Red Sox

If Atlanta Braves go all-in on Mookie Betts, these are the prospects they could use to get him

If Atlanta Braves go all-in on Mookie Betts, these are the prospects they could use to get him

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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Merloni: Why Alex Cora could return as Red Sox manager in 2021

Merloni: Why Alex Cora could return as Red Sox manager in 2021

Alex Cora and the Boston Red Sox mutually agreed to part ways last week as a result of the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal. But is there a chance he could return as Boston's manager in 2021?

That'll depend on the length of Cora's impending suspension. The ex-Red Sox skipper is expected to receive at least a one-year ban for his role in the Astros scandal, and it could exceed that if MLB finds wrongdoing by the 2018 Red Sox in their current investigation.

The Red Sox, though, believe they'll get off scot-free. If that's the case, Cora could be a managerial candidate again in 2021 and thus a reunion with Boston would be a possibility.

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Thursday on NBC Sports Boston's "Boston Sports Tonight," Lou Merloni explained why it would make sense to hire an interim manager like bench coach Ron Roenicke for the 2020 season and then explore options -- potentially Cora -- next offseason.

To me, I don't think Chaim Bloom his first hire for a manager he goes out and hires the best of what's left ... The next manager, I don't think you want to just take what's best. You want to wait and, you know, that's why you want to go interim for a year, and then you look at a bigger pool. One that may include Alex Cora ... 

Cora's a longshot. But we've got to see what happens with the investigation. We've got to hear from him after the investigation. We've got to see how the summer goes, the PR, how Roenicke does. I think you say, 'Ron, you're the manager of the team. We'll re-evaluate at the end of the year, there's no promises, I'm not going to give you a four-year deal, and you'll be up for the job next year too. We'll see what happens.'

Given Cora's current reputation around the league for his involvement in the Astros cheating scandal, it's difficult to imagine the Red Sox bringing him back. However, owner John Henry reportedly had every intention of keeping Cora, so maybe it wouldn't be so farfetched after all.

Tomase: Handicapping the Red Sox managerial candidates

Lou Merloni: Red Sox 'believe they will [get off scot-free]'

Lou Merloni: Red Sox 'believe they will [get off scot-free]'

The Boston Red Sox are facing a lot of unexpected uncertainty at this stage in the offseason. The team fired their manager Alex Cora amid a sign-stealing scandal from his time with the Houston Astros. And now, they're searching for a replacement.

At this point in the offseason, there aren't a lot of options available. And most of the best candidates may come internally.

That said, the Red Sox will want to make sure that none of those internal candidates, namely Ron Roenicke, were involved in any sort of sign stealing during Cora's Red Sox tenure.

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And just how would they do that? Lou Merloni offered up a potential solution on NBC Sports Boston's Early Edition on Thursday night.

"What you do is you don't even name the manager," Merloni said. "You go into spring training if you have to, whenever this investigation is over. Roenicke runs the team. [Jason] Varitek has more responsibility in camp.

"And when the report comes out -- and if it's what they believe it is, that they're clean -- then Roenicke's the manager, 'Tek's the bench coach and you go from there with no promises of the future and you just say this is the way we go. I think that's the easiest transition for everyone in that locker room."

This definitely would be a sensible route for the team to take. Essentially, they can have Roenicke continue to serve as the manager without officially naming him the manager until they know the results of the investigation.

And according to Merloni, the team does believe that Roenicke and other members of their staff are clean and as a result, the team won't be punished.

"I'm hearing that they believe they are [going to get off scot-free]," Merloni said. "They believe that what they're told is true and that they didn't do anything. And if they didn't do anything, there's no reason for punishment."

It's unclear exactly when the MLB's investigation will be complete, but this will certainly be something to watch moving forward. For the time being though, the Red Sox seem content to stick with what they have provided that everything comes back clean.