The hot stove has been quiet early this offseason, but I expect that to change significantly in the coming weeks. All it takes is one domino to fall to get things moving. The Atlanta Braves will likely make at least one splash in free agency for a shortstop. I doubt they have enough money to sign a premier shortstop like Dansby Swanson or Trea Turner and a front-line starter. However, if Alex Anthopoulos does want to add the starting pitcher that he seems to be eyeing every offseason, there are three that could be on the move this offseason.
Following the trade last winter to replace Freddie Freeman with Matt Olson, which sent top prospects Cristian Pache, Ryan Cusick, Joey Estes, and catcher Shea Langeliers to the Oakland Athletics, the Braves farm system is rather thin throughout. But they do have some talent at the AAA and major league levels that could be used to land one of these premier arms.
Burnes followed up his Cy Young campaign with another fantastic season, finishing the year with a 2.94 ERA and a league-leading 243 strikeouts. He’s been one of the elite pitchers in baseball ever since becoming a full-time starter, and it feels like the Brewers might be open to trading him this offseason. Milwaukee is at a crossroads. Last season proved the roster, as constructed, is not a legitimate contender. So do they trade away some of their best pieces in an attempt to re-tool, or do they give it one last run with their current core? Because it isn’t an obvious answer, it will take a king’s ransom to pry Burnes away.
Braves get: Corbin Burnes
I’m not sure this would be quite enough to get this deal done for Burnes, but I would pull the trigger in a heartbeat. I love Vaughn Grissom, but the reality is he is expendable if the Braves sign a shortstop. The other three are starting pitchers, and while I think they all have a ton of potential to be rotation arms as early as next year, the Braves currently have a logjam between the AAA and major league level when it comes to starting pitchers. With Burnes in the fold, Atlanta would have five elite starters. I don’t think they would be too worried about losing Anderson, Muller, or Elder.
Bieber and Burnes have put up very similar numbers since 2020. They’ve each won a Cy Young, and they both finished seventh for the Cy Young this year in their respective league. They also both have two years remaining on their contracts. The only difference is why their teams might be willing to trade them this offseason. Milwaukee could be heading toward a rebuild. Meanwhile, the Guardians are on the come-up, but they damn well know they aren’t going to pony up the cash necessary to keep Bieber in Cleveland, so they might want to deal him now while his value is at its highest point.
Braves get: Shane Bieber
In this scenario, the Braves hang onto some of their pitching, which could potentially be moved in another trade. If the Braves are going to land a Cy Young candidate with multiple years of control in a trade, it’s going to take something like this. Malloy is the Braves top prospect that is a position player. Muller is the organization’s top pitching prospect. We all know about Vaughn Grissom, and Soroka serves as the perfect icing on the cake to get this deal through. If this is what it takes to get Bieber, I would probably rather just hang onto the young guys.
Ohtani may be the most talented baseball player to ever walk the face of the earth, and he’s right in the middle of his prime. The Angels have not made him available for trade publicly, but it feels like it would be a grave mistake if they didn’t at least entertain offers. Ohtani only has one-year, $30 million left on his contract before hitting free agency, and he’s already told Japanese Media that he doesn’t look at the direction of the franchise positively. If the Angels don’t make the playoffs next season, which they probably won’t, I don’t see any way Ohtani will re-sign. Even if they do make the playoffs, there’s a good chance this is his last season in Los Angeles. I think the Angels should have traded him last year, but better late than never.
Braves get: Shohei Ohtani
Angels get: Vaughn Grissom, Justyn Henry-Malloy, Ian Anderson, Bryce Elder, and Kyle Muller
Ohtani may only be under contract for one year, but I still think it would take this much to land him. Would I do it? I’m not sure. If the Braves are willing to hand him the mega-contract he deserves before he hits free agency, I wouldn’t think twice about it. I love all of the players above, but they’d quickly be forgotten after I watch Ohtani hit 40 bombs and win a Cy Young award. For a one-year rental, though, I’m hanging onto the prospects.
Photo: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire