Braves MLB Free Agent Signings Under Alex Anthopoulos

Courtesy of @SlmSolo via Twiter

When Alex Anthopoulos took over as GM for the Braves on November 13, 2017, he treaded very lightly in terms of signings and trades due to the logistical mess left by John Coppolella. In fact, the only moves he made before the new calendar year weren’t about moving the team forward in production, rather they were financially motivated (Jim Johnson trade/Matt Kemp trade). However, when it did come to the time to sign players, many of the free agent signings, including the buy-lows, worked out quite well. Today’s piece, “Braves MLB Free Agent Signings Under Alex Anthopoulos”, will focus on the signings that occurred in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, and the value (or lack thereof) they brought to the team.

Braves MLB Free Agent Signings Under Alex Anthopoulos

Braves MLB Free Agent Signings Under Alex Anthopoulos: Breakdown of Each Signing

Anibal Sanchez

Sanchez was signed to a 1MM bounceback deal and bounceback he definitely did. With a newfound cutter, Sanchez pitched 166 innings of 3.63 ERA baseball and collected 2.5 fWAR, worth 22.5MM.

Peter Bourjos

Bourjos signed a 1MM deal to be a 4th outfielder/bench off the bat but didn’t last very long as his plate production was atrocious. He collected -0.1 fWAR, worth -0.7 MM.

Ryan Flaherty

Flaherty was signed to a .75MM deal to be a utility infielder/bench bat. He had a miraculous run for the first 18 games of the 2018 season (the team went 11-7) that led to getting him more at-bats than he deserved for the rest of the year, which seems to be a recurring problem amongst Braves managers (Bobby Cox and Keith Lockhart, Fredi Gonzalez and Jose Constanza/Emilio Bonifacio, and Brian Snitker and Ryan Flaherty). He ended up with a -0.4 fWAR, worth -3.1 MM.

Jose Bautista

Well…I guess Anthopoulos did try to take Flaherty’s (Johan Camargo‘s) job away by signing Bautista to a .55 MM contract. While he never seemed to fit in the clubhouse, it could’ve been a force fit had he produced. Unfortunately, he was predictably bad at 3B after playing it very little in the last decade and his bat was non-existent. He ended up collecting a -0.3 fWAR, worth -2.2 MM before the Braves cut ties with him.

Luke Jackson

Remember when Luke was awful and was released and was then re-signed like a day later? Re-signed on June 16th, Luke had really impressive numbers for the rest of 2018 with a 3.49 ERA in 28.1 innings, worth 0.5 fWAR for the rest of 2018 and 1.3 fWAR in 2019.

Lane adams

One of my personal favorites and an undervalued Brave, Lane’s 2nd go-around with the Braves was quite a successful short stint as he collected .3 fWAR in only 29 PAs, largely due to exceptional baserunning and an .865 OPS.

Josh Donaldson

We all know the story, Donaldson was signed to a “prove it” 23MM deal and was everything the Braves needed to repeat as division title winners. He collected 4.9 fWAR, worth 39.4 MM.

Brian McCann

To retire as a Brave, Brian McCann signed a 1 year/2 million dollar deal. While he was nothing flashy, he carried a league average bat and framing excellence, making that 2MM deal worth 8.9 MM.

Nick Markakis

After his 4/44 MM deal expired, Markakis re-signed with the Braves for 4MM, which actually turned into 6MM after some re-working by Anthopoulos to work Markakis’s 2020 salary into the budget. Markakis carried a 0.4 fWAR and was worth 2.9 MM in 2019.

Josh Tomlin

After a trip to Driveline to revamp his career, the Braves signed Tomlin to a 1 year 1.25 MM deal. While the Fangraphs value doesn’t show it, he was worth far more than that as he mopped up many innings and had a stellar 0.9 BB/9. He ended with 0.2 fWAR, valued at 1.4 MM.

