LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Though their impressive prospect crop will draw much of the focus during Spring Training, the Braves have not lost sight of the possibility that they could prove their doubters wrong during the regular season.
The Braves have a little more than $10 million of financial flexibility on this year's payroll. As they have passed on the opportunity to sign any of the remaining free agents, the assumption has been that some of this money could be used to aid their aggressive pursuits on this year's international market. President of baseball operations John Hart has mentioned this as a possibility.
But Braves general manager John Coppolella has not ruled out the possibility that these funds could be used to upgrade this year's roster at some point during the season.
"We think we're going to be a better team in 2016, and if we can get to a spot as we get toward the [Aug. 1 non-waiver] Trade Deadline where we're in the hunt for a playoff spot, I think we will spend money to try to make this team better," Coppolella said. "I think what is great is that we will have a lot of players that we can trade. When you get to the Trade Deadline, you're trying to add players, but you've got to take on their salaries. We'll have the money to do that, but we've also got the players to trade in order to get back talent that will help us win in 2016 if we're fortunate enough to be in that spot."
Coming off a 67-win season, the Braves are confident that they have upgraded their bullpen with solid depth, and they are hopeful that the offense will benefit from a healthy Freddie Freeman and improved Hector Olivera. But there are definite concerns about the rotation, which will likely include some of the club's top prospects at some point during the season.
While top pitching prospect Sean Newcomb is expected to begin the season at the Minor League level, the Braves have not ruled out the possibility that either Aaron Blair or Tyrell Jenkins could open in the big league rotation.
"If you think back to the 2010 season, Jason Heyward was 20 years old and he had less than a half-season above [the Class A Advanced level], and we brought him onto our team," Coppolella said. "He had two game-winning hits for us during the first month of the season, and we won the Wild Card by one game that season. So, I don't think that we're going to allow service time issues to stand in our way with young players. If we feel that they are ready, they will get every opportunity. One of the things I'm so excited about seeing in this camp is which of the young players take the biggest step forward."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.