Rowland was more prescient than usual this year. We predicted Fredi’s dismissal and had the Braves winning 65, just three off their actual total. Other predictions: St. Louis wouldn’t make the playoffs but the Giants, Cubs, Mets and Nats would; in the AL, we had Toronto, Cleveland and Texas advancing to the postseason, with the Indians representing the AL in the World Series. That could still happen, but when they get there they won’t face Pittsburgh, as forecast here.
In June 2015, after he was fired by the Padres, the Office suggested Bud Black would be Fredi’s eventual replacement. Apparently there’s a 5o percent chance that will happen. I think it should, as long as he vows not to bat Adonis Garcia second (where his .318 OBP was only slightly higher than his season OBP). And in August we hinted that Roger McDowell was on shaky ground, deservedly so. The Braves cut ties with McDowell today, which should be a boon to Black’s candidacy. I suspect Tennessee native Darren Balsley, one of the more respected pitching coaches in baseball, will join his former Padres boss in Atlanta as McDowell’s replacement.
They would be sound choices but won’t turn the Braves into contenders next year. No manager or pitching coach would. Unfortunately, the free agent options range from bad to worse. Ivan Nova, discarded by the Yankees at midseason, is the best starting pitcher out there, and until getting the Ray Searage treatment in Pittsburgh he was mediocre at best. He’ll probably be paid well more than he’s worth.
Likewise, Matt Wieters would be a risky investment. So would Wilson Ramos, but he might be worth the gamble. Washington probably won’t give him a qualifying offer, and the Braves could make do with Recker and Flowers until Ramos is ready, probably by midseason.
Some other predictions/musings:
- The Rockies, not the Braves, will be the most improved team in the NL next year, especially if they sign Edwin Encarnacion and trade CarGo for pitching. By the way, Eddie Perez is reportedly a candidate for the Rockies job.
- Ownership will not, as Mark Bradley suggests, find a way to transport Walter Banks to and from The Mallpark. A season-long Uber pass is an excellent idea, but Liberty Media doesn’t do class, as evidenced by their decision to have Tim Lee throw out the first pitch at the next-to-last game at Turner Field.
- The only free agent pitchers I’d even consider are Nova and, if the Cards decline his option, Jaime Garcia. Neither thrills me. The Rays are unlikely to trade Chris Archer and the Braves would have to give up too much to get him. Drew Smyly, Jake Odorizzi and Alex Cobb, a free agent after next season, are more realistic options. Royals southpaw Danny Duffy, another FA in 2017, won’t come cheap — a package including Mallex Smith and Matt Wisler could entice Dayton Moore. Duffy struck out 188 and walked just 42 in 180 IP with a 1.141 WHIP.