-17T21:06:48Z 2019-04-17T20:03:19Z The Braves have announced that closer Arodys Vizcaino has undergone season-ending shoulder surgery. The procedure involved a labrum clean-up and the removal of scar tissue.

This news represents a major hit to a Braves relief unit that was already under fire. That’s true of many other clubs — including several division rivals — but that doesn’t make it easier to bear. A.J. Minter, the club’s other top option for the ninth inning, has scuffled out of the gates. Others in the bullpen currently include Wes Parsons, Luke Jackson, Jesse Biddle, Shane Carle and Chad Sobotka, although of that bunch, Carle and Sobotka have struggled quite a bit in the season’s first few weeks.

The Atlanta organization isn’t short on promising arms in the upper minors, though the bulk of their top-regarded arms are in rotation roles. Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright opened the year in the big league rotation, in fact, though each has since been optioned down to Triple-A Gwinnett. Southpaws Luiz Gohara and Kolby Allard are both starting at the Triple-A level as well.

Right-hander Mike Soroka, arguably the most promising young arm the Braves have in-house, didn’t appear to be an option in the hours leading up to the news on Vizcaino’s shoulder. To the contrary, Mark Bowman of tweeted that afternoon that it’s likely that Soroka will be recalled to start tomorrow’s game for the Braves. He’ll at least temporarily step into a rotation that is expected to get top starter Mike Foltynewicz back by the end of the month.

It won’t go unnoticed that there is still a rather prominent free agent reliever still left unsigned. Long-time Braves closer extraordinaire Craig Kimbrel held talks earlier in the winter but failed to come to terms with the value-conscious Atlanta organization. He’s still reportedly seeking a multi-year deal; the Braves will be loath to commit to a lengthy accord, but Kimbrel’s leverage may be on the rise as late-inning relief units falter around baseball.

Signing Kimbrel before the June draft would cost the Braves a pick in the 2020 draft, as Kimbrel rejected a qualifying offer from the Red Sox upon conclusion of the 2018 season. Nevertheless, the on-paper fit is now more pronounced than ever, and fan outcry for the organization to broker a reunion with an already beloved franchise icon has been audible since late in the offseason.

The Braves kicked off the winter with a high-profile signing of Josh Donaldson but then went largely dormant, negotiating only small-scale returns for Brian McCann and Nick Markakis. At the time of the Markakis signing, general manager Alex Anthopoulos spoke of the contract’s below-market rate perhaps giving the team flexibility to make further moves down the line — in addition to Braves leadership already having spoken of increased spending capacity earlier in the winter — but that has yet to come to fruition.

As for Vizcaino, the injury may well prove to be the end of his Braves tenure. The hard-throwing righty entered the season with five years, 168 days of Major League service time, meaning he’s already now surpassed the six-year service mark needed to qualify for free agency. Perhaps the Braves will look to retain him on a bargain contract next offseason, but Vizcaino will have the ability to listen to offers from any and all interested parties. He’ll quite likely be forced to settle for a one-year deal with a low base salary and plenty of incentives, if not a minor league contract, as teams throughout the league look at him as a potential bounceback candidate. He won’t turn 29 until November, though, so at the very least, Vizcaino will have age on his side in free agency.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Braves Place Jonny Venters On 10-Day IL]]> 2019-04-16T20:19:37Z 2019-04-16T05:07:27Z The Braves announced today that they’ve placed southpaw Jonny Venters on the 10-day injured list. He’s dealing with a strained calf, though his struggles likely played a role in the timing. Venters made a miraculous return to the majors last year after five full seasons away owing to a brutal run of arm injuries. He pitched well enough to be tendered by the Atlanta organization. But Venters struggled this spring and has continued to do so through six regular-season appearances, over which he has surrendered six earned runs in just 2 2/3 innings.

