NL East Preview: Atlanta Braves

Will the Braves be able to overcome their injury woes and contend for the playoffs in 2014?

Trades

GM Frank Wren acquired 1B/OF/C Ryan Doumit from the Minnesota Twinkies back in December. Other than that, all has been quiet.

Free Agent Signings

Gavin Floyd and Freddy Garcia were signed as potential rotation depth and fifth starter options while Gerald Laird was signed to backup Evan Gattis behind the plate. Garcia was recently released and replaced with Aaron Harang. The key acquisition, however, came when Ervin Santana agreed to a one-year deal to shore up the rotation following the injuries to starters Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen. Even more importantly, the team's most high profile signings occurred within the organization. The Braves doled out $280.7 million to lock up core players Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran, Andrelton Simmons, and Craig Kimbrel. The latter four's deals bought out not only their arbitration years but also a few free agent years. For Frank Wren, this offseason initially seemed to be geared toward setting up his team for sustainable success in the future as he appeared content with the current roster's foundation; granted, this was all before two of his starting pitchers were forced to go under the knife.

Free Agent Departures

The Braves big-bopping catcher Brian McCann split to become a Bronx Bomber while Tim Hudson, a linchpin in the team's rotation since 2005, chose to head back to the Bay Area, this time with the San Francisco Giants.

Injuries

This is perhaps the biggest offseason story line for the Braves. Going into spring training, the team had a formidable front four in their starting rotation with Julio Teheran, Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy, and Kris Medlen. The fifth starter spot was then up for grabs among Alex Wood, David Hale, and Freddy Garcia with Gavin Floyd waiting in the wings while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Now, three out of the top four will be on the disabled list when the season starts. Minor will try to get back on the mound by late April while Beachy and Medlen will miss the entire season.

Projections

With all the young talent they have on their roster, the Braves are a very difficult team to project for the season. Yes, the major injuries to Medlen and Beachy definitely hurt them, but the team still has a plethora of talent in Teheran, Minor, Heyward, Justin Upton, Freeman, Simmons, and Kimbrel. Additionally, while Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton probably won't be competing for the MVP award ever again, it's tough to imagine that either could be as bad as they were last year, especially Upton.

That being said, the majority of the Braves' team is very young and it is not out of the question to think that one or two or of their players could take a minor step back this year; especially Teheran and Minor, who are relatively inexperienced players who will be leaned on heavily throughout the season. An injury to either of the two could also finally destroy the once promising Braves roster.

While they still have star power in their lineup, it will be tough to ask the Braves to contend in the division when at best their rotation by May will feature Teheran, Santana, a rusty Mike Minor, an even rustier and probably weak Gavin Floyd, and either an inexperienced Alex Wood or an uninspiring Harang. Then, when you stack the Braves rotation up against the Nationals, which features Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister, and either Tanner Roark or Taylor Jordan, their odds to take the NL East seem slim.

For the team to be a playoff contender, they will need all of their core players to maintain relative health throughout the season while at least replicating their numbers from 2013, as well. Really, Frank Wren did everything right this offseason, but his team was just too unlucky. Thankfully for him and the Braves, there are two wild card spots that they can and should compete for. But they should probably just forget about their division hopes.

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