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Braves exit GM Meetings with a bang

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Atlanta locked up reliever Will Smith but still have work to do.

MLB: 2019 Spring Training Media Days Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The General Manager Meetings wrapped up in Scottsdale, Arizona on Thursday and the Atlanta Braves made a significant move landing closer Will Smith on a three-year deal. That signing came seemingly out of nowhere as Smith’s representatives used the qualifying offer deadline as leverage in negotiations. While there were no other roster additions made, there was plenty of news to come out of the meetings. Here is a wrap up of where things stand with the Braves at the close of the meetings.

Josh Donaldson

The Braves and free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson have mutual interest in extending his time in Atlanta but he appears to have a strong market developing. While Anthony Rendon is the marquee name at third base on the free agent market, Donaldson is a strong fall back option. The Texas Rangers are one team that has reportedly made a strong push and rumors persist that the Phillies and Nationals could both be interested as well. A report on Wednesday suggested that the Dodgers may try to jump into the third base market as well.

The elevated interest in Donaldson has led some to decrease Atlanta’s chances for re-signing him. I don’t know that I would completely rule it out yet as Anthopoulos and company could have simply told him to go explore his market and comeback when he had an idea of what it would take to sign him.

Starting Pitchers

The Braves are still thought to be in the market for an established starting pitcher. Currently Atlanta has Mike Soroka, Max Fried and Mike Foltynewicz penciled into the rotation but both Dallas Keuchel and Julio Teheran are free agents. The team will allow Sean Newcomb to compete for a rotation spot during spring training and are confident in the young arms they have at Triple-A. Still the need for an established veteran arm is apparent.

Players who check this box would appear to be Madison Bumgarner and Zack Wheeler but signing either would cost the Braves another draft pick. That could very well be a factor given the international sanctions that the team is still operating under. Anthopoulos could also turn to the trade market but this is an area that we will be monitoring throughout the offseason.

Bullpen

The Braves already made a significant move in the bullpen with the addition of Smith and the return of O’Day. The additions of Melancon and Greene at the deadline will give the Braves an intriguing group to work with out of the pen.

Trades

Thus far in his Atlanta tenure, Anthopoulos has been reluctant to include any of his top prospects in trades. After two straight division titles and first round exits, trading from Atlanta’s stash of prospects could be an option to fill holes on the major league roster. Anthopoulos indicated earlier this week that none of Atlanta’s current prospects should be deemed “untouchable” as had been the case with Ronald Acuña. The Braves have a pair of outfield prospects in Cristian Pache and Drew Waters that could be ready before the end of the season. They also have a number of arms like Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson who have already saw action in the majors. Another name to keep an eye on is Ian Anderson who made his way to Triple-A last season and could make his major league debut in 2020.

Freddie Freeman extension

Another subplot to this offseason is Freddie Freeman’s contract status. How big of a subplot it actually is remains to be seen however. Freeman has two seasons remaining on his current deal and there appears to be interest from both sides to make sure he remains in Atlanta for the remainder of his career. Anthopoulos wouldn’t confirm if talks had taken place this offseason or not but this is another move that we should probably expect to get done at some point in 2020.

Coaching Staff

Anthopoulos also confirmed at the Winter Meetings that Atlanta’s entire coaching staff would return for the 2020 season. Ron Washington was a finalist for the Padres’ managerial opening but finished runner-up to Jayce Tingler. Atlanta’s current staff has been together for both division championships except for pitching coach Rick Kranitz who joined the team last offseason.