How much money have the Braves freed up this offseason?
-- Kaleb C., Bowling Green, Ky.
Simply accounting for the trades involving Jason Heyward and Justin Upton, the Braves gained approximately $21.7 million in payroll flexibility. When you account for other variables like arbitration projections and the raises the likes of Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman will gain, there is now approximately $20 million available to fill remaining needs -- a starting pitcher, a backup catcher and a bench player to serve as the primary pinch-hitter.
If the backup catcher and bench piece cost the Braves between $3-4 million, there will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $16 million to spend on a pitcher to fill the final available spot in the rotation. This does not put them in position to pursue Max Scherzer. But they can now widen the scope of pitchers they might be able to gain with a trade that would likely have to include Evan Gattis.
What might the Braves gain in return for Gattis?
-- Teddy S., Knoxville, Tenn.
Though Gattis might not be deemed as valuable as Heyward and Upton, the fact that potential suitors could control him for the next four years provides reason to believe he might garner a return that rivals those gained for the two corner outfielders who have already been traded.
Considering that they were only able to offer one year of Heyward and Upton, the Braves should be very happy with the returns, which netted them a potential frontline starter (Shelby Miller), their latest top pitching prospect (Max Fried) and three other players (Tyrell Jenkins, Dustin Peterson and Mallex Smith) who might all rank among their Top 10 Prospects by the end of this upcoming season.
If the Braves do opt to trade Gattis, I believe they will attempt to gain a starting pitcher or an outfielder who could provide an immediate impact and remain under contractual control for the next few years.
Have the Braves started to change their philosophy from an offensive perspective?
-- Rachel S., Macon, Ga.
While you can't completely discount the value of power bats, the Braves do seem determined to infuse more speed/contact players into their system. The Upton trade netted them Smith, who stole 88 bases at the Class A level last year, and Jace Peterson, who swiped at least 39 bags during each of his first three professional seasons. While Peterson might project to be a utility player, Smith could develop into an everyday center fielder and share a lineup spot with Jose Peraza, who is the best homegrown speed threat the Braves have developed since Rafael Furcal.
Still, while speed is a nice asset, the Braves have to determine whether they want to keep Gattis long term or find another power source to provide some much-needed protection for Freeman.
Do you think the Braves have the necessary pieces to field a good bullpen?
-- Ben R., Knoxville, Tenn.
Two of the best bullpens I have covered (2002 with John Smoltz, Mike Remlinger and Chris Hammond) and 2011 (Kimbrel, Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters) -- entered the season surrounded by some doubt. As you look toward next year, the Braves have to hope that Jim Johnson and Michael Kohn bounce back and find comfort in their new environment. There also seems to be a need to gain a left-handed reliever. But this specific need could be satisfied if Luis Avilan regains the confidence and aggression he had in 2013. It's hard to predict what a relief corps might do, but the Braves do have another group that is capable of exceeding expectations.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.