The easiest prediction ever made: Alex Anthopoulos isn’t done. It’s easy because the Braves’ GM is never done. He made his offseason splash by trading for – and signing to the now-standard long-term deal – catcher Sean Murphy. He held the line on Dansby Swanson, who signed with the Cubs for $177 million over seven seasons.
Those were Anthopoulos’ big moves, or non-moves, of the offseason. Smaller acquisitions include:
Lucas Luetge, LHP; Dennis Santana, RHP; Joe Jimenez, RHP; Hoy Park, SS; Kolby Allard, LHP; Ty Tice, RHP; Ryder Jones, once an INF but apparently an RHP; Yacksel Rios, RHP; Joshua Fuentes, INF; Eli White, OF; Lewin Diaz, 1B; Jordan Luplow, INF; Joe Hudson, C; Ehire Adrianza, UT; Sam Hilliard, OF; Mitchell Tolman, INF; Jesse Chavez, RHP; Nick Anderson, RHP.
Some aren’t on the 40-man roster. Some will never play for the big-league Braves. Some will. Some are familiar. Allard and Adrianza were re-acquired. Chavez, who never goes away for long, was re-signed to a minor-league deal six days after becoming a free agent.
Some of these names might appear to be front-office busy work, as acquisitions made for the sake of acquisition. That’s not – this won’t come as a shock – how the Braves see it. Front offices live by the credo of trying to make their club better every single day. Doing nothing is not an option, not with teams as star-laden as the Dodgers fighting to land the same non-names just in case one might be needed for the back end of a doubleheader in July.
The Braves are as set as a team can be. Only Max Fried will engage in arbitration. Among their core players, only Fried is anywhere close to free agency, and he’s under contract through 2024.
Minus Swanson, they need someone to play shortstop; Vaughn Grissom will get his chance. Left field is iffy, what with Adam Duvall – breaking news! – having agreed to a one-year deal with the Red Sox and Eddie Rosario coming off a difficult year. Since signing Marcell Ozuna to a four-year deal at $64M, the Braves have received two seasons of minus-WAR, but you’d have to think Travis d’Arnaud will become a part-time DH.
Over five years under Anthopoulos, the Braves have gone from strength to strength. In 2018, they broke back above .500 and won the National League East. In 2019, they won 97 games and a second division title. In 2020, they came within a game of the World Series. In 2021, they won the World Series. In 2022, they became the most improved defending champ of the playoff era, going from 88 wins to 101.
They’ve won five consecutive division titles, and no longer can we say they’ve prevailed over a weak field. The Mets won 101 games in 2022. The Phillies reached the World Series. Both should be good again. The Phillies signed Trea Turner. The Mets signed Justin Verlander. (After further review, the Mets did not sign Carlos Correa.)
The Braves are spending in a way they haven’t since Ted Turner owned the club, but they’re spending in a way they never have. They’ve signed some free agents – Josh Donaldson, Ozuna, Will Smith, Cole Hamels, Charlie Morton – but they haven’t signed a free agent to a contract of $100M-plus. Such deals have only been bestowed on those who are Braves already. Anthopoulos is playing the long game in a sport where the standings change with every day.
As Anthopoulos told the AJC’s Justin Toscano: “There’s risk to this, no doubt about it. That’s the trade-off. You’re guaranteeing. You’re committing. But we do like the fact that guys can just worry about going out and playing … They know they’re going to be here.”
Freddie Freeman is a Dodger. Swanson is a Cub. Here’s who will be Braves for the foreseeable future: Murphy, Ronald Acuna, Austin Riley, Ozzie Albies, Matt Olson, Michael Harris and Spencer Strider. The Braves have been good for five years they should stay good for at least another five.
There is, however, one little move I’d like to see before pitchers and catchers report. I’d like to see the Braves sign Elvis Andrus, who was a significant prospect here until being shipped to Texas in the regrettable Mark Teixeira deal. He’s 34. He’d be a nice insurance policy at shortstop.