Welcome to The Afternoon Drive, where the sports staff of the Times Free Press will give you a dose of (random) sports-related information that will hopefully get you thinking about more than just what's for dinner. This information will be packed into an online list form each weekday, but the opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff as a whole.
With the calendar turning to February, we have just a couple of weeks before pitchers and catchers report to spring training. The Atlanta Braves still have spots on the 40-man roster to fill, so here are a handful of free agents still available that staff writer Lindsey Young would like to see considered.
1. Jordan Montgomery
OK, I know the Braves are up against a salary wall, so to speak, but general manager Alex Anthopoulos has a way of making things happen. Montgomery would fill a huge need on a starting pitching staff that is planning to rely on 40-year-old Charlie Morton, oft-injured Chris Sale and whoever earns the fifth spot behind aces Spencer Strider and Max Fried. See if Monty would take a club-friendly deal for a shot at a title.
2. Joey Votto
Right now, the Braves have five infielders on a 40-man roster that has 37 names on it and only Matt Olson can play first base, and you can't count on him to play 162 games again (nor should he). Votto wants to win a World Series, he can still hit and he would be a nice clubhouse presence. Here are the Braves' current bench players: Travis d'Arnaud, Luis Guillorme, Forrest Wall and JP Martinez. Outside of d'Arnaud, who in that group is going to get a big pinch-hit?
3. Adam Duvall
Again, Wall and Martinez are currently the extra outfielders (unless you count Marcell Ozuna, which we don't), and Duvall would be nice insurance and a more than capable bat off the bench.
4. Garrett Cooper
If you can't lure Votto, go after this guy, who was an all-star in 2022 and it seems to me he always hit well in Atlanta.
5. Brandon Belt
Another first baseman and probably too expensive for the Braves, but if he wants to chase a ring, he would be a nice fit if he agreed to take less money on a short deal.
6. Whit Merrifield
Like Belt, he played last year with Toronto, which has reached its 40-man roster maximum. The 35-year-old is a three-time all-star, including last season, where he split time between second base and the outfield while stealing 26 bags. That's nice flexibility.
7. Hyun-Jin Ryu
The soon-to-be 37-year-old crafty lefty would be nice insurance for the rotation. He's not a strikeout pitcher, but in 11 starts a year ago he posted a 3.46 ERA and 1.29 WHIP for Toronto. Maybe a minor league deal to start with.
8. Clayton Kershaw
The veteran lefty is out until at least midseason after undergoing shoulder surgery, but even a limited Kershaw in September and October could be significant. It would also greatly annoy the Dodgers, which is a plus.
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org.