Key Additions: SP Shelby Miller, RP Jason Grilli, RP Jim Johnson, C A.J. Pierzynski, OF Jonny Gomes
Atlanta’s biggest acquisition in the offseason came in the form of a total restocking of their farm system. That must be noted in any discussion surrounding the Braves, but in the spirit of previewing the 2015 season, those notable names do not appear.
Right-hander Shelby Miller was the biggest name to arrive in Atlanta from a Major League perspective, and the 24-year-old has already submitted 370 quality innings at the Major League level as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. Miller struggled in 2014 (3.74 ERA, 4.54 FIP) but Atlanta is blessed with one of the best pitching coaches in the business in Roger McDowell, and that should undoubtedly strengthen his chances of a bounce back.
Elsewhere, the Braves basically stocked up on veteran cast-offs and renewal projects. Both Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson have extensive closer experience, but Grilli has battled big-time injury issues and Johnson simply couldn’t get anyone out (7.09 ERA) during the 2014 campaign. It would be huge for Fredi Gonzalez and company to get something out of one of those two options at the backend of the bullpen. Pierzynski and Gomes are both platoon-level pieces at this stage, but each will play a significant role when coupled with other options at both catcher and corner outfield spots.
Key Subtractions: OF Jason Heyward, OF Justin Upton, C/OF Evan Gattis, SP Ervin Santana, SP Aaron Harang
If you didn’t notice in examining the lists of players both coming and going, the catalog of players who left town is much more impressive. To that point, the Braves parted with three of their best power sources via trade this off-season, while also losing two solid veterans in the starting rotation.
In particular, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis leave behind a massive hole in the power department from the right side of the plate. Atlanta did not move swiftly to grab an impact bat on that side, unless you can count Jonny Gomes, and the Braves are simply taking the long-term view by acquiring high-end prospects as a part of the three separate trades.
The loss of Santana and Harang could be felt, especially if the fifth starter battle falls flat, but neither represented a cost that made sense for a non-competing club in 2015.
Next: 3 Players to Watch