Dallas Keuchel

Signed for 13MM 2 months into the season, Keuchel didn’t put up the numbers the Braves wanted, but gave them 112.2 league average innings. He ended with a 0.8 fWAR worth 6.3 MM

Adeiny Hechavarria

Signed for the stretch as a glove guy, Adeiny’s bat came alive in a Braves uniform as he carried a 1.039 OPS over 70 plate appearances while collecting a 1.2 fWAR.

Francisco Cervelli

Just like Hechavarria, Cervelli’s bat looked dead until he put on a Braves uniform where he posted a 1.066 OPS in 37 PAs while collecting 0.5 fWAR.

Final Tally

Just like our series on the rebuild (you can find all 7 pieces here), you can’t judge Anthopoulos’s moves based on 1 transaction as not all of them are going to work out. However, if you take the full package to gauge success or lack thereof, it tells the real story. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Anthopoulos spent ~50 MM on Free Agents for the 2018 and 2019 seasons
  • The Free Agents collected 13.1 fWAR, a value of 104.6 MM, which comes to 54.6 MM in surplus value.

When the 2020 season starts, we will see pro-rated salaries for Travis d’Arnaud, Chris Martin, Will Smith, Darren O’Day, Cole Hamels, Marcell Ozuna, Adeiny Hechavarria, and likely a few others (Felix Hernandez, etc.). While the sample has worked out overall, Anthopoulos’s real test in Free Agent spending comes in his commitments in 2020 and beyond and we as Braves fans can pray to the baseball gods that they continue working out like they have in the past.

Thanks for reading “Braves MLB Free Agent Signings Under Alex Anthopoulos”. If you enjoyed this piece, check out our coverage of 2019-20’s offseason here.

Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

50 thoughts on “Braves MLB Free Agent Signings Under Alex Anthopoulos”

  1. For 2 years, Anthopoulos put a model in place: No long-term commitments. While he still hasn’t committed more than 3 years to any single free agent, he did open the books for 2020. This poses an interesting question: With Melancon’s, Greene’s, Ozuna’s, and Hamels’s money coming off the books, and overall committed dollars being under 70MM (granted that 70 MM only takes into account guaranteed $, not arb or pre-arb guys), do the Braves open up their books to a star like Mookie Betts? I’d assume no, but I think it depends on how many internal pitchers bud in 2020. If AA can realistically replace Melancon, Greene, and Hamels and their production with 3 internal pitchers are little to no cost, then there’s a chance to add a real star. If not, then AA will likely stay the course.

    It’s early, but one can look at the Braves 40-man (and beyond) and see 30 guys who are 26-man roster worthy already.


  2. I can’t imagine the Braves getting Betts, but I also can’t particularly think of a better way to spend money.

    This was a really interesting post — I had no idea AA’s free agency moves were as broadly successful as they were. (And the last posts, I think demonstrated that Coppy’s moves were less broadly successful than I’d thought at the time, though a lot of his trade targets haven’t amassed any MLB WAR so the jury’s still out on those deals.)

  3. Getting AA after the fiasco was a coup. It was either a stroke of genius or proof of the blind hog theory.

    Keep churning out the quality information, Ryan. Your elders appreciate it. Also glad to see AAR active on the threads. I always enjoy his thoughts.

    Thanks to all.

  4. This place has always been the next best thing to baseball. Sadly, nowadays, it’s the only thing to baseball.

    Seconded, and thank goodness you’re here too, coop.

  5. Thank goodness you’re all here! And thanks for Ryan’s continuing outstanding work. I don’t know how you balance everything you do and do it well.

  6. @5
    It’s called “waking up an hour before the kids” and “staying awake an hour after everyone goes to sleep”. Some days I have the energy. Others, I’m spent. Really appreciate your support, BM!

    Working on a piece on trades (and “purchases”) of Alex’s tenure. Not sure that these will be as glowing.

  7. Great write-up Ryan. The most interesting statement I saw was the following:

    “When the 2020 season starts, we will see pro-rated salaries for …”

    I wish I could be so optimistic about the 2020 season starting.

