The Braves have followed up their miraculous World Series run with another unforgettable regular season. They are right on pace to win 100 games, which would be three more in a single season since they completed their rebuild in 2017. I’m on record saying this current group is the best team they’ve put together since that rebuild, even better than the team that won the World Series last season. That doesn’t mean they will repeat, but they have as good of a shot as anybody. There’s never been a better time to be a Braves fan, especially since the future of this organization is even brighter.
When looking at the Braves lineup, only one significant piece is set to test free agency at the end of the season — Dansby Swanson. The rest of Atlanta’s core is locked up for the foreseeable future. I believe Swanson will be the Braves’ top priority this offseason, and at the end of the day, I think a deal will get done between the two sides. The man has Atlanta in his blood, the Braves have a need at shortstop, and they have money to spend. Letting him walk a year after letting Freeman sign with the Dodgers would be a gut-punch to the organization. Regardless, I expect the Braves to fill their void at shortstop, whether that be with Swanson, another top-tier free agent, or even Vaughn Grissom.
The lineup will be very similar to this season, but I’ll have much higher expectations. First and foremost, Ronald Acuna should look much more like the MVP version of himself with a fully healthy offseason under his belt. Ozzie Albies will be healthy as well. I also expect more out of Matt Olson, who hasn’t lived up to expectations in his first year with the Braves. Beyond that, the young guns — Michael Harris and Vaughn Grissom — will also have more valuable experience under their belts. Not everything will go perfectly, but there is plenty of reason to believe next year’s lineup will be even more potent than this year’s.
The rotation should also be in better hands next season. The Braves’ top 3 — Max Fried, Spencer Strider, and Kyle Wright — will remain intact, but the Braves could certainly upgrade their backend in a significant way. Charlie Morton has been inconsistent this season, and the fifth spot has been a revolving door of disappointment.
Without even adding a free agent, which I think the Braves will attempt to do this offseason, Atlanta should be able to fill those holes. Mike Soroka should be ready for the start of next season, and Ian Anderson shouldn’t be counted out. The Braves also have several prospect arms, like Kyle Muller, Bryce Elder, and Jared Shuster, patiently waiting for their opportunity. Health providing, an already fantastic rotation, could be upgraded substantially in 2023.
The bullpen also loses very little. Kenley Jansen and Jesse Chavez are the only current members set to become unrestricted free agents. Losing a closer is tough, even if Jansen hasn’t looked like the old version of himself, but it should be a lot more palatable following the acquisition of Raisel Iglesias at the trade deadline. I also expect the Braves to add to this group via free agency without having to allocate much money.
Speaking of money, that’s another thing this franchise finally has working for them. We’ve seen the Braves spend more than they ever have before, and there’s no reason to think they will stop. Truist Park sells out as much as any other ballpark, and The Battery is printing money for this organization. It also helps that the team’s core is mostly locked up for several years into the future. Alex Anthopoulos only has to fill in the few missing pieces, which he should have no problem doing as payroll continues to rise.
Outside of perhaps the Dodgers, nobody is set up for the future better than the Braves. This team will be competing for championships for the next decade; it’s just a matter of getting the job done come October.
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire