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.
Adam Wainwright
Tommy Hanson
Kevin Millwood
Jason Marquis
Kenshin Kawakami
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.
SS Yunel Escobar
LF Mark DeRosa
3B Chipper Jones
C Brian McCann
RF Jermaine Dye
1B Adam LaRoche
CF Andruw Jones
2B Rafael Furcal
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.
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.

Orioles acquire Mark Trumbo from Mariners for Steve Clevenger

Mark Trumbo
AP Photo/Joe Nicholson
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As first reported by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma Tribune and now confirmed by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Mariners have traded first baseman and corner outfielder Mark Trumbo to the Orioles in exchange for catcher and first baseman Steve Clevenger. More to come.

Cardinals finished runner-up to Red Sox in David Price sweepstakes

David Price
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

These kind of after-the-ink-has-dried reports have to be taken with a grain of salt for a variety of reasons, but they’re fantastic conversation-starters …

Bob Nightengale of USA Today says the Cardinals “finished runner-up” to the Red Sox in the bidding for free agent left-hander David Price, who signed with Boston on Monday for a record seven years and $217 million.

There were reports early on that the Red Sox were going to have to overpay on Price because he wanted to either stay in Toronto or make the move to the more pitcher-friendly National League. And maybe they did go significantly above and beyond the next-best offer to land him.

But the report from Nightengale serves as an indication that the Cardinals are ready and willing to spend big money ahead of next week’s Winter Meetings in Nashville. Does that chunk of change now get directed toward Jason Heyward? Or might the Cardinals pounce one of the falling dominos in this still-loaded starting pitching market? What about both?

St. Louis lost Lance Lynn to Tommy John surgery last month and both Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha carry some injury concerns into 2016. There’s money to spend there with a new billion-dollar local television deal about ready to kick in.

Pirates expressing interest in Justin Masterson

Justin Masterson
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has become the king of the reclamation project. And it sounds like he’s about to take on another big one …

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the Pirates have expressed interest in free agent Justin Masterson. The expectation is that it will be a one-year deal with the goal of rebuilding the right-hander’s value in an environment where many other struggling veteran pitchers have executed significant career turnarounds.

Masterson earned his first (and only) All-Star nod in 2013 when he registered a 3.45 ERA, 195 strikeouts, and three shutouts in 32 appearances with the Indians. But he had a 5.88 ERA in 128 2/3 innings between Cleveland and St. Louis in 2014 and he continued struggling to the tune of a 5.61 ERA with the Red Sox in 2015.

It’s not clear whether the Bucs would try him as a starter or reliever.

Zack Greinke deal “could come soon,” Dodgers and Giants lead the bidding

Zack Greinke
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Jordan Zimmermann signed with the Tigers on Sunday for five years, $110 million. David Price signed with the Red Sox on Tuesday for seven years, $217 million.

Two big dominos have fallen in this loaded free agent market for starting pitchers, and another big one is about to go …

FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal says a deal for Zack Greinke “could come soon” and it’s currently “Dodgers vs. Giants” at the top of the bidding ladder.

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick confirms that both the Dodgers and Giants are looking for an answer from Greinke, adding that the 32-year-old right-hander seeks a five- or six-year deal with a greater average annual value (AAV) than what Price just secured from Boston. That number would be $31 million, so we’re talking something close to $32 million through 2020-2021.

Greinke opted out of the remaining three years and $71 million contract with Los Angeles in October after posting a 1.66 ERA and 0.84 WHIP across 222 2/3 regular-season innings in 2015. He finished second to the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta in the National League Cy Young Award balloting.