clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Braves have few questions to answer heading into Winter Meetings

Alex Anthopoulos and company have done most of their heavy lifting, but there are a couple of question marks that remain.

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The 2022 MLB Winter Meetings will get underway Sunday in San Diego and will mark the return of an in-person event for the first time since 2019. The 2020 meetings were held virtually, and the 2021 session was canceled as a result of the owner’s lockout.

The start of the meetings looks like a jumping off point for the offseason, which has crawled along at a snail’s pace since the end of the World Series. The biggest free agent to sign to date was Edwin Díaz, re-upping with the Mets on a deal worth $102 million. The biggest names including Aaron Judge, Jacob deGrom and a four-pack of top-line shortstops which are all hitting the open market at the same time, are all unsigned.

The Atlanta Braves come into these meetings having done most of their heavy lifting. Atlanta has spent recent seasons locking up much of its young core and that continued in 2022 with extensions for Matt Olson and Austin Riley, as well as rookies Michael Harris II and Spencer Strider.

The Braves aren’t without question marks though, the biggest of which is at shortstop, where long-time infield fixture Dansby Swanson is a free agent for the first time.

Free Agent Landscape

The starting point for everything is likely to be Judge. A recent report by ESPN’s Jeff Passan says that the Yankees have given Judge a record-breaking offer. The Giants are in the mix as well, although most expect Judge to return to New York. If Judge did walk, then the Yankees would need to try and replace as much of his offense as they can and might pivot to one of the top shortstops available. Hence, the waiting game.

deGrom is expected to get a short deal with perhaps a record-breaking average annual value for a pitcher. His market is more limited than a market for someone like Carlos Rodon. In the article linked above, Passan reports that one or both of these top-flight arms could sign soon, which would likely get the pitching market moving.

Braves in good shape heading into meetings

As mentioned above, Atlanta has already done most of its heavy lifting. It does however have a question mark at shortstop, and might want to be proactive in resolving its mess in left field. It wouldn’t be shocking to see them add to the bullpen, but for the most part the Braves can search in a targeted fashion for opportunities to improve the roster.

The timing is going to be interesting. The first domino that probably needs to fall is Swanson, but he might be well-served to wait until at least some of Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, and/or Xander Bogaerts are off the board. Teams that miss out on one of those three might be willing to circle back to Swanson at that point.

If Swanson walks, Atlanta could look to sign, or trade for, a stopgap. They could also head into the season with some combination of Orlando Arcia and Vaughn Grissom penciled in at shortstop.

If that happens, they may shift their attention to upgrading in left field. While the Braves are set with Ronald Acuña Jr. in right and Harris in center, left is a question mark after a down season by Eddie Rosario. More on him in a bit.

Another wrinkle in all of this is that the Braves are closing in on the first luxury tax threshold. One of the byproducts of locking up so many players is that Atlanta’s competitive balance tax number has gone up considerably. In all honesty, eclipsing the first threshold shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but until they do, it is going to be something that continues to get talked about.

With that in mind, the Braves could also enter the meetings looking to shed some salary. While they might say they believe that Marcell Ozuna is capable of a bounce back, they would no doubt jump at the chance to move all of or part of the $37 million still owed to him over the next two seasons.

Rosario is an interesting case as well. Coming off a strong postseason run in 2021, Rosario signed a two-year, $18 million contract. He endured a lost 2022 after undergoing laser surgery to correct blurred vision. Rosario’s track record and the fact that he is on essentially a one-year contract with a club option for 2024 might entice a team to take a chance on him and the $9 million that he is owed, though there are probably better options out there at the moment unless the Braves eat some salary, which would defeat the point from their perspective.

Manny Pina appeared in just five games before undergoing season-ending wrist surgery in 2022. He and his $4.5 million salary could be moved to a team that needs catching help.

As the saying goes, you can never have enough pitching, but the Braves on the surface appear to be in good shape . They will enter the season with Max Fried, Kyle Wright, Spencer Strider and Charlie Morton penciled in for the first four spots. That will set up a spring competition consisting of Ian Anderson, Mike Soroka, Kyle Muller and Bryce Elder for the final rotation spot. With Darius Vines and Jared Shuster waiting in the wings, would, Atlanta might consider moving some of their surplus to fill other needs on the roster.

The possibility is also there that they do something unexpected. Alex Anthopoulos and the Front Office famously keep things close to the vest. If Swanson leaves, then it wouldn’t be surprising to see them look for more offense out of the left field spot. If Swanson returns, then maybe they seek a right-handed compliment to Rosario.

It isn’t certain that we are going to get the answers to these questions next week, but perhaps we will have more clarity on which way the Braves are leaning.

Other Happenings

The voting results for the Hall of Fame Contemporary Era ballot will be announced Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET on MLB Network. Former Braves Fred McGriff and Dale Murphy are on the ballot.

The All-MLB team will be announced Monday and the Relievers of the Year for both leagues will be announced Tuesday. The inaugural Draft Lottery will also take place Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. ET and can be seen on MLB Network.

After a one-year hiatus, the Rule 5 Draft will return on Wednesday, December 7.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Battery Power Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Atlanta Braves news from Battery Power