5 Top Free Agents the Braves should stay away from

MLB: APR 29 Cubs at Marlins

It’s one of the best times of the year for baseball fans, as free agency is underway, and like every year at this time, there is going to be plenty of movement through acquisitions and trades. Things are going to look a lot different in a few months for many teams, but that shouldn’t be the case for the Braves.

The core of their team is locked up for the foreseeable future, and with Charlie Morton, Pierce Johnson, and Joe Jimenez back, the pitching staff already looks much better than it did a couple of weeks ago. With that being said, Alex Anthopoulos usually doesn’t sit on his hands during the offseason, which is even more unlikely after back-to-back early exits from the postseason.

There’s a plethora of free agents I would love to have on the Braves next season, from superstars to players that will garner one or two-year contracts. However, here are a few guys that I hope Alex Anthopoulos avoids this winter.

Shohei Ohtani

Who doesn’t like to start off with a bang? Ohtani will be the most sought after free agent this cycle, and it’s possible he receives the largest contract in MLB history, approaching or over $500 million. Before the injury, I don’t think anyone would have argued he was worth that. But how can anyone, especially a team like the Braves that doesn’t have an unlimited payroll, justify paying Ohtani $500+ million when he will not be able to pitch for at least a year-and-a-half, and there’s no guarantee he will ever be the same level of starting pitcher ever again. I just no longer see any value in pursuing Ohtani, and there is a ton of risk.

Cody Bellinger

Bellinger had a bounce back year with the Cubs, hitting .307 with 26 homers. The one-year pact he signed last offseason is going to pay substantial dividends, as MLB Trade Rumors projects him to garner a 12-year contract worth $264 million in free agency.

I’m not even sure Bellinger is worth half of that. There are a lot of signs that severe regression is in line when looking at his batted ball profile, as his Barrell%, HardHit%, and Average Exit Velocity are all in the 27th percentile or worse. Not to mention, Bellinger had an OPS+ of 66 (34% below league average) from 2021-2022. Anyone who hands him a contract over $150 million will severely regret it.

Blake Snell

Snell might win his second Cy Young this season, which will result in a payday that could approach $200 million this offseason. I don’t see any value at that number. He has two seasons (2018 and 2023) where he’s been among the best aces in baseball. Outside of that, he’s been slightly above average. Snell walks too many batters (5.0 BB/9 in 2023) and has never pitched more than 180 innings in a single season. Somebody is going to ignore the risk and pay him like one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Hopefully, it isn’t the Braves.

Lucas Giolito

There are going to be several players this offseason paid for the success they had years ago. Giolito is one of those guys. He was once a perennial Cy Young candidate, but that hasn’t been the case since 2021. In 2022, he posted a 4.90 ERA and followed it up with a 4.88 ERA while giving up a league-leading 41 long balls this season. Giolito’s strikeout and walk numbers are encouraging, but they will also lead to someone giving him a multi-year deal. That’s a risk the Braves shouldn’t take.

Jack Flaherty

Flaherty falls in the same category as Giolito, and ironically enough, they played high school ball together, along with Max Fried. Imagine facing that rotation at 17 years old? Flaherty once looked like one of the bright young pitching stars in the game, but he’s been abused by injuries, making just 32 starts combined from 2020-2022. He finally was able to put a full season together, and he flashed in the first half of the season with the Cardinals. However, he was traded to the Orioles at the deadline and was eventually moved to a relief role because of his struggles. MLB Trade Rumors has Flaherty fetching a three-year, $40 million deal in free agency because of his past and the fact that he’s still 28-years-old. The Braves would have to really see something they could fix to even give him a two-year contract.

Photo: Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire

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