TC Zencka <![CDATA[NL East Injury Notes: Frazier, Foltynewicz]]> 2019-04-15T03:29:40Z 2019-04-15T02:57:36Z Let’s grab an update on a couple of players who might returning to NL East action…

  • Todd Frazier has a good chance of making his season debut later this week, per’s Anthony DiComo (via Twitter). The Mets third baseman missed the first couple weeks of the 2019 season with a left oblique injury, but he’s on the return trail and could join the team in Philadelphia. J.D. Davis has had his share of moments while playing third in Frazier’s stead, batting .242/.375/.485, including a home run on April 6th – with an exit velocity of 114.6 mph – that was the fourth hardest-hit HR by a Mets player since Statcast started tracking the data in 2015. Both of his home runs this season came in that April 6th contest against the Nationals until he hit his third tonight against the Braves. Given the way Pete Alonso has played at first base, the Mets will face a roster crunch when Frazier does return. Dominic Smith, Luis Guillorme and Davis all have options remaining, making them notably vulnerable.
  • Braves righty Mike Foltynewicz will make his final scheduled rehab start this week before likely joining the Braves rotation for his 2019 debut, per The Athletic’s David O’Brien (via Twitter). Folty enjoyed a breakout 4.2 rWAR 2018, going 13-10 with a 2.85 ERA over a career high 31 starts. The stellar results were driven by year-over-year improvements in strikeouts per nine innings (from 8.4 K/9 to 9.9 K/9) and home runs allowed per nine (from 1.2 HR/9 to 0.8 HR/9). Both his fastball and sinker gained a full mph or more from 2017 to 2018, while he also relied more heavily on his slider, which excelled as a wipe out pitch (36.8 Whiff%, 42.4 K%). Sean Newcomb’s recent demotion opens up a spot in the rotation, as Monday’s day off will allow a four-man rotation until Folty is likely to return.
Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Braves Place Arodys Vizcaino On IL, Option Sean Newcomb]]> 2019-04-14T16:59:55Z 2019-04-14T16:59:55Z The Braves have placed closer Arodys Vizcaino on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to April 11, and optioned left-hander Sean Newcomb to Triple-A Gwinnett, Gabe Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. In corresponding moves, the team recalled righties Jacob Webb and Dan Winkler from Gwinnett.

Vizcaino has been battling shoulder inflammation, which is part of the reason why he hasn’t pitched since April 7. This is the second straight year in which Vizcaino has dealt with shoulder problems. He did open the season in decent fashion, though, with four innings of one-run, three-hit ball and six strikeouts against three walks. His absence should lead to more save opportunities for co-closer A.J. Minter, who converted his lone chance on April 8.

Newcomb, 25, emerged as a capable starter for the Braves from 2017-18, when he combined for a 4.06 ERA/4.16 FIP and 9.14 K/9 over 264 innings. However, Newcomb walked 4.7 batters per nine during that span and has continued to fight control problems this year. Prior to his demotion, Newcomb posted more walks (eight) than strikeouts (five) across his first three starts, during which he yielded a combined six earned runs. There’s no indication how long Newcomb will stay in the minors, but for now, his rotation spot is likely to go to fellow promising youngster Touki Toussaint. The just-recalled righty impressed during six innings of relief in a win over the Mets on Saturday.

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Brian McCann Plans To Return April 17]]> 2019-04-15T17:18:09Z 2019-04-14T02:19:02Z
  • Braves catcher Brian McCann is aiming to come off the 10-day injured list April 17, the first day he’s eligible to return, David O’Brien of The Athletic reports. McCann landed on the IL with a right hamstring strain, temporarily derailing his homecoming season in Atlanta after just 19 plate appearances. Fortunately for the Braves, fellow backstop Tyler Flowers has come roaring out of the gates this year, which has helped offset McCann’s absence.
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    Ty Bradley <![CDATA[Braves Recall Touki Toussaint, Option Kyle Wright]]> 2019-04-13T17:59:11Z 2019-04-13T17:43:48Z Per a team release, the Braves have recalled top prospect Touki Toussaint from Triple-A Gwinnett and optioned another, righty Kyle Wright, to the minors.

    Toussaint, the 16th overall pick in the 2014 draft, was acquired from Arizona in a curious 2015 salary dump that also sent righty Bronson Arroyo to Atlanta. The 22-year-old broke out in a big way last season, striking out over 10 men per nine at both AA-Mississippi and AAA-Gwinnett en route to a late-season, five-start cameo in the bigs. Command has long been the question for the flamethrowing Toussaint, whose stuff – a double-plus fastball and knee-buckling curve – is said to be some of the minors’ best. Per David O’Brien of the Athletic, Toussaint will begin his 2019 MLB work out of the Braves’ bullpen.