  8. Nice job Ryan. In this case, the thing that leaps out is that Donaldson was 50% of the expense, and a little over 1/3rd of the return. Does that make him a below average signing? It does in terms of signing efficiency, but this is a case, I think, where not all fWAR is created equally. If you could guarantee a boatload of Hechevarrias and Cervellis (and you have to really believe their combined 107 PA weren’t just a fluke) then you could easily replace a Donaldson with another four of them. Anybody believe that?

  9. @8
    IMO, absolutely not. To get 5 fWAR from one player is far superior than getting 1 from 5, even if the cost of the 5 total is far less than the 1.

  10. You all are allowing your desire to see baseball to affect your objectivity. We’ve had multiple teams have to close their facilities because of CV this week. 30 LSU Tiger FB players are in quarantine.
    Cases in over 25 states are way up. These guys have families, wives, kids, themselves to think about.

    Just call it a season and show up next March and be done with it.

  11. I do want to see baseball, but all of this has had nothing to do with the pandemic. They’ve not been haggling over the realities of playing in a pandemic. That’s one thing. This protracted and public fight has all been about money from the start.

  12. Yeah, it’s really funny to hear all the people who have been saying there won’t be a season since March try to shoehorn the pandemic back into the narrative to say, “See! I told you so!” No, there was a pandemic, and then they got over that, and then they started fighting over money. So if you said there wasn’t going to be a season in March, you said that because of the pandemic, and nothing playing out right now is proving you right.

  13. There is STILL a pandemic. That hasn’t changed. States opened up way too soon and caved to political pressure to do so.

    This season is meaningless regardless. Any champion should have a plethora of asterisks associated with it.

  14. You should definitely not watch, Chief. You wouldn’t want to be an accessory to this atrocity, would you?

  15. Any word on the size of the rosters? Word is that the DH will be in use this season but not in 2021.

  16. @18: Just asking, Chief. What is your definition of “meaningful?” And remember that the best single team wins about 20 percent or so of World Series’s when you give your answer.


  18. I’ll take a 60-game season. Think they could’ve come to an agreement much sooner, but if its done then I’ll celebrate.

  19. @13 What is going to be so different in March? The pandemic will still be there in many people’s eyes. If players want to play they should be able to play. If players don’t want to play, that is up to them. The pay for that angle isn’t very good though. I am an HR Director in a healthcare facility and I have long been of the feeling if you are wary of getting sick, stay home if you so choose. I feel very comfortable controlling the dynamics around me in regard to catching COVID with basic infection prevention measures so I haven’t been super fearful of the pandemic, but maybe that’s just me.

  20. This thread will stay up for today. Also, I want to touch on something and this isn’t directed toward anyone particular, it’s just something to keep in mind as we navigate this situation.

    Let’s remember 2 things in regards to baseball:
    1. The players that play are putting themselves and their families in more risk than if they didn’t play. That seems fairly obvious.
    2. The players that choose to sit should not be judged as they are also doing what they think is best for their family. That also seems fairly obvious.

    While everyone has been respectful in their exchanges on here, this topic isn’t easy to navigate and could get ugly should people want to go there. Let’s keep passion for the topic as passion for the topic and steer clear of anything more.

    If you feel anyone crosses the line in his/her comments, feel free to reach out to me.

  21. The expanded playoffs provide extra challenge to a 50-60 game season. Winning 4 playoff series which, would mean, at the minimum, winning 14 games, maximum 18 games (My guess is first round is 5 games, then next three are 7) is quite a task. That cannot be discounted.

    In the end, I’d expect a top-4 team to win it all. That’s really no different than any other year.

  22. It’s essentially the equivalent of one of the season “halves” in 1981.

    The 2020 baseball season is going to be somewhere in between exhibition games and real baseball. And it’s pretty much still contingent on the shape of the case rate in the various major league states.

    Completely agree with Rob that it’s shameful that the clubs and players wasted three months arguing over money when the health provisions are quite frankly more important, but be that as it may, even if the players unanimously agree to the schedule that the Commissioner just proposed, I wouldn’t lay even odds that the league is able to play 100% of the games scheduled.

