Tag: Atlanta Braves

Ender Inciarte, Braves Agree to New Contract: Latest Details and Reaction

The Atlanta Braves and outfielder Ender Inciarte agreed to a five-year, $30.5 million extension Friday that carries a club option for a sixth year.

“We are thrilled to announce an extension for Ender,” Braves general manager John Coppolella said in a statement. “We feel that he’s the best defensive center fielder in baseball and one of the best leadoff hitters in the game. Ender brings so much to our club, on and off the field, and we are happy to have him under club control for at least the next six years.”

Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reported the financial terms of the deal. Inciarte and the Braves were scheduled to head to salary arbitration if a deal was not completed.

Inciarte, 26, hit .291/.351/.381 with three home runs and 29 runs batted in last season. He came to Atlanta last winter with shortstop Dansby Swanson as part of the package the Arizona Diamondbacks sent back for right-hander Shelby Miller.

While his offensive numbers are middling, Inciarte has developed a reputation as one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball. He won his first Gold Glove in 2016 on the back of a series of spectacular catches that drew him comparisons to former Braves great Andruw Jones.

“It seemed like before, he had trouble getting jumps on balls and always made up for it with his speed,” former Diamondbacks teammate Brad Ziegler told Mark Simon of ESPN.com. “But now he’s gotten really good at reading the ball off the bat, and it’s put him on another level. He’s become a star player. He’s a lot better at deciding when to go for the risky play. He’s really special to watch.”

FanGraphs’ defensive metrics ranked Inciarte third among qualifying center fielders last season. Kevin Pillar and Adam Eaton both played more games than Inciarte’s 131, so the Braves star might have been able to challenge both if it weren’t for an early stint on the disabled list.

Inciarte also began showing signs of developing into a reliable hitter toward the top of the order. He hit for a solid average over his two years in Arizona (.292), but 2016 was the first sign he was beginning to learn patience at the plate. After drawing just 51 walks during his first two MLB seasons, Inciarte set a career high with 45 in 2016.

Even if he never develops much pop—13 home runs in 381 games indicates it’s unlikely—Inciarte is a gem in what could become one of the best trades in Braves history.


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Sean Rodriguez to Braves: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

The Atlanta Braves added one of the most versatile players in baseball Thursday by signing Sean Rodriguez to a two-year deal worth over $11 million, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball.

Heyman reported Rodriguez will earn $5 million per year with a $1.5 million signing bonus, making the deal worth a total of $11.5 million.

The 31-year-old utility man played seven different positions last season with the Pittsburgh Pirates, appearing everywhere on the field except for pitcher and catcher. While he spent the most time at first base, he played more than 10 games each at second base, shortstop, third base, left field and right field.

Rodriguez is also coming off the best offensive season of his career. In 140 games, he batted .270 with a .349 on-base percentage to go with 18 home runs and 56 RBI. All were career highs for the nine-year veteran, who’s also spent time with the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels.

“Sean’s just done a remarkable job,” Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington said, per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “The defensive versatility and the impact, it’s hard to measure.”

Rodriguez will now hope to build on his success from last season, helping his new team in a variety of areas while trying to return to the playoffs. In Atlanta, he’ll likely be utilized at several positions across the infield and corner outfield, though Freddie Freeman is entrenched as the team’s first baseman and Dansby Swanson is the future at shortstop.

The Braves are still rebuilding, but Rodriguez’s versatility will make him a valuable option as the team gives playing time to young prospects.

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The Braves Shouldn’t Be the Team to Break the Prospect Bank for Chris Sale

The Atlanta Braves seem to have a Chris Sale obsession. I say we stage an intervention before it gets any worse.

Who’s with me?

OK, maybe some concessions are in order first. The Braves and Sale are indeed a match made in hot stove heaven from a strictly on-paper perspective. Veteran signees R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon will boost a starting rotation that posted a 4.87 ERA in 2016—but not as much as Sale would.

