Running down the rosters: Atlanta Braves

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Since finishing off one of the biggest collapses in NL history, the Braves have responded by doing absolutely nothing, at least when it comes to adding. They did trade away Derek Lowe and let shortstop Alex Gonzalez leave in free agency. But every member of the current 25-man projected roster below was in the organization last year.

Rotation
Jair Jurrjens – R
Tommy Hanson – R
Brandon Beachy – R
Mike Minor – L
Randall Delgado – R

Bullpen
Craig Kimbrel – R
Jonny Venters – L
Eric O’Flaherty – L
Arodys Vizcaino – R
Kris Medlen – R
Cristhian Martinez – R
Anthony Varvaro – R

Disabled list: Tim Hudson (R)
SP next in line: Julio Teheran (R), Medlen, Todd Redmond (R)
RP next in line: Robert Fish (L)(Rule 5), Peter Moylan (R), Adam Russell (R), Cody Gearrin (R)

It’s looking increasingly likely that Hudson, who is coming off back surgery, will miss at least the first couple of weeks of the season. The Braves can’t be too confident about the health of Jurrjens or Hanson, either. Of course, they have great depth with Delgado, Teheran and Medlen, but it’d be for the best if it’s not tested in early April.

The bullpen is also strong, with the game’s most untouchable one-two punch and Vizcaino seemingly ready to take on a big role in the sixth and seventh innings. The only spot that figures to be up for grabs is the last one, assuming Medlen isn’t needed in the rotation. Fish, who was taken from the Angels in the Rule 5 draft, could claim it over Varvaro with a strong spring.

I’m listing Moylan with the next in lines since he’s likely to spend the first month or two rehabbing following shoulder surgery. He’s back with the Braves on a minor league contract (and thus won’t be on the major league disabled list initially).

Lineup
CF Michael Bourn – L
LF Martin Prado – R
3B Chipper Jones – S
2B Dan Uggla – R
1B Freddie Freeman – L
C Brian McCann – L
RF Jason Heyward – L
SS Tyler Pastornicky – R

Bench
C David Ross – R
INF Jack Wilson – R
1B-OF Eric Hinske – L
OF Matt Diaz – R
OF Jose Constanza – L

Next in line: INF Drew Sutton (S), INF Brandon Hicks (R), INF Josh Wilson (R), OF Jordan Parraz (R), OF Luis Durango (S), OF Stefan Gartrell (R)

For the record, that’s not how I would arrange the lineup. Fredi Gonzalez, though, likes Uggla in that cleanup spot, no matter that it would make more sense to have him lower in the order breaking up the lefties. And while McCann spent much of the season hitting third and fourth, he was dropped down to sixth at the very end.

The roster here is probably set. I’d rather see them carry Sutton than Constanza, but that would leave them without a legitimate backup center fielder. Better yet, they could carry both and go with an 11-man pitching staff once Hudson is healthy. But figure the odds…

These Braves are still very much a threat in the NL East if things break right. However, I’d be more optimistic if I felt safe in projecting any of their starters to throw 200-220 innings. And if they had a different manager.

Mariners agree to a six-year contract with prospect Evan White

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This is a rare one: the Mariners have signed first base prospect Evan White — a player who has yet to play a game above Double-A — to a six-year, $24 million contract. The deal has three club options as well that, if exercised, could make it max out at $55.5 million over nine years.

White was the M’s first round pick in the 2017 draft, going 17th overall out of the University of Kentucky. In 2019 he played at Double-A Arkansas in the Texas League, hitting .293/.350/.488 with 18 home runs, striking out 92 times and walking 29 times in 92 games. It’s a good line in a league that is pretty pitcher-friendly. Stuart also reportedly plays excellent defense at first base.

Clearly the Mariners consider White a part of their future, but unless White flames out early in his career, he’s leaving a lot of potential money on the table.

White turns 24 early next season, which means that, even if he begins the 2020 season in the majors, starting his major league service time clock on Opening Day, he wouldn’t reach free agency until he’s poised to begin his age-33 season, assuming the Mariners exercise those options. If the Mariners place him in Triple A for anything beyond a couple of weeks to start next season, that changes to his age-34 season. A full year of Triple-A action and even some modest service time manipulation by the M’s in 2021 would put it off even longer.

At the same time, a team is unlikely to want to pay a guy millions to toil in the minors — and the M’s are guaranteeing themselves as many as nine years of White’s services — so the threat of service time manipulation is greatly reduced. Which means that, if he hits, he plays. Of course, if he hits well and continues to do so, the Mariners will have a considerable bargain on their hands, with a potential franchise cornerstone locked up at an average of $6 million and change a year for nearly a decade.

As we’ve noted so often when discussing extensions with young players, that’s the tradeoff. After today, White could hit like Mario Mendoza, field like Dick Stuart and be drummed out of baseball before he’s 30 and, assuming he’s even moderately sensible, still have enough money to set himself up for life. If he turns into a real star he’ll make less than half of what he’s worth in his career. His alternative: wait at least four years and maybe five to reach arbitration and three more after that until he can be a free agent. Assuming arbitration and free agency exist after the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in 2021.

So, let’s check back in a few years before passing ultimate judgment.