The MLB offseason hasn’t officially begun, but the Hot Stove will be fired up once the World Series ends. And though the Braves aren’t going to be as active as some other clubs, they still have holes to fill. Alex Anthopoulos must figure out the left field situation because there’s no chance Atlanta goes into 2023 with Eddie Rosario and Marcell Ozuna as the only options. The bench and bullpen could also use bolstering. The fifth starter is likely already on the roster. But the biggest (and most obvious) offseason need is at shortstop, which The Athletic’s David O’Brien so boldly identified:
“The Braves must decide, and perhaps already have decided, whether to make a fair-market offer for Dansby Swanson or move on. If they don’t re-sign the free agent, they might have a difficult time filling the void, given what Swanson brings both on and off the field — strong defense, streaky but potent bat with a penchant for coming through in big situations, leadership, unofficial team captain with most tenure of any current Brave. There is no one in the organization who can fill his shoes, so the Braves either would settle for considerably less production in-house from the likes of Orlando Arcia (unlikely) or young Vaughn Grissom (more unlikely) or seek a replacement via trade or free agency, with the latter likely to cost more than Swanson would on an AAV basis. -David O’Brien”
O’Brien is right about the Braves entering next season with Arcia or Grissom as the starter; it feels very unlikely. Seeking a replacement for Swanson via trade is almost as unlikely, in my opinion. Following the Matt Olson trade, the Braves’ farm system is depleted. I doubt AA wants to go that route. With very few options on the open market, it’s pretty straightforward — Swanson, Xander Bogaerts, Trea Turner, or Carlos Correa will be the Braves top target in the offseason.
If I was a gambling man, I would bet my last dollar on the Braves landing one of the top four shortstop options. It’s something Chase has talked about extensively. Swanson is probably the ideal candidate. He’s the longest-tenured player on the team and is the unquestioned leader of the Braves clubhouse. There are others, but Swanson stepped into that Freddie Freeman role, and all he did in a contract year was turn in the best campaign of his career, earning All-Star and Gold Glove honors. In terms of chemistry, which is an underrated facet of World Series teams, Swanson is the best option. He won’t be cheap, but none of these guys will.
Correa will likely be the most expensive option, but there’s a reason for that. He’s the best shortstop on the free agent market. Correa is a menace in the box and just as reliable in the field. But most importantly, he’s deadly in October. Turner would be my choice if the team didn’t re-sign Swanson, though. He’s the best offensive shortstop in the game, which makes up for his somewhat suspect defense. Bogaerts is the worst defender of the bunch, but his bat more than makes up for that. Over the last five seasons, he has an .880 OPS — that’ll play.
Regardless of who you prefer, the Braves can’t go wrong signing any of these guys. Atlanta’s biggest crime would be missing out on one of these free agents because they believe the contract is an overpay. Don’t worry, though. All you have to do is look to last offseason at the Freeman-Olson crisis to know AA and the front office won’t be caught with their pants around their ankles. They’ll be prepared for every scenario.
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