The lefty ace, currently of the Chicago White Sox, has a 3.04 ERA since 2012 and has finished in the top five of the American League Cy Young voting every year since 2013. Did you know only the best pitchers can do things like that? It’s true.

Sale, 27, isn’t the only ace trade chip on Atlanta’s radar. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Braves are also eyeing Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Chris Archer and Oakland A’s right-hander Sonny Gray.

Sale, however, is their “focus.” And if this report from ESPN.com’s Buster Olney is any indication, said focus is part of a real effort to do something:

It’s possible this is just a PR smokescreen. With back-to-back 90-loss seasons (95 in 2015 and 93 in 2016, to be exact) in their wake and a new ballpark on the horizon for 2017, the Braves may be leaking these interests to generate some goodwill among their fans.

After all, going through with a blockbuster trade for an ace would be quite the departure from what was being said earlier in November.

“You don’t buy No. 1 starters,” Braves general manager John Coppolella said, via O’Brien. “You grow them. You draft them, you develop them. For us, it’s not efficient for us to go out and buy a No. 1 starter. Unless something drastically changes, you won’t see us going after a No. 1 starter.”

Buying a No. 1 starter on this winter’s free-agent market is basically impossible. Rich Hill, 36, is the best option there is, and his age and durability issues make it tough to stick the No. 1 label on him.

As such, the only way a team can snag a No. 1 starter this winter is on the trade market.

Sale is the crown jewel of said market. And not just because of his talent. His contract controls him through 2019 at a total of $39.5 million. 

When Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs crunched the numbers, he put Sale’s surplus value on top of that at $84.5 million. Per other numbers crunched by Kevin Creagh and Steve DiMiceli at The Point of Pittsburgh, that makes Sale worth at least a top-10 hitting or pitching prospect plus a little extra.

But in this winter’s market, that’s likely just the starting point in trade negotiations. The lack of options on the open market and Sale’s combination of name value, on-field value and surplus value puts the White Sox in a position to demand several of a team’s best prospects.

For what it’s worth, the Braves are among the few teams that can do a trade like that.

Keith Law of ESPN.com had their farm system ranked No. 1 in MLB as recently as July. That’s a credit to how well the Braves have rebuilt through trades and the draft. The one untouchable in their system is likely Dansby Swanson, whom the Braves would presumably like to keep as their starting shortstop after his successful breakthrough late in 2016.

Everyone else would presumably be on the table for a Sale trade. Ozzie Albies. Sean Newcomb. Kolby Allard. Ian Anderson. Mike Soroka. Touki Toussaint. Max Fried. And so on.

The Braves would have every reason to give up several of those names if an ace starting pitcher were the missing link between them and contention in the NL East as soon as 2017. But therein lies the rub.

Does anyone think this team is just one player away from being ready to win?

Sure, the Braves did go 37-35 after the All-Star break in 2016. But they did so while allowing 23 more runs than they scored. That’s a glaring warning not to read too much into their surge.

It’s early, but the 2017 projections at FanGraphs only have the Braves improving from 68 wins to 74 wins. Sounds about right for a team that would be mostly the same except with full seasons from Swanson, who is very good, and Dickey, Colon and Matt Kemp, who are not very good.

There’s not a ton of uncertainty elsewhere in the NL East, either. The Washington Nationals are going to be good. The New York Mets will at least have their arms. The Miami Marlins will at least have their bats. None of the three figures to plummet and open a door for the Braves to sneak through.

Of course, the Braves wouldn’t be under too much pressure to win immediately with Sale. But playing the long game with him doesn’t make much sense, either.

With Sale due for free agency after 2019, the clock would begin ticking in 2018. One problem there is that trading for him will have emptied the farm system of quite a few prospects who might have been graduated to the majors or used in trades.

That would force the Braves to load up in the 2017 and 2018 free-agent markets that will be better stocked than this one. But other teams will be looking to do the same thing, and even the Braves’ new stadium may only be so helpful in allowing them to spend competitively.

