As we continue pondering where the Braves go from here, it’s fair to say the infield is locked up. There is no better group in baseball.
The 2023 season saw every member of the Atlanta infield make the All-Star game. At the trade deadline, they added an impressive defensive infielder, and have everyone under contract for the foreseeable future. As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
I know, I know…we can argue after a disappointing exit from the NLDS that there is something “broke.” However, that four-game sample size is not indicative of who this infield is and how spectacular they are as a whole.
Corner spots cemented
Let’s begin on the corners of the infield, where Matt Olson and Austin Riley are locked up for the long-term. Speaking of being locked up – or rather, locked in – Olson had a 7.4 WAR season while recording franchise records in HR (54) and RBI (139). He played in all 162 games and is not going anywhere. Olson’s 2023 season helped a lot of people forget about Freddie Freeman.
Riley is locked up even longer than Olson, and while his season was not as great as he may have liked, it was still great. He isn’t going anywhere, either. Young Thicc had a 5.9 WAR season and scored a career high 117 runs. He also drove in 97 though struggling with RISP in 2023. Riley is, at worst, even with Nolan Arenado as the best third baseman in baseball.
Up the middle
Up the middle, the Braves are also stacked. The Braves have the best catching duo in baseball with Sean Murphy and Travis d’Arnaud. Both are signed through 2024 (Murphy longer), and the key in 2024 will be figuring out what to do with them and how to best use them. Snit’s every other day approach wasn’t all that helpful late in the season.
Additionally, Ozzie Albies had a career-year offensively and was relatively healthy. The diminutive second baseball hit 33 homers and drove in 109 runs. Continuing our look up the middle, Orlando Arcia had a career year at short. Surprisingly he was named the opening day starter and he proved AA and Snit to be geniuses…at least through August. Arcia certainly regressed to the mean late in the year. Thankfully, Nicky Lopez joined the crew at the trade deadline. Lopez is the best defender of them all, and it isn’t close. Vaughn Grissom had a great year at Gwinnett and provides depth. Subsequently, Braden Shewmake‘s days in the organization are likely numbered.
Seemingly, shortstop is the only possible change in 2024. I want to see AA go get Ha-Seong Kim. Kim had a 5.9 WAR season for the Padres and makes a ton of sense. Package Grissom and some pitching prospects for Kim and Joe Musgrove. Arcia’s contract is only $2 million, which is chump-change. He is a good bench piece, and coupled with Lopez, gives Snit lots of options. Obviously, the Padres have 20 of shortstops playing other positions already. Perhaps they have the courage to make Grissom an outfielder and play him next to Grisham. Making things challenging for their broadcasters would be an added benefit.
Although Arcia had a career year, in my opinion, this is the place to improve. What shortstop options do you imagine? And don’t say Tim Anderson! Surely you have considered some. Last year’s free agent frenzy on shortstops was never where AA would shop, but Kim makes good sense.
It’s the only option…unless AA is willing to package Albies in a deal for a front-line starter! GASP! Does suggesting Albies make you want to kick me off this site? Undoubtedly moving Albies would shock Braves Country, and the potential impact on Ronald Acuña Jr. may not be worth it. However, it is food for fodder. Would say you? Are you open to shopping Albies?
Let’s hear it, friends!