The Braves are going for it. Or that is at least the general feeling if the first few weeks of the offseason are any indication.
Holes remain at third base, the rotation and behind the plate. But after signing Will Smith (and losing a draft pick in the process) for 3 years and $40 million and Chris Martin for 2 years and $14 million, it has become apparent the front office is ready to take the training wheels off.
You don’t spend $40 million on Will Smith, Mark Melancon, Chris Martin and Shane Greene (assuming he is tendered a contract in arbitration) to open the season with a payroll of $120 million like it has been in recent years. You don’t spend $40 million on a quartet of veteran relievers to go cheap elsewhere on the roster.
(If they are going cheap elsewhere, god help us all.)
Compare these two aggressive moves to what Alex Anthopoulos and Co. did during their first two offseason in Atlanta. They did next-to-nothing in 2017-18. Anibal Sanchez ended up being the most notable addition. Last winter was slightly more action-packed, signing Josh Donaldson, Brian McCann and Nick Markakis to one-year-guaranteed deals. And that was it. They didn’t even sign a reliever until Josh Tomlin became available towards the end of March.
Those two teams would go on to win the National League East, an impressive feat in itself. The 2018 club was clearly out-manned by the Dodgers. The 2019 club saw 8th inning leads disappear to the Cardinals in Games 1 and 4. This may sound like sour grapes, but the Braves probably should’ve won the first four games in the NLDS. At the very least three of them, which was enough. But as the bullpen faltered, the playoff misery continued.
It remains to be seen if sinking significant money into Will Smith and Chris Martin will prove to be the right decision, but damn it, I’m glad the Braves are finally making the moves necessary to take that next step.
Teams that win the World Series spend a lot of money. The average payroll of the last four champions (Cubs, Astros, Red Sox, Nationals) averaged $182 million. The Braves aren’t even close to that figure — and spending just to spend is not wise — but the team’s payroll sits around $105 million as of today. Again, they still lack a third baseman, at least one starting pitcher, a catcher and perhaps more. It would be nearly impossible to fit all of those things in and not exceed a payroll well above the aforementioned $120 million mark of years past.
There’s a long way to go this winter. But it does seem that after years of pleading with the front office to spend money, we are finally getting our wish. That doesn’t necessarily mean the result will be any different, but it’s about damn time.