Atlanta: signing an marquee acquisition to learn from…..

Kelenic finds new home in Atlanta, eager to learn from Braves’ talented roster.

Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners

Jarred Kelenic has become one of the marquee acquisitions by the Atlanta Braves this offseason. His name may not be a household name just yet but he has the opportunity to change that in Atlanta.

In case you missed it, the Braves and Mariners completed a five-player trade that sent Jackson Kowar and Cole Phillips to Seattle. In return, Atlanta received Jarred Kelenic, Marco Gonzales, and Evan White.

The Braves hope Kelenic can regain his success from early 2023 before injuring himself by kicking a cooler and missing a chunk of the season. He and Huascar Ynoa have that in common. However, they both can use that as a learning opportunity.

Essentially, the Braves took on a salary dump to acquire Kelenic and have him compete with Vaughn Grissom to be their everyday left fielder. Some fans seem to be skeptical of taking on that much money for a player they see as underwhelming.

To be fair, I understand that side of things because you don’t want to hurt the team financially for a player who may not figure it out. However, from Atlanta’s perspective, they have a great track record of being able to fix players’ swings. They also retain control of Kelenic’s services for 5 more seasons. It’s worth the risk in their eyes.

Jarred Kelenic meets with Braves media.

Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics

Kelenic recently met with Braves insiders and discussed how the trade made him feel and how he thinks he fits in with this team. He also touched on how missing a month after injuring himself in frustration changed things for him.

Jarred was watching the Green Bay Packers game when he received the news from Seattle GM Justin Hollander, that he’d been traded to the Atlanta Braves. He expressed how he was immediately “fired up” by the move.

He knew he’d be joining a team with a great organizational culture and a history of winning. He, too, noticed just how incredible the 2023 Atlanta Braves were.

Kelenic expressed just how excited he is to be joining a prolific offense like the one featured in Atlanta. He mentioned looking forward to seeing how everyone goes about things on a day-to-day basis.

It seems that Kelenic knows he has some things that need tweaking and that joining the Braves will allow him to do that. Not only does it take pressure off of him to be the next big thing for the Mariners but it also allows him the chance to know he’s a part of an organization that believes highly in his ability to perform.

In a conversation with Justin Toscano from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ($), Kelenic discussed how that foot injury was a major turning point in his young career.

He realized just how special what he does for a living is and how thankful he should be for the opportunity given to him as this was something he’d been dreaming of doing his entire life. As he states further, “I just truly felt thankful to have the opportunity to be out there and playing again”.

That moment was a painful lesson for Kelenic but it seemed to be one that was needed to bring things back into focus for the talented outfielder, who isn’t even 25 years old yet. While it may seem the Braves took a chance on an unproven player, he has yet to get close to his ceiling.

Very similar to Ronald Acuna Jr. who needed failure and the right coach to help get him in the right direction. Kevin Seitzer has a proven track record of helping guys unlock their full potential. When you partner Seitzer, Chipper Jones, and Kelenic’s raw talent together, fans are looking at a perfect storm for a breakout season.

The cause and effect of the Braves alluring additions of Kelenic and Fletcher.

The Atlanta Braves made a series of moves to an additional $22.25 million in payroll to add David Fletcher and Jarred Kelenic to the roster. While Kelenic will only earn around $770k, Fletcher comes with a $7 million price tag. Additionally, the Braves balance book (remember those?) looks something like this:

2024 net cost of adding Fletcher & Kelenic: $17.78 million

The Braves could have just kept Eddie Rosario for $9 million in 2024. So, what does it tell you that they have added a net of nearly $18 million in 2024 for David Fletcher and Jarred Kelenic? A few things stand out to me.

Where does Vaughn Grissom fit in after additions of Kelenic and Fletcher?

Vaughn Grissom is going to have to work hard for playing time. The additions of Fletcher and Kelenic present roadblocks to Grissom’s pathways to playing time. He won’t be used as a utility infielder after setting a 135-game pace of -53 defensive runs saved at shortstop last year. Anthopoulos has made comments about both Kelenic and Grissom getting chances in left field, and that might be the case. Both Grissom and Kelenic have shown a high upside with the bat. However, Kelenic is the price.

Kelenic is not a lock out of the gates. Over 974 major-league plate appearances, he has a 30.7% strikeout rate with an 85 wRC+. He’s a project, a work in progress. His .204/.283/.373 triple slash leaves a LOT of room for improvement. He has a very high ceiling but Kevin Seitzer and the Braves coaching staff are going to need a tall ladder to help him reach it.

It’s easy to argue that Grissom is a more polished big-league hitter than Kelenic at this point. Grissom only has 236 plate appearances in the Major Leagues, but his K-rate is about 10 points lower than Kelenic’s. Grissom struck out at an even lower rate in the minor leagues.

Last year in AAA he sat down on strikes in just 14% of his plate appearances. Kelenic might have the higher future potential, but Grissom brings the ability to make contact and do some damage right now. Vaughn’s power tends to be underestimated. He slugged .501 over 102 Triple-A games last season.

Grissom has a career triple slash line of .287/.339/.407. He will turn 23 in January, so he’s a year younger than Kelenic. There’s a real chance we see a healthy dose of Vaughn Grissom in 2024. Most likely that will depend upon Kelenic’s success or struggles.

Atlanta Braves: Bottom line on the math

I left one thing out of the first section. I didn’t subtract the cost of Eddie Rosario’s option from the net $17.78 million the Braves have spent to bring in Kelenic and Fletcher. Once you do that, it becomes even easier to see how these moves have added up to success for Alex Anthopoulos and the Braves. Atlanta will spend an additional $8.78 million to go from one year of Rosario to five years of Kelenic with a backup infielder that could very well take the starting job from Arcia by season’s end.

Since they are currently over the $237 million CBT threshold, I’m not going to get into the luxury tax implications. At this point, each move they make has a penalty attached. The bigger the move the bigger the penalty. Especially as the team tip-toes that second level at $257 million.

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