Will Betts deal force the Braves to make a big move?

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So the LA Dodgers just got even better, my Braves friends. While we were all finishing up dinner Tuesday evening, the already-loaded Dodgers finalized a mega-deal with the Red Sox and Twins, acquiring 27-year-old star outfielder Mookie Betts.

 

The deal

 

  • Dodgers get: OF, Mookie Betts / RHP, David Price / significant cash
  • Red Sox get: OF, Alex Verdugo / RHP, Brusdar Graterol 
  • Twins get: RHP, Kenta Maeda 

 

And just hours after the Betts’ trade, the Dodgers also worked a trade with the Angels, shipping outfielder Joc Pederson to the Halos, among other players as well. But let’s focus on the significance of this Betts’ deal…

As we were made aware by our own Chase Irle late last month, the Dodgers already had a projected 9-game pace in the National League for the 2020 season (via BetOnline). Now with Betts added to the mix — a player that has averaged 6.2 fWAR per season throughout his six-year career — the Dodgers look to be an even more impressive offensive powerhouse. 

Does Betts joining the Dodgers put any pressure on Braves’ GM Alex Anthopoulos? 

Probably not.

Should Betts joining the Dodgers put any pressure on Braves’ GM Alex Anthopoulos?

… perhaps it should?

I get it, Anthopoulos is a man that sticks to his guns and never lets outside noise impact his decisions. We’ve seen it time and time again, and frankly, I’m glad that he chooses that approach when running this Braves team, as it allows him to very rarely make the wrong move.

But c’mon… he’s a human being.

The Braves’ biggest threat in the NL just added the second-best player in the sport, while Atlanta’s most exciting moves thus far were signing a left-handed relief pitcher and a 2.5-WAR outfielder (which I am extremely grateful for, by the way!). What’s more, is until Tuesday, the Dodgers had hardly even participated in any hot stove action this offseason, choosing to sit out and wait for the “big one,” rather than engage in a bunch of minor transactions. Well, they got their big one, alright. 

But realistically, even if Anthopoulos felt he needed to make one last splash to get the momentum back on the Braves’ side… what in the world would he do? The free-agent market is bare from being raided the last three months. And all viable trade options have mostly been removed from the trade block, as teams seem more interested in sticking with what they got now that Spring Training is just 2 weeks away. 

The Braves did, in fact, make a respectable transaction shortly before the Betts trade on Tuesday…

Alonso had a terrible 2019, but I like the move, given he’s a legit first baseman off the bench that has 30-homer power. Although, adding him isn’t going to catch the Braves up with the Dodgers. 

What about Indians’ shortstop Francisco Lindor? Whatever happened to those discussions? I mean, that’s a splash. The Indians are currently in a somewhat similar situation as the Red Sox, though Cleveland’s financial woes derive from a self-imposed spending-cut that makes about as much sense as… the Red Sox trading the best player on their team. In short, the Indians want to rid themselves of payroll, and they haven’t been very successful in doing so, save for the Corey Kluber trade with the Rangers earlier this offseason. 

However, while Lindor comes at a more affordable cost this season ($17.5 million), acquiring him breaks the same “Braves Laws” as trading for Betts, Nolan Arenado or Kris Bryant. Remember, Atlanta doesn’t take on such deals. And if the Braves were willing to go after Lindor seriously, they might as well fill an actual weakness at third base and just trade for Bryant, who also has two more seasons of arbitration and is owed just over $1 million more than Lindor in 2020 ($18.6 million). And all of that talk brings us back to the very beginning — third baseman Anthony Rendon, who the Braves could’ve just signed for money if they were that interested.

Realistically, it seems too late in the game to start changing the game plan, as decisions Anthopoulos made earlier this offseason have already somewhat set the direction for the team now and going forward. To alter that direction now would seem like a risky proposition, and one that could wind up resulting in an unwise move. 

With everything added up (player benefits, minor league salaries…etc.), the Braves’ total tax allocations (fancy word for payroll) for the 2020 season sits at $175.4 million, a healthy $32.5 million below the $208-million luxury-tax threshold. There are probably ways to add a few wins to this roster. Perhaps a trade for a mid-tier starting pitcher? But there will more than likely be problems that arise during the first few months of the season; issues that will require Anthopoulos to make a few moves at the Trade Deadline, and for him to have options then, there will need to be some margin made available now.

Tuesday’s hot stove action could’ve lit a spark in the Braves’ GM, serving as the straw that broke the camel’s back, causing him to be irrational. But judging by how the Braves have operated over these last two offseasons, I wouldn’t count on it.

 

 

 

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