No team in baseball has been more active this offseason than the Atlanta Braves. GM Alex Anthopoulos has signed five free agents, more than the other 29 teams combined, and he's committed $77 million across nine contract seasons. The Braves have spread the wealth around rather than make one big splash.
Here is a quick recap of Atlanta's offseason activity:
- Signed LHP Will Smith to a three-year, $39 million contract.
- Signed C Travis d'Arnaud to a two-year, $16 million contract.
- Signed RHP Chris Martin to a two-year, $14 million contract.
- Signed OF Nick Markakis to a one-year, $4 million contract.
- Signed C Tyler Flowers to a one-year, $ 4 million contract.
It has been a busy offseason for the Braves and there is no reason to believe they are done. Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei recently acknowledged "Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman) and that allows them to spend elsewhere." and that was after the Smith and Martin signings. Atlanta has several core players signed to team-friendly deals (
As good as they are (very good) and as active as they've been (very active), the Braves likely are not done with their offseason moves. They've taken care of some important business, no doubt, but there is still more on the agenda. Here are two things the Braves still have to do before spring training rolls around.
1. Re-sign or replace Donaldson
I guess the Braves don't absolutely have to re-sign or replace Josh Donaldson. They could let him walk, take the compensation draft pick, and go into next season with Austin Riley at third base and Johan Camargo a solid backup plan. This lineup is good enough to win the NL East, isn't it?
- LF Ronald Acuna
- 2B Ozzie Albies
- 1B Freddie Freeman
- C Travis d'Arnaud
- RF Nick Markakis
- SS Dansby Swanson
- 3B Austin Riley
- CF Ender Inciarte
- Pitcher's spot
Keep in mind Riley really struggled down the stretch -- he hit .156/.210/.303 with 42 percent strikeout rate after July 1 this year -- and Camargo is probably best as a super utility guy. Also, the Braves are trying to win the World Series, not simply get to the postseason, and slotting Donaldson back in at third base and the cleanup spot would help that cause.
Donaldson, 34 next month, hit .259/.379/.521 with 37 home runs in 2019, including .276/.403/.590 with 27 home runs in his final 87 games. He can still produce at a high level and play strong defense at third base, and the Braves could use his right-handed bat to help balance out the lineup. Donaldson was a great fit this year and he remains a great fit going forward.
Other free agent third basemen including Mike Moustakas, another left-handed hitter, and Anthony Rendon, whose contract might be five times larger than Donaldson's. Guys like Starlin Castro, Todd Frazier, and Jedd Gyorko don't move the needle. Donaldson is an impact player who will only require a two- or three-year deal given his age. It's a great fit.
Riley and Camargo are quality backup plans and depth is important. Teams need depth to get through the long 162-game season. Clearly though, the Braves would be most dangerous with Donaldson at third base next season. If not him, then Moustakas, even if it would make the lineup a little too lefty heavy. Third base isn't a problem area but it can be upgraded.
2. Get a high-end starter
Adding a top starting pitcher always seemed like it would be a priority for the Braves this offseason. They signed Dallas Keuchel this past June and he gave them a nice shot in the arm, but it would be better to add someone for the entire season. The free-agent market offers several potential impact starters. :
The Braves probably won't win a bidding war for Cole or Strasburg. Even with the way they've thrown money around this offseason, that's not their end of the pool. The next tier though? The Braves should be all over those guys. Bumgarner brings postseason pedigree and Atlanta is the closest MLB market to his North Carolina home. Wheeler has been on their radar for years.
Mike Soroka and Mike Foltynewicz currently front Atlanta's rotation, and it's likely southpaw Max Fried is locked into a rotation spot as well. The Braves also have a small army of young arms ready to complete for the other rotation spots: Touki Toussaint, Patrick Weigel, Bryse Wilson, Kyle Wright, and probably Sean Newcomb as well, though he settled in nicely as a reliever in 2019.
That's probably enough to get the Braves through 2020 and put them in position to win another division title. There is room for improvement though, for sure. Bumgarner or Wheeler would push Soroka and Foltynewicz down into the No. 2 and 3 starter spots, where they probably fit best, and allow those young righties to be depth rather than have to be The Answer on Opening Day.
The Braves are in a good spot right now and this applies to third base as well as the rotation. They don't have to absolutely make any additions. Their internal options are good enough to contend. This is a team looking to win the World Series though, and they have money to spend, so spend it and put the team in the best position to win. The Braves have made some nice moves early this offseason, but they shouldn't stop here. There are still ways to get better.