ATLANTA -- Along with doing whatever was possible to better acquaint himself with the organization he was introduced to less than three months ago, Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos has gained a better feel for the stage of the rebuild he inherited.Anthopoulous has evaluated potential trades and free-agent signings that
ATLANTA -- Along with doing whatever was possible to better acquaint himself with the organization he was introduced to less than three months ago, Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos has gained a better feel for the stage of the rebuild he inherited.
Anthopoulous has evaluated potential trades and free-agent signings that could provide both immediate and long-term value. But he has also maintained a patient approach thus far, which gives him a chance to go to Spring Training to better evaluate those assets he might use to make a significant trade when the time is right.
"You can't do [a rebuild] all in one offseason or all at once," Anthopoulos said. "It's a process. You pick your spots when opportunities present themselves. We looked at things this offseason. So far, the right deal hasn't materialized."
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Anthopoulous certainly looks forward to eventually completing what will be viewed as a high-impact trade or signing. But before moving ahead, he first needed to first clean up what many considered the messiest mistake made during the previous regime's massive rebuilding effort: the acquisition of Hector Olivera, which in turn led to taking on Matt Kemp and his burdensome contract.
By dealing Kemp to the Dodgers in December, the Braves gained enviable financial flexibility for next winter at the expense of erasing nearly all of the financial flexibility that would have existed during this offseason. This doesn't mean Anthopoulous has just ditched the idea of making a significant acquisition, but his means to do so are currently limited.
Entering just the fourth year of their rebuild, the Braves can see a light at the end of the tunnel. There's reason to be excited about their potential in 2019, when their prospects will be a year older and the Kemp deal will provide between $40-60 million to spend.
But as the Braves enter this season with an inexperienced pitching staff and a power-starved lineup, there seems to be more than just one big acquisition separating this team from becoming a legitimate postseason contender. Thus, this year's patience might prove to be quite valuable in the future, when they are relying on some of the position players and pitchers who will have a chance to gain valuable experience in 2018.
While it's not realistic to project the Braves to be a current contender, this season will stand as one of the most important during the rebuild. Top prospect Ronald Acuna Jr. could make his big league debut before the start of May, while Ozzie Albies' two-month audition last season generated the optimism that he's more than capable of avoiding the sophomore slump dulled the luster surrounding Dansby Swanson in 2017.
Seven members of MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects List will be in camp. This group includes Acuna, right-handers Kyle Wright and Mike Soroka, lefties Luiz Gohara and Max Fried and third baseman Austin Riley. Wright, who was taken fifth overall in last summer's MLB Draft, and Riley are the only members of this group who might not have a shot of reaching the Majors this season.
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The strides these prospects make in 2018 will certainly influence what the Braves view as their needs once they are positioned to be significant players in what is expected to be a talent-rich free-agent market heading into '19.
Freddie Freeman has proven he has the potential to be an MVP candidate on an annual basis, though the Braves have endured losing campaigns during each of the first four seasons of his eight-year, $135 million contract. There's a chance that streak might reach five in 2018, but the veteran first baseman says there is definitely a different feel heading into this season.
"We've improved our win total every year during the rebuild," Freeman said. "I expect that total to go up again this year. As much as we want [to have a winning season] this year, there's just no telling what the young guys are going to do. I've been patient -- and once [success] comes, I think it will be full force and we can win for many years to come."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.