As we begin the second half of the 2018 season and approach the July 31st trade deadline, fans likely have a long list of questions about the organization. Those who are members of the Braves A-List are invited to attend an event held each year called “State of the Franchise”. Members are encouraged to ask the Braves GM, Alex Anthopoulos, questions on topics such as acquisitions, status of particular players, plans for the future, and even potential trades. This event was held last weekend at the Omni in The Battery and although it was exclusive, I will share a few of the highlights from this hour long Q&A. Although not all questions were allowed to be answered, Anthopoulos did a great job engaging fans and providing some insider information while also protecting the privacy of others.
Anthopoulos opened with a statement about the trade deadline, “I can not promise and guarantee that you will see a bunch of big deals, but I can promise and guarantee that we are working to make the team better. There are deals we could do today, but we ultimately don’t think they are good deals for the Braves”. Fans seem to be worried about the timing of any potential deal, but he suggested that it wouldn’t surprise him if it goes until the last week because that’s typically what happens. He also added that 90% of the players that are available are guys who are only going to be with the team for 2 months.
“We are very aware of it, we’re looking to get help. We are talking right now actively about getting a reliever or two. If we feel like the acquisition cost is too steep, we are not going to do something we don’t believe in as much as our players and our fan base, at the end of the day when you are in these positions you have to do what you know is right. There is an emotional component as there always is being able to win and a fan base, all that is very real. You can’t lose sight of that fact. But, it’s like being able to charge something on your card. Eventually that bill is going to come due and you better be able to pay it. At the time you are emotional. You are excited you start shopping it’s great, but when the bill comes and you can’t pay it you have problems.”
As you can see, fans were very interested in trade deadline talk. The following insight was very significant in understanding his mindset when trying to improve the team.
“All the players that have been well documented that are available in trade, I can say with confidence that we have inquired, we have gotten a price, and that’s just doing our jobs. It’s our job to be as informative as we can be on what the price is, because we may look and say we want to get a reliever and we feel that’s the obvious area of need. But maybe the price, the value, of getting a reliever just doesn’t make sense. We have to trade 2 or 3 of our best prospects and all of a sudden we can go get a bat. Yes we might need a bullpen arm, but if that bat in value provides more offense provides more defense there are other ways to get better. So unless you have the best offense in the game or the best rotation in the game or the best bullpen in the game there’s always ways to get better. Maybe the way to get better because the value isn’t there for the bullpen or a starter, maybe we just want to crush teams on offense. Be even better on offense, be even better on defensive and ultimately instead of trying to win games 3-1 we’re gonna win them 8-6. I’m not saying that is the model we want long term, but at this trade deadline right now we will try to balance short term and long term and what is the best value. We still make our club better.”
Potential damage of the penalties and sanctions of 2017
“Every team has challenges, with respect to the international side we have to rebuild our international department. The issues that are going to arise from that aren’t showing up in 2018, but they likely will show up in 2020, 2021, 2022. I haven’t seen it impact our abilities to do our job.”
Not surprisingly fans wanted to know about Carter Stewart, our 2018 1st round pick who ultimately did not end up signing a deal with the Braves before the deadline. Anthopoulos also explained how slot money works for those of us who are not well-versed in that area.
“We weren’t able to come to terms and come to an agreement. So a result of the way the rules work we would get the 9th overall pick the following year. We negotiated. We went right up until the wire, I would say with a few minutes until the actual time we had to agree and we weren’t able to come to terms. I cant get into specifics because of laws. We negotiated in good faith.”
“You have slot dollars for each pick in the top 10 rounds. There is an aggregate total on that and you can move that money around however you want. So if you want to pay your 6th round pick $1 assuming he will sign for that and take the 6th round slot money as long as you have a signed player and reallocate it to another pick at any point in the draft you have the ability to do that.”
“The biggest thing is he is now throwing out of the stretch all the time and that has helped his command quite a bit. He is still going to walk guys with his big stuff, the velocity is outstanding, curveball is outstanding. We talked about him coming up out of the bullpen, especially with what we are seeing the costs are to get bullpen help in trade. The answer might be right in this organization. We are trying to manage short term and long term . No doubt we have needs and he certainly can help the big league club, but we also want to do right by him and his development. He is someone who has the ability to attack you in all areas of the zone and it’s rare. We are optimistic and hopeful it is going to continue, but he is someone that we think gets a chance to be in Atlanta at some point by the end of the year to help the team either out of the rotation or the bullpen but we will talk about both.”
When asked about the difference between last year’s team and this year’s team, Anthopoulos admitted that he was not here last year but had some insight from the outside looking in.
“The underlying components show that there wasn’t a lot of sustainability. Runs scored and runs allowed, the run differential was not strong, and that would have been a good indicator that it wasn’t the most sustainable thing. Our run differential right now is pretty strong. It’s got room to get better, but it’s up there, it’s been up there the entire year. I expect us to maintain being a competitive, contending team not withstanding any significant injuries that we have. At the same time I am hopeful that by the end of July we add to the team. Our goal right now is to make this team better.”
There has been a lot of talk in the media about the amount of money that the Braves have available to spend. Interestingly enough there are only 2 clubs in baseball that are owned by a corporation, Atlanta and Toronto. Fans wanted to know about payroll.
“I can tell you this, money hasn’t been an issue. What we have spent and not spent is what we as baseball operations have decided to do. We haven’t had a baseball opportunity that has made sense that we have said “we can’t afford that player”. I expect it to be the same in the offseason as well. We have a lot of money coming off the books, that is well documented. When you feel like those one or two players are your last pieces and are going to carry the 23 other players you’ve already put a ton of money into, then it’s not just a strict math equation. The value of going from 88 wins to 92 wins is much greater than 72 to 82 wins. Every incremental win at that level is huge. We can take on a contract and we have the young players to trade. Sometimes you have to wait for the right opportunity to present itself.”
“Both (Flowers and Suzuki) are scheduled to be FA. They are a rare tandem, always pull for each other and help each other out. They legitimately are best friends, and they want every starter and reliever to do well. They both want to be here and love Atlanta and we want them here. No contract discussions have occurred, but I do expect us to sit down with both guys and try to work something out.”
Fans asked about long-term extensions for Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña Jr.
“A lot of players will tell you they play better sometimes knowing there is security. They don’t have to play for numbers. With Albies and Acuña, they are certainly guys we would talk about. They are guys that we would consider signing to a long term deal. With that said, at the end of the year, Albies will have a year of service time, Acuña will have zero and change, and we’ve got Albies for another 5 years beyond this year. We have Acuña for another 6 beyond this year. I think as an industry and fan base we tend to forget that’s a long time. There are times that teams might be a little overly aggressive giving young players guaranteed money. There’s a dip in performance, there’s a health concern and now all of sudden their value is impacted because the contract brings down their value. They are overpaid based on production. We have time with these guys, and the more we get to know them and get to know their abilities, we get to know their makeup...they are young kids and are still going to grow up. They are 20 and 21. Finding out a little bit more, I’d rather pay a little bit more money and have more information and make the right decision than jump the gun. Freddie Freeman they waited 3 years, $100m. They got the player right, they got the performance right.”
As I have said before, the access that we get from the Braves and our GM as A-List members is phenomenal. State of the Franchise was part of A-List Member Appreciation Weekend at SunTrust Park which included various events such as photos with the players, on-field batting practice, play catch on the field and more. These are just some of the perks of an A-List membership. If you have any questions feel free to tweet me @slmsolo OR contact one of our member services representatives https://www.mlb.com/braves/tickets/season-tickets
You can also stop by the A-List service center located across from the Hank Aaron statue at Suntrust Park.