Grading the Braves’ Offseason

What did the Braves need this offseason to push them into the World Series? Your answer: bullpen improvements, a power bat, another starting pitcher, a starting catcher, and retaining their depth options. There were a lot of options this year in free agency and a lot of top names on the market. Alex Anthopolous and the Atlanta Braves had clear-cut objectives going into the 2020 off-season and they capitalized.

Bullpen

  • Will Smith 4 year/$52 Million
  • Darren O’Day 2 year/$5.75 Million
  • Chris Martin 2 years/$14 Million
  • Shane Greene 1 year/$6.25 Million

They locked up 2019 All-Star Will Smith early in free agency while also making sure to retain Darren O’Day and Chris Martin. They also won their arbitration case with Shane Greene, which has him earning $6.25 million this year. These moves give the Braves six solid pieces (Smith, Mark Melancon, Greene, O’Day, Martin, and Luke Jackson) in the bullpen for 2020. In comparison to 2019, the Braves are in much better shape. They did spend a good amount of money put into the bullpen, but it will be worth it. It was hard to hold your breath every single game last season, and these moves will give Braves’ fans much-needed relief. At it sits right now, Melancon is still the Braves closer but Smith will get his opportunities.

Grade: A

Credit: San Francisco Giants

Power Bat

  • Marcell Ozuna 1 year/$18 Million

The Braves lost out on resigning Josh Donaldson, but they went and signed a power bat to fill his spot in the lineup this offseason. Marcell Ozuna came to the Braves on a no-risk, one-year deal. This deal pushed the platoon of Markakis and Duvall to the bench and will allow Camargo or Riley to play full-time at third base. Is this an improvement from Donaldson? No this is not, but Ozuna keeps the depth the Braves’ lineup needs. This signing allows the Braves to have a proven clean-up hitter and eliminate any questions on who will hit behind Freeman. Ozuna has had two down years, but he can still do damage as he showed in the NLDS. The contract is amazing since it doesn’t block Pache or Waters and isn’t cutting into long-term money. Ozuna is no Donaldson, but he will provide plenty of juice in the lineup.

Grade: B

Starting Pitching

  • Cole Hamels 1 year/$18 Million
  • Felix Hernández 1 year/$1 Million (Minors)

The Braves kept a similar structure to their starting rotation of 2019 with a good mix of veterans and young arms. They signed Cole Hamels to fill the spot that Dallas Kuechel left open along with taking a flier on Felix Hernández. The Braves now have four spots filled into their rotation with Hernández, Wilson, Newcomb, and Wright fighting for the fifth. Hamels will slide into the three spot and will be a great veteran presence for Soroka and Fried. Hamels is beyond his prime and went down with an injury last year that derailed his season. He still had a 3.81 ERA last year but had a 2.78 ERA in the first half of the season. Without a lockdown signing such as Wheeler or Ryu, this leaves question marks on more than just the back end of the rotation.

Grade: C-

Credit: MLB

Catcher

  • Travis d’Arnaud – 2 year/$16 Million

Similar to Smith, the Braves signed Travis d’Arnoud to a two-year deal early into free agency. This is an offensive improvement over McCann and Flowers. d’Arnaud had a .788 OPS in the second half of 2019 with the Rays and showed that he can be one of the better hitting catchers in the league. The Braves will still play Flowers 70-80 games; rightfully so since he is one of the best defensive catchers in the league. d’Arnaud is not an all-star nor a sexy-signing, but he was the second-best catcher on the market. This platoon is a definite upgrade over last years’ and Braves fans can expect an uptick in offensive production.

Grade: B

Depth

  • Adam Duvall 1 year/$3.25 Million
  • Adeiny Hechavarria 1 year/$1 Million
  • Charlie Culberson 1 year/$1 Million (Minors)
  • Yonder Alonso (Minors)
  • Pete Kozma (Minors)
  • Yangervis Solarte (Minors)

The Braves kept the depth that they had last year this offseason by re-signing Adam Duvall, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Charlie Culberson. They also added Pete Kozma, Yangervis Solarte, and Yonder Alonso on minor league deals. Duvall will fit in to be the fifth outfielder and Hechavarria will provide infield depth. The other four guys will start in Gwinnett but will be first to be called up when someone goes down. These guys are not top tier bench players but instead are veteran players who can make an impact when their names are called.

Grade: B

The Bottom Line

The biggest criticism for Braves offseason was that they did not land many big names. The starting pitching depth will be tested all season long with an aging Hamels an unsolidified fifth rotation spot. The bullpen is now one of the best in the league and d’Arnaud is an improvement behind the plate. The Braves kept their depth from last year and even added onto it. Overall, the Braves off-season has put them in a better position to make a run for the World Series.

Grade: B

*All Transaction information from the Braves MLB page and Spotrac*


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Justin Parrish
Senior Baseball Player and Sports Management Major at Eastern Mennonite University.

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