A better idea would be to give up on Sale and prioritize Archer instead. He has a contract that runs for two years longer at virtually the same price. His prospect cost may be the same because of that, but at least it would put the Braves in a better position to play the long game. And with a pitcher who’s darn good in his own right.

Or, the Braves could do nothing and continue to build from within. They’re headed in the right direction in that regard. Rather than try to jump ahead, keeping it slow and steady is the way to go.

It’s not often an intervention urges the subject to keep doing what they’re doing, but…Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked. Payroll and contract info courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

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Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey Aim to Accelerate Braves’ Promising Rebuild

Bartolo Colon was a 20-year-old kid in 1994, already a promising prospect but too young and raw to help a Cleveland Indians team that was ready to win.

A general manager named John Hart signed a soon-to-be 40-year-old pitcher named Dennis Martinez. A year later, with Martinez and 36-year-old Orel Hershiser in the rotation, the Indians were playing the Atlanta Braves in the World Series.

Maybe you’ve forgotten, but it seems John Hart hasn’t.

He’s the president of baseball operations for the Braves now, with a bunch of promising young pitching prospects not yet ready to support a rapidly improving lineup. And just as he signed Martinez, Jack Morris and Hershiser two decades ago in Cleveland, his Braves have signed 42-year-old R.A. Dickey and the now-43-year-old Colon the last two days.

Colon agreed to terms on a one-year, $12.5 million contract Friday, as first reported by Mark Bowman of MLB.com. While he and Dickey may not be joining a Braves team ready to return to the World Series, they should push the Braves another step towards respectability—and maybe even towards contention.

“It’s a pretty good lineup we’re running out there,” manager Brian Snitker said during a three-game sweep in New York in September. “When we pitch, we win. We’re a pretty good team when we pitch.”

The Braves aren’t the Indians of the mid-’90s, but they led the major leagues in runs scored for the final month of the season. They have an established star in Freddie Freeman and a star on the rise in shortstop Dansby Swanson.

The rebuilding program begun by Hart and general manager John Coppolella looks promising, much more than it did a year ago at this time. The Braves move into their new ballpark in April, and even if it turns out they’re not ready to compete with the Mets and Washington Nationals at the top of the National League East, they should at least be fun to watch.

Colon, of course, became one of the game’s best characters during his three seasons with the Mets. He pitched, fielded and even hit, with a memorable home run last May in San Diego.

The Braves would settle for seeing him make the 33 starts and pitch the 191.2 innings he did for the Mets in 2016. They’d hope for close to the same from Dickey, who won a Cy Young Award with the Mets in 2012 and spent the last four seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays.

As Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted, Dickey’s 195 starts over the last six years are tied for the sixth-most in the major leagues, while Colon’s 175 starts over that span rank 19th.

Another Sherman tweet:

He’s right. The Braves aren’t done. They could still improve a rotation that for now includes ace Julio Teheran, Colon, Dickey and Mike Foltynewicz, with one spot open. They could still improve their lineup, possibly with a trade to bring back catcher Brian McCann from the New York Yankees.

And they still figure to be significantly better in 2018 and beyond, with Swanson set to be joined by Ozzie Albies in the middle of the infield and with young pitching on the way.

Five of the six Braves who made 10 or more starts in 2016 are 25 or younger. Eight of the top 12 Braves minor league prospects, as ranked by MLB.com, are pitchers.

The issue Hart and Coppolella faced was too many of those guys who started games this past year weren’t ready, and too many of those top prospects aren’t yet ready to advance.

“We’re looking for guys to suck up innings so that we don’t have to kill our bullpen,” Coppolella told reporters, including MLB.com‘s Bowman, when he announced the Dickey signing. “We’ve been real transparent about what it is we want to do: add guys that can eat innings on short-term deals.”

Short-term deals were important, because the Braves believe some of those prospects will be ready to contribute soon. Eating innings was important, because the Braves had 42 games in 2016 where their starter didn’t finish the fifth.

