Braves: It looks like Alex Anthopoulos has done it again

MLB: APR 26 Guardians at Braves

There’s not enough praise in the universe for Alex Anthopoulos. What he’s done for the Braves organization since taking over in the winter of 2017 cannot be understated. Absolutely everything he seems to touch turns to gold, and it looks like he’s done it agains with a pair of recent acquisitions.

The Braves didn’t have a lot of holes following the 2023 season, but they did need to bolster their pitching staff, particularly the rotation. Most hoped they’d land one of the top starting pitchers in free agency or make a blockbuster trade for Corbin Burnes or Dylan Cease. Anthopoulos tried, but he ultimately balked at the high asking prices and went the more cost efficient route, which is paying off in spades through the first month of the season.

Last night, Chris Sale turned in his best performance of the season against the Cleveland Guardians, who own the second best record in Major League Baseball. The 35-year-old southpaw surrendered a home run to the first batter he faced — the third time that’s happened in his first five starts for the Braves — but he only gave up one hit the rest of the way, striking out six over seven innings. There have been some bumps in the road early, but the stuff is as good as it’s ever been, and he’s finally healthy.

If he can avoid injury, Sale will not only make his eighth All-Star game — first since 2018 — but he could even be in the conversation for the NL Cy Young award. That’s how good the repertoire is, and all it took to acquire him was Vaughn Grissom, with the Red Sox willing to eat half of Sale’s salary.

However, Sale hasn’t even been the Braves best addition to the rotation thus far. That honor belongs to Reynaldo Lopez, a converted reliever who hasn’t pitched over 66 innings since 2019. Through four starts, he’s been arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball, averaging nearly a strikeout per inning with a 0.72 ERA and 2.68 FIP.

I highly doubt many teams were looking at Lopez this past offseason as a potential starting pitcher. Hell, I was even skeptical of how it would turn out based on his previous results when used in the rotation before becoming a reliever. But that’s exactly the wizardry of Alex Anthopoulos. He sees things other general managers don’t even consider, looking in places other organizations don’t even know exist.

How the Braves monitor Sale and Lopez moving forward will be a storyline all year. Sale hasn’t had a fully healthy season since 2018, and Lopez might be on an innings limit. The ultimate goal is to keep them as fresh as possible for the final month and into October. But so far, Alex Anthopoulos’ newest additions to the rotation have him looking like a man who is a step ahead once again. The Braves are lucky to have him, and remember, he just signed an extension this past offseason through 2031.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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