When the clock struck midnight, the MLB officially entered a lockout, and from the looks of it, this could last a while. I’m not expecting this to end anytime soon, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this trickled into Spring Training, resulting in a delayed start of the season. That’s how far apart the two sides are, and the owners, in particular, don’t seem too worried about meeting the players halfway. They believe they have the leverage, and they don’t mind waiting.
Because of the looming lockout, we saw a ridiculous amount of money handed out over the last three days. But unfortunately for Braves fans, they weren’t highly involved. The only two signings Atlanta made were two relievers that may not even have an impact in 2022. Former Brave Darren O’Day was brought back on a minor-league deal. He’ll have a chance to compete for a roster spot in Spring Training, and the Braves’ only major league signing was Kirby Yates for two years, but he’s coming off of Tommy John surgery and won’t be back until the middle of the season at the earliest. I still think the Braves could use at least one more addition to their bullpen, even if it’s a minor one; however, they have a few much more glaring holes that will need to be filled once this lockout ends.
The Braves have a pretty straightforward answer at first base — re-sign Freddie Freeman. All reports suggest that he will most likely remain in Atlanta, but if he doesn’t, things will get very tricky. Might the Braves make a trade for someone like Matt Olson? Or could they possibly view Anthony Rizzo as a cheaper alternative that could bounce back and provide comparable value to Freeman? At the end of the day, Freeman leaving Atlanta after a World Series seems unfathomable, but who knows if he could have a change of heart during a lengthy lockout where he will have plenty of time to think.
The news that Marcell Ozuna will be eligible to play on Opening Day shakes up everything. I’m still not sure the Braves want him back, but they may not have a choice if they can’t find a trade partner because I do not see them eating the $53 million remaining on his contract.
From a pure baseball perspective, Ozuna fills a massive hole for the Braves. He could serve as the team’s DH or left fielder. The combination of him, Acuna, and Duvall leave the Braves with just one more hole, most likely a center fielder. However, if the Braves decide to move on from Ozuna via trade or release, they’ll need to add at least two more outfielders once the lockout ends.
The market for starting pitchers exploded before the lockout, and now there’s not much left. I’m not surprised at all that the Braves didn’t get involved, given the crazy contracts that were handed out, but I still believe Alex Anthopoulos would like to add another starter to the mix. Perhaps it’s just a back-of-the-rotation arm on a one-year deal, but there are also plenty of impact arms available via trade. The Reds, in particular, have a couple of options in Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo that the Braves should be very interested in.