Slow Start to the Offseason
It hasn’t been a super exciting offseason for the Braves, which has been atypical during the Alex Anthopoulos era. Usually, AA likes to get out in front of free agency, inking guys in November before anyone else has signed. That hasn’t been the case this winter. The only signings the Braves have made are Manny Pina, who is a backup catcher, and a couple of relievers in Kirby Yates and Darren O’Day.
With that being said, I don’t think there is any reason Braves fans should be worried. This offseason mainly was going to be focused on bringing back their own guys, and none of the Braves’ free agents have signed yet. On top of that, there hasn’t been one deal inked this offseason where I’ve caught myself saying, “Damn, I really wish the Braves had done that.” Most of the substantial signings have been starting pitchers — an area the Braves are already pretty set at — and the contracts have been ridiculous. I never thought Anthopoulos would or should offer arms like Jose Berrios and Kevin Gausman north of $100 million. There’s a lot of excitement yet to come for the Braves this offseason. Unfortunately, it may have to wait a bit as the lockout is set to begin on December 1st.
From the most recent reports, there has been very little progress in negotiations between Freeman and the Braves, and I think it’s officially time to worry a bit. There are several large market teams with openings at first base — like the Dodgers, Yankees, and Red Sox. I also wouldn’t be surprised if a team like the Rangers joined the mix. Freeman will have no shortage of suitors, and judging by how hot the market is thus far, it looks like the Braves might have to spend way more than they ever imagined to retain the face of their franchise. Not giving in to his demands a year ago was a gamble the Braves decided to take, and now, there’s a good chance Freeman finishes his career in another uniform.
Speaking of that red-hot starting pitching market, how good does that deal Alex Anthopoulos inked during the season with Charlie Morton look now? 37-year-old Max Scherzer just signed a deal for $130 million over three seasons — a whopping $43 million a year! Morton’s deal is a one-year contract worth just $20 million and comes with another $20 million option for the 2023 season if Morton decides to keep playing. Now, there’s no denying that Scherzer is a more decorated player than Morton, but not by that much, and when you look at the contracts that some pitchers like Kevin Gausman are signing, Morton’s deal looks even more like a bargain. I say it often, but I still don’t say it enough; Alex Anthopoulos is a wizard at finding value, and he struck gold again by getting ahead and extending Morton during the season.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a bomb was dropped out of the sky onto Braves Country. Marcell Ozuna is back.. Like, really back. The league announced the results of his investigation, handing him a retroactive suspension of just 20 games, meaning Ozuna is available on Opening Day. Now, does that mean he will be suiting up for the Braves? I have no idea. But a month ago, I would have said there’s no chance Ozuna plays for the Braves again. Now, I think it’s about 50/50. At the very least, this should make it easier for the Braves to facilitate a trade since there is no longer any uncertainty.
Last year, there were reports that Alex Anthopoulos was interested in adding Yates, but a failed physical prevented that from happening. Yates then signed with the Blue Jays but never threw a pitch for them as he underwent Tommy John Surgery before the start of the season. He won’t be ready for Opening Day, but he’s only making $1 million in 2022. His $8.25 million contract is extremely backloaded, which will allow the Braves to take things slowly with him. For that reason, I love this move. Yates could be available for the final few months of next season, and if he returns to form, he could potentially replace Will Smith as the team’s closer in 2023. The last time we saw a healthy Yates, he was recording a 1.19 ERA with a league-leading 41 saves for the Padres