“We’re expected to be good again,” Anthopoulos said. “I work with a little bit of fear of failing, not of employment or anything like that. You don’t want to fail, no matter whether you won the World Series or not.”
Here’s a look at some of the issues Anthopoulos will be evaluating as he attempts to position the Braves to repeat in 2022:
Which players are free agents?
Beyond re-signing Freeman, a top priority is to keep a couple outfielders to eventually team with Ronald Acuña Jr. when he returns from his right ACL tear at some point after April. Adam Duvall remains under control as an arbitration-eligible player. But World Series MVP Soler, NLCS MVP Rosario and Pederson are three other outfielders who are now free agents.
“We have a lot of free agents, and we’d like to have them all back because they all played so well for us,” Anthopoulos said. “But realistically, going to be hard to pull that off.”
Which players are arbitration eligible?
Swanson and Fried will both receive a nice raise, and Duvall could find himself with a multiyear deal. Riley is expected to qualify as a Super Two, meaning he will gain an extra year of arbitration. That’s pretty good timing coming off his 30-homer, 100-RBI season.
Which players are non-tender candidates?
Arcia, Rodriguez, Heredia, Soroka, Camargo, Newcomb
Everyone hopes Soroka constructs a great comeback story and eventually rejoins Atlanta’s rotation. But the uncertainty he faces while attempting to come back after tearing his right Achilles twice, creates reason to question whether the Braves should commit nearly $3 million to him again.
Camargo and Newcomb are Atlanta’s most likely non-tenders. The club could attempt to negotiate new deals with Duvall, Rodriguez and Heredia.
Who else may be getting a raise?
Anthopoulos didn’t elaborate when he said the Braves’ payroll will increase for the 2022 season. But this shouldn’t be a surprise given the additional revenue gained from a World Series victory. When attempting to project who might fit within this payroll, it’s important to remember Freeman and some of the top arb-eligible players are not the only ones in line to get a big raise.
Charlie Morton’s $15 million deal for 2021 became a $20 million deal for 2022. Acuña’s salary rises from $5 million to $15 million and Albies’ salary rises from $3 million to $5 million. As for Marcell Ozuna, his salary jumps from $12 million to $16 million. But until MLB concludes its domestic violence investigation, it’s unknown how much the team might owe Ozuna.
What are the Braves' top priorities?
Beyond re-signing Freeman, the Braves must decide how to ensure they have enough outfielders to at least start the season. Ozuna’s case makes things unclear, but it doesn’t sound like he is currently factoring into next year’s plans, at least early-season plans. Keeping Duvall seems to be a good bet, and there’s certainly reason to attempt to re-sign Soler. The question might come down to whether to bring back Rosario or Peterson. Rosario has the more productive left-handed bat, but Pederson still has some power and his personality plays well both in the clubhouse and the stands.
What are the Braves' other needs?
The Braves’ projected rotation to begin the 2022 season will include Morton, Fried, Ian Anderson. Huascar Ynoa, Kyle Wright, Tucker Davidson, Kyle Muller and Touki Toussaint provide options for the final two spots. But in case you haven’t heard, you can never have too much pitching. So, there’s a chance an economical veteran starter could be added to give the rotation some additional experience.
Looking at the bullpen, each of the core members of the The Night Shift -- closer Will Smith, Jackson, Matzek and Minter -- will all return. The Braves also still have control of Rodriguez and Jacob Webb. Ynoa and Muller seem to profile better as relievers, and the bullpen’s future seems bright with Dylan Lee and Spencer Strider on the horizon. So, this might be one of those rare offseasons where there may not be a need to seek relievers.