This past October the Braves came within a run of their first National League Championship Series appearance since 2001.
In the weeks since, they've set out to make sure they score more and allow fewer runs in 2020.
After seeing a 2-1 NLDS series lead against the Cardinals slip away, including a Game 4 loss in which they led after seven innings, the Atlanta club has been the most active team in free agency since the postseason ended, most recently signing catcher Travis d'Arnaud to a two-year, $16 million deal on Sunday. The deal was just the latest for the Braves, who have also inked big-name reliever Will Smith and re-signed relievers Chris Martin and Darren O'Day and catcher Tyler Flowers.
“We’ve been pretty clear about needing someone to add to the roster and we had Travis near the top,” general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. “We like the fit in the clubhouse, we like the bat as well. ... Travis is a guy we identified and tried to get a deal done with.”
Earlier this offseason the Braves re-signed Flowers, but Brian McCann retired and left the Braves with just Flowers behind the plate. The two will likely split time, but the respective deals -- Flowers got $4 million on a one-year deal, while d'Arnaud got $16 million over two years -- speaks to how the timeshare might shake out.
In the 30-year-old d'Arnaud, the Braves are getting a player whose major league career was arguably on the ropes coming into the 2019 season. After a number of injury-plagued and disappointing years with the Mets, the New York club released him in early May and he caught on with the Dodgers, who then sold him to the Rays less than a week later.
In typical Rays fashion, d'Arnaud experienced a revitalization with the club. Manager Kevin Cash wasn't afraid to use him in various roles, including at first base and designated hitter, while also moving him up and down the lineup, with the backstop even logging 69 plate appearances at leadoff. In response, d'Arnaud hit .263/.323/.459 in his 92 games with the Rays, bopping a career-high 16 homers and 67 RBI.
The Braves boast a more potent offense than the Swiss Army Rays, so d'Arnaud isn't likely to challenge Ronald Acuna Jr. for the leadoff role in Atlanta, but he could hit fifth or sixth in a lineup that figures to score plenty of runs this year. That puts him on the fantasy radar at a position as weak as catcher, even if he's part of a timeshare.
As noted, just a few runs in either direction could be the difference between a good year and an unforgettable year for the Braves in 2020.
Reddick Undergoes Shoulder Surgery
After undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder on Friday, Josh Reddick is expected to be ready for spring training in February.
What role he'll have, and whether it'll even be as a member of the Astros, remains to be seen.
Reddick underwent surgery to address the AC joint in his non-throwing shoulder, per the Astros. The team said he's expected to make a full recovery by the start of spring training.
The bigger question is what the Astros envision for the 32-year-old, who will earn $13 million in the final year of a four-year, $52 million contract in 2020 before hitting free agency at season's end. Reddick hit .275 with 14 homers and five steals in 141 games last season but has been a below-average offensive player, by wRC+, in each of the last two years.
Compound that with the fact that the Astros are stocked with position players -- Michael Brantley, George Springer, Yordan Alvarez and Jake Marisnick are all under team control through at least this upcoming season -- and that Kyle Tucker, the heir apparent in right field, appears to have finally arrived with a strong close to the 2019 season and the path to playing time for Reddick in Houston appears difficult. Of course, finding a trade partner might also prove difficult if the Astros aren't willing to eat a big chunk of the money owed to the veteran outfielder.
For their part, the Astros haven't expressed interest in or been rumored to be looking to move Reddick. But it will be interesting to see how they approach their outfield surplus heading into spring.
M's, Prospect Agree To Historic Deal
Evan White isn't yet a household name. The Mariners appear willing to bet millions of dollars that he will be.
The M's are reportedly set to sign the 23-year-old first baseman to a six-year, $24 million contract that includes three club option years that could make the deal worth as much as $55.5 million, according to MLB.com. The Mariners didn't publicly confirm nor deny the Friday report, with expectations that a deal might be finalized Monday.
The deal would be historic in that it would be the first time a player with zero experience playing above Double-A received a long-term deal from a team. Three other players have signed long-term deals without any MLB service time, all of them in this decade: Eloy Jimenez, Scott Kingery and Jon Singleton.
White, a first-round pick of the Mariners in the 2017 MLB Draft, has done nothing but hit since becoming pro. Over three minor league seasons he owns a .296/.361/.471 line and hit .293/.350/.488 with 18 homers in 92 games with Double-A Arkansas this past season.
“Evan is a really mature kid, and we're going to give him an opportunity in Spring Training and see where he goes,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said at the end of the regular season. “We have enough depth with Vogey and with Austin Nola to believe that if it's Evan's time, we're going to give him the chance to make it his time.”
What this deal doesn't do, some were quick to point out, is guarantee that White will be the team's starting first baseman on Opening Day. Rather, it allows spring training to be treated as a meritocracy -- which it should be anyway, though we know that's not how the business side of the sport works -- where White can be given the job based on his performance without concern about service time implications.