Realistically, Colon and Dickey are place-holders, two aging pitchers who make the Braves more presentable while a young team gets better around them.

But who knows? Maybe what the Braves hitters did in September was a sign of what they can do next summer. Maybe the two old former Cy Young winners can do something like those former Cy Young winners Hart signed all those years ago in Cleveland.

In 1995, the year he turned 41, Martinez won 12 games with a 3.08 ERA. He went on to pitch until he was 44, retiring after a final season with the Braves. He finished with 245 wins, the most by a pitcher born in Latin America.

Colon, born in the Dominican Republic, has 233 wins. He ranks third for now, behind Martinez (born in Nicaragua) and Juan Marichal (born in the Dominican), who has 243.

If he stays healthy, the Braves can give him enough starts and probably enough runs to chase the record. He and Dickey can give their rebuilding program a boost.

John Hart has seen it happen before.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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Bartolo Colon to Braves: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Bartolo Colon will pitch again in 2017 after the Atlanta Braves reportedly signed him to a free-agent contract Friday. 

Mark Bowman of MLB.com first reported word of the agreement. Robert Murray of FanRag Sports confirmed the report. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports passed along the financial details, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post noted there is not an option attached.

Rosenthal also reported another detail about Colon’s upcoming salary:

This comes after the 43-year-old Colon helped anchor the New York Mets staff in 2016 on the way to the postseason even though they lost Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz to season-ending injuries.

Colon appeared in 34 games in 2016, which tied a career-high mark (2001, 2003 and 2004). He finished the year with a 3.43 ERA and 1.21 WHIP and reached his fourth All-Star Game.

The right-hander was one of the most dominant pitchers in the league in his prime. He won the 2005 American League Cy Young Award with the Los Angeles Angels behind a 3.48 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. It was one of 10 seasons in which he posted an ERA below 4.00 in his impressive major league tenure:

Age is something of a concern with a new contract at 43 years old, but he finished with head-turning numbers in 2015 at age 42. There is no reason to think he cannot at least be a solid innings-eater again after pitching more than 190 innings in each of the last four campaigns.

He also has plenty of postseason experience with 17 appearances and 10 starts. He has a 3.49 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in those games and can provide veteran leadership for a team with playoff aspirations in 2017. 

The Dominican Republic native becomes the second veteran starter to join the Braves in as many days. On Thursday, Atlanta announced the signing of 42-year-old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey as it looks to add some leadership to a young team preparing to turn the corner after an extensive rebuild.

While Colon may not be the most vital member of the Braves staff, which is led by Julio Teheran, he gives them formidable depth and a playoff-tested arm should the team finally start to climb back up the standings in 2017.

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R.A. Dickey to Braves: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Veteran pitcher R.A. Dickey signed a one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves on Thursday.

The team announced the move and added there is also a club option for the 2018 season.

According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Dickey will receive $8 million guaranteed, with $7.5 million coming in ’17. For 2018, he’ll receive an $8 million team option with a $500,000 buyout.

Dickey, 42, went 10-15 with a 4.46 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 126 strikeouts in 169.2 innings pitched and 29 total starts for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2016. While he has never rediscovered his dominant form from the 2012 season, when he went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 230 strikeouts in 33 starts with the New York Mets, he was a valuable innings-eater at the back of Toronto’s rotation in 2016.

The Blue Jays ultimately moved the knuckleballer to the bullpen late in September, though, and he didn’t make the team’s postseason roster.

For the Braves, he’ll provide an experienced, veteran presence who is still capable of having quality innings as a fourth or fifth starter.

Dickey’s signing isn’t a major splash, but he figures to be beneficial to an otherwise young team.

The Braves have some major question marks in their starting rotation behind ace Julio Teheran, but Dickey should be able to find his niche and aid in the development of younger pitchers such as Matt Wisler (24), Aaron Blair (24), Mike Foltynewicz (25) and other arms who come up from the minors over the course of the season.

