So far, the Braves focus early in free agency has been clear — improve their rotation. They started things out by signing left-handed pitcher Drew Smyly to a one-year contract, and last week, they added veteran All-Star Charlie Morton into the fold. Combine these two additions with the return of Mike Soroka, and the Braves suddenly have one of the deepest starting pitching units in baseball heading into 2021. I imagine they are done in this area, but what is next for the three-time reigning NL East champions?
The obvious answer is the outfield, particularly Marcell Ozuna. It will probably take a while for his market to sort itself out; however, he has to be the Braves top priority. Of course, there’s no guarantee he returns. I think most of Braves Country expected Josh Donaldson to sign an extension in Atlanta, but Anthopoulos decided not to meet his lofty demands. Ozuna is a much different player, but his market could be scorching, and Anthopoulos has never been one to overpay. Regardless, the Braves need to bring in another outfielder, and they need somebody that can protect Freddie Freeman in the lineup. That is priority #1 moving forward.
After that, Atlanta has some patching up to do in their bullpen. Last year’s relief core was one of the best, but Shane Greene, Mark Melancon, and Darren O’Day are all currently free agents. Bringing back one or two of them would be nice, but there are also several other relievers on the market that could be upgrades over those guys. The Braves bullpen was excellent last season, but they were exposed just a bit against the Dodgers. There is certainly room for improvement, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Anthopoulos forked out some cash for some relievers as well.
Finally, the Braves should be looking to upgrade the bench. Tyler Flowers, Adeiny Hechavarria, Charlie Culberson, and Nick Markakis are all free agents. Johan Camargo is also a non-tender candidate. I expect the Braves to bring back a couple of these guys, but there is plenty of room for upgrades with this group. Some reinforcements could come internally, with prospects like William Contreras and Cristian Pache close to being major-league ready, but the rest will have to be bought in free agency.
The most promising part about the hot stove thus far is that the Braves have not sat on their hands. They clearly have some money to spend and have already addressed their most glaring hole from last year’s team. With one more significant signing in the outfield and a couple of other tweaks to the rest of the roster, Atlanta should be more than ready to run it back in 2021 and give Los Angeles all they can handle in the postseason once again.