Last offseason was a relatively quiet one for the Braves with one exception. They let another pillar of the franchise go in Dansby Swanson, opening up a seemingly glaring need at the shortstop position. But instead of targeting one of the several marquee free agents available, they chose to trade one of their All-Star catchers for another All-Star catcher in Sean Murphy.
That move has worked out brilliantly for the Braves. Contreras has been very good for the Brewers (don’t ask me how he ended up in Milwaukee), but Murphy chose to immediately sign a lengthy extension and then blossomed into the best catcher in baseball. Some in the national media are calling it the best move in baseball from this past offseason, and I don’t blame them. It’s the one that should grab all of the headlines, but I would argue it wasn’t even the best move by Alex Anthopoulos.
One of the most well-known personalities in baseball media pointed out something about the “star” shortstops in the game today, many of which just signed mega-contracts in free agency.
Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, Dansby Swanson and Francisco Lindor signed $1.3 BILLION worth of contracts and are hitting a combined .246 with a .733 OPS this season. That's about the same offensive production as 37-year-old Carlos Santana (.237 BA, .730 OPS).
— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) July 25, 2023
Now, I must say, all of these guys shouldn’t be placed in the same category. Trea Turner and Carlos Correa have been abysmal this season, but Swanson was an All-Star, while Francisco Lindor and Xander Bogaerts have also been productive players. Still, none of them are living up to their contracts.
Five of those guys — Swanson, Correa, Bogaerts, Turner, and Correa — were free agents this past offseason. Like most Braves fans, I hoped Anthopoulos would finally make a splash and sign one of the premier shortstops on the market, completing one of the most dangerous infields we’ve ever seen for the foreseeable future.
Instead, the Braves chose to roll with Orlando Arcia. Not only that, but they also handed him an extension that is scheduled to pay him $2 million for each of the next three seasons. All Arcia has done is start for the National League All-Star team this season, proving to be one of the better shortstops in the league.
Now, is that sustainable? I’m not sure, but that’s not the point. The game of baseball from a general manager’s perspective is all about value, and Alex Anthopoulos found one of the best bargains in the league while subsequently avoiding a massive overpay.
There might not be a quicker way to derail an organization than handing a mega-contract to a player that doesn’t deserve it, especially if you’re an organization like the Braves, which is why I believe the move Anthopoulos didn’t make was his best decision of this past offseason.
The Murphy move deserves an A+ grade, but I would argue the Braves would be in a similar position — now and for the foreseeable future — with William Contreras and Travis d’Arnaud splitting duties behind the plate. However, if they had handed Trea Turner $300 million and he continued to perform at this rate, the walls of the Braves championship window would begin to close at an alarming rate.
Which brings us to this year’s trade deadline. Many fans are disappointed Alex Anthopoulos didn’t make a splash for a starting pitcher, but the reality is not many were available, and the ones the Braves did have a chance to land were costly rentals. Giving up the few top prospects in this organization for a luxury that is likely to only be around for two months isn’t wise business, and in a couple of years, when guys like AJ Smith-Shawver are making a significant impact at the major-league level, we are going to be thanking Anthopoulos for standing pat.
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire