Knowing what our division rivals are up to is important in understanding how competitive the Nationals can potentially be this upcoming season. So, as I mentioned yesterday when we took a look at the Mets, we’re going to check in on the other teams in the NL East from time to time. To continue with our discussion from yesterday, let’s take a look at the offseason agenda facing the Atlanta Braves.
First up, the team has five arbitration cases to address this winter but none of those players seem like obvious non-tender candidates. Michael Bourn, the team’s prized acquisition this past July, will be entering the final year of team control before free agency so it’s possible the team could look to discuss an extension with him. There could be some internal hesitance, considering how poorly the extension they signed Nate McClouth to after acquiring him a few years ago has worked out, but it seems likely that the idea will at least be explored.
The team is fortunate as they have an abundance of arms available for the starting rotation next year. Having as many as ten options gives the team great depth but opens the door to speculation regarding whether or not they deal one or two of those arms for a big bat. With a lineup that is mostly set, it’s tough to determine where that big bat might play, however.
There has to be hope that Jason Heyward merely suffered through a sophomore slump season and will return to form in 2012. There also has to be hope that Dan Uggla will rediscover his ability to hit something other than home runs and that Chipper Jones can remain healthy for one more season. Who replaces Jones at third is still a big question mark that while important, may not be a priority of the team’s front office at this point in time.
One of Atlanta’s strengths in 2011 was the backend of their bullpen – Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, and Eric O’Flaherty. All three were heavily used this past season so the Braves could seek an additional bullpen arm to compliment the trio.
The Braves finished 2011 in second place, having once led the NL Wild Card race before collapsing in the season’s final weeks. Keeping healthy, maintaining their depth, and solidifying their bench could result in a playoff bound Braves team in 2012.
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