MLB free agency kicked off yesterday, as players can now officially sign with teams that are not their own. It’s normal for things to remain quiet for a bit, but it won’t be too long before the dominos begin to fall.
For the Braves, the free agency priorities are now much more clear after the moves that have transpired over the last couple of weeks. The decision to exercise Charlie Morton‘s option gives Alex Anthopoulos a bit of a safety net. He doesn’t necessarily have to go out and spend big on one of the top starters, but adding at least one or two more options still feels like a must.
The bullpen also needs some additions, even after the signings of Pierce Johnson and Joe Jimenez. Those two — along with Raisel Iglesias, A.J. Minter, Tyler Matzek, and Dylan Lee — are a more than encouraging start, but Anthopoulos has the opportunity to make the bullpen a real strength of this team. He should take it.
Beyond the pitching staff, left field is the only position on the diamond that must be added. Kevin Pillar is a free agent, and the team declined Eddie Rosario‘s option yesterday. It’s evident they believe they can upgrade the position, and there are several candidates on the market that could potentially bolster an already elite offense.
I don’t expect the Braves to be major players in free agency, but their flaws are clear, and there’s no reason they won’t be addressed in some capacity.
SportsTalkATL’s Braves Free Agency Predictions
Braves sign Travis Jankowski to a one-year, $5 million contract
Jankowski was introduced on a national stage when he replaced Adolis Garcia in the World Series for the Texas Rangers. Jankowski has been around the league, playing for six different teams since 2019. He doesn’t offer much in terms of pop, but what he does bring is speed and defense in the outfield. I’m expecting the Braves to upgrade left field, but they also need a fourth outfielder to replace the void left by Kevin Pillar. Jankowski’s defense and ability to play all over the outfield make him an intriguing target.
Braves sign Joe Kelly to a one-year, $7 million contract
Kelly signed a two-year, $16 million contract with the White Sox and really struggled in Chicago. However, he was traded back to the Dodgers at the deadline and posted a 1.74 ERA and 16.5 K/9 in 11 relief appearances. Kelly will be 36 next year and could be looking for an opportunity to play with a contender. If there’s one thing the Braves are missing in their bullpen that they should be looking to add desperately, it’s high velocity. Kelly brings that in spades.
Braves sign Adam Duvall to one-year, $9 million contract
In 2021, Adam Duvall hit 38 homers between the Braves and Marlins while winning a Gold Glove. He also helped the Braves to their first World Series since 1995. However, he wasn’t nearly as productive in 2022, and the Braves ultimately decided to move on, leading him to sign a one-year, $7 million pact with the Red Sox.
I think the Braves would have handed him a similar contract, but it feels like he wanted an opportunity to play everyday, which wasn’t going to happen with Rosario in the fold. Now that Rosario is out of the picture, bringing Duvall back could be in play. He offers more pop and much better defense, and he should cost about the same as the option the team declined on Eddie Rosario. Duvall’s coming off a season in which he hit 21 homers in just 98 games for the Red Sox. I would love to have him back in Atlanta.
Braves sign Seth Lugo to three-year, $39 million contract
Braves fans should be very familiar with Seth Lugo, who has spent the bulk of his career with the Mets, primarily as a high leverage reliever. However, the Padres gave him an opportunity as a starter, and he thrived to the tune of a 3.57 ERA over 26 starts with an 8.6 K/9. Alex Anthopoulos has never been eager to get in a bidding war for top-of-the-line starters in free agency, so expecting him to do so this offseason is wishful thinking. A mid-level guy like Seth Lugo or Michael Wacha is much more likely.
The names on this list aren’t that important, but the thought process is. I don’t see the Braves going big-game hunting in free agency. I think their focus should be on improving the margins. There are a lot of high quality free agents available that will be willing to accept short-term deals. These are four examples that help sure up the Braves situation in left field, improve the bench, add a high velocity arm to the bullpen, and further stabilize the rotation. If Alex Anthopoulos makes four moves like this, the Braves will be in much better shape heading into 2024.
Photographer: Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire