Was this past offseason Alex Anthopoulos’ best work yet?

MLB: APR 24 Marlins at Braves

After signing a contract extension through the 2031 season, Alex Anthopoulos has a chance to go down as the best general manager in Braves franchise history.

An executive with the Blue Jays and Dodgers before his time in Atlanta, Anthopoulos took over the Braves at an ideal time. John Coppolella — the Braves previous general manager — had done a marvelous job navigating the team through a lengthy rebuild by stockpiling tons of young talent that was just about to hit the major-league level before he was banned from the game of baseball for his role in Atlanta’s violation of international signing rules. The Braves were on the cusp of something special, and they couldn’t have landed on their feet better by hiring Alex Anthopoulos to be the next general manager.

There’s a running joke that Coppolella sacrificed himself for the Braves to thrive, and there’s some truth to that. He deserves some credit for Atlanta’s current run of success; however, Anthopoulos has helped take the organization to the next level. Whether it’s contract negotiations, trades, or free agent signings, he rarely misses and is often able to find value where nobody else is looking. It’s what makes him the best in the business, and this past offseason is the perfect example of his expertise.

There is an argument that Reynaldo Lopez has been the most impactful free agent acquisition so far this season, and he’s certainly been the best signing when considering his contract. The Braves inked him to a three-year deal worth $30 million, and the immediate expectation is he would help bolster the bullpen.

However, soon after the signing, it was revealed the Braves would at least experiment with Lopez in the rotation during Spring Training. It was an intriguing thought at the time, but nobody could have expected him to be this dominant.

Following Wednesday’s start, Lopez, who was already MLB’s ERA leader, lowered his ERA to 1.57. He didn’t have his best stuff, but the Tigers were still unable to manufacture a run against him over five innings. That’s the kind of performance you expect from an ace, not a pitcher who hasn’t started games in a half-decade, but this is exactly who Lopez has been all season for the Braves.

In 12 of his 13 starts this year, Lopez has allowed two or fewer runs. To go even further, only one Braves pitcher since 1912 has had a better start to a season than him — four-time Cy Young award winner Greg Maddux.

At this rate, Reynaldo Lopez could go down as one of the best free agent signings in Braves franchise history. He’s looking like a legit Cy Young candidate, and he’s under contract for three seasons at just $10 million per year, all because Alex Anthopoulos and the Braves saw something that nobody else even considered.

Lopez is just the tip of the iceberg when talking about Anthopoulos’ work this past winter. Chris Sale was the biggest name acquired. He’s also right in the thick of the NL Cy Young race, boasting a 9-2 record with a 2.98 ERA and league-leading 2.35 FIP. Boston is paying nearly his entire salary this year, and all the Braves gave up was Vaughn Grissom, who never would have had a place to play in Atlanta. Oh, and Anthopoulos immediately inked Sale to an extension right after the trade, guaranteeing his salary for next year and adding a club option for 2026.

Without those two, who knows what the Braves record would look like right now, but it wouldn’t be pretty, and Anthopoulos has also hit on some of his smaller moves. Jarred Kelenic is coming along very nicely in his transition to Atlanta, and his presence has been instrumental to the Braves recent success without Ronald Acuña Jr.

But perhaps the least talked about offseason acquisition that has worked out really well for the Braves this season has been Aaron Bummer. The lefty got off to a shaky start in his new threads, recording a 5.79 ERA over his first 10 appearances, but since then, he’s been essentially unhittable, posting a 1.69 ERA, 1.81 FIP, and 10.6 K/9 over 16 innings. On top of Bummer, Anthopoulos also brought back Pierce Johnson and Joe Jimenez to begin the offseason, who have been two of Brian Snitker’s most reliable set-up men through the first two-plus months of the season.

It’s human nature to get fat and happy after a contract extension. We see it with players and coaches across all sports, but it doesn’t look to have had that effect on Alex Anthopoulos. The Braves GM responded to his contract extension with perhaps his best work ever this past offseason.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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