As much heat as Alex Anthopoulos has caught lately for not making any trade deadline moves, the 2020 season could be going much worse for the Braves. Even though Cole Hamels hasn’t played yet, he’s only on a one year contract. Marcell Ozuna is having an MVP caliber season, and Travis d’Arnaud has proven to be one of the steals of the offseason. Atlanta had one of the best winters in baseball. Most of the names Braves’ fans were clamoring for haven’t had the best 2020, and the team has avoided some pretty disastrous contracts.
The Reds inked the versatile Moustakas to a fat four-year, $64 million deal with a $20 million club option that could keep him with the Reds until 2025. A guy who was seen as a “Donaldson replacement” for a year or two ended up getting a lot more than the one year that Braves’ fans wanted to offer him.
Moustakas has stumbled out of the gate so far, only recording 70 at-bats and struggling with quad issues. He has an unsightly .648 OPS and 15 hits to show for in 2020. Austin Riley had a horrible start to the season, but he’s up to .768 OPS and has been red hot over the past week. Even if Riley experiences some regression, this contract would have been a mess for Atlanta.
Bumgarner may go down as one of the worst contracts in MLB history if he doesn’t turn things around, but he still has time after signing an enormous five-year, $85 million deal with the Diamondbacks.
Cole Hamels may be a disaster right now, but Bumgarner has been alarmingly awful, making just four starts before Arizona pulled the plug. He was throwing in the mid-80s and was rocked in every outing, giving up 20 ER in 21.1 IP. He made his first start since August 9th last night and allowed two earned runs off two home runs in four innings. Amazingly, that was one of his best outings of the year, but those two home runs he surrendered raised his season total to nine in just five starts.
Chase and I were very hot on the Bumgarner trail, and it’s a good thing Anthopoulos didn’t take our advice. Maybe he turns it around and becomes the MadBum of old, but as of now, the last place Diamondbacks are stuck with him until 2025.
You knew it was coming. Before you say, “Oh Jake, he wasn’t healthy. It’s not his fault.” While that is true, that’s a big consideration when handing a 34-year-old four years and $92 million. Donaldson actually returned earlier this week, collecting two hits and two RBIs, but his average still sits at .226, and he only has 31 at-bats over halfway into the season.
I’m not trashing Donaldson; I want him healthy and playing. It’s still unavoidable that his contract has been horrible in terms of value so far. Like the rest of these guys, he could go on a tear and make up for the lost time. However, in the Braves’ situation, they’ve been winning despite their rotation woes. Their offense couldn’t take that kind of hit with Donaldson’s nagging calf flaring up.
The Bringer of Rain will be 37, earning $21 million in 2023. I believe the Austin Riley we’re seeing right now is who he will be for the rest of his career, and when Atlanta has to pony up for Max Fried, Dansby Swanson, and Freddie Freeman in the near future — they’ll be happy they aren’t paying an aging Donaldson, regardless if he’s healthy and producing or not.
One exception has been Dallas Keuchel. Nobody in Atlanta seemed to want him back after his mediocre playoff performance, but he’s been excellent with the White Sox. He’s had a few illness-related issues lately, but he boasts a 2.42 ERA in 48.1 innings. It would be nice to have him as a stalwart in the rotation, but hindsight is 2020. He’s still on a healthy three-year, $55.5 million deal. Atlanta could use that near $20 million this offseason on a Trevor Bauer or Marcus Stroman. As hard as fans can be on Liberty Media and Alex Anthopoulos, sometimes missing out on big-name players can be a blessing in disguise.
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