As Meetings close, how will Braves address key needs?

All is quiet on Swanson front, while Atlanta also seeks outfield and pitching staff upgrades

December 8th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- Some Braves fans may have grown concerned as their team stayed quiet while the Mets and Phillies made significant additions during this year’s Winter Meetings. Others may have just remembered their team has won five straight National League East titles without winning the offseason.

It was another quiet Winter Meetings for Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos, who left San Diego on Wednesday without making any major moves. Anthopoulos, manager Brian Snitker, bench coach Walt Weiss and some front-office members used the three-day event to discuss various ways to improve the club this winter.

“It’s actually been productive to just get together as a group,” Anthopoulos said. “At this time of year, you have a lot of conversations. I feel like we’ve made progress. That doesn’t guarantee anything, but it’s been a good use of the time here.”

The Braves haven’t made any recent progress with Dansby Swanson, who continues to draw interest from multiple clubs, including the Cubs. So there is growing reason to wonder if Swanson will exit Atlanta one year after Freddie Freeman begrudgingly did so.

“It's tough,” Snitker said. “You do get attached to those guys. My God, we're spending a lot of time together. They're quality individuals. I love them to death. But it is part of the business. We all know that when we get in here. That's part of it. Time will tell which way we go. But I'll always root for [Swanson].”

Biggest remaining needs

1. Shortstop
Swanson and Carlos Correa are the top two shortstops still on the free-agent market. If the Braves don’t grab one of these players, they may want to explore the trade market. But to get a quality shortstop, Atlanta may need to include All-Star William Contreras in a deal. Manny Piña’s return creates this option. But Contreras won’t be moved unless the Braves are getting a significant upgrade, whether that be a shortstop, left fielder or starting pitcher. Willy Adames seemed like an attractive option, but it doesn’t look like the Brewers will trade him after already addressing payroll concerns by dealing second baseman Kolten Wong to the Mariners.

Another option would be to sign a defense-first shortstop like Elvis Andrus and adding a big bat to put in left field. The addition of this outfielder would fill a need and also help account for Swanson’s potential departure from the lineup.

2. Left fielder
If the season started tomorrow, the Braves' left fielder would be Eddie Rosario or Marcell Ozuna. So instead of listing left field as a "need," it might be better to list it as a "NEED." Rosario provided little power after returning from eye surgery last year, while Ozuna hasn't hit enough to come close to compensating for his defensive limitations the past two seasons.

Any team looking for an outfielder likely has shown some interest in Bryan Reynolds, who reportedly asked the Pirates for a trade on Saturday. The Braves could also show some interest in free agent Michael Conforto if the former Met is really willing to take a one-year deal. Adam Duvall, Andrew Benintendi, AJ Pollock and David Peralta are among the other free agents who could interest the Braves.

3. Pitching
Ian Anderson and Mike Soroka are the top two candidates to begin next season as Atlanta’s fifth starter. There’s a chance Bryce Elder, Kyle Muller and either Anderson or Soroka all could begin the year providing depth at Triple-A Gwinnett. The Braves have enviable depth, but they did at least inquire about a short-term deal for Jacob deGrom. It seems the target would have been adding an elite arm. But there’s a chance the club could also attempt to further enhance the depth with another middle-of-the-rotation starter.

If Kirby Yates and Nick Anderson both bounce back from injuries and return to form, the Braves should have a special bullpen. But the uncertainty about both of these talented relievers may be enough for the club to add at least one more reliever to a mix that will be led by closer Raisel Iglesias, A.J. Minter, Collin McHugh and Joe Jiménez, who was acquired from the Tigers for two Minor Leaguers on Wednesday night.

GM's bottom line
“With the resources we have, whether that’s trade or dollars, it’s about how can we make the best 2023 Braves? What makes the most sense? We can get better in the bullpen. We can get better in the rotation. We can get better from an offensive standpoint. We can get better in all areas. It’s just about finding the deal that makes the most sense.” -- Anthopoulos