Alex Anthopoulos has struggled mightily with free agent signings

Marcell Ozuna Braves playoff roster

Being a general manager in baseball is far from just signing high-quality free agents. It might be the most complex job in all of sports because he’s spinning so many different plates, putting the right people in place at each level to create a pipeline of success. Alex Anthopoulos is regarded as one of the best general managers in all of sports because of what he’s been able to accomplish with the Braves, setting this organization up for sustained success. However, free agency is a place where he’s made a boatload of regrettable decisions, and he’ll need to be better if the Braves want to reach their ultimate goal.

Recent Braves Offseason Mishaps

Braves sign Marcell Ozuna to four-year, $65 million contract

Might as well start off with a bang to prove my point. When the Braves signed Ozuna to a one-year contract prior to the 2020 season, it worked out perfectly, as he nearly won the triple crown during the COVID-shortened campaign… but that’s where his career in Atlanta should have ended.

Instead, Alex Anthopoulos handed him a four-year deal the following offseason, and it might be the most immovable contract in baseball right now. Off-the-field issues aside, Ozuna has been an abysmal player on the field as well, accruing -0.9 fWAR over the last two seasons, and he’s still owed $16 million in 2023 and 2024. I’m hopeful the Braves can attach a couple of prospects to his contract and send him off to a rebuilding team, but I’m not even confident that’s possible, given his off-the-field concerns as well.

Braves sign Will Smith to a three-year, $40 million contract

Will Smith had his moment for the Braves, pitching like Mariano Rivera in the postseason during the 2021 World Series run, but overall, this is another lucrative contract handed to a player that didn’t even perform at a replacement level. In Smith’s two-and-a-half seasons with the Braves, he accrued -0.3 WAR. That’s just awful production for a player that received a $40 million contract.

Braves sign Eddie Rosario to a two-year, $18 million contract

Eddie Rosario was a postseason hero for the Braves in 2021, but that doesn’t always mean you hand him the bag the following offseason. Anthopoulos did in the form of a two-year, $18 million contract, which isn’t a huge deal, but given how Rosario produced this season, it’s one he would like to have back. Part of it had to do with his vision issues at the beginning of the year, but Rosario accrued an unsightly -1.6 WAR in just 80 games. He was arguably the worst player in the majors this season, and what makes it even worse is the Braves passed on signing the likes of Joc Pederson and Jorge Soler in favor of Rosario — enormous mistake.

Braves pinch pennies over Freddie Freeman

Listen, I have to give credit to what Matt Olson did at the end of the season. That’s the player the Braves expected when they moved on from Freeman, and I hope that’s who he is moving forward. But I also can’t ignore how he played the rest of the year. There’s still plenty of time for this to work in the Braves favor, but after one season, this looks like another egregious error. Freeman was quite literally twice the player Olson was as he put together another MVP-type campaign, and the Braves lost out on Freeman because they didn’t want to hand him another year. Perhaps things change, but right now, that looks idiotic.

Braves sign Cole Hamels to a one-year, $18 million contract

Alex Anthopoulos has never been afraid of handing out one-year, prove-it contracts to players coming off down years or injuries. Those have actually been the few free agent contracts that have panned out during his tenure as general manager, but the Cole Hamels deal is one we’d all like to forget. He had nothing left in the tank, came into the year injured, pitched three innings, and bounced with a check. I usually don’t blame general managers for injuries because they are unpredictable, but that wasn’t the case with Hamels, who suffered from a laundry list of injuries prior to the Braves signing him.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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