Outside of James Paxton getting traded to the Yankees, and Adrian Beltre announcing his retirement last week, there hasn’t been a lot activity to begin the MLB off-season. That was until yesterday, when the Atlanta Braves became the first team to make significant additions to their team via the free agency market.
Now I’m not a Braves fan, but I love the race that’s forming in the NL East between the Phillies and Braves. These two teams have the talent and youth to be battling for the top spot in the East for at least the next few years, and it’s sure to be one of the more interesting divisions to watch in the coming years. Also, a lot of my fellow bloggers are Philly fans so this post can serve as a friendly reminder that their team needs to respond back, because Atlanta isn’t playing around this off-season.
Sure, Atlanta brought on two aging veterans in the twilight of their careers with Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann, but that’s exactly why this is a move that immediately helps the team and helps to set them up for long term success.
The signing of Donaldson is the biggest risk here since we truly don’t know what version of Donaldson Atlanta is getting. Entering his age 33 season and coming off a season that was derailed by shoulder and calf injuries (which tend to linger), there is reasonable doubt that $23 million is too large of an investment at this stage of his career. I think it is, but it’s the one-year part that helps the team the most here. Donaldson is already going to provide leadership to a team ripe with young talent, but more importantly, he brings playoff experience. The Braves previous 3B, Johan Camargo, didn’t have a bad year and he is only 24, but he also didn’t have a hit in 16 postseason at-bats last year so if Donaldson can stay healthy a full season and offer production closer to his 2015-2017 self then the Braves came away with a win in this signing.
McCann is the much wiser investment for Atlanta with all of the teams’ recent successes. It was no secret that it was a crop of young talent that helped Atlanta win the NL East title last year, and there is only more on the way. Especially with Atlanta’s pitching staff as the Braves still have one of the leagues’ better farm systems. McCann was solely brought on to help guide and mold this young pitching staff into one of the league’s most feared. He’s also coming from the Houston Astros which is supposed to have one of the best analytical departments in all of baseball so he’s definitely coming over with some needed insight and leadership for a team looking to create a postseason powerhouse similar to the one the city had in the 90s. However, it’s more than just a proven track record and a world series ring that McCann now brings to the team, but a sense of urgency as well. McCann began his career in Atlanta, made the playoffs in Atlanta, but never won. He’s back to finish that job now.
Now with all the activity that Atlanta just made, it’s time for the Phillies to respond. We all know they have big money to spend since there has been speculation that they might sign both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, the two biggest free agents this off-season. However, that is all it is, speculation. I definitely have my money on Philadelphia getting at least one of these superstars, but it’s time to get more aggressive and not wait on these players. Offer more money, or shop for some fall-back options. Just make something happen because right now, Atlanta is still sitting pretty as the NL East favorites for the next few years.
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