    Wright, a 23-year-old righty selected 5th overall in the 2017 draft, and even more highly-regarded than Toussaint in most circles, has struggled mightily in his initial MLB taste. In three starts this season, the former Vanderbilt product walked (10) nearly as many as he struck out (11), and allowed a staggering four homers in just 14 innings pitched. Last season’s cameo wasn’t much better, so it may indeed be time for the 6’4 righty to simmer longer below. Wright tore through the Atlanta system in just a year and a half, but has yet to post the dominant strikeout rates the club surely hoped to see against lesser competition.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Braves Extend Ozzie Albies]]> 2019-04-12T23:47:08Z 2019-04-11T18:54:20Z The Braves continued to lock up their core pieces Thursday, announcing a contract extension with second baseman Ozzie Albies that’ll guarantee the 22-year-old a total of $35MM from 2019-25. He’ll earn $1MM apiece in 2019 and 2020, $3MM in 2021, $5MM in 2022, and $7MM annually from 2023 through 2025.

    The contract includes a pair of club options reportedly valued at $7MM apiece; the first one comes with a $4MM buyout. If both are exercised, Albies will earn a mere $45MM over the next nine seasons — four of which would have been free-agent years.

    Ozzie Albies | Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY SportsAlbies was already under control through 2023 but will now join Ronald Acuna Jr. in comprising a core that the Braves can build around beyond that point in time. Acuna’s contract was deemed by many to be bargain, but the Albies deal runs nearly the same length while checking in at just under one third of the total maximum value.

    In terms of overall guarantee, Albies topped fellow second baseman Ketel Marte, though he did so only by giving away additional years of control. Historically speaking, there’s little to no precedent for a player this young and of this caliber surrendering four would-be free-agent seasons for a maximum payout under $50MM. While there’s surely something to be said for accepting a first life-changing payday — particularly with arbitration still two years away — Albies was on track to become a free agent upon completion of his age-26 season. For comparison’s sake, Scooter Gennett earned $18MM over this three arb years despite not breaking out until he was in his first arbitration season. Jonathan Schoop, who was non-tendered after his second arbitration season, signed a one-year deal with the Twins and will earn $19.475MM across what would’ve been his three arb seasons.

    Setting aside second basemen and merely looking at players who signed extensions with between one and two years of Major League service, Christian Yelich (seven years, $49.57MM), Andrelton Simmons (seven years, $58MM) and Anthony Rizzo (seven years, $41MM) all topped the Albies guarantee handily — and did so more than four years ago. If Albies was dead-set on an extension, a $50MM baseline would have been at least commensurate with market trends — especially considering the multiple options over free-agent seasons. Instead, the deal checks in more along the lines of dated extensions signed by Starling Marte, Jedd Gyorko and Gregory Polanco.

    Frankly, this seems like the type of deal that an agent would strongly advise his client not to take. Perhaps Albies simply wanted to take the largest guarantee the Braves were willing to offer; he received just a $350K signing bonus as a prospect, after all, and his career earnings to date may not even total seven figures. From a purely human standpoint, it’s hard for any 22-year-old player without much in the way of career earnings to rebuff $35MM under the guise that he’ll earn more on a year-to-year basis beginning 24 months down the line. Presumably, all of the points made here were spelled out to Albies before he made what amounts to a life-altering decision.

    The contract serves as a reminder that the teams hold overwhelming leverage in instances such as this, and the Atlanta organization took full advantage of that reality. It’s nothing short of a coup for the Braves to land Albies for a maximum of $45MM over the next nine years just weeks after Eloy Jimenez signed a deal that can pay him as much as $75MM over eight years before he ever played a single MLB game.

