It’s no secret I was a big fan of Alex Anthopoulos’ work going into this offseason, and I think he had another strong showing, even after losing the 2020 NL MVP. The Braves made a lot of quality moves, and while they may not be done, I’m going to break down some of the notable ones and give each a grade.
This offseason did not feature a strong market for catchers, and the Braves made the right move by picking up Pina when they did. Atlanta had to turn to a number of band-aid solutions in 2021, and William Contreras needs more time to develop in the minors without being rushed. Pina was easily the best player available at the position — he’s a strong defender with some pop in his bat. On a two-year deal worth $8 million with a club option for $4 million, I think the Braves did pretty well here.
I was a big fan of the Braves bringing Kirby Yates in last offseason, but they backed off him at the final hour. It was a good decision, as Yates underwent Tommy John surgery before ever throwing a pitch for the Blue Jays. He’s still recovering, but we’re talking about a guy who was one of the best closers in the league not too long ago. Yates will only earn $1 million in 2022, but he’s on a reasonable deal for three years that totals $8.25 million, including his potential buyout. It’s a low-risk, high-reward signing that I love for Atlanta, even if they only get a fraction of the old Kirby Yates back. If he’s healthy, that’s a steal for a guy who posted a 1.19 ERA & 0.89 WHIP with 41 saves in 2019.
To be honest, Jay Jackson wasn’t a player I’m too familiar with, but he looks like a sturdy piece that can give you some quality innings. Jackson was placed on the 60-day IL, but the Braves gave up very little in exchange for a guy who could contribute in 2021.
Acquired 1B Matt Olson in exchange for OF Cristian Pache, RHP Ryan Cusick, C Shea Langeliers, and RHP Joey Estes
Jackson was one of the last notable acquisitions before the lockout, and we had a lot of radio silence until Atlanta’s most significant move of the offseason. In my opinion, the Braves could not wait on Freddie Freeman to decide any longer, and it became clear he lost a lot of his leverage in negotiations when the Braves decided to move on. Anthopoulos went out and got a first baseman who has won multiple Gold Gloves and has true 40-50 home run potential at Truist Park. This grade only gets a slight dink due to the loss of Cusick, Pache, Langeliers, and Estes — those are quality prospects. However, factor in Olson’s eight-year extension that carries a reasonable $21 million AAV, and I have to say this is a win for the Braves — Freeman or no Freeman.
The Braves badly needed another outfielder and left-handed bat, and they remedied both of those woes by bringing back 2021 NLCS MVP Eddie Rosario. I’ve wanted Rosario back since day one, so it’s safe to say I’m a fan of this move. On a two-year, $18 million deal — the Braves are getting loads of value from a guy who has been pretty consistent his whole career.
Collin McHugh was a name that was on my radar early in the offseason, and his frisbee slider is difficult for right or left-handed batters to handle. The Georgia Native generates a lot of swings and misses, and a two-year deal for $10 million with a $6 million club option is perfectly reasonable. I like this deal a lot, and I have high hopes for McHugh to be a contributor.
Although he had a down 2021 season, Dickerson may have well have been prime Mike Trout during the shortened 2020 season. While this deal isn’t too exciting, the Braves need left-handed outfield bats, and one year, $1 million non-guaranteed is hard to be down on. The value really carries this grade.
This move caught a lot of Braves fans off guard, and now, Atlanta’s bullpen is a true weapon that they will be able to lean on all season and in the playoffs. Jansen signed a solid one-year, $16 million deal — minimal risk for the Braves. Will Smith was elite in the postseason, but he had some regular season struggles. Jansen taking over as the closer makes this group truly elite, and for that — the signing is worth every penny.