It’s difficult to argue that signing Josh Donaldson was not the best move of the Alex Anthopoulos era thus far. The 33-year-old third baseman is a lock to win Comeback Player of the Year after two injury-plagued campaigns. He’s put up MVP-caliber numbers since the middle of June and has this Braves offense humming the best it has since the early 2000s. However, given something was needed in the middle of the season, and Anthopoulos had two tantalizing choices that filled needs, his best move came when he chose Dallas Keuchel over Craig Kimbrel.
The Braves had a revolving door of pitchers filling their rotation with very little stability early in the year. Players were coming up and down from AAA, and none of them could stick for more than a couple of weeks. Few teams, if any, have won the World Series without a reliable group of starting pitchers.
Enter Dallas Keuchel. It took a minute for the bearded wonder to find his footing in Atlanta, but that was to be expected after such a long layoff and no spring training. As we stand today, he’s become the ace of a rotation that looks a lot more promising heading into October. Over his past seven starts, he’s 5-1 with a 1.93 ERA, but his performance on the mound is just part of what he has brought to this ball club.
Keuchel oozes championship pedigree. You can see it in the dugout, and the coaches have done nothing but rave about his preparation. He’s been a model citizen for the younger arms, especially Max Fried. There is a reason the entire staff seems to have come together down the stretch. Without Keuchel, the Braves World Series hopes are nothing but a pipe dream, and he didn’t require a long-term investment (even though now, I’m sure Anthopoulos wishes he had given him one).
There’s another part to this deal, however. The mine Anthopoulos was able to avoid. While the Braves rotation was in shambles, the bullpen was in even worse shape, and fans were clamoring for the return of their long lost son. Craig Kimbrel held out for the multi-year contract he deserved and received it from the Cubs, who signed him for three years, $43 million. He has been the best closer of this generation and had yet even to turn 31. However, the regression he showed at the end of last year no longer looks like a fluke, as he’s hurt the Cubs more than he’s helped.
Kimbrel is 0-3 with a 5.95 ERA for Chicago, with an even worse 6.98 FIP due to the seven home runs and thirteen walks he’s surrendered in less than 20 innings pitched. Oh, and he’s owed $32 million over the next two seasons. It’s not something any Braves’ fan will relish given all he did for the organization in his career, but it’s okay to admit when you dodged a bullet.
Meanwhile, Anthopoulos was able to address the bullpen woes at the trade deadline without dealing out any top prospects. The Braves now have one of the most complete teams in the NL, and it’s just another example as to why AA should take home the Executive of the Year award.