With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Braves squad each day this week. Today's topic -- What's the vision?
ATLANTA -- Once the Braves opted to add three veterans to their starting rotation this offseason, they entered an interesting portion of their rebuild. They have improved to the point where it would not be outlandish to predict that they will record a winning record and possibly even compete for a playoff spot this season.
While the move to SunTrust Park has motivated the Braves, along with some alterations to the starting rotation, the club's front office remains cognizant of the fact that it must remain somewhat patient during the process. Doing so would preserve the long-range, potentially sustainable benefits gained during the rebuild.
"We're going to be better this year and we're going to be fun to watch," Braves general manager John Coppolella said. "We feel that with the rotation we have assembled we have a chance to win with whoever is starting that particular day. We're not going to put any limits or expectations on this team. We had chances to trade for some big-name players this offseason and chose not to do so because we didn't want to gut the farm system."
This is not to say the Braves will object to making a significant trade that could provide both immediate and long-term benefits. They may be reluctant to move many of their top prospects, but with the quality of depth they have gained in their farm system, they might eventually be willing to move a few pieces to gain a controllable top-flight starting pitcher like the Rays' Chris Archer.
The strength of Atlanta's farm system exists within the starting pitching department. Sean Newcomb, Patrick Weigel and Max Fried are among the most intriguing prospects who could reach the Majors at some point this year, but many of the club's other top pitching prospects like Kolby Allard, Ian Anderson, Mike Soroka and Joey Wentz are at least a couple years away from being deemed ready for the big leagues.
With the offseason additions of Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia, the Braves gained three veterans who quite possibly won't stay in Atlanta beyond this year. They were targeted to provide immediate stability within the rotation and help bridge the gap toward Newcomb, Weigel, Fried and possibly Lucas Sims.
At the same time, the acquisition of these veterans was intended to provide some motivation to Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair, who will likely have to spend some time with Triple-A Gwinnett before regaining one of the rotation spots they held last year.
Given the struggles Wisler and Blair encountered while still attempting to adjust to the big leagues last season, it might be easy to argue that the Braves have given themselves a better shot to win this year with the presence of Colon, Dickey and Garcia within their rotation.
While last season's late success might have enhanced the desire to win this year, the Braves have to remain focused on the future, which could be impacted by the presence of Blair, Wisler or any member of that next wave of starting pitching prospects set to reach Atlanta.
Baseball evaluators have long said pitchers develop in the Minors and then gain their most valuable lessons at the big leagues while experiencing inevitable growing pains. Thus, while there might be some temptation to give Colon, Dickey and Garcia 30-plus starts, there might come a point this season when at least one of these veterans is flipped to make room for a younger starter, whose experience could prove beneficial in 2018 and beyond.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.