  23. Apparently with the two sides not agreeing on anything outside of the March agreement, there will be no expanded playoffs. That’s at least what I’m getting out of all of the reports. The league can’t unilaterally implement that without the players’ sign off, though I guess the two sides could throw that in out of left field when they’re finalizing the health and safety protocols. Might be easier since the number of games and money are no longer up for debate.

    The league can unilaterally implement the universal DH for just this season, which it seems like they’ll do. However, it seems like the pitcher batting in the NL would make at least a one-year return in 2021 (assuming a normal 2021 season, which…yeah).

  24. Things that look to be still intact for 2020 season:

    •Universal DH
    •Still 6 Divisions, 10 team groupings based on Geography (Braves will play NL East and AL East teams), and teams only play inside division.
    •30-man roster in the beginning with gradual reduction down to 26 (I bet this gets re-visited and it stays at 30.

    I still bet they agree to expanded playoffs should time allow. I don’t think that was ever the problem.

  25. Chief, I don’t know how you can morally justify watching a sport that is being conducted in unsafe conditions. Honestly, this is a big reason why I don’t watch the NFL, UFC, or boxing: it’s really unsafe, and I’m not going to watch people get seriously injured or potentially killed. College football could one day be a moral hazard for me. You’re making the argument that things are so unsafe that they shouldn’t even be out there. Why watch? Seems kinda barbaric.

  26. I continue to be hopeful that the virus will be greatly impacted over the next couple months. One, the warm weather will tamp it down significantly, especially in the southern states, which (in especially Florida) we’re seeing a flare-up. We haven’t enjoyed the benefits the weather seems to have on this virus in its full magnitude.

    I also think that this second wave will have a tremendously positive psychological effect. There’s no silver bullet here. We’re not going to lock back down. These people being careless — especially the ones in my age range — are going to have to be more responsible. This is the new normal. I would bet that this uptick in younger people getting it is born out of a feeling of invincibility. Well, you don’t feel too invincible anymore, do you? You’re going to have to take precautions.

    My wife’s testing site down in Sarasota is surging right now. Their daily testing allotment, which they hadn’t been even meeting for a few weeks, is being exhausted by the mid-afternoon every day, and the state of Florida will likely increase the allotments per site by the end of the week. That tells me that people are starting to understand. This is a real, live virus that you need to take seriously. It’s not political. My wife and I walked into a restaurant last Friday and walked right back out. The place was packed. Sure enough, they closed on Sunday due to health. My county and Tampa’s county are now making masks mandatory everywhere inside you go.

    I think this is going to be a really effective 6-8 weeks towards getting us back in stadiums in some capacity, but I think all the games get played.

  27. @31

    It’s not so much they scrapped it as it got caught up in the wash of negotiations. The players had to sign off on it or it couldn’t be implemented. It’s one of the things that the March agreement actually left to be negotiated later — as opposed to player salaries, which was pretty much settled (though the language in the agreement is stupidly obtuse, admittedly). Without an agreement on return-to-play, it defaults back to the current setup.

    As I said above, I could see the players agreeing to a one-year expansion of playoffs here in the next couple days as they (if they) finalize the return-to-play. I could also see them going forward with the standard 10-team playoff as normal. Not sure which way they’ll go.

  28. @33: Rob, from reading your comments through the years, I get the sense that you’re mostly an optimist, and I appreciate that about you. But there is no evidence that warm weather will “tamp down” the virus (or is “tamping it down”). Look at what’s happening in Brazil.

    Also: we’re not in a second wave; in fact, the epidemiologists I have been reading say that we’re still in the first wave, and that it’s likely we’ll experience a continued “slow burn” nationwide, with some places burning hotter than others–like a forest fire, where you douse it in one place and it flares up in others. This is the new normal, and will be for the foreseeable future.

    I don’t hold out much hope that mask use and physical distancing nationwide will improve significantly in the short term. Where I live, in the Philly suburbs, it’s pretty good, because we got slammed fairly hard back in April. But it will take a lot of time for people, en masse, to have experience with the virus (e.g., getting it, knowing someone who has it or has had it, knowing someone who has died from it), and until then, many will not wear masks and take other precautions (especially in the age group you mention).