Dickey is familiar with the NL East from his three-year stint with the Mets, and that familiarity should help him have some success in Atlanta.

The Braves’ rebuilding project is making strides and being accelerated thanks to a mix of exciting youngsters and experienced veterans.

Dickey should be a positive influence in the clubhouse, and he could also make for great trade bait if the Braves are out of it by the 2017 deadline.


You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.

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Brian Snitker to Return as Braves Manager: Latest Comments and Reaction

The Atlanta Braves announced Tuesday that Brian Snitker will take over as the club’s full-time manager after serving in an interim role to finish the 2016 season. 

The organization relayed the news on its official Twitter feed.

Snitker took over the reins after Atlanta fired Fredi Gonzalez in May. The rebuilding Braves were off to a miserable 9-28 start and looked destined to finish in the MLB basement by a considerable margin before the 60-year-old Illinois native took over.

The Braves played much better following the managerial change. They went a respectable 59-65 under his guidance, climbing out of the cellar to finish with the fifth-worst record in the league, a small sign of progress as they look to make bigger strides in 2017.

David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution passed along comments from star first baseman Freddie Freeman in late September about the positive impact Snitker made:

I enjoy him. I loved him when he was here as a third-base coach. He’s just a calm guy. He goes out there, puts the lineup down and lets guys go to work. His presence is something that just makes you want to run through walls for. I think everybody in this clubhouse has responded to him, because he’s such a good guy, he treats everybody the right way. I love him, so you just want to go out there and do as good as you can for him.

Veteran outfielder Nick Markakis added: “A manager can only do so much, and for him to make it easy for us to go out there and do our job, it’s appreciated and I know guys like it.”

Despite those glowing reviews from inside the clubhouse, the Braves still went through a full interview process before announcing Snitker would return. Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reported former MLB managers Ron Washington and Bud Black were the other finalists.

Next season will mark the first time Snitker will be a full-time manager in the majors. That said, he’s been with the Braves organization for four decades in a variety of roles, including managing several of the organization’s minor league teams.

The pressure level is beginning to rise in Atlanta, though. The Braves haven’t made the playoffs since 2013 and last won a postseason series in 2001. So they went through a complete retooling process to bolster the system with an eye on a brighter future.

Expectations are on the rise for 2017 as the club moves into its new home, SunTrust Park, which comes at the same time its prized prospects start to arrive. The new wave of talent is led by shortstop Dansby Swanson, who posted a .361 on-base percentage in his first 38 career games this season.

All told, Snitker deserved the opportunity to return as manager given how well the Braves finished, but the honeymoon period won’t last long if Atlanta starts slow next year.


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Atlanta Braves Manager Search: Latest News, Rumors and Speculation on Position

The Atlanta Braves have reportedly begun the process of interviewing in-house candidates for their vacant managerial position, but they still plan to speak with other options from outside the organization.

Continue for updates.

Braves Talk About Job With Three Coaches

Saturday, Oct. 1

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported Saturday the Braves discussed the opening with third base coach Bo Porter, first base coach Eddie Perez and bench coach Terry Pendleton on Friday. Brian Snitker has filled in on an interim basis since Fredi Gonzalez was fired in May.

It’s no surprise Atlanta is planning to take its time to consider every alternative, including coaches from both inside and outside the club. The Braves are looking to take their first major step forward in 2017 after an often painful rebuilding process.

In addition to the arrival of some top prospects, led by shortstop Dansby Swanson, the team is also preparing to open its new home—SunTrust Park—next year.

Although the job could attract interest with the Braves ready to start climbing the standings, Snitker has emerged as a strong candidate to transition from an interim role into the full-time manager.