    Albies, meanwhile, entered his second full big league campaign in 2019 with a career .268/.317/.453 batting line to go along with 30 homers, 49 doubles, 10 triples and 22 stolen bases (in 26 attempts). He’s off to a fast start thus far, too, having posted a .929 OPS through the season’s first 11 games. Long one of the game’s top-ranked prospects, Albies earned what figures to be the first of multiple All-Star nods last year as part of a season that both Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs pegged at 3.8 wins above replacement. Given the output he’s already demonstrated to this point in his career, it seems unfathomable that Albies wouldn’t have taken home at least $10-15MM in arbitration, and the more realistic scenario (as evidenced by Schoop and Gennett) is that he’d have done quite a bit better.

    The Braves may very well try to spin the Acuna and Albies extensions as big expenditures that’ll buy some good will with fans after a quiet offseason in which they did not spend at anywhere near the level they implied to fans several months ago. And Braves fans, to be clear, should be thrilled by both deals. However, these types of deals aren’t the type that a team can legitimately claim as alternatives to spending in free agency and in taking on salary via trades; rather, they’re the type of contracts that should empower a team to spend in those arenas, knowing full well that paying market rate for other talent is offset by the overwhelming bargains they’ve secured over a pair of homegrown assets.

    Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic first reported the agreement (via Twitter). The New York Post’s Joel Sherman reported the terms (Twitter links), with Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeting the annual breakdown.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Scott Boras On Ronald Acuna's Extension]]> 2019-04-08T04:07:33Z 2019-04-08T04:07:33Z Agent Scott Boras, who brought you the term “swellopt,” has now concocted a phrase to describe team-friendly extensions young major leaguers sign, per Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times. “Great young players are getting what I call ‘snuff contracts,’” Boras told McCullough. “And a snuff contract is that they’re trying to snuff out the market. They know the player is a great player, and he’s exhibited very little performance. So they’re coming to him at 20 and 21, and I’m going to snuff out your ability to move, to go anywhere, to do anything, and your value. And I’m going to pay you maybe 40 cents on the dollar to do it. What’s my risk?” In Boras’ estimation, the eight-year, $100MM guarantee Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr., 21, signed this week is “the king of the snuff contracts,” as it hampers the outfielder’s career earning power while giving Atlanta what looks like a sweetheart deal for a franchise player in the making.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Braves Place Brian McCann On IL, Promote Alex Jackson]]> 2019-04-07T13:22:28Z 2019-04-07T13:22:19Z 8:22am: McCann’s IL placement and Jackson’s promotion are now official, David O’Brien of The Athletic tweets.

    12:01am: Braves catcher Brian McCann left Saturday’s game after suffering a right hamstring strain that will almost certainly result in a stint on the injured list.  McCann suffered the injury sliding into third base during the fourth inning of Atlanta’s 4-2 loss to the Marlins, and left the field under the observation of team trainers.

    If that wasn’t enough of a blow to the Braves’ catching corps, Tyler Flowers replaced McCann behind the plate and was then hit on the right hand during a fifth-inning at-bat against Miami’s Tayron Guerrero.  Flowers toughed it out for the remainder of the evening, and x-rays on his injured hand didn’t reveal any fractures, the catcher told’s Mark Bowman and other reporters after the game.  While an IL placement doesn’t seem likely at this point, Flowers did think he might need a day or two to recover, leaving Atlanta rather short-staffed behind the place.

    McCann signed a one-year, $2MM contract to return to Atlanta this offseason, teaming up with Flowers as the platoon replacement for Kurt Suzuki.  McCann was keen to return to his home state and hopes to rebound from a lackluster 2018 season that saw him hit just .212/.301/.339 over 216 PA for the Astros.  Knee injuries plagued McCann over his two years in Houston, and he missed two months last season after undergoing surgery.

    Alex Jackson will be in Atlanta prior to Sunday’s game to take McCann’s spot on the 25-man roster, manager Brian Snitker told reporters (including Bowman).  Assuming Flowers is still sore, Jackson is on pace to make his Major League debut, close to five years after being selected sixth overall by the Mariners in the 2014 draft.

    Jackson was originally a catcher in high school before the Mariners moved him to the outfield upon his draft selection.  Both and Baseball America ranked Jackson within the top 30 prospects in baseball prior to the 2015 season, though his stock began to drop after a pair of forgettable seasons in Seattle’s farm system.  Even with these struggles in mind, it was still rather surprising when Jackson was unceremoniously dealt to the Braves as part of a four-player trade in November 2016, though Jackson hasn’t done much since joining Atlanta’s organization to regain his past blue chip status.

