The Braves made their most expensive free agent signing earlier this week, inking the powerful Jordan Luplow to a one-year deal. It marks just the second free agent signing of the offseason as the Braves remain quiet on that front. The club still swung big in other areas, landing Sean Murphy in a blockbuster trade with the Athletics. But for the most part, the club has remained stagnant while division rivals bring in superstar-caliber free agents. And it still doesn’t matter because, as currently constructed, the Braves are projected by FanGraphs to win more games in 2023 than any other team.
Following a premature ending to the season, the Braves are still expected to be one of the best teams in baseball in 2023 because the front office has done an excellent job of retaining core pieces of the roster. Even entering the offseason, the majority of the Opening Day roster was set in stone with the only legitimate questions coming at shortstop, left field, and the final spot in the rotation.
The Braves currently have the second-best odds to raise the Commissioner’s Trophy next year, trailing only the Dodgers. When a team has most of its most impactful players locked up for the next 5+ years, offseasons tend to be quiet. For the most part, Atlanta knows what their team will look like. Therefore, Vegas knows the club will be one of the best in the game, which is accounting for potential bounce back campaigns from Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies.
By 2023 Opening Day, Acuna will be further removed from his surgery, and members of the organizations are already expressing big expectations. If we see the pre-injury 2021 version of Ronald Acuna, which had a .990 OPS, 52 RBIs, and 24 home runs in about half of the season, there aren’t many players in the league that can provide that impact. Over his first four seasons, the ultra-talented Acuna slashed .281/.376/.550 with 43 homers on a 162-game pace. Positive regression for him next season will bring new life to the Braves. And Albies is no slouch, either.
However, much like Ronald Acuna before his injury, Albies’ 2021 production would be a significant improvement over what the club had in 2022 at the position. He earned Silver Slugger and All-Star honors the year before last. And since becoming a full-time starter, Albies has slashed .272/.322/.479 with an .801 OPS while averaging 21 home runs and 71 RBIs per season from 2018-21, which includes a 29-game 2020 season.
Of course, these projections were done before the Mets signed Carlos Correa. Still, I’m not sure one player, granted a superstar, will propel New York from No. 4 to the top.
Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire
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