With few needs, Braves keep options open for Winter Meetings

December 5th, 2022

ATLANTA -- Dansby Swanson might need to wait a little longer to learn where he might play next year. But his name will be mentioned quite frequently as the baseball world attempts to get a better feel for the Braves’ plans during this year’s Winter Meetings, which open Sunday in San Diego.

Swanson and the Braves haven’t made any progress during the offseason, so there’s reason to wonder whether the shortstop will stay with his hometown club. His exit would create a significant void defensively and would possibly force the Braves to replace his offensive value by acquiring a quality left fielder.

But Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos has to determine more than just who might be his shortstop next year. Along with possibly strengthening the bullpen and adding a left fielder this offseason, Anthopoulos may attempt to find a team willing to take at least a portion of Marcell Ozuna’s salary.

The Braves don’t have an abundance of needs, but they will remain busy while looking to stay at the top of what has become a very competitive National League East.

Key events

  • Sunday, Dec. 4: HOF Contemporary Era ballot results released (Albert Belle, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro, Curt Schilling) Greg Maddux and Chipper Jones are part of the 16-person committee that will vote on this ballot. This could help McGriff and Murphy. But Murphy wasn’t elected when Bobby Cox, John Schuerholz and Don Sutton were on a similar committee in 2017. A player needs to receive 12 votes to be elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame
  • Monday, Dec. 5: All-MLB Team announced
  • Tuesday, Dec. 6: Inaugural Draft Lottery, AL/NL Relievers of Year announced
  • Wednesday, Dec. 7: Rule 5 Draft

Club needs
The Braves need a shortstop and a left fielder. It doesn’t feel like they will be the top bidder for Swanson, who is looking for a six-year deal worth at least $20 million a year. But there’s a chance Swanson could leave some money on the table to continue playing in his home city.

Eddie Rosario struggled last year and Ozuna shouldn’t be considered a regular defensive option if he is still around. So there’s a chance the Braves could pursue a left fielder to handle a bulk of the playing time in left field.

Potential trade candidates
The Braves would love to swap bad contracts instead of potentially eating the $37 million still owed Marcell Ozuna. If the club attempts to gain value via trade, Atlanta may have to lean into its starting pitching depth by dealing Kyle Muller, Bryce Elder or Freddy Tarnok. With William Contreras having emerged from the fold this past year, the Braves may also attempt to move veteran backup catcher Manny Piña. But if they're looking for more significant value, Contreras could be viewed as a key trade piece.

Prospects to know
Malloy struggled at Vanderbilt (2019), thrived during his only season at Georgia Tech ('21) and spent this past summer tasting success at three different levels within the Braves’ organization. The 6-foot-3, 212-pound prospect hit 17 homers with a .862 OPS over 591 combined plate appearances between High-A Rome, Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett this year. He can play third base, but was used only as a left fielder during this year’s Arizona Fall League. He ranks as the Braves No. 11 prospect per MLB Pipeline.

Any current conversation about the Braves’ farm system has to start with Smith-Shawver, a 19-year-old prospect who didn’t start pitching regularly until his 2020 summer season. Still, the Braves took him in the seventh round of the 2021 Draft and gave him a $997,500 signing bonus, which was $795,900 over slot value.

Smith-Shawver endured some growing pains and he posted a 5.11 ERA for Single-A Augusta this year, but he struck out 34.4 percent of the batters he faced and had a 13 percent walk rate during his first full professional season. Those are encouraging numbers for the young pitcher, who ranks as the Braves’ No. 8 prospect. Smith-Shawver has been extended beyond the fifth inning just once and he was shut down in early August. So while he garnered attention this year, he is still very early in his development.

Rule 5 Draft
Right-handed pitcher Victor Vodnik has struggled to stay healthy, but has made a good impression while pitching in big league games during the past two Spring Trainings. He appears to be the most likely Braves player to be selected by a club that would have to be willing to carry him on its active roster all year or offer him back to Atlanta.

Burning question
There’s no doubt Swanson would like to return to the Braves. But at the same time, he’s not going to pass on a tremendous amount of money to remain home. The next few weeks and months will give us a better feel for how much the Braves really want Swanson back next year and how much he really wants to stay.