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Braves Roster Projection: Atlanta still has some questions to answer

Will the Braves bring in another veteran or will they go with Vaughn Grissom as a replacement for Dansby Swanson?

Atlanta Braves v Seattle Mariners Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images

We are closing in on the end of 2022 and the Atlanta Braves’ roster is starting to take shape. Actually, that probably isn’t a good assessment, given that the Braves entered their offseason with much of their core for 2023 already in place — it just hasn’t really changed shape. It is important to note that the offseason isn’t over, and things could change significantly before spring training and Opening Day. Still it is a worth a rehash of where things currently stand.

For the second straight offseason, Atlanta has watched a key player walk away, as Dansby Swanson agreed to a seven-year, $177 million deal with the Chicago Cubs on Saturday. Kenley Jansen saved 41 games for Atlanta in 2022 and agreed to a two-year, $32 million deal with the Red Sox earlier this offseason.

The most notable move that the Braves have made to date was the acquisition of catcher Sean Murphy in a three-team trade involving Oakland and Milwaukee. Atlanta also acquired reliever Joe Jimenez from Detroit and also brought in outfielder Sam Hilliard, lefty Kolby Allard, and relievers Nick Anderson and Dennis Santana.

Atlanta currently has 37 players on the 40-man roster and a $196 million Opening Day payroll per Roster Resource, which is the largest in franchise history. The Braves’ competitive balance tax number is just over $229 million, which is less than $4 million shy of the first luxury tax threshold of $233 million.

With all of that in mind, below is a look at where the Braves’ roster currently stands.

Starting Rotation (4): Max Fried, Kyle Wright, Spencer Strider, Charlie Morton

Other Options: (6): Ian Anderson, MIke Soroka, Kolby Allard, Bryce Elder, Roddery Munoz, Darius Vines

The starting rotation appears to be in good shape heading into 2023. So much so, the Braves opted to include Kyle Muller and Freddy Tarnok in the trade for Sean Murphy. Max Fried has emerged as a frontline starter and Kyle Wright enjoyed a breakout season in 2022. Spencer Strider was runner-up in NL Rookie of the Year voting and was the Braves’ most dominant option at various points during the 2022 season. Charlie Morton returns as well, and Atlanta will be hoping that a normal offseason will allow him to rediscover his form from 2021 after an up-and-down season.

Things are shaping up for a competition during the spring for the fifth starter spot, headlined by Ian Anderson and Mike Soroka. Anderson struggled from the outset in what was pretty much a lost season due to extreme inconsistency in 2022, but he has had success at the major league level and in the postseason. Soroka returned to the mound last season for the first time since 2020 after suffering two torn Achilles injuries. Both Anderson and Soroka will enter the spring with question marks, but both have had success at the highest level. Additionally, both still have options remaining, which will give the Braves some added flexibility.

Bryce Elder made nine starts at the major league level for Atlanta last season and will also be a part of the competition. Darius Vines, Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd all made it to Triple-A in 2022 and could be options at some point. Vines and Roddery Munoz were added to the 40-man roster in November, but Munoz ended last season at Double-A and is a little further away.

Bullpen (8): Raisel Iglesias, Joe Jimenez, A.J. Minter, Dylan Lee, Collin McHugh, Kirby Yates, Dennis Santana, Nick Anderson

Other Options (2): Seth Elledge, Michael Tonkin, Jesse Chavez (MiLB Deal)

In the bullpen, Raisel Iglesias looks like the early favorite to take over the closer role after Kenley Jansen signed a two-year deal with the Red Sox earlier this offseason. The Braves acquired Iglesias at the Trade Deadline last season and he pitched mostly in a setup role, but has plenty of closing experience and is under contract through 2025. A.J. Minter, Collin McHugh and Dylan Lee all played a huge part in the bullpen last season and all will return. Atlanta added hard throwing reliever Joe Jimenez in a trade with the Tigers this offseason, and he will give them another right-handed power option.

There are some question marks to round out the group. Kirby Yates made it back from Tommy John surgery in 2022 and will have a full offseason to prepare for the spring. The Braves acquired Dennis Santana from the Rangers this offseason and also agreed to a split contract with righty Nick Anderson, who missed all of the 2022 season while recovering from injury.

