There has been plenty of roster churn for the Atlanta Braves through the early part of the offseason. The team has added eight players and subtracted 12 since the World Series ended. Those moves, combined with players returning from the Injured List, gives Atlanta a full 40-man roster.
The roster certainly isn’t a finished product in this state, and the impending lockout will no doubt slow down the process. Still, with the non-tender deadline moving up to November 30, now is a good time to take a look at the additions and subtractions and how the 40-man roster currently stands.
40-man roster subtractions
Hitters: Ehire Adrianza, Freddie Freeman, Terrance Gore, Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario
Pitchers: Jesse Chavez, Grant Dayton, Yoan Lopez, Chris Martin, Drew Smyly, Josh Tomlin
Of course, Freddie Freeman is the headliner here, but Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler and Eddie Rosario all played a huge part in Atlanta’s late-season turnaround and postseason run to a World Series championship. Freeman is naturally the priority of this group, and while most seem to think that his return is inevitable, he is still a free agent and there haven’t been any reports of any progress in terms of negotiations between him and the Braves. That isn’t really surprising given how close to the vest the Braves’ Front Office tends to play things, but the silence isn’t going to ease the minds of Braves fans and the lockout is just going to prolong the situation and the uncertainty.
Pederson, Soler and Rosario were all part of Atlanta’s outfield makeover at the Trade Deadline. Pederson declined his mutual option while both Rosario and Soler were on expiring deals and became free agents at the end of the season. There could be interest on the Braves’ part in retaining any of this group, but there are some unanswered questions in regards to the outfield, which we will discuss later.
Ehire Adrianza earned his way onto Atlanta’s Opening Day roster in 2021 and was a key piece of their bench, hitting .247/.327/.401 in 209 plate appearances. Atlanta’s roster is thin in position player depth so Adrianza’s return wouldn’t be terribly surprising.
Jesse Chavez didn’t join the active roster until the end of June, but ended up making 30 appearances, including four starts, in the regular season. He made seven more appearances in the postseason and filled a variety of roles, including serving as an opener.
Drew Smyly was one of Atlanta’s big free agent additions last offseason, but his season was a mixed bag overall and he ended the season in the bullpen. Chris Martin played a big role for the Braves out of the bullpen in 2019 and 2020 but battled injury in 2021 and wasn’t as effective.
Terrance Gore was added for the postseason run while Grant Dayton and Josh Tomlin both finished the season on the Injured List. Yoan Lopez was acquired from the Diamondbacks in late May for depth but spent the rest of the season at Gwinnett, and was removed from the 40-man roster a few days ago to make space for Jay Jackson.
40-man roster additions
Hitters: Travis Demeritte, Manny Pina, Drew Waters
Pitchers: Jay Jackson, Alan Rangel, Freddy Tarnok, Brooks Wilson, William Woods
After enduring a season where their catcher depth was ravaged, the Braves struck early in free agency, adding free agent Manny Piña on a two-year, $8 million deal that includes a club option for 2024. He will slot in behind Travis d’Arnaud, who missed three months of the 2021 season due to a thumb injury.
Atlanta selected the contracts of Alan Rangel and Travis Demeritte, adding them to the 40-man roster in early November. Both would have been eligible for minor league free agency. Rangel has never been regarded as much of a prospect but put together a solid season between High-A Rome and Double-A Mississippi, posting a 3.87 ERA in 104 2/3 innings. The Braves claimed Demeritte off of waivers from the Tigers in February of 2021, acquiring him for a second time after trading him for Shane Greene at the 2019 Trade Deadline, but dropped him from the 40-man roster soon thereafter. Demeritte spent the 2021 season at Gwinnett, where he put up good numbers, hitting .285/.370/.588 with 22 home runs. Despite those good numbers, he didn’t get a chance at the major league level, even with all of the outfield problems Atlanta dealt with in 2021.
The team added Drew Waters, Freddy Tarnok, Brooks Wilson and William Woods to the 40-man roster last week in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. Waters has lost some of that prospect shine and struggled a bit in his first full season at Triple-A. Still, he turns 23 in December and is still a Top 100 talent who is capable of playing all three outfield positions.
Tarnok took off after a mid-season promotion to Double-A, posting a 2.60 ERA / 2.27 FIP / 3.45 xFIP in 45 innings while striking out over a third of the batters he faced for Mississippi. Wilson is a relief arm who put up good numbers at Mississippi and in a late-season cameo for Gwinnett. Woods went to big-league Spring Training but an injury limited him to four appearances at High-A Rome. He is a hard thrower who got off to a slow start in the Arizona Fall League but found his footing late.
Atlanta acquired reliever Jay Jackson from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for cash considerations last week. Jackson made 23 appearances for the Giants out of the bullpen in 2021 and adds depth to Atlanta’s bullpen.
40-man roster breakdown
As of this writing, the Braves have a full 40-man roster so any offseason moves will require removing players. The non-tender deadline will be an opportunity to open up some roster spots. At this point it is better to approach this as a work in progress.
Starters/Pseudo-Starters: Ian Anderson, Tucker Davidson, Max Fried, Charlie Morton, Kyle Muller, Mike Soroka, Touki Toussaint, Kyle Wright, Huascar Ynoa
Others: Alan Rangel, Spencer Strider, Freddy Tarnok
Before we dive too deep into this, keep in mind that some of the names listed above could easily transition into a relief role.
As things stand now, Max Fried, Charlie Morton and Ian Anderson are locks for the rotation. Morton underwent surgery after suffering a fractured fibula during the World Series. All indications are that he will be ready for Spring Training, but given his age and the severity of the injury, the Braves won’t rush him.
