• Exclusives

    A new home for many new faces

    While many old faces left Atlanta this winter, the Braves more than doubled the number of players joining the club. Expecting to take roster spots throughout the farm system and even a few with the big league club, Atlanta’s newest faces are largely unknown to Braves’ fans. They aren’t all unknown, however. A few old friends will join the club or be given invites to Spring Training to make their case for joining the 2015 Atlanta Braves.

    Let’s start with the returning faces, known quantities who once wore the tomahawk proudly on their chests:

    • Kelly Johnson returns to the Braves after 5 seasons away from the club. He was signed to a minor league contract.

      Kelly Johnson returns to the Braves after 5 seasons away from the club. He was signed to a minor league contract.

      The latest former Brave to be announced by the club as returning is Kelly Johnson. Johnson, once one of the “Baby Braves” has signed a minor league contract. Johnson is listed as a third baseman though he played second base when he was with the club in the pre-Dan Uggla era. Johnson was a 1st round pick for Atlanta in the 2000 draft and made his MLB debut with the club in 2005. Since 2011, Johnson has played for every club in the AL East, his most recent stint with the Orioles.

    • Arodys Vizcaino left the Braves in the trade that brought Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson to Atlanta. He now returns to the club in a trade with the Cubs for infielder Tommy LaStella. Vizcaino has a 4.84 career ERA in limited appearances. His return to the bullpen made RHP David Carpenter expendable and softened the blow of Jordan Walden’s trade to the St. Louis Cardinals.

    The list of new faces joining the Braves is extensive. The transactions of the offseason thus far are as follows (in chronological order):

    • C Eli Whiteside¬†was signed to a minor league contract. The catcher played in 8 games with the Cubs in 2014 and no big league games in 2013.
    • RHP Chien-Ming Wang was signed to a minor league contract. Wang was likely signed to add depth to the Triple-A roster at Gwinnett. The Taiwanese pitcher last played in the majors in 2013 with 6 starts for the Blue Jays.
    • LF Zoilo Almonte was signed by the Braves after he left the Yankees. Having played in the international league last season, Zoilo has only 47 big league games under his belt. His role is unknown with the signings of other potential platoon left fielders.
    • LHP Donnie Veal signed a minor league contract with a spring training invite. He has a 4.87 ERA in 100 big league starts.
    • RHP Zach Quintana was acquired in the trade with Milwaukee that sent former GM Frank Wren’s son Kyle to the Brewers. Projects to play A-ball in 2015.
    • RHP Shelby Miller the most touted acquisition this offseason was acquired as the key piece in the trade with the Cardinals that sent Georgia’s own Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden to St. Louis. Miller has recorded a 3.33 ERA with a 26-18 record in 63 starts since debuting in 2012 with the Cards. Miller will not be a free agent until 2019.
    • RHP Tyrell Jenkins was also acquired in the Heyward/Walden trade and could potentially join the bullpen.
    • RHP Jim Johnson was signed as a free agent and a bit of a work-in-progress for pitching coach Roger McDowell. Johnson became a dominant closer with the Orioles as his sinker baffled hitters. After putting together 101 saves from 2012-13, he signed a lucrative contract with the A’s in 2014 and crashed. His ERA ballooned to 7.14 with the A’s over 40 innings, was released and then picked up by the Tigers where he only marginally improved his ERA. He is a low risk, potential high reward signing of McDowell can turn his sinker around.
    • RF Nick Markakis was the highest profile position player signing of the postseason, coming to the club as a free agent, filling the spot left by Heyward. Markakis required neck surgery (cervical disc fusion) in the offseason, but will be under contract with Atlanta through the 2018 season. He will cost the club $44 million over 4 years. Markakis may be a new face to the Braves, spending his entire career with Baltimore, but he’s not a new face in Georgia. Markakis played high school and college ball in Georgia.

    • RHP Michael Kohn, another bullpen arm to come to the Braves via the Angels, signed a minor league contract and has been invited to spring training. Kohn has a career 3.67 ERA over 4 seasons (110 innings) and has already undergone Tommy John surgery.
    • Alberto Callaspo has a .267 career batting average over 9 years in the big leagues.

