Ever since Alex Anthopoulos took over as general manager, the Braves haven’t been big spenders in free agency. Most of their funds have been used to lock up their younger core, and their marquee acquisitions have come via trade. Only a handful of lucrative contracts have been handed out by Alex Anthopoulos, and there’s probably a reason for that — he hasn’t had much success in that area.
Outside of one-year deals for players like Josh Donaldson and Charlie Morton, AA has struck out in free agency. The Will Smith signing was a dud. Eddie Rosario has been abysmal. Cole Hamels threw a total of 3.1 innings, and Marcell Ozuna might go down as one of the worst free agent signings in franchise history.
Anthopoulos might be the best GM in baseball, and he could very easily go down as the best GM in Atlanta history, but free agency is where all of his substantial missteps have occurred. However, while the lucrative contracts Anthopoulos has handed out have been dreadful, the small signings he makes each offseason tend to pay significant dividends.
In 2022, Jackson Stephens turned into a critical piece of the Braves bullpen. The year before that, Jesse Chavez, Guillermo Heredia and Ehire Adrianza were key members of the team’s World Series run.
Then there’s Tyler Matzek, who was found in the Independent League prior to the 2020 campaign. All he did was turn into the Braves most reliable reliever over the next two years, delivering in arguably the most pivotal moment of the Braves 2021 championship season. Anthopoulos found two more before the 2019 campaign as well. Matt Joyce appeared in 129 games for the Braves, recording an outstanding .858 OPS, and Josh Tomlin turned in one of the best seasons of his career at 34-years-old, boasting a 3.74 ERA over 79.1 innings.
Every season since taking over as GM, Alex Anthopoulos has found a diamond in the rough, and the Braves have multiple candidates that could emerge out of nowhere in 2023.
Eli White was recently added to the roster via trade from the Rangers. He’s nothing to write home about with the stick, but his defense in the outfield is spectacular.
Jordan Luplow was signed for just over $1 million this offseason. The former Diamondback doesn’t hit for much average, but he packs a punch with the stick, crushes left-handed pitching, and is well above average defensively. It wouldn’t shock me if he turns out to be the Braves everyday starter in left field against southpaws.
Sam Hilliard was also acquired from the Rockies in a trade. He will compete for some time in the outfield as well. Last year was one to forget for Hilliard, but he’s flashed potential during his career, with the ability to hit the ball out of the yard and play above average defense.
On the pitching side of things, I have my eye on Nick Anderson, who signed a non-guaranteed contract with the team worth just south of $1 million. Injuries have limited him to six innings over the last two seasons, but his career numbers are outstanding, boasting a 2.89 ERA and a ridiculous 14.1 K/9 over 87.1 innings.
At least one of these four will likely play a significant role for the Braves next season, and I don’t think Anthopoulos is done just yet. While nothing major is likely on the horizon, multiple smaller acquisitions could occur before the start of the 2023 season.
Photographer: Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire
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