Bill Shanks

Braves face a lot of questions this winter

Back in the fall of 1990, the Braves had a lot of questions heading into the offseason. They had a new general manager, as John Schuerholz had arrived from Kansas City. They were a young team, but in dire need of some veteran leadership.

It was an active offseason. Schuerholz brought in free agents Terry Pendleton, Sid Bream, Rafael Belliard, Mike Heath and Juan Berenguer. He then traded for Otis Nixon. The Braves roster, while it still had its core young pitchers, was revitalized with the new talent.

We all know what happened after that team took off – 15 years of unprecedented success.

This coming winter might be the most pivotal offseason the Braves have had since that 1990-1991 offseason when Schuerholz put his mark on the Atlanta franchise. The Braves will perhaps have close to $35 million coming off the books, and with its star player retiring, decisions will have to be made that could shape the team for the next 5-10 years.

Without going into the discussion of what the answers might be, let’s just ponder some of the questions that general manager Frank Wren and his staff will have to answer this winter:

  1)       Who will replace Chipper Jones at third base?

a.        Do you let Martin Prado take over, and if so, who then becomes the left fielder?

b.       Do you give Juan Francisco the chance?

c.        Do you go after David Wright, if he’s available in trade or if the Mets do not pick up his 2013 option?

d.       Is there a minor leaguer (Joe Leonard, Nick Ahmed, Edward Salcedo) that might only be a year or two away, which would allow you to sign a veteran as a stop-gap for one year?

2)       Do you offer Brian McCann a contract extension?

a.        If so, how long and for how much?

b.       Do you even pick up his $12 million option for 2013 or buy him out and let him walk?

c.        What could you get for McCann in a potential trade?

d.       Can McCann still be productive when he’s 33 and 34 years old?

e.        If not, can you sign a veteran stop-gap until top prospect Christian Bethancourt is ready in 2014?

f.        Are you sure Bethancourt will be ready in 2014?

3)       Can you re-sign Michael Bourn?

a.        If so, for how long and how much?

b.       Can you get into a bidding war with Philadelphia and Washington?

c.        Is it logical to offer a speedy outfielder a huge contract if his speed skills diminish with age?

d.       If not, who plays center?

e.        Do you pursue a free agent like Shane Victorino?

f.        Do you pursue a trade for someone like Jacoby Ellsbury?

g.        Can Jason Heyward play center and you instead target a right fielder?

4)       Do you invest in a long-term contract offer to Martin Prado?

a.        If so, for how long and how much?

b.       Where will he play – third, left, second?

c.        Does he compare to Placido Palanco or more like Chase Utley when determining value?

5)       Do you offer long-term deals to some of your younger players, like Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Tommy Hanson and Craig Kimbrel?

6)       Are you happy with Dan Uggla at second base, or do you see if some team would take his remaining three years off your hands?

a.        If you trade Uggla, would you move Prado back to second base?

i.       If so, do you then offer Prado a long-term deal to stay at second base?

b.       Would you trade for a different second baseman?

7)       Who is the projected starting five for your rotation next season?       

a.        Do you pick up Tim Hudson’s 2013 option for $9 million?

b.       Do you pick up Paul Maholm’s 2013 option for $6.5 million?

c.        What do you do with Ben Sheets?

i.       Do you offer him a one-year deal?

ii.       If so, for how much?                                                          

Can he stay healthy?

  iv.       Will other teams offer more?

d.       Can Tommy Hanson stay healthy, or do you test the trade market with him?

e.        Do you want Kris Medlen to be a starter or reliever?

f.        Can Mike Minor be a good number three or four starting pitcher?

g.        Is Julio Teheran ready for the major leagues after two straight seasons in Triple-A? h.       What do you do with Randall Delgado?

i.         How soon will Brandon Beachy be back in 2013?

j.         How close are Sean Gilmartin, Zeke Spruill and Alex Wood from being options?

8)       How do you rebuild the bench, with David Ross, Eric Hinske, Matt Diaz, Reed Johnson and Jack Wilson all eligible to leave via free agency?

a.        Can Tyler Pastornicky be a solid infield reserve, or does Paul Janish being under control make Pastornicky expendable?

b.       If Francisco is not the starter at third base, can he continue to be a decent bench guy?

c.        Can some players from the farm system (Todd Cunningham, Evan Gattis, Joey Terdoslavich) fit in?

So the Braves will have a lot of issues to deal with after this season. There’s still a lot of work to do over the next two-three months, but once the season is over, the busy work will begin.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at . Follow Bill on twitter @BillShanks and email him at .