12/13/2013 9:50 P.M. ET
Inbox: Is trading Kimbrel a real possibility?
Beat reporter Mark Bowman fields offseason questions from Braves fans
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
Are the Braves really considering a trade involving Craig Kimbrel?
-- Jake M., Norfolk, Va.
There has not been any indication that the Braves are attempting to trade Kimbrel. But as ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote earlier this week, general manager Frank Wren and his staff are in a position where they need to at least evaluate Kimbrel's path through the 2016 season, when he would be eligible for free agency.
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Because of his dominance during three seasons as Atlanta's closer, Kimbrel has positioned himself to enter uncharted territory as he enters the arbitration-eligible phase of his career. He has a chance to earn $7 million or more next year, and if he keeps up the pace, his salary could exceed $10 million in 2015.
Assuming Kimbrel does not sign a multiyear deal within the next two years, a conservative estimate for his salary in 2016 -- his final arbitration-eligible season -- could exceed $13 million. Given all that he has done while earning $1.6 million combined the past three years, some might say he would be worth every penny.
But it is quite difficult to judge the volatile and unpredictable lifespan of a closer. As much as you might want to believe Kimbrel is one of those rare beasts capable of becoming the next Mariano Rivera, you should remember it was not too long ago when some were wondering the same about Jonathan Papelbon. And as history has shown, this world includes far more Papelbons than Riveras.
If the Braves were to trade Kimbrel now, they would gain a more significant return than they would during either of the next two offseasons, when interested clubs would be able to control him for a shorter period. At the same time, they could gain the financial flexibility that could improve the odds of retaining Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman when the club opens its new stadium in 2017.
Though all of this provides a glimpse of potential future benefits, I don't think Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez have any desire to part ways with the game's best closer as they enter the final year of their respective contracts.
Instead, I get the sense the Braves currently are more than willing to pay the cost necessary to keep Kimbrel. That mindset could change if prospect J.R. Graham arrives at the big league level within the next year and shows he is capable of handling the closing duties.
But for now, it seems thoughts of trading Kimbrel reside outside of the Braves' front office.
With each offseason, it becomes more and more clear that the National League is at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to signing free agents like Brian McCann, who will almost certainly be a designated hitter by the end of his Yankees contract. Is there a movement to bring the DH to the NL?
-- Ryan B., Johnson City, Tenn.
This is a topic that has gained attention as American League clubs have signed the likes of Albert Pujols and Robinson Cano to long-term deals with the comfort of knowing the players can be utilized as a DH when their bodies need a break or can no longer handle playing in the field on a daily basis.
Though McCann was never going to receive a 10-year deal like Pujols and Cano, it had been obvious over the past couple seasons that it was in the best interest of both he and the club for him to land in the AL, where he could compile more plate appearances and lessen the strain on his legs courtesy of the opportunity to at least occasionally serve as a designated hitter.
Then of course you have the age-old debate about the competitive on-field advantages and disadvantages that the DH brings to Interleague matchups and the World Series.
Still, this is not an issue that is going to be resolved before the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after the 2016 season. In fact, multiple agents and executives seem to think this is actually a topic that will be debated and remain unresolved for at least another decade.
History has proven that there is no such thing as a quick resolution to an issue involving the DH. Connie Mack was talking about utilizing a form of DH approximately 70 years before the AL adopted this role, which has been debated for the four decades that have followed.
With the guys already in the organization (Ramiro Pena, Tyler Pastornicky, Tommy La Stella), doesn't it make sense for the Braves to go ahead with Dan Uggla in Spring Training and to start the year to see if he bounces back rather than "eating" a good portion of the contract?
-- Michael J., Glen Ridge, N.J.
While the Braves continue to evaluate the possibility of trading Uggla, it seems much more likely that he will indeed return and have a chance to produce a rebound season in Atlanta.
Though Uggla has batted just .185 over his last 236 games, he has produced a .319 on-base percentage and homered once every 23.5 at-bats. If he shows similar plate discipline and power while moving his batting average back toward the .230 neighborhood, the Braves would be more than happy paying him the $26 million he is owed over the next two seasons.
Between Alex Wood and David Hale, which one is more likely to be in the 2014 rotation?
-- Sean T., Villa Rica, Ga.
Given that Hale has made just two starts in September against a pair of clubs that were already out of contention, the nod has to go to Wood, who was quite impressive before fatigue proved costly in the final three starts he made during the final month of his first full professional season.
Though Wood has the ability to provide a strong left-handed presence in the bullpen, the Braves repeatedly have said they believe he will be best utilized as a starter. It was certainly hard to argue with this assessment in his five August starts, when he produced a 0.90 ERA.