We’re now almost two weeks removed from the Texas Rangers’ World Series win, which means that it’s about time for Hot Stove season to really start burning. For most of the year, the Atlanta Braves looked like they’d be the ones with a championship parade in November, only for another sensational season to be undone in an NLDS collapse. Now Atlanta enters a critical offseason, armed with as much cost-controlled talent as anyone in the sport but with clear issues that need to be addressed if they want to avoid third straight October flameout. What are the Braves’ biggest needs? How aggressive will Alex Anthopoulos get? We’re here to break it all down.
Braves offseason preview
Season in review
There was plenty about 2023 to be proud of: an MLB-best 104-58 record, an MLB-best +231 run differential and an offense was not only the best in baseball but one of the best in the history of the sport. Of course, no one will remember any of that because of how it ended, in another four-game loss to the division-rival Phillies in the Division Series. The lineup that had been so relentless all summer went quiet at the worst possible time, and a pitching staff that had begun leaking oil down the stretch couldn’t make up the difference.
Pending free agents
Anthopoulos’ ability to lock down just about every member of Atlanta’s core has left the Braves without a ton of unrestricted free agents to worry about. The biggest names on the list are outfielders Eddie Rosario and Kevin Pillar and relievers Collin McHugh, Brad Hand, Kirby Yates and Jesse Chavez, none of whom played a particularly integral role in 2023 and none of whom should be that hard to replace.
In case this wasn’t clear already: pitching, pitching and more pitching, both in the rotation and in the bullpen. Atlanta exercised Charlie Morton’s option for 2024, but that will be the righty’s age-40 season, and it still leaves them with just four reliable starters in Morton, Spencer Strider, Max Fried and Bryce Elder. Kyle Wright isn’t expected back until 2025, Michael Soroka’s health is once again a question mark and A.J. Smith-Shawver battled through an up-and-down rookie season; there isn’t a natural option for the fifth spot, and even the four they’re currently pencilling in aren’t the most reliable bunch. They could also use a setup man behind Raisel Iglesias, with Yates moving on, A.J. Minter battling inconsistency and Nick Anderson unable to stay healthy.
The departure of Rosario leaves Atlanta with a hole in left field, but for the most part the Braves are in desperate need of one more arm, preferably one without much of an injury history.
Best free-agent fits
There are plenty of veteran outfielders who can be had for one- or two-year deals, from Tommy Pham to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to Kevin Kiermaier to old friend Joc Pederson. (Or Atlanta could even make a run at Teoscar Hernandez, though he feels a bit redundant in a group that’s certainly not lacking for power.)
As for pitching, well, there are already reports indicating that the Braves intend on shopping at the top of the market, as well they should with money to spend and a contention window that’s wide-open. Aaron Nola has experience with Atlanta pitching coach Rick Kranitz from Kranitz’s time in Philadelphia and could be a fit, or the Braves could choose to pursue someone like lefties Blake Snell, Eduardo Rodriguez and Jordan Montgomery or righties Lucas Giolito and Marcus Stroman. (As for the bullpen, the splashy move would be to make a run at fireballing lefty Josh Hader, but Jordan Hicks, Hector Neris and Robert Stephenson would all be perfectly cromulent eighth-inning guys.)
There are also several frontline starters who figure to be available via trade, from Brewers righty Corbin Burnes to Rays righty Tyler Glasnow to White Sox righty (and suburban Atlanta native) Dylan Cease. The Braves don’t have the deepest farm system from which to draw, but they do have a bevy of young arms like Smith-Shawver, Owen Murphy and 2023 first-round pick Hurston Waldrep. Bottom line: This is as win-now a team as exists in the Majors, and they have several avenues to ensuring that their rotation is far sturdier than it was last year — when, again, they won 104 games.