    As far as baseball, I eat, drink, sleep–indeed, breathe–it, and have for nearly three decades. Much to my wife’s chagrin, not only do I keep MLB Network on continuously and obsessively check baseball scores and news online, I’ve amassed a collection of baseball caps more than 100 strong, including about a dozen Braves hats (a hobby more befitting a young teenager rather than a middle-aged man).

    But nothing that happens to the Braves this season will feel legitimate–that is, reflective of what kind of team they truly are. If they end up in last or near last place in a very tough division, which is very much a possibility, will most people on this board believe they are truly that bad? Likewise, if they somehow luck into a WS title, won’t it feel a more than a bit inauthentic? I will to me.

    On the question of whether it’s moral to watch games: the players are mature adults (at least mostly) and can make their own decisions. But I do worry about staff and people behind the scenes who won’t have much of a choice. I also wonder what the reaction among fans would be if a major star–a Mike Trout, for example–were to contract the virus and die. It’s not likely, of course, but some healthy, young people have had a lethal experience with it (including in the county where I live).

    With all this said, I don’t know if I’ll watch. But I can say this: if I do, it will be, for me, a severely attenuated experience.

  29. @35 Ditto.

    We never finished the first wave of the virus. Sports should be shelved until a vaccine is approved. I am entitled to my opinion and it has not wavered. If a player gets CV (and it was avoidable, i.e. from staff or another player etc.) and dies, there will be a permanent stain on whichever sport that is forever. IMO.

    Nobody on this board loves baseball anymore than any other person on here. And yeah, I’m sick of no sports too. I have $400.00+ worth of Vivid Seats credit that we want to use at Fenway Park after we move that we’re probably going to lose. I was excited to see a game there. I’ve only toured it in the off season.

    But now is just not the time to be playing sports. It’s just not. I guarantee you that whichever team wins this 50 game farce is not going to feel like champions. This is nothing more than a money grab by the owners to lose slightly less money than they would have if no games were played.

    It’s not time for college football, either. Or the NFL, or the NBA.

  30. Chief, you’re not answering my question. I ask the same question to a lot of people on Twitter. And it’s partly a troll, but it’s a fair question: if the game that you are watching is unsafe, how can you morally justify watching it? I’ve asked you twice now, and you continue to avoid it.


    I don’t necessarily believe that increased temperatures are going to simply radiate out the virus like we stuck it in a microwave or on a hot grill. This article here is an example of what I feel like I’ve been hearing:

    Final paragraph: The researchers incorporated the effects of control measures, such as physical distancing, with climate. It appears from this model that such measures, in combination with warm temperatures, actually might combine well to help slow the spread of this devastating virus. It’s a reminder that physical distancing will remain our best weapon into the summer to slow or prevent the spread of COVID-19.

    My hope is that everything together– masks, social distancing, benefits from weather, increased sun exposure (vitamin D is suggested to help with the virus), time — will continue to have an impact. And at the end of the day, this is a virus that has killed more people over the age of 90 than everyone younger than the age of 65. Call it a continuation of a first wave, a second wave, or whatever we want to call the most recent uptick, but I feel like I’m reading that it’s having a disproportionate effect on those younger than 35. My thought is that, well, we’re idiots, and we think we’re invincible. Once that reality sets in, my prediction is that we will see better times.

    It’s like these clusters of college football athletes getting COVID. Well, fellas, if you want to play D1 college football, you better not get COVID. Get smarter and take precuations.

    Back to safety: it’s just hard for me to see how you can watch a bunch of people coming in contact with a deadly virus and enjoy what you’re watching. Personally, I agree with you that they’re mature adults, so yes, they know the risks and can make their own decisions. But, in my opinion more importantly, I also think there’s not much of a risk. Test them before every game, and if someone tests positive, they go on the IL and they go home. Simple as that. Show goes on. I know we’re all crying for the poor NBA players who have to live in a “bubble”, but I don’t care. You’re a well-paid entertainer. Take the precautions so you can successfully entertain and make more money in a year than I’ll see in a lifetime.

