Through 38 games, the Braves are off to a 17-21 start, but it does feel like a breakthrough may not be far away. The schedule lightens up here over the next month, and the pitching has been outstanding of late. If the bats start to come alive, there should be a lot of wins in the Braves’ future, which hopefully means they close the gap in the division.
However, this piece isn’t about this season; it’s focused on the Braves’ future, which remains incredibly bright for several years to come. This past offseason, Liberty Media showed much more willingness to spend in free agency, and there’s reason to believe they will spend even more this upcoming winter, thanks to us — the fans.
The Braves are on pace to shatter their record for attendance at Truist Park, as The Battery has become the place to be during the Spring and Summer months in Atlanta. I expect payroll to rise substantially again next year, and with so much money coming off the books at the end of the season, the Braves will likely be one of the bigger players in free agency.
Alex Anthopoulos will have a couple of team options he will have to make decisions on surrounding Charlie Morton and Will Smith. One of them is a no-brainer. Will Smith should be bought out for $1 million this winter, saving the team $13 million. Morton’s decision will likely be mutual. He could decide to retire after this season, but if he pitches well and wants to continue, I imagine the Braves will have interest in bringing him back. However, with all the talented arms Atlanta has in their farm system, I’m leaning towards Morton not being on the team next season. Combined between the two, that’s $33 million off the books for 2023.
The Braves also have several players set to test unrestricted free agency this winter. Kenley Jansen, Dansby Swanson, and Adam Duvall are the most notable names. Those three combined are making about $36 million in 2022. Luke Jackson will also be an UFA, bringing the total number to around $40 million.
That’s potentially $73 million coming off the books once the season ends, and I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Braves did everything in their power to find a trade partner willing to take on some or all of Marcell Ozuna‘s contract, which would give them even more wiggle room. Now, not all of that can be spent on free agents. Some of the Braves’ arb-eligible players — like Max Fried and Austin Riley — will be due for significant raises. There will also be some massive holes to fill, particularly at shortstop.
Filling that void, whether it be Dansby Swanson or someone else, will be Atlanta’s top priority. However, with payroll expected to rise and a ton of money coming off the books, I wouldn’t count out anything. Every free agent this offseason is a possibility, and I’m expecting next winter to be another wild one for the Braves.
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