First base isn't as deep as it once was and White's performances in the minors make him an intriguing player, but he's got a long way to go to be fantasy relevant outside of AL-only and fairly deep mixed leagues at this point. Keep an eye on the competition in spring, though.
National League Quick Hits: The Mets have interest in potentially trading for Pirates outfielder Starling Marte. The Pirates are in rebuild mode and it would make sense for them to shop Marte on the trade market. The 31-year-old is under team control for two more seasons. Marte is coming off the best season of his career in which he set new highs in home runs, RBI and runs scored. He slashed .295/.342/.503 with 23 home runs, 82 RBI, 97 runs and 25 stolen bases. In fantasy terms he is a rare five-category stud. Moving to a new team could help his fantasy value -- the Pirates play in a pitcher-friendly park and haven't been able to surround him with much talent in the batting order. The Mets were one of the most active teams last offseason and could be again. Their lineup currently projects to start J.D. Davis in left field, Brandon Nimmo in center and Michael Conforto in right ... According to Jon Morosi of MLB.com, the Cubs have shown continued interest in trading for Royals' second baseman Whit Merrifield. The 30-year-old just finished the first season of an extremely team-friendly four-year, $16.25 million extension that he signed prior to the 2019 season. While he would be a perfect fit atop the Cubs' lineup, he'll require a significant haul of prospects in order to get a deal done ... Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Reds are among the clubs showing interest in Zack Wheeler. Cincinnati had interest in Yasmani Grandal and could potentially now pivot to Wheeler with Grandal off the market. The Reds' offense needs improvement more than their pitching, but adding Wheeler further strengthens a rotation that would look quite formidable. They'll have to fend off plenty of other suitors, though, as the market for the right-hander is looking pretty robust ... Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports that the Phillies are pursuing Didi Gregorius. The Phillies already have Jean Segura, but if they added Gregorius the idea would be to move Segura to a different position or trade him. It's debatable whether Gregorius would be an upgrade at shortstop, but he no doubt has the endorsement of new Phils skipper Joe Girardi, who managed him in New York. The Reds have also been connected to Gregorius ... Jayson Stark of The Athletic reports that the Diamondbacks are "more open" to trading Robbie Ray than they have been in the past. Ray is projected to make more than $10 million in his final year of arbitration eligibility before hitting the free agent market next winter. Stark says that the D-backs are looking for "controllable pitching" in return for the left-hander. Ray's 4.34 ERA in 2019 was his highest in three years, but he also struck out a career-high 235 batters over 174 1/3 innings ... Cubs acquired RHP Jharel Cotton from the Athletics for cash considerations. The A's designated Cotton for assignment on Wednesday. The 27-year-old right-hander last pitched in the majors back in 2017 when he went 9-10 with a 5.58 ERA in 24 starts for Oakland. He underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery in late 2017 and missed the entire 2018 season. He made 18 minor-league rehab appearances in 2019 with unimpressive results. Cotton will serve as organizational depth in the Cubs' system and could reemerge as a reliever down the road.
American League Quick Hits: White Sox signed 1B Jose Abreu to a three-year, $50 million contract extension. Abreu accepted the team's qualifying offer last week, but his new contract will replace that deal and tack two additional years on. The veteran first baseman is coming off a season that saw him put up a .284/.330/.503 batting line with 33 home runs and 123 RBI. He will turn 33 in January ... Darren Wolfson of KSTP-TV reports that the Twins have "kicked the tires" on a few third basemen, including Josh Donaldson and Todd Frazier. The Twins currently have Miguel Sano penciled in at third base, but moving him to first base and non-tendering C.J. Cron "appears to be one of many options they’re discussing," per Wolfson. Donaldson's market looks to be pretty robust, so the Twins will have to bid aggressively to get him if that's the route they decide to take ... Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports that the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Reds, Braves and Rangers are "pretty heavily involved" in talks with Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna has also previously been connected to the White Sox, although it's unclear whether they'd still have the budget for him after signing Yasmani Grandal. Morosi adds that Ozuna could land a contract for as long as five years. While his performance the last two years in St. Louis was up and down, Ozuna is arguably the top free agent outfielder and he just turned 29 earlier this month ... The Mariners view outfielder Domingo Santana as a trade chip this offseason. General manager Jerry Dipoto views the starting outfield as Mitch Haniger in right field, Mallex Smith in center and Kyle Lewis in left. That would leave Santana on the small side of a platoon with Dan Vogelbach at designated hitter. The 27-year-old Santana doesn't fit into the Mariners' plan to build around youth. The club has elite outfield prospects Jared Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez on the way, with Jake Fraley being yet another intriguing young outfielder who has already made his debut. Santana was limited by injury in 2019 but hit well when able to play -- slashing .253/.329/.441 with 21 home runs and 69 RBI in 451 at-bats. He chipped in eight stolen bases as well despite being one of the largest players in the league. He should have a fair amount of trade value and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him on the move in the coming weeks.