Tim Britton, Grant Brisbee and Aaron Gleeman, MLB writers over at The Athletic, recently went through all 30 teams offseason moves and handed out grades seven weeks before the start of the season. Here’s what they had to say about Alex Anthopoulos’ work this summer:
Alex Anthopoulos conducted his offseason as if eluding a tail, meandering down backstreets only to double back toward his ultimate destination. That’s how Atlanta ended up trading for and then trading away four different players in the same offseason, not to mention Matt Carpenter, whom they acquired and then released.
In a way, though, Atlanta is trying to elude a tail: those vexing Phillies. Less relevant than how many more regular-season wins it can squeeze out of the roster is how many more October victories it can generate. In that regard, there are a couple high-ceiling plays here. Maybe a former top prospect in Jarred Kelenic fully realizes his potential and becomes another part of Atlanta’s enviable position player core. And maybe Chris Sale is still Chris Sale, capable of being a lights-out left-handed starter when the lights are brightest. For a team whose starting depth has crumbled the past two autumns, pushing the chips in on Sale represents quite the gamble.
Alex Anthopoulos went through this offseason with a purpose, even if the plebeians can’t quite understand why he did what he did. That’s what I’m here for.
Essentially, the Braves went out and spent a bunch of money, taking on salary dumps and trading away players that no longer had a place in the team’s future, in exchange for Jarred Kelenic and Chris Sale. Some might call that risky because Kelenic is unproven and Sale has an injury history. However, Anthopoulos filled the two biggest holes on the roster without giving up any top prospects, and if Kelenic pans out, he found an answer in left field for five years. The Braves will take it on the chin salary-wise this year, but their books are clean moving forward, giving Alex Anthopoulos a ton of financial flexibility in the future.
Furthermore, the Braves completely overhauled their bullpen, turning it into one of the best in baseball. They re-signed Pierce Johnson and Joe Jimenez, while also signing Reynaldo Lopez and trading for Aaron Bummer. From top to bottom, the Braves pitching staff doesn’t have a weakness. It’s better than just about every other team in baseball.
This is a team that won 104 games last season, and that was without Max Fried and Kyle Wright for most of the season. Sure, they had to start Bryce Elder in Game 3 of last year’s NLDS, but that was because of a late-season injury to Charlie Morton. Looking ahead to 2024, Elder might not even begin the season on the Opening Day roster… And he was an All-Star last year. Show me another club with that kind of starting pitching depth.
What makes The Athletic’s offseason evaluations even more comical is they gave the Phillies a B for essentially standing pat.
Let’s see: The Phillies announced in early November that Bryce Harper would play first base permanently, and they re-signed Aaron Nola Nov. 19. Since then? Crickets, aside from the announcement they wouldn’t wear red jerseys anymore. (Huzzah?)
So how does a team with all those red marks and zero key additions get a B? Well, status quo isn’t inherently a bad thing, not when the team came a Game 7 away from repeating as National League champions. There wasn’t much the Phillies had to do this winter, and they checked off the biggest priority in retaining Nola. And while there are still spots here and there on this roster that could use supplementing (the bench and the bullpen, most notably), Philadelphia still lingers as a possible player for some of the bigger free agents who remain unsigned.
The Braves have nobody to blame but themselves for the way they have performed in the playoffs the last two seasons, allowing babbling talking heads to spread this kind of misinformation. As currently constructed, the Phillies will be fighting tooth and nail for one of the final playoff spots, while the Braves cruise to a seventh straight NL East title.
It’s worked out for Philadelphia recently, but that’s not a position you want to continue to put yourself in every season. The Phillies didn’t get better this offseason. The Braves did, and because of Philadelphia’s lack of action this offseason, you can already hang the 2024 NL East champions banner at Truist Park.
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