33 Days Until MLB Opening Day
#Braves lineup vs Tigers: Heyward 9, BJ Upton 8, Freeman 3, Gattis 2, J Upton 7, C Johnson 5, Uggla 4, Simmons 6, Doumit 0, Garcia 1.
— Kevin McAlpin (@KevinMcAlpin) February 26, 2014
Braves reach 1-year deals with Gattis, 18 others
Catcher Evan Gattis and the Atlanta Braves have agreed to a one-year contract that will pay him at a rate of $520,250 in the major leagues this season and $291,311 in the minors.
Among others who saw time with Atlanta last year who struck deals were outfielder Jose Constanza, infielder Tyler Pastornicky, outfielder Joey Terdoslavich and right-handers David Hale and Anthony Varvaro.
Catcher Christian Bethancourt, competing for a backup job behind Gattis, outfielder Todd Cunningham and right-handers Juan Jaime, Aaron Northcraft and Wirfin Obispo also reached agreements, as did left-handers Ryan Buchter and Carlos Perez and infielders Ernesto Mejia and Elmer Reyes.
Phillies find themselves chasing youthful Braves
Four of their regulars were 25 or younger, and their best starters – Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, and Julio Teheran – were all 27 or younger. Closer Craig Kimbrel is 25, and his first three seasons in the bullpen’s most vital role have been superior to Mariano Rivera‘s first three seasons as the New York Yankees closer.
So why have the Braves been able to win with so many young players while the Phillies have grown old?
“Well, they’re good,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said last week. “They’re a talented group of guys, and, yes, they’re young in age. But for the most part some of these guys have three, four, or five years in the major leagues. They were just able to come up at a real young age and establish themselves.”
It could be argued that the Braves have passed the Washington Nationals as the best young team in the National League East and perhaps all of baseball. The Nats, of course, also still have a wealth of young talent and are only a year removed from winning the division.
The Busy Offseason of the Atlanta Braves
The NL East is projected to be a two-team race in 2014, with the division featuring the tanking Marlins, the aging Phillies and the still-not-there-yet Mets. Opposite them, the Braves and Nationals have rounded two of the best rosters in the National League.
While Washington probably has the better rotation with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and new acquisition Doug Fister, the Braves are counting on two bounce-back seasons from their highest-paid players, Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, as well as a sturdy rotation led by Teheran,Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen.
Washington stands as the odds-on favorite to win the NL East (even money at most casinos, with Atlanta close at +125), so if it all plays out as expected, 2014 should be a fun season reminiscent of some of the great playoff races Atlanta has enjoyed through the years. At the very least, they are primed to fight for a Wild Card, while continuing to develop players like few franchises do. As history hast taught us, it is dumb to bet against the Atlanta Braves.