On Wednesday evening, we got the two surest signs yet that we are officially in the midst of Hot Stove Season. The first sign was Scott Boras dipping his quill and doing his annual thing where he spits hot fire in service of his free agent clients, but that’s nothing new. The second sign is that the Braves made a trade involving someone who was helping them win games in 2022.
Indeed, the Braves have made their first legitimately notable move of the offseason (no offense to Sam Hilliard) by trading Jake Odorizzi to the Texas Rangers in exchange for former prospect Kolby Allard. Yeah, it’s not a blockbuster or anything like that but it’s definitely something to talk about!
The Atlanta Braves today acquired LHP Kolby Allard from the Texas Rangers in exchange for RHP Jake Odorizzi and cash.— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) November 9, 2022
At first glance, it seemed like a bit of a salary dump move. After all, Odorizzi was due to be getting $12.5 million this season if he chose to exercise his player option and it seems like a sure bet that he will. However, the last part of that tweet from atBraves was doing a bunch of heavy lifting. I mean, a lot of heavy lifting, y’all. I’m talking $10 million worth of heavy lifting.
The Braves are sending $10 million to the Rangers in the Odorizzi trade, per source.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) November 10, 2022
So, that amounts to $2.5 million in cost cutting for the Braves here. That doesn’t seem like a ton of money in the grand scheme of things, but I’ll get to that later. For now, I’m going to quickly hit on what I figured was the real reason for the deal before eventually settling on the initial theory. Do the Braves see something in Kolby Allard?
After all, we’ve seen the Braves bring back some familiar players/prospects from the recent past in order to see if a change in scenery/return to their original organization can give them some sort of spark. Maybe the Braves do figure that they can get something out of Allard, who has been struggling mightily since making his major league debut with the Braves back in 2018.
As of right now, I can’t really say that there’s much exciting about Allard at this point. His fastball is in sitting in the low 90s, his cutter has gotten absolutely walloped on a regular basis, his changeup is unspectacular and whenever he brings out his curveball, he has a tough time keeping it from hanging. There’s a reason why whenever you visit his Baseball Savant page, there’s a ton of blue all over the place.
I’m not going to sit here and try to convince you that I’m some great talent scout who knows better than the Braves when it comes to seeing things in players that us fans don’t. With that being said, I can’t imagine that the Braves have brought in Kolby Allard with the idea that he’s going to help the big league team next season. If I had to guess, this is very likely a move for organizational depth and one where he’ll be in position to make spot starts if the rotation finds itself in a shambolic state at any point next season.
So if the Braves have traded for a former player who probably isn’t going to move the needle in a positive direction for the team, then the only logical conclusion is that this was in fact a salary dump move. Again, the Braves are only saving $2.5 million here, but there’s one thing that Atlanta is going to have to deal with this upcoming season that they didn’t have to worry about at any point before: The Competitive Balance Tax. If the Braves do go on to spend enough money to improve and/or fortify the team ahead of next season, there’s a very good chance that the Braves are going to dip into the luxury tax or at least get very close to it. If they’re going to have a payroll that’s near the top of baseball then that’s just going to be a fact of life when it comes to spending at this new level.
So if the Braves are indeed simply trying to save every bit of money that they can in anticipation of having to pay the luxury tax, then that should also tell you all you need to know about how they felt about Jake Odorizzi going forward. It’s one of those rare occasions where we’re looking back at a trade by Alex Anthopoulos and thinking “Hm, that didn’t work out for the Braves.”
That’s fine, though! Nobody’s ever going to bat 1.000 when it comes to deals and this is one occasion where the Anthopoulos could probably afford a miss. They’ve already got a solid amount of starting pitching depth when it comes to the organization as a whole (which Allard is an addition to) and moving Odorizzi elsewhere isn’t going to be the difference between a return to the World Series or another sad ending to the season.
If the Braves are going to get back to the promised land of World Series glory, then a busy offseason surely awaits. They’ve got a decent amount of work to do in order to really be ready to challenge again in 2023 and sending Jake Odorizzi to Texas seems like a prelude to what figures to be a very interesting series of moves for Atlanta this winter. It’s going to be intriguing to see how the Braves spend their money this offseason and we very well could be looking back on this move as the start of a promising Hot Stove Campaign, even if it’s not the most exciting move you’ll ever see.