Restoring the rosters: No. 3 – Atlanta

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
No. 18 – Oakland
No. 17 – St. Louis
No. 16 – Florida
No. 15 – San Francisco
No. 14 – Texas
No. 13 – Cleveland
No. 12 – Minnesota
No. 11 – Arizona
No. 10 – Los Angeles (AL)
No. 9 – Toronto
No. 8 – Boston
No. 7 – Colorado
No. 6 – Montreal/Washington
No. 5 – New York (AL)
No. 4 – Philadelphia
Once I put all of these rosters down on paper a month ago and started trying to grade them, it was obvious right away that there was a clear top two. After that, it was really hard to separate the next eight teams making up the rest of the top 10. The Braves initially figured into the middle of that pack. That they ended up at No. 3 was in large part due to a 21-year-old who was shipped off by the team before even making it out of Rookie ball.
Rotation
Adam Wainwright
Tommy Hanson
Kevin Millwood
Jason Marquis
Kenshin Kawakami
Bullpen
Neftali Feliz
Dan Meyer
Kris Medlen
Joey Devine
Zach Miner
Joe Nelson
Jo-Jo Reyes
That 21-year-old is Feliz, of course. He’s allowed five hits and one walk in 22 innings for the Rangers, giving this pen a huge boost. Medlen’s emergence hasn’t hurt either, even if his ERA is suddenly back up again because of some dreadful mishandling from manager Bobby Cox.
The rotation is obviously impressive, even with Tom Glavine no longer in the mix. Wainwright is a Cy Young candidate, and Hanson has a 3.07 ERA as a rookie. Even Kawakami has a 3.97 ERA in his 25 starts. He beat out Kyle Davies, Charlie Morton, Reyes and Matt Harrison for the last spot. Jason Schmidt and Chuck James weren’t considered.
Lineup
SS Yunel Escobar
LF Mark DeRosa
3B Chipper Jones
C Brian McCann
RF Jermaine Dye
1B Adam LaRoche
CF Andruw Jones
2B Rafael Furcal
Bench
INF Martin Prado
1B-OF Garrett Jones
OF Jeff Francoeur
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
SS Elvis Andrus
The lineup is plenty strong and flexible, with only really center field as an area of concern. If Andruw’s body can’t take the pounding these days, then one would have to try Francoeur, Kelly Johnson or Jordan Schafer there. Maybe Jason Heyward next year, though the game’s No. 1 prospect is going to be a right fielder for the Braves.
I put Furcal at second base for defense, but he’s been outplayed by Prado this year and Johnson may also be a better option going forward. Or one could sacrifice some defense and go with DeRosa there, opening up left field for the still red-hot Jones or Francoeur.
Chipper is the mainstay, of course. He’s the only player on one of the top three teams in these rankings to have won a World Series with the club that drafted him.
Summary
While it seems like their minor league system hasn’t been as strong in the aughts as it was in the 90’s, the Braves have continued to churn out talent. It’s just too bad so much of it is currently playing in Texas. The Mark Teixeira trade was a huge failure that’s going to handicap the club for years to come. Since their postseason streak ended in 2006, the Braves have won 79, 84 and 72 games. They’re on pace to finish over .500 this year, but they’ve seen their postseason chances drop sharply recently because of their struggles to score runs. Help is on the way in the form of Heyward, first baseman Freddie Freeman and Schafer. The Braves will need to trust their young talent this time, as filling in with veterans just hasn’t worked out very well for them.

Are the Cardinals about to go on a free agent binge?

John Mozeliak AP
Associated Press
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The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.

St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.

The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.

Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?

Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.

 

Bobby Valentine on short list to be U.S. Ambassador to Japan

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Former MLB player Bobby Valentine attends Annual Charity Day hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald, BGC and GFI at BGC Partners, INC on September 12, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald)
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There is literally nothing you could tell me that the incoming administration is considering which would shock me anymore. As such, I saw this story when I woke up this morning, blinked once, took a sip of coffee, closed the browser window and just went on with my morning, as desensitized as a wisdom tooth about to be yanked.

Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that Former Red Sox, Mets and Rangers manager Bobby Valentine is on a short-list of candidates for the job of United States Ambassador to Japan:

The 66-year-old, who currently serves as Sacred Heart University’s athletics director, has engaged in preliminary discussions with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team regarding the position.

When contacted Thursday night, Valentine refused comment.

Huh. Given his history, I’d have assumed Valentine would be a better choice for the CIA, but what do I know?

Valentine managed the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons, leading the team to a championship in 2005. He also knows the current prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, as both went to USC. Assuming championship teams meet the country’s leader in Japan like they do in the United States, Valentine has at least twice the amount of experience with top political leaders than does, say, Ned Yost, so that’s something.

The former manager, more importantly, is friends with Donald Trump’s brother, with the two of them going way back. Which, given how this transition is going, seems like a far more important set of qualifications than anything else on this list.