Braves: What’s the one move Alex Anthopoulos wants back?

Braves trade deadline Alex Anthopoulos

Alex Anthopoulos is one of the best general managers in all of sports, not just baseball. Everything he touches seems to turn to gold, and he doesn’t appear to have a blind spot in any particular area.

Anthopoulos is most known for his long-term, team-friendly contracts, almost none of which has backfired to this point. Although, it’s still early. He’s made plenty of savvy trades, avoided re-signing players to mega-deals that would have severely hindered the club, and might be the best at finding value where nobody else is looking.

However, as we say often here at SportsTalkATL, no general manager bats 1.000. Alex Anthopoulos surely has moves he wishes he could take back, but what’s the worst of them all to this point in his tenure? It speaks volumes that there are no easy answers to this question because even the ones I’m going to mention really aren’t that bad.

A year ago, this would have been a no-brainer with the way Marcell Ozuna was struggling, along with the off-the field issues. Anthopoulos inked the Big Bear to a four-year, $65 million contract after he nearly won the triple crown in his first year with the Braves during the COVID-shortened season.

Marcell Ozuna then proceeded to get arrested in 2021, missing most of the season, before recording a .687 OPS over 124 games in 2022 while collecting a second arrest. By the time 2023 rolled around, many were questioning why he was even on the team, and those concerns were only magnified when he began the season by hitting under .100 in April.

It looked like an all-time gaff by Alex Anthopoulos, but Ozuna responded with his first 40-homer season, and as of now, he’s the Braves best offensive player. It’s certainly not one of Alex Anthopoulos best moves, and it could end up being the worst, but it’s hard to say that today.

Of his free agent signings, by far the least productive, in terms of bang for your buck, was Cole Hamels. The Braves inked him to a one-year, $18 million contract ahead of the 2020 season, and he wound up pitching just 3.1 innings after dealing with several injuries. Had that money been spent elsewhere, it is possible the Braves would have won back-to-back World Series in 2020 and 2021. But considering it was just a one-year deal during the COVID-shortened season, I don’t imagine Alex Anthopoulos has lost much sleep because of it.

When discussing the one move Anthopoulos would like to have back, we have to think bigger.

The decision to move on from Freddie Freeman in favor of Matt Olson is the one that still sticks in my craw. I’m not a fan of letting a first-ballot Hall of Famer walk out the door that is the face of the franchise and a leader in the clubhouse, especially when the difference in offers was just one year. That’s a deal Anthopoulos should have gotten done, and now, Freeman is out west having a wild amount of success for one of the Braves’ biggest threats in the National League.

Matt Olson is no Freddie Freeman, but the guy is still an All-Star caliber talent who led Major League Baseball in home runs a year ago. Perhaps Alex Anthopoulos would do things differently if he could go back in time, but it’s the blockbuster trade he made a year later that he really might be second-guessing.

Many praised the Braves when they got creative and “upgraded” the catcher position by acquiring Sean Murphy in a three-team trade with the Oakland Athletics and Milwaukee Brewers. However, I was always hesitant to do so, because the Braves already had two All-Star caliber catchers on their roster.

William Contreras was sent to the Brewers in the deal, and they are the only true winners in this trade. He’s blossomed into a bonafide MVP candidate in the National League, is just 26 years old, and is under contract for pennies through 2027.

Murphy hasn’t been bad by any means, making the All-Star game a year ago. But Alex Anthopoulos traded away three other pitching prospects in the deal, and all he did was get a worse player at the same position in return. There’s no way that trade can ever be looked back on as a positive, unless things dramatically change in the future.

Again, it says a lot about Alex Anthopoulos that in perhaps his worst move, he still acquired an All-Star talent in the process. However, I definitely believe he would not pull the trigger on that trade if he knew what he does now.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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