The Braves have to take a long hard look in the mirror this offseason. They’ve won 205 wins over the last two seasons, yet have been ousted twice by the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS, and neither series has been very competitive. Assuming that’s due to nothing more than a small sample size and the unpredictability of baseball would be naive. The Phillies currently have something the Braves don’t that’s led to more postseason success in recent years, and the Braves need to make adjustments before they inevitably meet again in October.
I’m on the record saying the Braves do not need to overreact. Wholesale changes to the team’s elite core would not be a wise decision, but not everybody feels that way. Jeff Schultz recently discussed this very topic, and he believes some star players should at least be floated in trade conversations, namely Ozzie Albies and Michael Harris II.
Ozzie Albies/Orlando Arcia: I’d keep Albies because he has a strong clubhouse presence and he’s on an incredibly affordable contract. But Anthopoulos can’t ignore that the second baseman is a potentially valuable trade chip for a starting pitcher. Vaughn Grissom also could go in trade or be an infield replacement.
I’m on board with moving Orlando Arcia in the right deal, but I cannot get behind trading Ozzie Albies; it was difficult for me to even type such an absurd sentence.
The only reason moving Albies would make the slightest bit of sense is Vaughn Grissom could replace him at second base, and Albies would bring in a haul in return. However, the Braves would be giving up one of the best second basemen on arguably the best contract in baseball. They would have to receive a king’s ransom in return to even consider it, but beyond that, the biggest reason why I’m against trading Albies is his relationship with Ronald Acuña Jr.
Baseball is a business, and sometimes relationships are strained in business. But a big part of business is keeping the higher-ups in the organization fat and happy. Ronald Acuña Jr. is the best position player in the league, straining that relationship by shipping off his best friend is terrible business, and it’s not like Albies is a problem here. He’s a three-time All-Star that just came off arguably the best season of his career.
The Braves need to be focused on improving the clubhouse dynamic, not potentially fracturing it by shipping off the best friend of the most important player on the team. Trading Albies shouldn’t even be on the table. The same can be said for Michael Harris II.
Michael Harris II: Some have suggested moving the will-be-one-day Gold Glove center fielder, an Atlanta native playing for his hometown team. I don’t like it. But can the team ignore that he’s 1-for-27 in the playoffs the last two years?
Talk about overreacting to a small sample size. Michael Harris II has been dismal at the plate in his first two playoff appearances. There’s no denying that, but he’s only 22-years-old and already one of the best centerfielders in the game. Not to mention, he’s under team control through 2032! Even mentioning him as a trade candidate is asinine. You might as well put Ronald Acuña on this list too because the Braves won without him in 2021.
The other four trade candidates Schultz mentions are much more plausible, beginning with Marcell Ozuna.
Marcell Ozuna: He went 2-for-21 (.095) with eight strikeouts in the last two postseasons. Personal baggage aside, he rebounded to have a strong 2021 with a career-high 40 home runs and 100 RBIs, but expecting him to replicate that is risky, and he’s more movable now with one year left on his contract. With the universal DH, finding an interested team shouldn’t be a problem.
Ozuna was a revelation for the Braves, but it’s fair to wonder if he can replicate that success at the plate, and his inability to play defense limits the Braves versatility. They could also shed some salary in the process, allowing them more flexibility this offseason.
AJ Smith-Shawver/Hurston Waldrep: The pitchers are the team’s top two prospects. Question: Do they need to keep both or would it be beneficial to deal one to a team that is looking to unload the salary of a quality outfielder or starting pitcher who could help the Braves win a title now? This should not be off the table.
These are the Braves two most untradeable prospects, but it doesn’t mean one of them shouldn’t be moved to bolster the roster today. The Braves are in win-now mode; all prospects should be on the table in the right deal.
Travis d’Arnaud: David O’Brien thinks I’m crazy for listing him. But I take O’Brien thinking I’m crazy as a badge of honor. D’Arnaud has value to the team as a DH, backup catcher and universally liked clubhouse leader. But he’s also a little bit of a luxury with Sean Murphy as the starting catcher. He has one year left on his contract at an affordable $8 million, but the uncertainty is how high his trade value is. I’m guessing he stays.
d’Arnaud has been integral to the Braves success, and his clubhouse presence is invaluable. The extension Alex Anthopoulos handed him last season makes this unlikely, but Sean Murphy has proven to be more effective when playing more often. The Braves could afford to downgrade at backup catcher, as long as d’Arnaud can fetch something of worth in return.
Alex Anthopoulos has not been afraid to swing big trades at any point during the year. It’s actually been his preferred method to acquire star players. That could be the case again this offseason, but I would be floored if the Braves ended up shopping one of their star players on a team-friendly contract, especially Ozzie Albies and Michael Harris II.
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