The Braves also signed veteran reliever and good luck charm Jesse Chavez on a minor league deal, and he will be another experienced option that could land a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Catchers (2): Travis d’Arnaud, Sean Murphy

Other Options (1): Chadwick Tromp

The Braves entered the offseason seemingly in good shape at catcher, but elected to pull the trigger on a big three-team trade that brought in Sean Murphy from Oakland. The deal cost Atlanta popular catcher William Contreras, who was sent to Milwaukee, and veteran back up Manny Piña, who was limited to just five games last season before undergoing season-ending wrist surgery, who will start 2023 in Oakland (unless he’s re-traded or cut).

Murphy will pair with Travis d’Arnaud and give Atlanta one of the best catching tandems in the league. Perhaps the biggest winner on the catching depth chart is Chadwick Tromp, who would have likely lost his 40-man spot if not for the trade. Now, it seems as though he will be sticking around as a third option heading into the season.

Infield (5): Ozzie Albies, Orlando Arcia, Vaughn Grissom, Matt Olson, Austin Riley

Other options (3): Braden Shewmake, Ehire Adrianza (MiLB Deal), Hoy Park

One of the biggest question marks for the Braves for the rest of the offseason and into the spring is how they will go about replacing Swanson at shortstop. If nothing changes, expect a spring competition between Orlando Arica and Vaughn Grissom. While Arcia is probably better suited for a utility role, he saw ample playing time at second last season after the injury to Albies. Grissom also spent time at second down the stretch and was impressive at the plate after making the jump from Double-A. While Grissom spent most of his time in the minors as a shortstop, there are questions as to whether he is good enough defensively to stick at the position in the majors. He has spent the offseason working with infield coach Ron Washington. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Braves add a veteran to the mix either through free agency or via trade, but at some point, Grissom will likely get the opportunity to see if he can handle the position.

While shortstop is unsettled, the rest of Atlanta’s infield is set. The Braves locked up Austin Riley and Matt Olson to long term extensions and both will be a big part of the core moving forward. Ozzie Albies was limited to just 64 games last season due to injury and his return could be a major boost to the lineup.

Atlanta added Braden Shewmake to the 40-man roster in November, they also acquired infielder Hoy Park from the Red Sox. (Park spent much of the 2022 season with Pittsburgh.) Veteran Ehire Adrianza is also back on a minor league deal after serving with the Braves for all of 2021 and then getting re-acquired by them at the Trade Deadline last year.

Outfielders (5): Ronald Acuña Jr, Michael Harris II, Sam Hilliard, Marcell Ozuna, Eddie Rosario

Ronald Acuña Jr. will be looking to reestablish himself in 2023 as one of the best players in the game. Michael Harris II skipped Triple-A entirely and came out of nowhere to win the Rookie of the Year Award in the National League. There are questions in left field as Eddie Rosario struggled after undergoing laser surgery to correct blurred vision. Atlanta acquired Sam Hilliard from the Rockies at the beginning of the offseason and he is penciled into the picture here at least for now. Marcell Ozuna is also back after another subpar season that also included another embarrassing off-the-field arrest. If he is still on the roster, the Braves should do their best to limit the amount of times he is in left field.

Atlanta currently only has five true outfielders on the 40-man roster, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them add one or two more options between now and Opening Day. A right-handed option to pair with Rosario would currently seem to be the biggest need.

There is also a chance that this group ends up evolving substantially before Opening Day. The Braves could try and dump Ozuna and recoup at least some of the $37 million remaining on his contract, but it’s unclear whether there’ll be any takers given everything about Ozuna at this point. Rosario is slated to make $9 million and has a club option for 2024. Even with his struggles last season, he might be easier to move if the Braves find more of an everyday option for left.

Wrap up

Despite the loss of Swanson, this is still a great group to go into battle with when you look at the big picture. As you can see from above, they still have some work to do and some areas where they could strengthen the roster. In the projection above, Atlanta currently would need at least one additional position player. That spot could be filled by Adrianza or Park, but I still think there is a good chance that an outfielder still could be added to the mix. If they can find a taker for Ozuna or Rosario, then the picture would change significantly.

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