Anthopoulos laying framework for Braves' offseason

November 9th, 2023
Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos speaks during the GM Meetings. (Matt York/AP)

ATLANTA -- Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos celebrated a World Series title with an 88-win team in 2021. He has constructed 100-win teams in Atlanta the past two seasons and seen both eliminated in the National League Division Series.

But he’s not willing to say the playoffs are just a crapshoot.

“I’d love to chalk it up to randomness,” Anthopoulos said while speaking to reporters during the General Managers Meetings on Wednesday. “The problem is, the feeling is so awful and it stays with you for such a long time that you don't make yourself feel any better by just saying it's random. So you're always going to look for reasons.”

Four weeks have passed since the Braves dealt with the pain of a second straight early postseason exit. When they lost to the Phillies in 2022, they could blame ailments to Max Fried and Spencer Strider. This year, they saw their record-setting offense limited to four extra-base hits over four NLDS games.

“You have to be careful you don’t overweigh a four-game sample size,” Anthopoulos said. “But I don’t think you can ignore it either. I know that’s two answers in one. But, we have general ideas and thoughts. It likely will influence what we do this offseason, which is why I'm probably not going to get into it because I don't want people to know what we're trying to do, other than we want to make the team better.”

There’s no reason the Braves can't be just as formidable as they were this past season, when they won 104 games, despite getting 21 combined starts from Kyle Wright and Fried. Wright will miss next season recovering from right shoulder surgery. But a healthy Fried will again be joined with Strider, Charlie Morton and Bryce Elder in the rotation.

AJ Smith-Shawver, Darius Vines, Allan Winans and Jared Shuster are among those who could begin the season as the fifth starter. But even with this week’s decision to exercise Morton’s $20 million option, the Braves could look to add another starter.

Payroll won’t be an issue, but the Braves might be reluctant to provide the years top free-agent starters like Aaron Nola, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Blake Snell will command. More likely free-agent targets could be Sonny Gray or Eduardo Rodriguez.

Or Anthopoulos could come out of nowhere with a surprising trade, like the one that sent William Contreras to Milwaukee and brought Sean Murphy to Atlanta last winter.

“We have a list of guys that are fit for us and so on,” Anthopoulos said. “Those are the guys we’ll have conversations with, whether that’s trade or free agency.”

‘Tis the season for talking. But it’s not the season for talking specific plans.

While the Braves exercised Morton’s option, they declined Eddie Rosario’s $9 million option. So Anthopoulos will be looking for a left fielder. Rosario was a 2021 postseason hero. But so too were Jorge Soler and Adam Duvall, a pair of free agents who could be fits for Atlanta’s left-field vacancy.

“We’re just going to take the winter to let that play out,” Anthopoulos said. “It could come in so many forms. We’re just getting started. So, I don’t have an answer for you. We’ll just see how the offseason keeps going.”