Jim Bowden’s offseason grade, takeaways and key questions for Braves

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The Braves were quiet in the free agent market; the most notable deals were with Nick Anderson and Jordan Luplow. The same cannot be said for the trade market. Alex Anthopoulos swung big and landed Sean Murphy, a top five player at his position. The club and Murphy subsequently agreed to a six-year extension. Atlanta also acquired Joe Jiménez and Lucas Luetge to bolster the bullpen. It was a productive offseason, but I wish the club did more to address the left field and DH positions.

Jim Bowden of The Athletic gave offseason grades, takeaways, and key questions moving forward. He is very bullish on Atlanta’s winter, giving the club a B+:

Key takeaways: The Braves acquired their long-term answer at catcher, Sean Murphy, who is certainly one of the top five overall at the position, then extended him with a six-year, $73 million deal. However, it created a short-term issue with incumbent Travis d’Arnaud, a 2022 All-Star who was instrumental in helping them win a World Series two years ago. The initial plan is for the duo to split time at catcher and DH, but don’t be surprised if d’Arnaud ends up getting traded between now and the deadline. Dansby Swanson is gone, and the Braves will miss him offensively, defensively, in the clubhouse and in clutch moments. They also lost closer Kenley Jansen in free agency, but the trade for Jiménez, who will be a set-up man for new closer Raisel Iglesias, addressed that hole. In October, the Braves signed right-hander Spencer Strider to a six-year, $75 million extension, meaning Alex Anthopoulos has Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies, Matt Olson, Austin Riley, Michael Harris II, Murphy and Strider all under contract for the long term. Atlanta is well-positioned for years to come.

Key questions: Is rookie Vaughn Grissom ready to be the everyday shortstop, or will veteran Orlando Arcia have to be the placeholder? Will the Braves get enough offensive and defensive production out of left field? Does Charlie Morton, 39, have another year left in his right arm? Can Mike Soroka, who last pitched in the majors in 2020, be a Comeback Player of the Year candidate?

The big picture: The Braves are good enough to win the World Series again, but they’re in the toughest division and could finish anywhere between first and third because the Phillies and Mets could win the division and World Series as well.

I’m not nearly as high on the Braves’ offseason as Bowden. Sean Murphy was an excellent addition and will play a pivotal role moving forward. His defensive presence cannot be understated. However, the club gave up a ton of assets for the Gold Glove winner. William Contreras was an All-Star last season and is an elite offensive talent, regardless of position and especially for a catcher.

In the coming years, if the rest of the prospects — Kyle Muller, Freddy Tarnok, and Royber Salinas — don’t contribute at the major league level, it would’ve been a swap of just Contreras and Murphy, which has to be seen as favorable. Only time will tell.

Joe Jiménez was the other big move of the offseason. He has an up-and-down track record but put it all together last season, recording a 2.00 FIP, 1.094 WHIP, and 12.2 K/9. But once again, the Braves gave up a considerable asset for Jiménez’s services.

Justyn-Henry Malloy was the Braves’ top position player prospect and someone I was very fond of. He had a .408 on-base percentage across three levels of the minors last year and featured promising power. The Braves are in the middle of their championship window, so I understand the move. Atlanta is also one of the best clubs in baseball at evaluating their own talent, but if Malloy realizes his full potential, it could be something the Braves regret.

Dansby Swanson’s departure was heavily scrutinized as well. And to start the offseason, I would’ve wagered the Braves wouldn’t go into the 2023 season with Vaughn Grissom as the starting shortstop, but here we are. Atlanta was never going to hand Swanson the seven-year, $175 million contract the Cubs offered. It will be challenging for Swanson to live up to that deal, but if he replicates his 2022 campaign, it’ll be considered a bargain.

The prospect of Vaughn Grissom potentially not winning the starting job makes this a questionable decision. His offensive upside is what makes this intriguing. However, if the Braves have to pivot to Orlando Arcia, that is a massive downgrade that could hold a team with World Series aspirations back.

I believe in Vaughn Grissom but filling Dansby Swanson’s shoes will be near impossible.

What is your Braves offseason grade?

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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