Winter Meetings in baseball are extraordinary. Team executives, free agents, and members of the media gather for networking purposes. It’s rich in rumors, which the fans love. And deals get done all the time as decision-makers see each other face to face. The period was quiet for the Braves, but that hasn’t swayed Alex Anthopoulos’ optimism regarding future deals.
Anthopoulos on what was uneventful Winter Meetings for #Braves: “It hasn’t resulted in any transactions yet, but it’s actually been productive…I feel like we’ve made progress (on potential deal/deals). That doesn’t guarantee anything, but it’s been a good use of the time here.”
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) December 7, 2022
When O’Brien reported that, the Braves had been stagnant all offseason; shortly after, news broke that the club would be acquiring Joe Jiménez in exchange for Justyn-Henry Malloy, the top position player on the farm. It was a shocking move because JHM was highly touted as being among the fastest risers in the minors, but Atlanta felt Jiménez could help them win right away.
Other than that move, it’s been a slow offseason for the Braves, and the source for that, in part, is the preemptive effort to retain their own players, an effort that has cost the organization more than $500 million in contract extensions over the past year. The Braves’ biggest question remaining this winter surrounds the shortstop position. At this point, it seems there’s a high chance that Dansby Swanson won’t be re-signing, so where does that leave the team?
There are plenty of directions Anthopoulos could take the Braves. Obviously, figuring out the shortstop situation remains a priority. A trade is possible, but I must begrudgingly admit that the likelihood of the club rolling with a combination of Vaughn Grissom and Orlando Arcia is growing. Regardless of the shortstop position, AA is operating with the notion that every facet of the roster can be upgraded.
Where those additions come is a total guess, but the message has been clear: Executives expect the team to be a top-five payroll. As Anthopoulos sifts through the potential deals, his only requirement is the move has to make sense financially and culturally. That could mean giving Andrew Benintendi or Michael Conforto a multi-year deal, or adding to a strength like the rotation or bullpen by signing someone like Adam Ottavino or a frontline starter like Chris Bassitt or Carlos Rodon.
As we’ve just seen, the club won’t be afraid to pull the trigger on a trade, either. Bryan Reynolds has been mentioned numerous times, and he makes a lot of sense. After trading away Justyn-Henry Malloy, the Braves don’t have a plan for the future in left field. Reynolds could be acquired and then hypothetically extended in a similar manner as Matt Olson. There are bigger needs on the roster compared to others, but AA won’t be boxing himself into any corners.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire