It will take some time before we learn exactly what the Braves gained via their acquisition of Jarred Kelenic this week. But if the left-handed-hitting outfielder performs like he did before breaking his left foot this past summer, the Braves may have gained a real bargain.
Why would I say this when the Braves needed to take on $29 million worth of bad contracts to get Kelenic (who has hit .204 with 32 homers and a .656 OPS through the first 252 games of his Major League career)?
Well, the Mariners included $4.5 million in the deal, and some of the remaining cost was further erased Tuesday night, when the Braves traded pitcher Marco Gonzales and his $12 million salary to the Pirates.
The Braves didn’t reveal how much cash they sent to Pittsburgh. So the total savings isn’t known. But Braves fans at least know the Gonzales Era will not be as financially draining as the Jake Odorizzi Era.
First baseman Evan White was the other player the Braves agreed to take in the Kelenic deal. The Mariners thought White was going to be Matt Olson when they gave him a six-year, $24 million contract after the 2019 season, before he reached the Majors. He hit .165 with 10 homers and a .543 OPS while playing just 84 games for Seattle. None of those games have been since June 2021, when he underwent the first of two hip surgeries. The most recent was performed in March.
Moving White’s contract will be a challenge. But with Kelenic still a season away from being eligible for salary arbitration, the Braves could afford to eat the $17 million White is guaranteed over the next two seasons.
Kelenic will make approximately $800,000 next year, and White is owed $7 million for the next season.
Even if the Braves are paying half of Gonzales’ salary, the cost of acquiring a left fielder for 2024 would be approximately $13.8 million. Again, that’s seemingly the high side of an estimate.
The Braves could have kept the 32-year-old Eddie Rosario for $9 million. They also could have pursued a proven free-agent outfielder, who likely would have required a multiyear commitment that included something north of a $10 million salary.
Instead, they gambled on Kelenic, who has far greater upside than Rosario and most available free-agent outfielders. The 24-year-old was the sixth overall Draft pick in 2018, and he was MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 prospect as recently as 2021.
Kelenic hit 11 homers with a .759 OPS in the 90 games played before he mistook a water cooler for a soccer ball. He was on pace to hit 19 homers, two fewer than Rosario hit while producing a .755 OPS this year.
“I just talked to a few of my scouting buddies here and people that have seen him,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said during the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn. “It sounds like he's a tooled-up, really nice-looking player. I’m looking forward to seeing him.”
Which hitter has the most seasons in Braves history with 30-plus homers, 100-plus walks and fewer than 100 strikeouts?
A) Hank Aaron
B) Freddie Freeman
C) Chipper Jones
D) Eddie Mathews
You are not the only person who has one of those friends who takes a long time to return calls. New Angels manager Ron Washington says he’s still waiting to hear from Ozzie Albies. I asked whether Albies might still be upset about Washington leaving Atlanta’s coaching staff to take the new job. Washington laughed and said, “Nah. He always does this. He’ll call next week and just start rolling.”
There are so many things the Braves will miss about Washington, including the hilarious exchanges he and Albies shared. They will also miss former first-base coach Eric Young, who followed Washington to the Angels, and Drew French, who transitioned from Atlanta’s bullpen coach to Baltimore’s pitching coach last week.
“I’m so happy for Drew; he’s ready for this,” Snitker said. “He’s a tireless worker. … Being a bullpen coach isn’t easy. That’s a surly group. But that first year he was with us, those guys out there, they all took to him because they knew he knew what he was talking about.”
Snitker’s phone has been blowing up with messages from countless folks inquiring about the three vacancies (first-base coach, third-base coach and bullpen coach) on his coaching staff. There is no timetable. Tom Goodwin and Willie Harris seem to be candidates for the first- and third-base jobs.
Josh Tomlin hasn’t been mentioned as a candidate. But he has worked as a game-planning analyst for the Braves since retiring. Moving him into the bullpen coach role might not be a bad idea.
Tyler Matzek is expected to come to Spring Training without any restrictions. The lefty reliever missed this past season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Ian Anderson is targeted to begin a rehab assignment in June. This puts him in line to join Atlanta’s rotation at some point after the All-Star break. He, too, missed 2023 while recovering from TJ surgery.
Another potential rotation or bullpen candidate will be Huascar Ynoa, who is also expected to come to camp free from the restrictions he faced this year while recovering from TJ surgery.
D. Mathews did it in 1954 and ’55. The only other such season was by Jones in 1999, when he earned his NL MVP Award.
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