    The Braves did switch Jackson back behind the plate prior to the 2017 season, however, which has opened the door for his first taste of big league action. cites Jackson as the 28th-best prospect in Atlanta’s system, describing his likely future in the Show “as a power-only backup backstop with decent catch and throw skills.”  The same scouting report credits Jackson with improved defense as he has readjusted to his old position, though pitch-blocking remains an issue.  Still just 23 years old, Jackson has hit .234/.317/.410 over 1580 career plate appearances in the minors.

    If Flowers can’t play over the short term but also isn’t hurt enough to require an IL placement, it leaves Atlanta in a bit of a catching crunch.  Rafael Lopez is available at Triple-A, though the Braves would have to make another move to add Lopez to the 40-man roster.  Charlie Culberson is Atlanta’s emergency catcher and could back Jackson up for a couple of days at most, though Culberson didn’t think he’d played catcher since he was a ten-year-old.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Braves Outright Raffy Lopez]]> 2019-04-04T13:57:14Z 2019-04-04T13:57:14Z We’ll keep track of the latest minor transactions from around the league here…

    • Catcher Raffy Lopez cleared waivers and was sent outright to Triple-A Gwinnett by the Braves, per the league’s transactions log at Lopez, 31, was designated for assignment when Atlanta selected Matt Joyce and Josh Tomlin to their Opening Day roster. The journeyman catcher hit .176/.265/.284 in 117 plate appearances with the Padres last season and has never produced much in limited time at the MLB level. He is, however, a career .266/.340/.401 hitter in 1078 Triple-A plate appearances. The Braves acquired him from San Diego in exchange for cash back in early November, but he didn’t have a place on the active roster behind Tyler Flowers and Brian McCann.
    • Blue Jays catching prospect Max Pentecost has opted to retire,’s Chris Cotillo reports (via Twitter). Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reported late in camp that Pentecost was considering retirement as an option. The 26-year-old was the No. 11 pick of the 2014 draft but has undergone three different surgeries on his right shoulder since being selected. He missed the entire 2015 season as a result of those shoulder woes and has played in a total of just 260 minor league games (plus 11 more in the Arizona Fall League) since being drafted nearly five years ago. A healthy Pentecost showed a good bit of promise, particularly in 2016 when he hit .302/.361/.486 across two Class-A levels.
    • Tigers right-hander Grayson Long announced on Twitter that, due to “continuous injury,” he’s hanging up the spikes and returning to college to finish his degree at Texas A&M. Detroit acquired Long, now 24 years old, in the 2017 trade that sent Justin Upton to the Angels. The 2015 third-round pick didn’t pitch in 2018 as he recovered from thoracic outlet surgery — a procedure that has become increasingly common among professional pitchers in recent years but comes with a middling success rate, at best. Long showed plenty of potential in his last healthy season, tossing 137 2/3 innings of 3.01 ERA ball with averages of 8.4 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and 0.6 HR/9 in 137 2/3 innings of Double-A ball.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Braves Extend Ronald Acuna]]> 2019-04-02T21:51:49Z 2019-04-02T20:34:42Z 3:34pm: The Braves have formally announced the extension.

    Acuna will earn $1MM in both 2019 and 2020, $5MM in 2021, $15MM in 2022 and $17MM annually from 2023-26, Heyman tweets. There’s a $10MM buyout on his first $17MM option for the 2027 season.

    11:27am: In an exclamation point on a spring full of extensions, the Braves are finalizing a $100MM deal with elite youngster Ronald Acuna, according to Jeff Passan of (Twitter links). The eight-year contract comes with two option years, priced at $17MM apiece with a $10MM buyout, per the report. Acuna is represented by Alex Salazar of Gatemore Sports & Entertainment.

    The agreement will begin with the present season, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link). It’ll therefore run through at least the 2026 season, with options for the 2027 and 2028 campaigns. Acuna, who entered the current campaign at 21 years of age and with 159 days of MLB service, was on track to qualify for arbitration in 2021 (as a Super Two) and reach free agency after the 2024 campaign. Accordingly, the new deal guarantees two would-be free-agent campaigns and gives the Atlanta organization control over two more.

