ATLANTA -- Now that the free-agent-signing period has arrived, it will be interesting to see how aggressive the Braves might be with their attempt to add at least one proven veteran to their bullpen and possibly enhance their young rotation with an experienced arm.
Given what will be available on next year's free-agent market, the Braves may have even less reason to provide a lucrative, multi-year contract to one of this year's free agents. Their payroll projection could also be influenced by the significance of fines levied once MLB concludes its investigation of the alleged infractions committed during international signings.
But as the Braves strive to produce their first winning record since 2013 and distance themselves from the painful portion of their massive rebuild, they are expected to at least bring aboard some short-term assets that could complement their talented young nucleus in the '18 season.
Biggest potential free-agent loss: The Braves locked up their two catchers when they signed Kurt Suzuki to a one-year, $3.5 million contract on Sept. 23, and then exercised Tyler Flowers' $4 million option in October. Now, they must determine what they want to do with their rotation -- which will no longer include R.A. Dickey, whose $8 million option was declined two weeks ago.
Dickey led Atlanta with 190 innings pitched this year, and his stringent preparation habits seemed to positively influence the young starters. But as the 42-year-old knuckleballer contemplates retirement, the Braves opted to go in a different direction.
There's a chance the Braves could pursue a controllable, top-flight starting pitcher via free agency or trade. But accounting for the number of highly-regarded prospects they have who are either currently Major League-ready or positioned to earn this status at some point next summer, it might be more prudent to stand pat or provide a one-year deal to a veteran, who might simply provide some leadership and direction until Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard and other prospects prove it's time for them to join Atlanta's rotation.
Potential free-agent targets: While the Braves might evaluate the markets for Greg Holland and Wade Davis, they'll most likely pass on the steep cost and enter 2018 knowing Vizcaino or A.J. Minter are capable of filling the closer's role. A rebound season from Jim Johnson would certainly be welcomed, but to create some insurance, the club may instead opt to pursue the likes of Addison Reed, Matt Belisle -- who enjoyed a strong second half with the Twins -- or Mike Minor, who proved to be one of the game's top relievers this past season.
Wild-card scenario: There's a chance the Braves could opt to add some power to their lineup by pursuing either Mike Moustakas or Todd Frazier. But it might be wise to avoid a long-term commitment until getting a better feel for whether Austin Riley might indeed be capable enough defensively of becoming the club's third baseman of the future.
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.