Atlanta has plenty of internal options. Tucker Davidson pitched well in a four-game stint in the rotation before a forearm injury wiped out the rest of his regular season. He was called upon to replace Morton during the World Series and could get one of the first opportunities to slot into the back half of the rotation. Huascar Ynoa was highly impressive before his season came to a halt after he suffered a broken wrist when he punched the dugout after a rough outing in Milwaukee. He returned late in the season but wasn’t able to find the same effectiveness, and threw just one inning in the playoffs before being scratched with a shoulder issue.
Kyle Muller and Touki Toussaint both showed flashes, but ultimately succumbed to command issues. Muller will likely get another opportunity, but you have to wonder if a change in role or scenery is next for Toussaint. Kyle Wright struggled in two starts with Atlanta last season but finished strong at Gwinnett and made two appearances in the World Series, including a dominant relief outing and a long stint with good results in Game 4. Wright could be a wild card of sorts heading into the Spring.
Another wild card is Mike Soroka, who is working his way back from two Achilles tears. Soroka has missed nearly two full seasons after an All-Star campaign in 2019.
One name to keep an eye on is Spencer Strider, who advanced through four levels of the minor leagues in 2021 to reach the majors at the end of the season. He worked his way through the minors as a starter but was a late season candidate for a spot in the postseason bullpen. Strider has a big arm and we will likely see him again at some point in 2021 in some capacity.
The Braves have a number of internal options but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them go out and acquire another veteran option or two on short deals either through free agency or via trade.
Bullpen: Jasseel De La Cruz, Jay Jackson, Luke Jackson, Dylan Lee, Tyler Matzek, A.J. Minter, Sean Newcomb, Richard Rodriguez, Will Smith, Jacob Webb, Brooks Wilson, William Woods
The quartet of Will Smith, Tyler Matzek, Luke Jackson and A.J. Minter anchored the Braves’ bullpen throughout the postseason. All are under club control and should return in 2021. Jacob Webb had an up-and-down regular season but looks the part. Richard Rodriguez was brought in at the Trade Deadline and got good results early, but his peripherals caught up to him down the stretch and he was left off the postseason roster completely.
Atlanta’s bullpen ended the season as an area of strength but it took a while to get to that point. Like the rotation, this is an area that would benefit from a couple of veteran additions to solidify the group or at least give it some options.
Catcher: William Contreras, Travis d’Arnaud, Manny Piña, Chadwick Tromp
With the addition of Piña, the Braves are in good shape at catcher after a trying 2021 season. d’Arnaud and Piña are under contract for the next two seasons. William Contreras already has big league experience and is capable of stepping in if needed. Chadwick Tromp was acquired down the stretch in 2021 for depth and it remains to be seen if he sticks on the roster. The Braves also have Shea Langeliers who at this point, looks like the team’s catcher of the future.
This is an area of strength for the Braves, and with d’Arnaud and Piña locked up, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Contreras’ name pop up in trade discussions this winter.
Infielders: Ozzie Albies, Orlando Arcia, Johan Camargo, Austin Riley, Dansby Swanson
The Braves currently have a giant Freddie Freeman-sized hole at first base. As I mentioned above, the feeling is that a deal will get done, but with a lockout looming, the situation is likely going to take a lot longer to rectify itself. Still, it just takes one team, and if Freeman were to exit, then the Braves would need to pivot quickly to acquire a big bat for the middle of the order.
The good news is that the rest of the infield is in good shape. Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson are coming off career-best seasons, while Albies and Riley were tied for third on the team in fWAR (behind Freeman and Morton) in 2021. The depth behind that group, however, is lacking and is an area of concern for the Braves this winter. Orlando Arcia and Johan Camargo both put up big numbers at Gwinnett, but that didn’t translate to success at the major league level. Both are arbitration-eligible and it appears that at least one is likely to be non-tendered.
Outfielders: Ronald Acuña Jr., Travis Demeritte, Adam Duvall, Guillermo Heredia, Marcell Ozuna, Cristian Pache, Drew Waters
The outfield is another area of uncertainty for the Braves. Let’s start with the biggest elephant in the room. There have been no updates to the Marcell Ozuna situation and the team has made no comments on his status, per league policy. The thinking is that Ozuna will be facing a league-imposed suspension, and then it will be up to Atlanta to decide if they want to continue to employ him. If he does return, then his future is likely at DH, provided it returns to the National League (unless the Braves do something like bring back Jorge Soler).
Ronald Acuña Jr. is working his way back from a torn ACL and should be back by mid-May, if not before. The DH would allow the Braves to ease Acuña back in, but he will slot into right field once he is ready. Adam Duvall tied his career best in fWAR in 2021 and was a big part of Atlanta’s late-season push after he was reacquired from the Marlins. Duvall is arbitration-eligible again, for the last time (unless the new CBA changes something) this offseason. The Braves famously non-tendered him last offseason, which led him to sign with Miami. Duvall is likely to receive a contract in the $10-13 million range through arbitration, but the possibility of a multi-year deal is there as well.
Duvall finished the season as Atlanta’s center fielde,r but that probably isn’t something that they want to go with long term, especially given his age. Cristian Pache was in center on Opening Day for Atlanta in 2021, but crashed and burned at the plate and didn’t set the world on fire at Triple-A afterwards. Pache is presumably an All-Star-level defender in center and the DH would make it easier to have him in the lineup, but he will have to produce something closer to league average at the plate to stick. Drew Waters could be another center field option at some point, along with Guillermo Heredia who is also arbitration-eligible.
As you can see, there are a number of questions the Braves are facing that will need to be answered this offseason. Freeman is the big one, but the team also needs to address the rotation, the bullpen and could use some clarity in the outfield. The bench wasn’t a strength in 2021 and there aren’t a lot of internal candidates ready to take on that role.