With the World Series ending over the weekend, MLB free agency has begun. Every team is now free to re-sign their own free agents, and come Thursday, teams will be able to negotiate with other free agents. Around that time, things will get a little hectic in the baseball world, and the Braves should be right in the middle of it.
The season ended less than a month ago, and we have already received some nuggets about premier free agents. Reportedly, the Braves offered Dansby Swanson around $100 million during the season, which he wisely declined and bet on himself. Also, Andy Martino reported yesterday that the Braves, along with the Rangers, are viewed as the biggest threats to the Mets in the Jacob deGrom sweepstakes.
I remain skeptical that the Braves have the money to afford deGrom, but this isn’t a thought that Martino shares alone. Buster Olney reported such a possibility months ago, and The Athletic’s Jim Bowden also said he believes the Braves could be in on deGrom.
The Braves have already offered Swanson a deal of more than $100 million, and if they can’t re-sign him, they will focus on the other elite free-agent shortstops such as Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Trea Turner. The Braves are always looking for top starting pitchers, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they make a run at Jacob deGrom. Per usual, president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos will look for ways to improve the talent and depth in their bullpen.
In that piece, Bowden said the Braves top three offseason needs entering free agency are shortstop, starting pitching, and bullpen help. I agree with two parts of his answer, but the other I just can’t get behind.
This is the most obvious answer. With Dansby Swanson hitting the open market, the Braves have to fill the void at arguably the most important position on the diamond. Thankfully, there are four All-Star caliber shortstops available.
I’m not sure how Bowden can overlook left field as one of the Braves biggest needs. It was a black hole for the team in 2022, as Marcell Ozuna and Eddie Rosario combined for nearly -3.0 WAR. With Adam Duvall coming off a season-ending injury and entering free agency, left field has to be addressed. The only reason it’s not the biggest need is that there are a lot more competent left fielders than there are shortstops.
For the last couple of seasons, Alex Anthopoulos has placed an emphasis on building an elite bullpen, and it has paid substantial dividends. Given that relief help can be cheap, I see no reason he would deviate from the blueprint he has used in recent years. Kenley Jansen and Luke Jackson are now free agents. Tyler Matzek will also be missed next year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. I would love to have Jansen and Jackson back for 2023, but regardless, Anthopoulos must sign some guys to replenish this unit.
Why not starting pitching?
While I agree with Bowden’s analysis that Alex Anthopoulos has always been looking for a frontline starter, he’s never actually pulled the trigger on a deal. The closest thing has been Charlie Morton, and he signed a one-year contract. Not to mention, the Braves have never had a better rotation than they do now going into 2023. Max Fried, Charlie Morton, Spencer Strider, and Kyle Wright is really all a team needs. But beyond those four, the Braves still have plenty of potential options in Kyle Muller, Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson, Bryce Elder, and more. The saying “you can never have too much pitching” is correct, but rotation help is far from one of the Braves biggest needs.
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