      Alberto Callaspo has a .267 career batting average over 9 years in the big leagues.

      2B Alberto Callaspo has 9 years in the big leagues, the last 2 with the Oakland A’s. Callaspo signed a 1-year, $3 million deal with the club. Callaspo has the potential to play anywhere on the infield and was expected to play 2B with the departures of La Stella, Uggla and Pastornicky. The signing of Kelly Johnson may impact where Callaspo will play, but his versatility makes him a key piece for the club both on the field and off the bench.

    • RHP Aaron Kurcz came to the Braves with cash after Anthony Varvaro was designated for assignment and then traded to the Red Sox. Kurcz pitched in 34 games at the Double-A level in 2014, posting a 2.17 ERA.
    • 2B Jace Peterson was traded to the Braves for Justin Upton.
    • LHP Max Fried also joined the club via the trade with San Diego for Upton. He projects to be at the highest level of the 4 players Atlanta received for Upton, though he is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery.
    • 3B Dustin Peterson came to the Braves in the trade for Upton.
    • CF Mallex Smith, another prospect, joined the club in the Upton trade.
    • LHP Manny Banuelos came to the club in a trade for David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve. Carpenter and Shreve’s arms were valuable and in return the Braves received a player who is projected to be a future starter. All-time saves leader Mariano Rivera spoke highly of Banuelos and Banuelos was on the rise in the organization prior to requiring Tommy John surgery in 2013. He will likely begin his career with Atlanta out of the ‘pen.
    • LHP Josh Outman signed a 1-year $925,000 contract with the Braves for the 2015 season. Outman began his career in Oakland and was most recently with the Rockies. Outman has a career 4.43 ERA. He adds depth to a bullpen with unreliable lefties.
    • C A.J. Pierzynski signed a 1-year $2 million contract with the club and is anticipated to serve as backup catcher and bench bat. His veteran leadership is greatly needed by the club, especially with young Christian Bethancourt.
    • RHP Jason Grilli is another signing by the club as somewhat of a project. Grilli, like Johnson, was a dominant closer until losing his touch in Pittsburgh. After the Angels and Pirates swapped closers in 2014, Grilli never regained dominance in Anaheim. His 2-year, $8 million deal is a bit more risky than that of Johnson, but Grilli looks to be the incoming setup man for Kimbrel.
    • LHP Ricardo Sanchez came to the Braves in a trade for prospects Kyle Kubitza and Nate Hyatt.
    • LHP Wandy Rodriguez was signed to a minor league contract after a failed physical. Like Wang, he looks to add depth to the rotation at Triple-A.
    • RHP David Carpenter, from here on to referred to as “the other David Carpenter,” was signed to minor league contract. He has a 5.23 ERA in a rather untested career. He joins the Braves from the Angels like Grilli and Kohn.
    • 3B Rio Ruiz was acquired in the Gattis trade with Houston. As a prospect, Ruiz fills the place in the organization that Kubitza did before being traded to the Angels.
    • RHP Andrew Thursman was also acquired in the Gattis trade and will be sent to the farm.
    • RHP Mike Foltynewicz was the third piece of the Gattis trade with Houston.
    • LHP Dial Villanueva was signed to a minor league contract.
    • LF Jonny Gomes was signed this past week as a veteran fielder and potential platoon mate for left field in the absence of Justin Upton. Gomes is highly respected for the way he plays the game and the enthusiasm he brings to clubs. Gomes finished the 2014 season with the Oakland A’s where he had played prior to a year and a half spin with the World Champion Boston Red Sox. It has been reported that Gomes signed for $4 million.
    • CF Eury Perez was claimed off waivers from the Yankees Monday.
    • C John Buck was signed to a minor league contract with a spring training invite, also on Monday. The Braves have attempted to fill the holes in the organization with veteran leadership where possible. Buck could potentially compete for a backup catcher role at camp.

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter@framethepitch