Braves: Grading the offseason acquisitions

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On Tuesday, the Braves clinched their third consecutive NL East title, and Wednesday, they continued to inch towards wrapping up the #2 seed in the National League, so what better time is there to go through Alex Anthopoulos’ offseason acquisitions. Atlanta is coming off one of their busier offseasons in recent memory, and given all the success they have had this season, it’s fair to assume most of the grades will be positive. However, not everything was a slam dunk for Anthopoulos this offseason.

For the sake of time, I will not be including minor signings like Jhoulys Chacin, Charlie Culberson, and Adeiny Hechavarria that had a minuscule effect on the clubs’ success. 

Cole Hamels

Contract: 1-year, $18 million

Might as well get the worst out of the way, right? On paper, Hamels looked like he could be a quality veteran signing with postseason experience that could slot into the middle of Atlanta’s rotation and be an impactful arm come October. Unfortunately, none of that came to fruition.

Hamels’ arm problems began back in February when a shoulder injury kept him out of Spring Training 1.0. That shoulder issue lingered up until the restart of the season, and when he was finally cleared to begin throwing again, tricep tendinitis landed him on the 45-day IL, which was basically the entire length of a 60-game campaign. However, the Braves held out hope until the very end that he would be available for them in October, and finally, he made his debut for the team last week.

Hamels looked pretty good over 3.1 innings, but on Monday, he reported shoulder discomfort and was put back on the IL, ending a frustrating first year in Atlanta. There’s really no other grade to give this signing but an F. I’m not putting all the blame on Anthopoulos, but injuries made Hamels a non-factor for the Braves this season, and he’s set to become a free agent.

Grade: F

Marcell Ozuna

Contract: 1-year, $18 million

I didn’t want to keep you guys in a miserable mood for long, so I’m moving onto Marcell Ozuna — the prized possession of the Braves’ offseason. Although everyone wasn’t happy when the Braves signed him, those naysayers were quickly forced to bite their tongue once the season began.

From start to finish, Marcell Ozuna has been even more effective than Josh Donaldson was last season. Sure, it’s only sixty games, but it’s worked out perfectly for Atlanta. Ozuna leads the National League in home runs (17) and RBIs (53), and he’s hitting .327. Hell, he’s not that far off from eclipsing his teammate Freddie Freeman’s (.343) average and winning the NL Triple Crown. Hopefully, this isn’t his only year in a Braves uniform. He seems to fit in the clubhouse perfectly, but if it is, he will always be remembered fondly in Atlanta. Just like Hamels, there is only one grade that makes sense here.

Grade: A+

Travis d’Arnaud

Contract: 2-years, $16 million

Another slam dunk. After Brian McCann retired, the Braves needed to find another catcher to pair with Tyler Flowers, but they found more than that in d’Arnaud. Instead of paying the high price for a Yasmani Grandal or making a blockbuster trade, Anthopoulos chose a man who was cast off by the Mets and Dodgers but was coming off the best 100 games of his career with the Rays.

d’Arnaud’s been a perfect fit in the Braves clubhouse and is having an even better year than he did with Tampa Bay in 2019, hitting .327 with nine homers and 34 RBIs in just 41 games. And the best part about it… Atlanta has him under contract for another year in 2021 at an affordable price of $8 million. Like the first two candidates on this list, d’Arnaud’s grade should be obvious.

Grade: A+

Chris Martin

Contract: 2-year $14 million

The Braves acquired Chris Martin at last year’s trade deadline in exchange for a former first-round pick, Kolby Allard. At the time, that seemed like a hefty price tag for a reliever on the last year of his contract, and it might have been. However, re-signing him in the offseason to a two-year, $14 million deal is looking like a no-brainer.

Martin has been a critical piece to a Braves’ bullpen that has carried the pitching staff this season. He’s only given up one run in 17 appearances, which coincidentally came from a home run in his first outing. Since then, Martin has tossed 16 scoreless innings with 18 strikeouts, allowing just 5 hits and 2 walks. Opponents have managed just a .256 OPS off of him. I swear, I’m not doing this on purpose, but there’s really only one grade you can give Martin for his performance this season.

Grade: A+

Darren O’Day

Contract: 1-year, $2.75 million with a $3.5 million club option for 2021

After finally appearing for the Braves at the end of 2019, O’Day showed enough to earn a one-year contract with a club option in 2021, and they’ve gotten as much as they could have possibly expected out of the 37-year-old.

Through 17 appearances (15 innings), O’Day has a minuscule 0.60 ERA with 20 strikeouts. You can say most of his appearances have come in low leverage situations (which is true), but the guy has racked up four wins in a 60-game season, and he’s one of the many reasons Atlanta has been able to survive their rotation woes. The Braves will surely pick up O’Day’s club option for next season, as he projects to be a valuable piece for this team in 2021 as well. Once again — I’m not doing this on purpose, but O’Day deserves an A+ for his performance.

Grade: A+

Josh Tomlin

Contract: 1-year, $1 million

Late in the offseason, the Braves decided to bring back Josh Tomlin on a minor-league contract. Just like last season, he wound up making the Opening Day roster, beginning the year as one of the Braves’ most reliable relievers.

Tomlin was so reliable that the team decided to make him a starter once their rotation faltered. He hasn’t been nearly as successful in that role, but for a guy who was added for basically nothing, he was another solid pickup for Anthopoulos this offseason.

Grade: C+

Will Smith

Contract: 3-years, $39 million with a $13 million club option in 2023

This is the most lucrative contract Alex Anthopoulos has dealt out since becoming GM of the Braves in 2017, and so far, it hasn’t gone as smoothly as either side hoped.

Before the shortened-season began, Smith contracted the coronavirus, and even though he was asymptotic, it prevented him from making his Braves’ debut until August 16th. His first couple of weeks were rocky. He ended August with a 5.87 ERA in eight appearances. However, he’s been much more reliable in September, posting a 2.84 ERA and .143 batting average against in eight outings. Smith’s currently on a five appearance scoreless streak, and his ERA for the year is down to 4.50.

How successful his 2020 campaign is viewed will likely be determined by his performance in the postseason. But for right now, it’s difficult to give this move anything higher than a C, and it could turn out much worse if this season is a sign of things to come.

Grade: C-

Overall, I’m not sure how you don’t look back at the acquisitions Alex Anthopoulos made and conclude that he did a fantastic job. Cole Hamels turned out to be a bust, and you have to factor in age when it comes to injuries, but hindsight is always 20/20. Nobody could have predicted he would only pitch 3.1 innings for the Braves. Will Smith’s three-year deal could turn out poorly, but there is also a chance it works out well for the Braves. His COVID hiatus really prevented us from seeing what he was capable of during this shortened season. Outside of those two guys, the rest of Anthopoulos’ free-agent signings were slam dunks, resulting in an A- grade from me. 

Overall Grade: A-

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