While it was a wintry 30-something for Chopfest held at newly donned Truist Park this weekend, there were some deliciously steamy words uttered by Atlanta Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos in a question and answer session for some select fans:
Big and impactful. Ok… Matt Joyce just signed a 1-year deal with the Miami Marlins, and while we as Braves fans can wring our hands over a productive player in 2019 going to a team in the NL East, Matt Joyce isn’t what McGuirk had in mind when making that statement. With the payroll already pushing 150 million, it sounds like McGuirk is giving Atlanta Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos free range to add what he needs to make a World Series contender. Gosh…that feels like a long way from where this team stood financially 2 short years ago.
Push us over the top. Alright, McGuirk. With stars aligned at 1B in Freddie Freeman, 2nd base in Ozzie Albies, (presumably) RF in Ronald Acuna Jr., and SPs in Max Fried and Mike Soroka with many more good players complimentary pieces throughout the projected 26-man, “push us over the top” seems to fit in that first tier. A star. A 4-5 win player. Ok. Now let’s get digging.
The Thoppy Philosophy
In the same sitdown with fans, Atlanta Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos essentially spelled out his philosophy on acquiring/signing players when he discussed last year’s signing of Josh Donaldson. Coming off of a great 2018, Anthopoulos admitted he had very little desire to block Johan Camargo of playing time at 3B, but when he contacted Donaldson’s agent and found that he was willing to take a 1-year deal, his plan altered. With that in mind, outside of the players listed in the first paragraph and their positions listed, whether it be starting pitching, relief pitching, or position player, if the right deal comes along, Anthopoulos could pounce and figure it out later.
Looking at the free agent market, it is barren of game-changing talent. Some might point to Nicholas Castellanos, but the track record just isn’t there to put him in that tier. That takes us to trades.
In this exercise, I take it upon myself to stretch the words of McGuirk to mean that Anthopoulos has free range, whether it be to spend money or to trade top assets to put the team over the top.
Matt Chapman– The cream of the crop and likely completely unavailable. Would literally cost 4 top-10 prospects and likely has the highest trade value of anyone on this list.
Nolan Arenado– Grabbing Arenado would be putting the money where the mouth is and would be an awesome get for the Braves, but it’ll come with a huge cost, no matter the money owed or whether or not he’d waive the opt-out.
Francisco Lindor– 2 years of control and a big name that’s been said to be unavailable. I can’t foresee the Indians staying alive in their division and if that’s true, they’ve got some really attractive trade pieces. Could Lindor be a trade deadline target?
Kris Bryant– In the upcoming weeks, we will likely find out the inevitable and that is that Bryant lost his grievance. I still think this is the most realistic choice and love the idea of him being able to play corners in the infield and the outfield for 2 years at an elite offensive rate.
Eduardo Escobar– The Diamondbacks are holding out hope that they can compete again this year so I don’t think we’ll see Escobar moved before spring training, but if Austin Riley or Johan Camargo don’t take 3B by the horns, I’d expect his named flirted with in July.
Justin Turner-There’s been whispers that the Dodgers would trade Turner if they acquired Arenado, and I’d be 100% ok for that trade to be to the Braves.
Jose Ramirez– Had a down 2019, but he’s really good, only 27, and had back to back elite years with the Indians in ’17 and ’18.
Mookie Betts– This is one you don’t hope for because of the “Price” tag, but if McGuirk was being truthful, would he allow Anthopoulos to grab Mookie and Price in exchange for Ender Inciarte, Mike Foltynewicz, Shane Greene, Adam Duvall, and 2 top-10 prospects? I highly doubt it, but it would definitely be an over the top move.
Jorge Soler– Soler’s defense has been questioned…a lot. It’s likely no worse than Ozuna’s, but his bat is strong and he needs out of K.C. While it doesn’t make a ton of sense to acquire another OFer, one could justify grabbing Soler, trading Adam Duvall, and using Nick Markakis or Ender Inciarte as a PH/defensive sub.
Charlie Morton– The Rays are really good at building trade value and then selling a player to restock with upper minors talent to quickly replace them with, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Morton wearing a different uniform before 2021.
Shane Bieber– Homegrown stud out of the Indians organization. Likely unavailable, but worth listing.
Mike Clevinger– See Bieber, but with 2 years less control. Likely unavailable, but not as unavailable as the Bieb.
Marco Gonzalez– Has gotten great results despite not having great stuff. Relies on location and limiting hard contact.
Kyle Hendricks– See Marco.
German Marquez– really good away from Coors and has a great contract.
Joe Musgrove– Good at limiting baserunners and broke through in 2019.
Matthew Boyd– One of the best sliders in the game and working on his FB at Driveline as we speak.
Ken Giles– He hits himself, but he’s an elite reliever if healthy.
Liam Hendriks– Best reliever in the game in 2019 and found a 2nd gear with his fastball.
Brad Hand– Not on the same level as Yates or Hendricks, but would likely be the best reliever in the Braves bullpen.
Most Realistic Targets
- Infield- Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado: If McGuirk is truly serious about grabbing over the top talent, these 2 are it and seem like they’ve got one foot out the door.
- Outfield- Jorge Soler: I feel like the OF won’t be added to, rather subtracted from. Still, if someone like Ender Inciarte or Adam Duvall is part of the return Soler can hit bombs like no one else.
- Starting Pitcher- Charlie Morton: This feels more like a trade deadline move should the Rays not be where they want to be at that time, but Morton wanted to come back to Atlanta and the Braves would be smart to bring him home.
- Relief Pitcher- Ken Giles: It was rumored the Braves were after him at last year’s deadline before the elbow scare and I wouldn’t doubt it if AA were looking to make the bullpen the best in the game, whether it be now or at the deadline.
Thanks for reading! Who’s your pick to put this team over the top?
If you enjoyed this piece on Atlanta Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos and the moves he could make to put the team over the top, check out this piece on the full 2020 Atlanta Braves Payroll Update.