Jesse Spector of the Sporting News commented on how well the team, which looked destined to finish at the bottom of the standings by a significant margin early in the season, has played since the managerial change:

The 60-year-old coaching veteran, who’s managed all around the Braves’ minor-league system, told Mark Bowman of MLB.com this week he’d “love” to keep the job into 2017 and beyond, but general manager John Coppolella didn’t commit to anything.

“[Snitiker] has been outstanding on the field and off the field,” Coppolella said. “He’s been exactly what we’ve needed right now. We’ll continue to evaluate it and see which direction we go.”

Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reported in May that Los Angeles Angels special assistant Bud Black and Boston Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo were potential outside candidates for the position.

Ultimately, it would be tough for the Braves to go away from Snitker given how well the team, which remains short on talent as it awaits more highly rated prospects to arrive in the big leagues, has performed under his guidance in recent months.

Atlanta can afford to give the interim manager a couple of years to prove himself while the team makes the transition back into a legitimate contender in the National League.


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Braves’ Kemp Continues Hot Streak with 1,500th Hit of Career

Atlanta Braves outfielder Matt Kemp recorded the 1,500th hit of his career in Friday’s 7-2 loss to the Washington Nationals, doing the honors with his first of two hits for the night, a lead-off double in the bottom of the second inning, per ESPN Stats & Info.

Kemp quickly came around to score the Braves’ first run of the game when the next batter, catcher Tyler Flowers, hit an RBI single to center field to cut Washington’s early lead to 5-1

The 31-year-old outfielder later added a single in the bottom of the sixth, pushing fellow outfielder Nick Markakis into scoring position, which later allowed Atlanta to chop the lead to 5-2.

Ultimately unable to get anything else going against Nationals ace Max Scherzer, the Braves lost 7-2 to drop to 56-91 for the season.

While he hasn’t been able to stop the bleeding from a team perspective, Kemp has been highly productive since coming over from the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline. Since that time, Kemp is boasting a .286 batting average, .335 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage in 42 games for Atlanta, with eight home runs, 30 RBI and 26 runs over 168 at-bats.

He enters Saturday’s game as the owner of an eight-game hitting streak, with 14 hits over that span, including three doubles and three home runs.

Combining his production from San Diego and Atlanta, the veteran outfielder has 31 home runs and 99 RBI, marking just the second time in his career he’s reached the 30-homer plateau.

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Tim Tebow Rumors: Braves Reportedly Interested in Signing Former QB

The Atlanta Braves are reportedly considering signing former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow to a minor league contract after meeting with him following his workout for MLB teams earlier this week.

Pedro Gomez of ESPN reported Saturday that sources confirmed the Braves have “definite interest” in the outfielder, who last played organized baseball in 2005. Tebow put his baseball skills on display for 27 of the league’s 30 teams Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Josh Peter of USA Today said there were mixed reviews after the session, with one American League scout saying: “It was a complete waste of time. It was like watching an actor trying to portray a baseball player. He tried. He tried. That’s the best I can say. He is crazy strong, and could run well in one direction, but that’s it. He only had one good throw of all his throws.”

Another scout, this one from the National League, provided a more favorable assessment: “Better than I expected, to be honest. … That’s a big dude, for as fast as he can run. The power was impressive, but I wish he could have translated it maybe a little better [against live pitching].”

According to Jon Morosi of the MLB Network, Tebow had one hit in six plate appearances against former MLB reliever Chad Smith in the workout.

The 6’3″, 260-pounder has always had a unique blend of size, power and athletic ability, but it didn’t translate to consistent on-field success in the NFL. Now he’s 29 and trying to make the transition to baseball at a time when most players are already enjoying their peak seasons.

Even the most optimistic outlook would suggest he needs at least one full season in the minor leagues to adjust to live pitching. It’s unlikely he’ll ever make a significant impact in the majors, even if he’s signed.

That said, the Braves would be a nice landing spot. They already own one of the league’s top five farm systems, according to Bleacher Report’s Joel Reuter. It also helps that Atlanta has a big following throughout the Southeast, where the Florida Gators QB rose to superstardom.


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