Atlanta Braves President and GM Alex Anthopoulos gave his thoughts on the team’s disappointing end to the 2023 season Friday, but he also discussed several roster situations that they will have to deal with over the winter. One of the biggest storylines of the offseason will be the contract situation surrounding Max Fried, who is arbitration eligible for the final time this winter and will become a free agent at the end of the 2024 season.
“Great players like Max Fried and others. We want to keep those guys, everybody in the league would want to keep those guys. That goes without saying,” Anthopoulos said. “When it comes to contracts, extensions, this and that, we work real hard that no one even knows we’ve had a conversation. I’m not trying to misdirect or foreshadow or that, but I would never assume that we have had or have not had a conversation with anybody because I would think by and large, our extensions haven’t been discussed before hand. For the most part, barring an exception or two, people were aware of them when they were announced.”
“nybody going into their free agent year, it’s going to be a topic, it’s going to be asked about,” he added. “I expect that. We love the great players and any contract talks, we work really hard to keep those extremely quiet.”
Fried batted his way through an injury plagued season that included three different stints on the injured list. He was excellent though when healthy posting a 2.55 ERA and 1.9 fWAR in just 14 starts. He will enter his age-30 season in 2024
Club options for Charlie Morton and Eddie Rosario
Anthopoulos also discussed the club options that the team holds on starter Charlie Morton and left fielder Eddie Rosario for next season. What he didn’t discuss was the possibility that the soon to be 40 years old Morton might retire. Morton has a $20 million option for next season while Rosario comes in at $9 million. Anthopoulos didn’t really tip his hand in either direction when discussing the two.
“So obviously we have, within five days after the World Series, those will all be discussions. They both had very good years for us,” Anthopoulos said. “I know Charlie obviously had the injury at the end, but you look at just the body of work. You look at the number of starts he’s made, all the years he’s been here, beyond always being an incredible teammate and so on. He logged a ton of innings, had an ERA in threes, great example for all the guys.”
Anthopoulos was asked earlier in the session about perhaps going out and finding a top of the rotation arm, he indicated that they did that after the 2020 season with the addition of Morton who was their Game 1 starter in the DS, LCS and World Series in 2021. Morton has made 94 starts and logged 521 innings over the last three seasons and has a 3.77 ERA and a 3.75 FIP. If he doesn’t return, that is a lot of innings that will need to be filled this offseason.
Rosario’s $9 million option is much more modest and the Braves will have to weigh available replacements while making the decision. Rosario put up a league average season with a 100 wRC+ in 2023 to go along with 21 homers in 516 plate appearances.
“Then you look at Rosario, a left-handed bat over 20 home runs, mid 700 OPS for us, did a really nice job,” Anthopoulos said. “Had two huge months, I believe in June and August, where he just carried us.
Rosario had a 193 wRC+ in June and a 152 wRC+ in August. He was well below average in every other month of the season and had a 29 wRC+ in July.
“Those guys were really productive players. I think like anything else, we have to sit back and look at what the roster looks like for 2024. Things we want to do, how we’re going to allocate our dollars, all those things. But both of those players, we’re thrilled with the years that they both had.”
What’s next for Vaughn Grissom?
Vaughn Grissom came into the season the odds on favorite to be the team’s Opening Day shortstop to replace Dansby Swanson. Due to defensive concerns, the Braves ended up going with Orlando Arcia and Grissom ended up with just 80 plate appearances at the major league level. To his credit, he tore up Triple A hitting .330/.419/.501 with a 135 wRC+ and improved his defensive work. Still though, there are questions as to where he fits longterm with the club and looks like a candidate to be moved this offseason, perhaps in a package for a pitcher, to help fill some holes in the rotation.
“The biggest thing is we wanted to get him reps,” Anthopoulos said of Grissom. “He basically came up to the big leagues in 22, and I know he got to Double A for a very brief stint, but he basically was coming out of High A if you look at just the few at bats that he had. So we wanted to get him a ton of middle infield reps. He’s had an unbelievable year offensively. The numbers speak for themselves and he’s getting much better defensively as well. He’s a great athlete and that’ll be something that we’ll talk about as well. The bat plays, the makeup, the aptitude, the energy. He’s an amazing teammate. You want him a part of this team in some capacity, but I think the thing we have to balance is making sure that we can get him playing time and at-bats.”
Moving Grissom to left field has been a popular suggestion in the fan base and this is the first time that any Braves official has alluded to that being an option.
“Now that Orlando solidified himself at short, obviously the other two spots at second and third are spoken for with Ozzie and Austin. We’ll see if there’s an opportunity to move him around and get him playing time. But the fact that he can hit the way he can and he can play on the dirt and he’s such a great clubhouse guy. That’ll be something that we discuss in the off season. How do we try to get him into the mix somehow where? We want to make sure he plays otherwise we would have carried him. But again, with our guys being everyday players, it didn’t make sense to have him up here to not get reps. It was one thing to do it at the end of the year, but we’re still going to have discussions of where we can get some at bats.”
Later in the call, Anthopoulos touched on a possible position change again for Grissom, but did say that they still view him as an infielder.
“Vaughn’s such a great athlete. We believe he could play anywhere on the diamond,” Anthopoulos said. Look, we had guys like Riley spend a week playing outfield in Gwinnett before we called him up, even though we were committed to him playing third base. I think with Vaughn, we view him as an infielder. It’s hard to find guys that can hit like that and play on the dirt. The fact that he’s played all three positions, short, third and second, has real value for us, but he’s athletic enough that he could play anywhere on the diamond. I think for us, it was making sure we continued to get him reps on the infield.”
Dylan Lee underwent a shoulder procedure
The Braves announced earlier this week that Kyle Wright underwent surgery on his troublesome right shoulder and will miss the entire 2024 season. The team didn’t announce it, but Anthopoulos said that reliever Dylan Lee had a clean up on his shoulder, but is expected to be ready for the start of spring training. He also said that Tyler Matzek is also expected to be ready for the spring.
“Dylan Lee had a cleanup with his shoulder, should be ready for spring. Tyler Matzek, we expect obviously everyone’s aware of his rehab. We expect him to be ready to go for spring.”