Inbox: Will Fried, Ozuna be moved this winter?

December 24th, 2022

Do you believe Dansby Swanson signing with the Cubs takes the Braves out of spending all together? Being at $229 million with the competitive balance tax threshold at $233, will they get a bench bat and that is it? @laxman1017

Absolutely not. I think it’s quite obvious the Braves never had any intention of signing Swanson. They knew their six-year, $100 million offer was never going to be accepted. So, his departure shouldn’t alter plans to address the remaining offseason needs.

Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos has said the team is willing to exceed the luxury tax’s first threshold if the deal is right. Well, the free agent options at the shortstop position are very thin and there’s not an attractive bargain option at the left field spot.

Still, I think there’s still a chance the Braves will exceed that first threshold. If they exceed it as first-time offenders, they would pay a 20 percent tax on all overages. So, if they went $20 million over the threshold, the penalty would be just $4 million.

The Braves can continue to say they’re willing to begin the season with Orlando Arcia or Vaughn Grissom as their shortstop. I’m not buying it, right now. But even if they end up going this route, there will be even greater focus placed on the offense generated from the left field spot, which currently would be manned by Eddie Rosario and Jordan Luplow.

Luplow is a low-cost addition, but there’s still a chance the Braves attempt to make a bigger splash in their search for a shortstop, left fielder or possibly a pitcher, of the starter or reliever variety. Money isn’t the issue for Anthopoulos. Finding the right player to spend it on is the more pressing issue right now.

Is there any possibility of the Braves trading Fried this offseason? @alcuin18

It might be wise to listen to offers for all players, but I just don’t see the benefit of moving Max Fried as he enters his third year of arbitration. If he gets approximately $12 million via the arb process, he should be deemed a value. Remember, the Braves gave Drew Smyly $11 million as a free agent before the 2021 season, and a potential recession certainly hasn’t hurt this year’s free agent market.

Fried is one of the game’s top starters, and Atlanta will need to decide whether to extend him next summer or possibly re-sign him when he becomes a free agent after the 2024 season. But I just don’t see any potential return that would justify moving the left-hander. Sure, with two years of control, he is more valuable via trade now than he would be next winter.

But I think the 2.68 ERA he’s produced over the past three seasons (69 starts) signifies much more potential value than any value that could be gained via trade. I think the uncertainty surrounding Mike Soroka and Ian Anderson enhances the need for the Braves to keep their ace. Fried, Spencer Strider and Kyle Wright could all continue to solidify the rotation after Charlie Morton possibly retires following the 2023 season.

What’s the most likely outcome for Ozuna? He’s on the 2023 Opening Day roster, traded for a player with similar bad contract, or released?

This might not be the desired response, but I expect he’ll be on Atlanta’s 2023 Opening Day roster. The Braves have unsuccessfully pursued potential bad contract swaps of Ozuna for both Patrick Corbin and Madison Bumgarner. Could something materialize? Possibly.

Could the Braves eat the $37 million owed Ozuna? Maybe. But given they just traded William Contreras to the Brewers, they don’t have another option to use as a primary designated hitter. So, I don’t see them going this route either.

I’m expecting Ozuna to come to camp with the understanding he has a chance to turn things around both on and off the field. If he could at least occasionally find the groove he found during the shortened 2020 season, he could be a serviceable bat in the lineup. If he is productive and isn’t a distraction in the clubhouse, the Braves could gain the value not available by releasing him or including him in a bad contract swap.

Do you think we will upgrade at SS or LF now? Is Bryan Reynolds a possibility at all? @BSum94

While I do think the Braves could still upgrade at one or both of these positions, I don’t know if Reynolds will be moved this winter. He did ask to be traded, but the Pirates don’t have to appease his request.

Regardless, after the Sean Murphy trade, I don’t know if the Braves have the pieces necessary to land Reynolds. In terms of prospects, the Braves’ most attractive pieces are AJ Smith Shawver, Jared Shuster, Owen Murphy and JR Ritchie. Not all four of these young pitchers will all necessarily become a part of Atlanta’s rotation in the future. But expect the club to protect its top pitching depth while planning for the potential departures of Fried and Morton over the next few years.

The Braves’ most recent success has been influenced by the success of homegrown pitchers. Look for them to continue following this blueprint.

If you were betting 680 The Fan’s Kevin McAlpin’s house who is most likely a Brave before Opening Day? Elvis Andrus, Adam Duvall, or Me?  @fakemarkbowman

Speaking of McAlpin, have you heard about this dude named Stan The Man? He’s an ambidextrous feller who throws 100 mph from both sides and records 100 mph exit velocities with his bunts. You can hear more about him during next year’s rain delays.

But seriously, thanks again for reading, listening, tweeting and being such great fans again this year. Let’s look forward to a great 2023.