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Braves Mailbag: Trade talk, Max Fried extension and more

Baseball is back and so is the mailbag!

MLB: Spring Training-Atlanta Braves Workouts Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Grapefruit League season is back and so are the Atlanta Braves. A huge thank you to everyone that took the time to send in questions for our first mailbag in a long time. We will do it again soon, but let’s get right to it.

I could see one, but it seems unlikely that BOTH of the Braves’ big position player gambles (LF, SS) will work out successfully. If that’s the case, how early in the season might we expect to see a trade to fill either hole?

I expect the Braves to give both situations a lot of time, perhaps even until the Trade Deadline. If everyone else is performing, then they can probably afford to go that route. It feels like they really want Vaughn Grissom to end up with the shortstop job, but if he can’t, then they have someone in Orlando Arcia that has been a starting shortstop in the majors before. If that duo can handle things defensively, then I feel like they are going to get a lot of rope.

We will have to see how the left field spot shakes out during the spring. Alex Anthopoulos said earlier this week that it was an open competition and wouldn’t elaborate on the status of Marcell Ozuna beyond Spring Training earlier in the offseason. I don’t personally see Ozuna as anything more than a DH, but it does sound like he is going to figure into the mix in left field. We will have to see how that plays out over the first few weeks of the Grapefruit League season. Rosario is playing in the World Baseball Classic for Puerto Rico and should be able to improve on what was essentially a lost season for him in 2022, because it was so bad that it’s hard to see him repeating what was one of the worst seasons in the majors.

Can he improve enough? That is hard to say, but given the amount of money owed to both him and Ozuna, you figure they are going to get a lot of chances to show they’re not awful. The Braves have so many other options here, whether it is Jordan Luplow, Sam Hilliard, Kevin Pillar or someone else who emerges at the end of camp, I don’t really see them making any rash moves in left until the Deadline.

If Rosario, Luplow, Hilliard, all can’t get the job done in LF, do you think that the Braves may call up some of our minor leaguers? I would really like Jesse Franklin to have a chance, but maybe Justin Dean or Cody Milligan, I would guess that Kevin Pillar would get a chance.

Piggybacking off the first question. I think there is a chance that Pillar makes the club out of Spring Training. If they need help beyond that, it is hard for me to think that they would turn to an internal option. Obviously, that could change with a strong start to the minor league season, but if they are in serious need of help, I think they look outside the organization. My answer would have been the same even if Justyn-Henry Malloy hadn’t been traded to Detroit.

My question is about Ian Anderson. I didn’t get to see him pitch at all last year. With that in mind, what went wrong? What does he need to improve on to get back to the pitcher of old? How hard will this be to do? Is it a simple adjustment or a complete reset of his game?

Early reports on Anderson have been good and he has reportedly worked to add a slider to his repertoire. We know he spent part of the offseason working at the pitching lab at Wake Forest. I think the biggest thing for Anderson is just getting healthy. He had a shoulder issue in 2021 and then just never looked right after coming back from the injury in 2021, nor last season. I think he was one of the players that was affected by the shortened spring. It is always been said that he needs something else to play off his fastball and changeup. He had a lot of success early on, but struggled to command his fastball last year. He really needs to be able to get ahead in the count for his changeup to be most effective.

Do we need to stop with the Max Fried extension talks? I understand extensions can happen any time (Austin Riley for example) but there are no signs this is going to happen. This week Max made a reference to the team not reaching out to him. He’s the union rep, so taking an extension would “look bad.” He’s of an age he really only has one contract in him to make bank. Just seems unlikely to me he will get extended.

Ok, we have reached the Max Fried portion of the mailbag. Several things to unpack here. First there were no signs that any of the extensions the Braves have handed out were going to happen. From Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña Jr. to Michael Harris II and Spencer Strider, there was no reporting until the press release was issued. So there not being any signs really doesn’t tell us anything.

Fried’s comments early in spring seemed to indicate that the two sides haven’t discussed an extension, but he didn’t really say that, so it is hard to assume. Him being the team’s union rep though doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not he gets extended. He’s not likely going to take a severely below-market value deal anyway.

Now, will he get extended? The situation, right now, looks similar to what we saw with Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson. Fried is going to hit free agency after his age 30 season. He’s going to command a big contract and likely a larger average annual value than what we have seen Atlanta give out to anyone. I think there are reasons to question whether an extension ultimately happens, but I wouldn’t completely close the book on the possibility either.

I don’t see AA getting into a bidding war with other teams when Max Fried hits free agency two years from now. Can you foresee the Braves possibly entertaining a trade of him next offsesason?

I don’t see them getting into a bidding war either and you can look at what happened with Freeman and Swanson as examples. That said, I don’t think they would really entertain the thought of trading him. Let me clarify this by saying you never say never. If things were to go completely off the rails then sure maybe they would listen. But, if they are in the thick of things, trading Fried would be a tough sell to the locker room which has the stated goal of trying to win a World Series. They didn’t trade Freddie Freeman on an expiring contract in 2021, so things would have to be even worse than that for the Braves to mail it in and trade Fried.

I wouldn’t be surprised to hear his name pop up some next offseason, but again, it would be hard to trade your No. 1 starter if you are a team with World Series aspirations. If this were, say, 2016, then absolutely I would be saying that you have to deal him. This team is in a different place now though. It is funny that there have been a lot of questions about trading Fried, but we never really heard those questions in regard to Swanson or Freeman?

The way the Braves 40-man roster is built we do not have anyone to really back up Matt Olson or Austin Riley. Do you see us trading for someone since the free agent market has been picked through?

Not really. If it is a nagging issue, then Riley or even Travis d’Arnaud could fill in at first potentially. Arcia can pretty much play anywhere on the infield if needed. Now, if it is a big injury, then they’d probably be forced to look outside the organization. Some guys are just hard to replace and the situation at second last year is a good example that ended up working out okay in the end. I think probably feel pretty good about their infield depth with the guys they currently have in camp and they always could add someone else as teams start to pare down their rosters.

Who are some surprises that could win a spot on the team?

While noting that an injury could change this, I think Kevin Pillar probably has the best chance of any of the non-roster guys. Ehire Adrianza or Adeiny Hechavarria could be in play as a backup infielder if Vaughn Grissom starts the season at Triple-A. The bullpen situation looks crowded at the moment, but I wouldn’t count out Jesse Chavez working his way into the picture there as well. I’d like to include Eli White here, but he has options remaining and that may actually work against him, especially given that we know that the Braves prefer to carry the out-of-options guys onto the Opening Day roster, even if they cut them a few weeks later.

Are the Dodgers hitting coaches that much better then ours or every other team’s hitting coaches? I grow weary of their “minor tweaks” and makeover from scratch” to elevate players’ average and/or distance and/or hard hit rate and/or situational hitting.

This kind of seems like a strange question given that Atlanta, along with the Dodgers, has been one of the best offensive clubs in the National League. I’m going to guess that you are referring to the reports of a swing change for Jason Heyward that might have prompted this question. Heyward has notoriously tinkered with his swing throughout his career, so I am not reading too much into that at this point. Just to be clear, I am pulling for him, but he has been really bad the last two seasons and that is going to be tough to overcome.

Kevin Seitzer is one of the longest-tenured hitting coaches in the league. You can look at the adjustments that Michael Harris II made after coming to the majors last year as an example of the impact the coaching staff can have. The Dodgers are great in their own right, but I don’t the gap is as large as this question makes it out to be.

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