Grading the Braves offseason halfway through the season

Braves trade deadline

Time flies when you’re having fun; we are officially halfway through the MLB season, as the Braves stayed hot last night against the St. Louis Cardinals. Atlanta has now won 24 of their last 31 games and sits just 3.5 games back of the Mets in the NL East. 13 games over .500 and on pace for 94 games is nothing to scoff at, but they might need a little more in the second half if they want to win their fifth straight division title. The Mets have played lights-out baseball so far, and like the Braves, they will only get healthier down the stretch.

Atlanta is in a prime position to repeat as champions — one of the most difficult things to do in sports. The last MLB team to do so was the 2000 Yankees. A primary reason why it is so challenging in baseball is that after you win, everybody wants a piece. Executives, coaches, scouts, and most importantly, players receive raises to head elsewhere. General managers are forced to constantly make adjustments on the fly — both big and small. That’s what Alex Anthopoulos was tasked with this past offseason, and so far, I would say he’s done a pretty good job.

Braves sign Manny Piña to a two-year, $16 million contract

Grade: N/A

I was really excited about the signing of Manny Piña to backup Travis d’Arnaud this season, but unfortunately, he only appeared in five games before breaking his wrist and was ruled out for the season. Thankfully, William Contreras has filled in beautifully, proving to be major-league ready. The Braves might have to find a new home for Piña this offseason.

Braves sign Kirby Yates to a two-year, $8.25 million contract

Grade: N/A

Kirby Yates remains on the Injured List recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he is expected to return at some point this season. Whatever he gives the Braves is icing on the cake. Atlanta is only paying him $1 million this year and $6 million next season with a club option in 2024. I still really like this low-risk, high-reward signing from Anthopoulos.

Acquired 1B Matt Olson in exchange for OF Cristian Pache, RHP Ryan Cusick, C Shea Langeliers, and RHP Joey Estes

Grade: B+

Of course, you can’t give this trade a grade without taking into account that the Braves let Freddie Freeman walk. However, after one-half season with Matt Olson, I’m more than at peace with what transpired. Olson has been an extra-base hit machine and appears to just be hitting his stride. I expect him to be one of the best first basemen in the league throughout the course of his eight-year contract. Meanwhile, outside of Shea Langeliers, the prospects the Braves traded away have really struggled this season. Cristian Pache was recently sent back to AAA, and both Cusick and Estes haven’t adjusted well to their promotions. It’s early, but this looks like a terrific trade for the Braves.

Re-signed Eddie Rosario to a two-year, $16 million contract

Grade: C-

I could have easily given this grade a N/A because Rosario was playing the first few weeks of the season blind in one eye and just recently returned from the IL. However, the Braves opted to pay Rosario more money than Joc Pederson. That is a mistake that can’t be overlooked. Pederson has played like an All-Star so far for the Giants, and his clubhouse presence can’t be understated. This is one Alex Anthopoulos would probably like to have back.

Signed Collin McHugh to a two-year, $10 million contract

Grade: B

McHugh’s last outing was a forgetful one, as he surrendered three earned runs against the Reds, but prior to that, he had been lights out over his last 23.2 innings pitched, posting a 2.28 ERA. McHugh is one of the best middle relievers in the game and is signed to a more than manageable contract. His peripherals suggest he’ll be even better as the season continues. It’s been nothing to write home about so far, but I’m still very pleased with the signing of McHugh.

Signed Kenley Jansen to a one-year, $16 million contract

Grade: B+

Like McHugh, Jansen has been a tad bit underwhelming so far this season for his standards. He’s been one of the best closers in baseball for a decade now, and this season, he’s been more in the middle of the pack. However, his Baseball Savant page suggests severe positive regression is in line.

  • 97th percentile in xERA
  • 95th percentile in HardHit%
  • 97th percentile in xwOBA
  • 92nd percentile in xSLG
  • 98th percentile in K%
  • 97th percentile in xBA

The Braves desperately needed to add a legitimate closer this past offseason. Will Smith is not that guy, and Jansen has done pretty well in the role. However, I expect him to be much better once he returns from the IL. I have plenty of confidence in Jansen, and on a one-year deal, this was a fantastic signing by Anthopoulos.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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