Braves: Is this the best trade of Alex Anthopoulos’ tenure?

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There may be some arguments out there, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better general manager in the game of baseball than Alex Anthopoulos. Baseball is unique in that there are so many moving parts, and while Alex Anthopoulos can’t do it all, it’s his job to put the right people in place to help scout and develop all of the talent that comes through the system. Nobody does a better job at getting their young guys prepared for the majors than the Atlanta Braves.

Beyond that, Alex Anthopoulos has proven to be a master negotiator who has a keen eye for value, able to find hidden gems and lock his stars into long-term deals. He also understands the importance of camaraderie over 162 games. Nobody wants to come to work with people they don’t enjoy working with. There’s really not an area where Anthopoulos struggles, including trades.

The Braves GM most notably made a slew of trades at the 2021 trade deadline, helping the team to its first World Series since 1995 without their best player, Ronald Acuña Jr, who tore his ACL just before the All-Star break. Alex Anthopoulos also robbed the Athletics for Matt Olson, but perhaps the best trade he’s ever made is one that didn’t even reach a national audience when it occurred.

On April 6th, 2021, the Braves swung a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers for Orlando Arcia. Once a top prospect, Arcia had fallen out of favor in Milwaukee as his bat never caught up to his glove. However, the Braves had a need for a backup middle infielder, and the price was nothing more than a couple of low-level prospects that were never going to cut it in Atlanta.

Arcia didn’t get much run in 2021, but he was thrust into a starting role in 2022 as Ozzie Albies dealt with multiple injuries, and Arcia turned in the best offensive campaign of his career, recording a 105 wRC+ (5% above league average). It was so encouraging, that the Braves gave him a chance to compete for the starting job at shortstop after Dansby Swanson departed in free agency, and he beat out Vaughn Grissom.

Soon after Arcia won the job, the Braves announced a three-year extension with their new starting shortstop worth $7.3 million, and he rewarded them by being named the starting shortstop for the National League All-Star team. Arcia’s play fell off in the second half of the season. However, it never deterred the Braves from going into 2024 with him as the starting shortstop for a second year, and he’s once again making Anthopoulos look like a genius.

Yesterday afternoon, Orlando Arcia helped the Braves cap off a road sweep of the Astros. He came up with the game-winning hit in extra innings, a bullet through the left side of the infield, his second hit of the game. He is now up to a .377 batting average on the young season with a 162 wRC+ (62% above league average) and leading the Braves with 1.2 fWAR.

Orlando Arcia isn’t going to stay this hot forever, but there’s no question that he’s figured things out with the stick since coming to Atlanta. He’s now a slightly above offensive player, and that’s all the Braves really need because his defense at arguably the most important position on the diamond is as good as anyone. Arcia has already recorded four outs above average, ranking him in the 99th percentile among major leaguers.

Blockbusters are cool, and Alex Anthopoulos has made his fair share of splashes that have worked out for the Braves. But what sets him apart from the rest of the general managers is his ability to find value where nobody else is looking. The Brewers were essentially giving away Orlando Arcia. Now, he’s the Braves starting shortstop, performing at an All-Star caliber level for just over a couple million dollars a year.

Photo: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire


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