Braves handing out $500+ million in contracts is one source for slow winter

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Like many in Braves Country, I’m itching for some offseason news. While division rivals sign marquee free agents, Alex Anthopoulos has sat back quietly. The Phillies inked Trea Turner to a $300 million deal, and the Mets replaced Jacob deGrom with Justin Verlander to the tune of $40+ million per year. The Braves don’t have many holes to fill this offseason, and the only pressing need is shortstop. Still, the club could roll with a combination of Vaughn Grissom and Orlando Arcia until the 2023 trade deadline and then re-evaluate the position. They’d still probably coast to the postseason; that’s how talented this roster is.

All eyes are on Dansby Swanson, and the Braves very well could agree to a deal worth well over $100 million and make him the highest-paid player per year. However, nobody should be surprised if Anthopoulos doesn’t believe he’s worth the asking price. It’s been a slow offseason for Atlanta, and the source for the slow winter is the Braves’ preemptive effort to retain their own players.

A lot of fan bases love the blockbuster free agent signings, and rightfully so. They’re exciting. But the Braves basically inked their own free agents this past season. Even though Austin Riley, Matt Olson, Spencer Strider, and Michael Harris II weren’t going to test free agency this offseason, the Braves locked them up for the better part of the next decade, spending more than $500 million on those four extensions.

Riley is the team’s highest-paid player and will earn $212 million over 10 years. After acquiring him in a trade to replace Freddie Freeman, the Braves gave Olson an eight-year, $168 million contract. And the two rookie phenoms could be the next Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies in terms of team-friendly contracts.

Spencer Strider was one of the best pitchers in the league after joining the rotation, and the Braves bought out his arbitration years with a six-year, $75 million deal. Looking at the starting pitching market, that is a steal for the team if Strider continues his trajectory. And all Harris did was perform equally impressively. The Rookie of the Year was probably the Braves best player this past season and was one of the best all-around players in baseball. The Stockbridge native was rewarded with an eight-year, $72 million deal.

This also doesn’t even include the earlier deals that Acuna and Albies signed, which total $135 million, or the four-year $58 million contract of Rasiel Iglesias that the Braves inherited when they acquired the closer at the deadline. The Braves aren’t shelling out a $300 million deal for Carlos Correa or $40+ million per year for deGrom because they’ve already locked the core of the team up. The club isn’t pinching pennies. They’re spending money, just not in the flashy ways other clubs are — like the Mets, Yankees, and Phillies. The team’s current projected Opening Day payroll is $225 million, which would be top-five.

Photo: David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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