    Acuna won the National League’s Rookie of the Year Award last season at twenty years of age. The multi-dimensional young star launched 26 home runs and slashed .293/.366/.552 in 487 plate appearances. He also swiped 16 bags and is considered a quality outfield defender, making him one of the highest-upside players in all of baseball.

    Taking this sort of financial security is understandable for a player who didn’t secure a large bonus and still was several years removed from arbitration. But it took a massive bite out of his potential earning power as a professional ballplayer. Acuna will now be under team control through his age-30 season, with the deal maxing out at $124MM if both options are exercised.

    There’s obviously very real risk in any deal of this magnitude, but the contract is laden with upside for the Atlanta organization. Excellent young players always deliver huge surplus value during the earlier portion of their careers, when they’re earning relative peanuts; that’s the nature of the system. But locking up Acuna now also delivers the potential for the gravy train to continue into the future.

    Acuna might reasonably have anticipated something in the range of $50MM in arbitration earnings, with potential for more if he enjoys good health. If he keeps anything like his current pace, he’d have been in line for a monstrous free-agent contract in advance of his age-27 season. Instead, the Braves now have control over four more of Acuna’s mid-prime seasons — campaigns that could otherwise have been sold to the highest bidder at prices we can’t really even foresee at this point in time.

    Unsurprisingly, given his excellence, Acuna has commanded a larger guarantee than the few other players who’ve done deals this early in their careers. Eloy Jimenez just received a $43MM promise from the White Sox, more than any sub-1.000 service player, before making his debut. The Acuna deal blows that guarantee out of the water. That was inevitable: Acuna has much greater upside as an all-around performer, has already established himself in the majors, and is still younger than Jimenez.

    But it’s fair to ask whether Acuna’s contract structure is really preferable to that of Jimenez. If both of their contracts are maxed out through options, the former will have earned $124MM over ten years and sacrificed four free-agent seasons, while the latter will have received $75MM for eight years but will in effect have given up only one open-market campaign (as we explained in the post on his signing). What the Braves were willing to do obviously isn’t known, but Acuna might have been better served to have sought a lesser guarantee (with Jimenez as a presumptive floor) that secured his financial future while leaving more future free-agent seasons available to work with in the long run.

    There was never really any doubt that Acuna was a central part of the Braves’ long-term plans, but that’s now all the more clear. The club will hope that Acuna functions as an affordable superstar for the decade to come, keeping open a lengthy contention window.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Minter, Folty Nearing Returns; O'Day Shut Down]]> 2019-04-01T20:48:54Z 2019-04-01T20:48:54Z
  • David O’Brien of The Athletic tweets that the Braves plan to active southpaw A.J. Minter on Thursday — the first day he’s eligible. (Minter’s IL stint was backdated the maximum three days at the start of the season.) Mike Foltynewicz could join the rotation as soon as April 14 after making a pair of rehab outings, O’Brien adds. Right-hander Darren O’Day, unfortunately, is shutting down for a “couple weeks” due to ongoing forearm issues. Given that update, it seems as though it’ll be tough for the veteran O’Day to be ready before month’s end. O’Day missed the majority of the 2018 season due to a hyperextended elbow.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Inside The Matt Joyce Trade]]> 2019-03-31T23:24:36Z 2019-03-31T23:24:36Z
  • The Braves acquired Matt Joyce from the Giants last weekend, just three days after Joyce joined San Francisco on a minor league contract.  Rosenthal provides some details on the transaction, stating that while the Giants were prepared to part ways with Joyce regardless, Atlanta chose to send some cash to the Giants in a trade rather than simply sign Joyce when he became available.  Since league offices were closed last Saturday on the day of the trade, Joyce’s arrival in the Braves’ spring camp could have been further delayed had the two sides been required to wait for the contract to be officially approved.  With a trade, however, Joyce was able to get some time in Atlanta’s camp, which led to his placement on the club’s Opening Day roster (Joyce marked his first PA with his new team by swatting a pinch-hit homer).

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