Life must be pretty good for the Atlanta Braves. They can kick back and watch all the headlines be about the New York Mets and their Correa fiasco, or the Mets and their Edwin Diaz fiasco, or the Philadelphia Phillies signing Trea Turner without really solving the problem that their outfield will look like demolition derby most nights.
Sure, there was the divisional round loss when Spencer Strider went boom and Brian Snitker kind of fell asleep on it. But if the Braves’ ninth-inning rally in Game 1 had produced just one more run, maybe they bounce that series back to Atlanta and White Flight Park for a Game 5. On such margins…
This is still a 101-win team, which backed up their World Series-winning team. The Braves didn’t have to do much, and they didn’t really. Their big moves were to swap out catcher William Contreras for Sean Murphy and then laugh maniacally at the Cubs when they decided to overpay Dansby Swanson, the one homegrown product the Braves watched walk out the door and then went back to playing Galaga. Murphy is the better overall player than Contreras or an aging Travis d’Arnaud, but he’ll do well to match Contreras’s over-his-head production last year (138 wRC+). d’Arnaud as a backup is a fine thing, though.
Other than that, the Braves themselves are pretty much running it back much like the Mets, just without the noise and not having to replace nearly as much like-for-like as New York did. Their questions are in left and at DH, where both Eddie Rosario and Marcell Ozuna are decomposing (which is a good thing in Ozuna’s case). Vaughn Grissom didn’t take the shortstop job in spring training so he’ll start the year in AAA but will be the starting SS before too long one imagines. Grissom hit well in his cameo last year (.291/.353/.440) but was pretty paddle-handed at second base. So even when he does come up from the minors it’s a mystery whether he can handle short every day. This and the brief interlude of Orlando Arcia is still what the Braves preferred to paying Swanson. Still, it’s the one spot in the lineup where the Braves lost something and haven’t really replaced it, and may be something they feel they need to address come the trade deadline if Grissom never finds it. They also lost some depth when Adam Duvall toddled off to Boston, and the bench will pretty much be Arcia eventually and Kevin Pillar to occasionally run into a wall.
The top four of the rotation return intact, and also intact is Michael Soroka’s inability to stop eating the cursed frogurt as he’s on the IL again with hamstring troubles. Ian Anderson pitched himself out of the fifth spot and looks set to be replaced by top prospect Jared Schuster (has there ever been a more Braves name than “Jared Schuster?”). Charlie Morton will turn 40 right after the season and started to look it last year as hitters had far more success sending his pitches into someone’s beer cup out beyond the various walls of MLB. They’ll hope to shove him down the pecking order if Spencer Strider can throw more than 130 innings, Kyle Wright gains more experience, and maybe Soroka can locate the gremlin that lives in his house and finally slay it and change his fortunes.
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They rid themselves of Kenley Jansen in the pen, turning things over full-time to A.J. Minter, and found one of the few useful Tigers in Joe Jimenez via trade (he struck out a third of the hitters he faced last year and you assuredly didn’t hear about it).
Everything about the Braves seems standard now. The core of this roster is basically locked in until Fried hits free agency after the 2024 season. Even with their holes in left and DH and short, they’re so good everywhere else that they can basically sleepwalk to 95 wins. The rotation’s questions are all at the bottom and fixable.
The Mets still lack some power and the top of their rotation has a combined age of Gandalf. The Phillies will be missing their best player for half the season and will treat the baseball like it’s covered in scorpions selling knives a lot of nights. And the Braves just hum along.
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