Atlanta far from done after dealing for Kelenic

December 5th, 2023

NASHVILLE -- The Braves haven’t shown serious interest in free agent Shohei Ohtani, and it doesn’t feel like they should be considered favorites to land White Sox right-hander Dylan Cease via a trade.

But as the first day of the Winter Meetings elapsed on Monday, there was still a sense Atlanta could make at least one more big move. 

The Braves said they ended their search for a left fielder when they acquired Jarred Kelenic from the Mariners on Sunday night. It will now be interesting to see if they are able to add an experienced and controllable starter to their rotation.

Cease was certainly on the Braves’ radar, but it doesn’t feel like there is currently a fit. In fact, it seems like Atlanta’s interest and involvement has been overblown.

This doesn’t mean the Braves won’t potentially add a frontline starter to their rotation. Corbin Burnes and Tyler Glasnow are two of the top available starters who could be acquired via a trade. Or, Braves president of baseball operations and GM Alex Anthopoulos could extend his tradition of making a surprise acquisition.

“I think the only thing I've been consistent with -- not all the time, but for the most part -- the majority of the stuff that we do does not leak,” Anthopoulos said. “The majority of the guys that we're interested in don't leak.”

There certainly wasn’t any indication Anthopoulos was prepping to take on the bad contracts possessed by left-handed pitcher Marco Gonzales and underperforming infielder Evan White to land Kelenic. But if Kelenic starts to show why he was MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 prospect as recently as 2021, the Braves will have no problem with the financial costs they assumed to land him.

Atlanta did receive $4.5 million from the Mariners. This will help pay for Gonzales, who is owed $12.25 million next year, and White, who is owed $7 million for 2024 and $15 million over the next two seasons.

Gonzales could be flipped to another team and White, who hasn’t played in the Majors since 2021, doesn’t necessarily seem like a fit. So, the question is, will the Braves shed any of this cost via other trades?

If the Braves are going to make a significant trade, they could use some of the pitching depth that was enhanced over the past year with the ascension of AJ Smith-Shawver and the arrival of Hurston Waldrep, two young arms who could both make starts in Atlanta next year.

Or the Braves could attempt to move designated hitter Marcell Ozuna -- who is owed $18 million before his contract expires at the end of the 2024 season -- or closer Raisel Iglesias, who is owed $16 million both of the next two seasons.

Ozuna bounced back with a 40-homer season this year. The Braves could roll the dice on him repeating his success. Or they could sell high and strengthen their pitching staff. Iglesias is also a sell-high candidate. He’s a dependable and proven closer. But Reynaldo Lopez, Pierce Johnson, Joe Jiménez and A.J. Minter are all seemingly capable of filling that role.

The Braves added to their payroll with the additions of Gonzales and White. Some of their costs could be erased with future deals. But another way to reduce the penalties that would be incurred by going past the luxury tax threshold for a second straight year would be to move Ozuna or Iglesias.