The Atlanta Braves may not have said goodbye to Turner Field the way they wanted to, finishing in last place in the National League East, but Braves fans should have every reason to be excited for what is ahead. It looks like after the Braves decided to rebuild the roster, general manager John Coppolella is making sure this does not become a long process. Despite not contending for a playoff spot, the Braves enjoyed playing the role of spoiler in the season’s final weekend to the Detroit Tigers, who will now be watching the postseason at home.
Coppolella has been bold on the trade market, but he has also been smart and strategic rather than blowing up the roster for prospects. In the Shelby Miller trade last winter, Coppolella knew he was in talks with a desperate team in the Diamondbacks that wanted to make a splash going into 2016. They received pitcher Aaron Blair, number-one pick Dansby Swanson, and outfielder Ender Inciarte, who all made impacts on the big league roster this year.
Another big move they made was at the trade deadline was trading for Matt Kemp in what was a salary dump deal for the San Diego Padres. Kemp has been nothing short of outstanding in his few months in Atlanta and seems to be rejuvenated, putting up numbers in 2016 similar to ones we saw during his days in Los Angeles.
Julio Teheran drew interest to numerous teams, but Atlanta decided to keep him, and it looks like they plan to keep him as their ace for the future unless they are blown away.
In the month of September, they had the most home runs, RBIs, and hits in baseball, and the team’s batting average was approximately 20 points higher than it was in any month during the season. It’s easy for players to mentally check out at the end of the season when there isn’t anything to play for, but interim manager Brian Snitker has kept the high spirits in the clubhouse. The Tigers controlled their own destiny until the Braves disrupted that, and Atlanta gave the Mets some headaches a week ago before the Mets eventually clinched. Snitker has also received support from his players to be retained in 2017. The Braves finished with a 57-64 record under Snitker.
The Braves have impressed throughout their lineup, finding the right balance in veterans and giving young guys an opportunity to continue to develop. It also will be a giant boost to the offense when you have Matt Kemp and Freddie Freeman in the middle of the order, who are both coming off seasons of 30-plus home runs and 90-plus RBIs. Most of their positions in the field are filled for next season except catcher, where the Braves have said they are looking to upgrade, and a reunion with Brian McCann has already been speculated.
It wasn’t just the hitting, as the Braves pitchers showed up as well in the month of September where they finished with a 2.84 team ERA and a WHIP of 1.17. They signed Jim Johnson to a multi-year extension to be their closer this past weekend, after redeeming himself with a solid 2016 campaign. With the new ballpark and the hot streak to end the season, Atlanta has become a much more attractive destination for free agents than it was at the beginning of the year.
The Braves certainly have some evaluating to do just like every other team, but they are showing how to rebuild the right way. Come next year as SunTrust Park makes its grand opening, the Braves have given fans every reason to be thrilled about the future both on and off the field.