The MLB offseason is off to a painfully slow start, and with all the uncertainty around when the season will even begin, I don’t imagine it will pick up anytime soon. It could be February or March before we see even one of the top names sign with a team. However, when that happens, hopefully, a domino effect will follow. The Braves have already patched up their rotation early this offseason — signing Drew Smyly and Charlie Morton to one-year deals — but there remains a lot more to be done for this team to finally get over the hump and return to the World Series.
The return of Marcell Ozuna
Let’s begin with the obvious. I know George Springer might be a better player — mostly because of his defense — but the Braves likely don’t have the money to seriously consider him, and they have probably already pivoted to the next best thing, which is their very own Marcell Ozuna.
Ozuna was unstoppable slotting behind Freddie Freeman in the lineup, leading the National League in homers and RBIs. If it weren’t for the advanced analytics rightfully knocking his defense, he might have stolen the MVP from Freeman. Unfortunately, the Braves are in a tight spot when it comes to negotiating. They desperately need a bat that can play in the outfield and bat cleanup, but there aren’t many other options after Springer and Ozuna. That puts Alex Anthopoulos at a disadvantage at the bargaining table. Still, this seems like something that needs to happen if the Braves want to make another legitimate run at the National League title.
A couple of late-inning relievers
As it stands right now, the Braves are down three members from their bullpen that carried their pitching staff in 2020. Darren O’Day, Shane Greene, and Mark Melancon are all free-agents. I would love to have all of them back, but I still think — as good as Atlanta’s bullpen was last season — it can be improved upon. I’m not sure if Alex Anthopoulos will be interested in buying another high-priced reliever, considering Will Smith didn’t exactly prove to be worth what he cost in the first year of his contract. However, it would go a long way if he could add a proven guy like Brad Hand to come in and close games in the ninth inning.
A healthy Mike Soroka
We’ve received nothing but positive news since Mike Soroka went down with a torn Achilles — arguably the most devastating injury an athlete can face — back in early August. When it happened, I was hoping he’d be good to go by the All-Star break; however, the most recent reports are that he aims to return by Opening Day. I still think that’s a bit ambitious, and the Braves will be as cautious as possible with their young stud, but I’m not putting anything past Soroka. He has shown at every turn during his career that he has an unbelievable amount of mental fortitude. He wants to be back by the start of the 2021 season, and he very well may be.
An improved bench
The Braves didn’t lose a ton from their 2020 squad, but their bench will be totally re-tooled this offseason, and it needs to be, especially with the DH unlikely to be in the National League next season. The Braves can upgrade significantly over Nick Markakis, Charlie Culberson, Adeiny Hechavarria, Tyler Flowers, and Johan Camargo. I’m not saying all of those guys won’t be back, but they are free agents, and Anthopoulos should leave no stone unturned when attempting to upgrade this team. It could be the difference between a World Series appearance and a devastating loss in the NLCS.