Braves: This might be one of Alex Anthopoulos’ best moves

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Alex Anthopoulos has made a plethora of outstanding decisions as Braves general manager, which is why they have six straight NL East titles under their belt as well as a World Series victory over the Astros in 2021. From small acquisitions, team-friendly extensions and blockbuster trades, he’s done a little bit of everything to get the Braves in the position they are in today set up for long-term success. But perhaps some of Anthopoulos’ best moves as general manager in Atlanta have been the ones he didn’t make.

One of the most notable came during the 2020 offseason, when the Braves ultimately passed on Josh Donaldson in free agency. After a couple of injury-riddled campaigns, The Bringer of Rain inked a one-year, prove-it deal with the Braves ahead of the 2019 campaign.

The contract worked out marvelously for both sides, as Donaldson went on to play 155 games — by far the most he had played since 2016 — and mashed 37 homers with a .900 OPS. He then looked to parlay that All-Star caliber season into a multi-year deal, and the Braves were very interested until the very end. But ultimately, the Twins won out, inking Donaldson to a four-year, $92 million contract.

It initially felt like a missed opportunity for Atlanta, but it turned out to be one of the better moves of Alex Anthopoulos’ tenure. Donaldson never was the same player he was for the Braves again and was eventually dealt to the Yankees a couple of years later, where his career quickly fell off of a cliff.

A more recent example of this is Dansby Swanson. A beloved figure in Atlanta, nobody wanted to see the hometown kid leave in free agency following a contract year in 2022, a season in which Swanson made his first All-Star game and won his first Gold Glove.

Unlike the Donaldson negotiations, the Braves never really made a competitive offer to Swanson, who went on to sign a massive seven-year, $177 million contract with the Chicago Cubs.

Swanson’s first year in his new threads was a raving success. He made his second All-Star game and won his second Gold Glove. However, 2024 has been a reminder of the streaky player he always was with the Braves. Swanson is hitting just .205 on the season with four homers and a .596 OPS, accruing just 0.3 fWAR.

But what makes the move so brilliant from Alex Anthopoulos was his ability to replace Swanson’s production with a player making just a little more than the league minimum. Orlando Arcia has been the Braves starting shortstop since the departure of Swanson. He’s making just $2 million a year through the 2026 season, and their numbers over the last 14 months are eerily similar.

The Braves are saving nearly $25 million a year with Orlando Arcia. That’s not to say Chicago won’t look back on Swanson’s tenure fondly when it’s all said and done, but Anthopoulos certainly has to be happy with his ability to replace an All-Star at a fraction of the price.

Looking ahead to the upcoming offseason, the Braves are preparing for an even bigger star to hit free agency in Max Fried. There’s no question they’d love to have him back, and if it were up to the fans, there would already be a blank check waiting at his doorstep.

Losing Fried would be a massive blow to a rotation that is littered with question marks past this season. He’s been the anchor of the Braves rotation for a half-decade as well as a leader in the clubhouse, which is why he’s in line for a mega-contract north of $200 million. Perhaps he ends up being worth that, but in a world that’s all about value, few have been proven better prepared to make that decision than Alex Anthopoulos.

Photo: Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire

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