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Series Preview Q&A: New York Mets vs. Atlanta Braves with Talking Chop

After taking two of three from the Nationals, the Mets head further south to take on the division rival Atlanta Braves who look very different from the 2014 version. Scott Coleman of Talking Chop gives us a preview of the 2015 Braves!

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The 2015 Mets got their season off to a great start against the Nationals and now they head down to Atlanta to meet up with a new-look Braves club this weekend! After finishing 2014 at 79-83, identical to the Mets, the Braves dealt away a number of their star players for prospects in a rebuilding purge. The big league Braves look a lot different, and despite the loss of talent, they managed to sweep the Marlins to open up the season. To help us get a better idea of what to expect from the Braves this weekend, we asked Scott Coleman of SB Nation's Talking Chop a few questions about them.

Amazin' Avenue: After blowing things up in the offseason, what are your expectations for the Braves this year and are Braves fans on board with the rebuilding plan?

Talking Chop: I have the Braves around 74 wins this year. If everything falls right, I could see them coming close to .500. If there are some injuries to the pitching staff, 95 losses isn't out of the question. Someone like Julio Teheran or Alex Wood gets hurt and it's going to be ugly.

As far as the rebuilding plan goes, most Braves fans were pretty frustrated until the Evan Gattis trade. To me, that was the front office finally doing what it needed to do to get this rebuild rolling. It seemed half-assed up until that point. Then came the Craig Kimbrel trade, which was a shock, not because he was traded, but because the move came 18 hours before Opening Day. I figured he at least had until the trade deadline.

AA: Nick Markakis is an Atlanta Brave after signing a somewhat shocking four-year contract. Was this a wise decision and do you think Markakis will ultimately live up to the deal?

TC: I wasn't a fan of the signing at the time and it's still a bit curious, but I guess I don't see it as an albatross. It's not like they gave Dan Uggla an extension. Markakis would need to be worth 2 wins a season to justify it, and I'm not sure that's out of the question for at least the next two years. The Braves have a $100M payroll each year; they have to play *someone* to get fans to keep showing up. It was far from a bargain, but it won't kill the team, either.

AA: The Braves again shocked everyone by dealing Craig Kimbrel to the Padres a day before they played their first game. How do Braves fans feel about the return for Kimbrel, as well as the return for some of the other big name players they dealt away?

TC: I love the deal. Losing Kimbrel sucks, but it was silly to keep him around on a team with its eyes set on 2017. Add in Melvin Upton's untradeable, joke of a contract, and the Braves should save around $60 million in this trade. It's a no-brainer.

Then consider what else the Braves got. Depending who you ask, Matt Wisler is anywhere from a No. 2 starter to a back-end guy. The outfielder Paroubeck is another interesting prospect, and the top-50 draft pick will be great come June. Cameron Maybin is a decent 4th outfielder. Even if the prospects don't turn into anything special, the money saved should be huge for the team moving forward.

As far as the other trades go, I think they got enough for Heyward considering his contract status and injury history. The Justin Upton return hinges largely on Max Fried, a former top-10 pick, who is recovering from Tommy John. Like the Kimbrel deal, trading Gattis to an AL club was a no-brainer. Rio Ruiz is a guy who I think has a monster year in Double-A and could be the Braves' starter at third base within a year or two.

AA: Eric Young Jr has started two of the Braves' first three games in center field. How has he looked out there and do you think this experiment will last?

TC: His only real competition for playing time is Maybin and there's no one in the farm system that's anywhere close to the big leagues, so he'll be given every chance to stick as the leadoff guy. Beggars can't be choosers.

AA: Fredi Gonzalez is still the Braves' manager despite the team's fall from grace and ultimate retooling. How long do you think the Braves stick with him going forward?

TC: I figured he would be fired along with Wren, but Bobby Cox, who still has a pretty big influence in the front office, loves the guy. If the team can hang around .500 most of the year I think Fredi survives the winter. If he loses the players over the summer and oversees another miserable second half, he'll be gone.

Thanks again to Scott Coleman for giving us a preview of the Braves! For more on the Braves, be sure to check out Talking Chop!