We are a little over five weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training for the Atlanta Braves in North Port. As we sit here on January 7, a number of big name free agents remain unsigned so there is still some work to be done. For the Atlanta Braves thought, things are falling into place.
The Braves spent the early part of the offseason retooling their bullpen, stocking it with power arms. Atlanta re-signed Joe Jimenez and Pierce Johnson, traded for a pair of lefties in Aaron Bummer and Ray Kerr and signed hard throwing righty Reynaldo López to a three-year deal. Lopez may figure into the rotation picture as well.
The Braves also traded for outfielder Jarred Kelenic and are hoping that he can be their longterm solution for left field. Just before the New Year, Atlanta finally added the starter they had been looking for by acquiring Chris Sale from Boston in exchange for Vaughn Grissom. They then locked him up with a two-year contract that also includes a club option for a third season, ensuring that he will be a part of the rotation picture for the next two seasons.
So what is left for the Braves? One of Alex Anthopoulos’ favorite sayings is that they are always looking for ways to improve the club. So, you can never rule out another big move, but given the moves that they have already made, another splash appears unlikely. They do need to continue to fill out the bench. Atlanta signed former Mets utility infielder Luis Guillorme to a one-year deal earlier this week, but they still just have 12 position players on the 40-man roster. Former Angels infielder David Fletcher is another option to fill a bench role, but was outrighted off the 40-man shortly after he was acquired.
The most glaring need appears to be a right-handed hitting outfielder that could potentially pair with Kelenic in left. If Kelenic plays well, he could see every day at-bats, but he has hit just .189/.255/.311 with a 61 wRC+ in his career against lefties although it is worth mentioning that he performed better against southpaws in 2023 than he did against righties. Kevin Pillar filled that right-handed role last season and is a free agent. There is a long list of available outfielders so it is hard to project in what direction Atlanta might ultimately go.
Forrest Wall is on the 40-man roster, but hits lefty. He could break camp with the club as a defensive replacement and pinch running specialist, but has options and could start the season in Triple A where he’d see regular playing time.
After signing Guillorme, the Braves have just 36 players on their 40-man roster. That includes injured pitchers Ian Anderson, Penn Murfee and Angel Perdomo, who will all be placed on the 60-day injured list at some point when it becomes available thus freeing up three more spots. With that much roster room available, expect the Braves to be active on the waiver wire, especially through the back half of the spring as teams start to pair down their rosters.
Arbitration Exchange Date
Teams and arbitration eligible players will exchange figures on Friday, January 12. The Braves began the offseason with 13 players that were eligible for salary arbitration, but they have since whittled that list down to just two. Along with the Guillorme signing earlier this week, Atlanta announced that it had agreed to a one-year deal with Huascar Ynoa thus avoiding arbitration.
The two players remaining are big names in A.J. Minter and Max Fried. Both are in their final year of arbitration and will be free agents at the end of the season. Minter avoided arbitration last offseason by agreeing to a one-year deal worth just over $4.2 million. MLB Trade Rumors projects him for a raise to $6.5 million this offseason. Fried lost his arbitration case with the Braves last year, but still received a raise to $13.5 million. He’s projected to receive $14.4 million this time around.
Hall of Fame
The voting results for the Hall of Fame will be announced on January 23 live on MLB Network. There are six players on the ballot this year that spent time on the Braves’ roster during their career. One of those, Adrian Gonzalez, never actually suited up for Atlanta, but was part of the deal that sent Matt Kemp back to the Dodgers in December of 2017 and helped clear Atlanta’s salary situation going into the next season. This was also the first trade made by new GM Alex Anthopoulos after he was hired to replace John Coppolella.
Others on the ballot include Jose Bautista and Bartolo Colon, who both spent a brief time with the Braves. The big names are Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner and Andruw Jones. With 32 percent of the vote known via Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame tracker, both Wagner (80.5%) and Sheffield (75.6%) are tracking towards induction. Jones is currently at 67.5 percent.