Red Sox

Red Sox

If there's one team that can make a compelling case for Mookie Betts as its missing piece, it's the Braves.

Atlanta boasts one of the brightest young stars in the game in five-tool center fielder Ronald Acuña Jr., and after a four-year playoff drought, the Braves have won at least 90 games for two straight seasons, losing in the division series both times.

The roster presents a nice mix of cheap youngsters like Acuña and Ozzie Albies and productive veterans like Josh Donaldson and Freddie Freeman. Ace Mike Soroka is only 22. The farm system is loaded.

The Braves, who in 2017 moved into their new park in suburban Cobb County, could very well be one player away from challenging the Dodgers and Nationals for National League supremacy, and it's hard to imagine there's a better fit than Betts.

Whether they have the will to spend $30 million annually on him is an open question, especially after they got a jump on the relief market by signing former Giants closer Will Smith to a three-year, $40 million deal. They still sit roughly $40 million shy of last year's $144 million payroll, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which gives them room to maneuver.

What's not in question is whether Atlanta has the pieces to get a deal done. The Braves may not be quite as awash in prospects as they were three years ago, but they still boast one of the most envied farm systems in the game. So what prospects might be in play for Betts?


Top prospect Christian Pache, a potential Gold Glove center fielder and one of the 10 best prospects in baseball, is probably off the table. But No. 2 prospect Drew Waters, another outfielder, could be the centerpiece of a hypothetical trade.

The youngest Southern League MVP in nearly 15 years, Waters was a force in 119 games at Double-A Mississippi before being promoted. The 20-year-old switch hitter led the league in doubles, triples, and hits while batting .319, and he also profiles as a plus defensive center fielder.

On the pitching side, if the Red Sox want a starter with big-league experience, then Kyle Wright would be their man. The former Vanderbilt ace needed barely a year in the minors before reaching the big leagues in 2018. He throws 99 mph with a solid slider, but has surrendered six homers in just 25.2 innings with the Braves. He spent most of 2019 at Triple A, where he went 11-4 while striking out more than a batter an inning.

The most intriguing arm in the system is right-hander Ian Anderson, a 2016 first-rounder (3rd overall) with excellent control and three potential big-league offerings in a low-90s fastball, 12-6 curveball, and firm changeup, per Baseball America. A consensus top-30 prospect, he went 7-5 with a 2.68 ERA at Double A before struggling in his first brief exposure to Triple A.

In the very next round of that same draft, the Braves took left-hander Kyle Muller, a solid 6-foot-6, 225-pounder with a 98-mph fastball. He went 7-6 with a 3.14 ERA at Double A, though he led the Southern League with 68 walks and will need to refine both his secondary offerings and his command. Still, for pure stuff from the left side, he oozes potential.

The last Braves player on BA's top 100 list is right-hander Bryse Wilson, who was also selected in the pitching-rich 2016 draft. The fourth-rounder jumped from high school to the big leagues in only two years, making spot starts with the Braves in both 2018 and 2019. He relies on a consistent 95-mph fastball and spotty secondary offerings, but he's still only 21.

If we move to an area of some overlap, the Braves boast a pair of promising catching prospects. Shea Langeliers and William Contreras check in at Nos. 7 and 8 on Baseball America's Braves Top 10 list. The former is already considered a big-league caliber defender with a cannon arm, while the latter — the younger brother of Cubs backstop Willson Contreras — has higher offensive upside.

Should the Braves decide to go for broke in the pursuit of a World Series, they have the pieces to make a serious run at Betts. It remains to be seen if they have the will to make it happen.

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