  31. By the way, Mark, I’d love to see a picture of the hat collection. I bet it’s pretty epic. I’d love to collect a 100 of anything, let alone MLB memorabilia. That’s awesome.

  32. Also, I agree that a 60-game season lacks some validity. That’s why I hope they add the extra round of the playoffs. If you get through 4 rounds of playoffs, I don’t care how many games you won in the regular season. You won.

  33. 60 games is not perfect but I’m just ready to see some baseball at this point.
    Yes, we’re still in the first wave, the warmer temps do not seem to be making a difference regarding infections and won’t going forward unless people keep their distance and with the news from so many states, it will not be massively better for a while unfortunately.
    Agree with Ryan, that whoever feels comfortable to play should play and whoever is not due to personal reasons should be allowed to stay home. This continues to be an extraordinary situation.
    Quick look over to the German Bundesliga where football has been played for five or six weeks in empty stadiums. Not a single player has been infected since the re-start. But then again, the new infection numbers are so much lower in general. Again, keeping distance (and wearing masks) are actually helping.
    Go Braves!

  34. So…the players should be agreeing to this deal any moment to report to ST July 1st.

  35. For a “no fans” game, I am just not impressed with the moral argument against games during the pandemic. For my entire lifetime, the NHL and NBA have run their seasons through prime flu season. Some years the strain has been particularly tough. To my knowledge, there has never been one game canceled or rescheduled in that time. Yet, many of those players got the flu (and not just “flu like symptoms” as a euphemism for hungover).

    For people under 50 years old with no limiting medical conditions, this disease is LESS risky than a bad strain of influenza. For those players with asthma or diabetes that they can control well enough to play, they still may be at a risk level that they shouldn’t play in this situation. Also, maybe if they have a spouse or child with very limiting conditions. And the management staff is at risk, for sure.

  36. Over 100,000 Americans have died from this. Please stop saying it’s just the flu as your justification. If you want to see baseball because you love baseball, that’s fine, just say that. I want to see baseball because I’m working from home and it would be great to have baseball on, particularly during the day, as background entertainment.

    But 100,000 Americans didn’t die from the flu last year, or the year before that. Everyone involved in this who is helping to put on the games is taking a risk by doing so. And you have no idea whether or not they will be asymptomatic, or have a mild case, or die from this disease. They are agreeing to being compensated for that risk, as they should be. But don’t downplay it, just say the quiet part out loud – that if they die for our entertainment, then so be it, we’re ok with that.

    And by the way, that’s what happens with American football every fall, so I don’t say it like we don’t already have that happen and are ok with it. I love football, and every time someone is hit hard and carted off, I hope they’re ok, but I get a snack while they clear the field so the game can go on. So I’m ok with every sport resuming, and heck, if fans want to go and be in the stands, I’m ok with that too. But let’s acknowledge the risks everyone is taking, and not pretend they are not.

  37. Not to mention the fact that if you’re gonna say definitively that you’re not gonna play until there’s a vaccine or significantly effective treatment, you have no idea how long you’re committing yourself to being out. If we knew for sure that the best-case scenario of late this year or early next was gonna come to fruition on the vaccine, I could see a definite argument for just saying, “Well, it sucks, but maybe we just wash out the remainder of 2020 as far as sports goes.” I’m not sure that, like, the NFL would be super-excited by that, but I digress.

    Sports leagues aren’t going dark for like three years, though. Just not happening.

    On a different note, Passan says the players have agreed to report to spring training (or is it summer training?) at the first of the month. They haven’t fully locked in the agreement on health and safety stuff, so the Furcal rule remains in effect.

  38. I agree that Covid is not the flu, but there were 80k that died from the flu in 2017. Covid-19 is much deadlier than the flu for those over 60, but for healthy people below 35 the risk of death is extremely low. According to the CDC, 848 people have died so far that were under 35. My guess is 95% plus had underlying conditions.
    As someone said above, the real risk is to the coaching staff. It’s the same risk that millions of Americans are taking every day by going to work. At 55 I would take the risk with just a little trepidation. At 30 I wouldn’t bat an eyelash. Play ball!

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