Braves Notebook | Schuerholz HOF, 2016 Winter Meetings

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — As the Winter Meetings begin this week, the Atlanta Braves continued to make news on Sunday. Team President  John Schuerholz was elected to the Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, Atlanta added a high-upside arm that had been cast off by the Yankees and continue to monitor the trade and free-agent markets for upgrades to the rotation and catching situation.

John Schuerholz elected to Hall of Fame…

After a career that has spanned five decades, longtime Braves executive John Schuerholz received the game’s most prestigious honor as he was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Today’s Game Era committee. He joins former commissioner Bud Selig as the only men selected by this newly formed committee. Schuerholz was a unanimous selection, while Selig received 15 of the possible 16 votes.

Schuerholz, 76, began his career with the Baltimore Orioles in 1966 before joining the expansion Kansas City Royals front office in 1969. He was eventually elevated to general manager in 1981 and helped the club capture its first World Series title in 1985. Schuerholz left Kansas City after the 1990 season to accept the challenge of turning around a troubled Atlanta franchise. And turn it around he did. The Braves went from worst to first in 1991, embarking on a string of 14-consecutive division titles, five trips to the World Series and a championship in 1995. After 17 years as GM, Schuerholz transitioned to team president, a post he has held since 2008.

Both Schuerholz and Selig will be inducted into Cooperstown next summer. The rest of the class will be announced when the results of the BBWAA voting are revealed on January 19, 2017.

Braves sign former Yankees top pick Jacob Lindgren…

Atlanta continued its trend of collecting one-time highly touted prospects as they signed recently non-tendered lefty Jacob Lindgren on Sunday. The Yankees were hoping to hold on to their top pick from the 2014 draft, but could not find the space on the 40-man roster to make it happen. Thus, Atlanta scooped Lindgren up and will stash him in hopes he can deliver on the promise he flashed to begin his pro career.

Lindgren, 23, blazed a trail to the majors that earned him the nickname “The Strikeout Factory” after averaging 14.7 K/9 in the minors. He reached New York on May 25, 2015, less than a year after being selected in the second round out of Mississippi State. Lindgren had elbow surgery to remove bone chips in 2015 and threw just seven innings last season before undergoing Tommy John surgery in August. While he will not pitch at all in 2017, the Braves added a lefty with a premium fastball-slider combo that could feature prominently into their bullpen plans down the line. It wasn’t a big move, but it could be one that pays off.

Atlanta remains in the mix for both Chris Sale and Chris Archer…

Despite adding three veteran starting pitchers to the rotation already, the Braves continue to discuss an even bigger potential addition. Atlanta is one of several clubs in the mix for White Sox lefty Chris Sale and Rays righty Chris Archer, both of whom are drawing significant trade interest. Of course, the price remains the sticking point for any team aiming to acquire the Chicago ace.

While Sale is perhaps the best pitcher in the American League, Archer could be the better fit for Atlanta. This is not a question of talent, so I’ll spare you another statistical analysis (which I previously covered). Sale is a perennial Cy Young contender while Archer struggled through 2016, but is one of the game’s premier strikeout pitchers. However, acquiring either man is a question of trade price and having the years of control to open up a window wherein the Braves could become and remain competitive. Including team options, Sale is under contract for three years at $38 million. Archer is under contract for $39 million, but for the next five seasons including his options. Those extra two years for Archer is the kind of value could play a part in Atlanta’s –  or any club for that matter – decision making process.

Given the early indications, Sale’s price may end up being cost prohibitive. The White Sox have set their sights on a deal built around Dansby Swanson. That requirement and all the speculation in the world is not going to change the fact that the Braves will not trade away their prized shortstop. If players like Ender Inciarte, Julio Teheran or Mike Foltynewicz are prerequisites for any deal with Chicago, then it’s fair to ask: What is the point of upgrading at the potential cost of multiple pieces of the 25-man roster?

As for Archer, he will not come cheap either. He is the biggest and perhaps best trade chip that Tampa Bay holds should the club look to cash in this winter. Mark Bowman of MLB.com also mentioned the potential of a trade with the Rays, but noted that nothing is imminent.

Welington Castillo could offer upgrade to Braves catching corps…

One of the surprise additions to the free-agent market following the non-tender deadline, Diamondbacks catcher Welington Castillo figures to be a popular name this week. With this year’s thin free-agent class representative of the positional scarcity when it comes to productive catchers, Castillo will be a sought after commodity. MLB Trade Rumors predicted Castillo would earn $5.9 million in his final year of arbitration, a price Arizona deemed too high. Given the 3-year $24 million deal Jason Castro signed with the Twins, Castillo could find a nice pay day.

Castillo, 29, has averaged a .252/.310/.437 line with 16 HR over the last two seasons, mostly for Arizona. The man known as “Beef” appears to have plenty of tread left on the tire, as opposed to the injury-risk associated with both Matt Wieters and Wilson Ramos. While Castillo may not rate along with Castro as a catcher with excellent framing skills, he is certainly adequate and also threw out 38 percent of would-be base stealers last season. Atlanta’s ideal fit would be a left-hand hitting catcher to pair with Tyler Flowers, but taking a long look at Castillo would be worth the time and falls right in line with John Coppolella’s strategy of exploring all the options.

Grant McAuley covers the Braves and MLB for 92-9 The Game. You can subscribe to the “Around The Big Leagues” podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher. Follow Grant on Twitter.

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