Looking at the Atlanta Braves, top prospects, free agency, and trades

The 2020 Major League Baseball season has come to a close and with it, the offseason has started. The Atlanta Braves had their deepest playoff run in two decades, making it to the NLCS losing in seven to the Los Angeles Dodgers. With contracts expiring and the Braves having top prospects that could make an impact, let’s look at offseason moves that Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos can make. 

1. Re-sign Marcell Ozuna

Marcell Ozuna was one of the best offseason signings in all of baseball for 2020. As Atlanta’s designated hitter, he was a pivotal bat in the Atlanta lineup. In the pandemic shortened season Ozuna led the National League in home runs, while also batting an impressive .338. Ozuna needed to fill the hole in the Atlanta lineup that Josh Donaldson left when he signed with Minnesota and there is no doubt that Ozuna filled the hole in the lineup but also made the case for him to get a big payday. Atlanta needs the power of Ozuna in the lineup and re-signing him makes sense.

However, should Atlanta fail to entice Ozuna back to Atlanta, options such as Adam Duvall could be a candidate to fill Ozuna’s spot but also within the organization, top prospects Cristian Pache and Drew Waters stick out being the #1 and #2 prospects respectfully. The Braves have their options but their best one is pointing towards welcoming Marcell Ozuna back to Atlanta.

2. Trade Ender Inciarte

Ender Inciarte was a pivotal member of the Atlanta Braves ever since he was traded to Atlanta back in 2015 from Arizona. Inciarte was Atlanta’s leadoff hitter until the arrival of former top prospect Ronald Acuna Jr. However with the changing nature of the Braves lineup and that the Braves’ top two prospects are outfielders, Inciarte’s time in Atlanta is up.

There is no doubting Inciarte’s fielding ability, he is a Gold Glove winner. His ability at the plate is starting to become questionable. In 2019, while dealing with injuries that limited him to only 65 games, he batted .246 and in 2020, playing in 46 games it didn’t get much better seeing him hit .190. Atlanta has their outfield of the future with Ronald Acuna Jr., and top prospects Cristian Pache and Drew Waters so finding a new home for Inciarte should be on the list of Anthopoulos this offseason.

3. Finding the 5th Starter

Atlanta’s rotation is one of the weaker points of the roster. Coming into 2020, it looked like there would be a fight for spots with the signing of Cole Hamels and Felix Hernandez and with the hope that Sean Newcomb and Mike Foltynewicz could shake off their rough 2019 seasons and come back stronger in 2020. Adding to that, Mike Soroka and Max Fried would be looking to continue their success.  Unfortunately for Atlanta, it didn’t work out that way. Hamels spent all but one game on the injured list with a shoulder issue, Hernandez opted out of the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic and Foltynewicz pitched once against Tampa Bay in which he failed to impress, thus being optioned to the alternate training site. Soroka pitched on Opening Day but found himself on the injured list following a torn Achilles tendon in early August. The two positives to come out of the rotation was Max Fried going 7-0 and the emergence of top prospect Ian Anderson at the Major league level. 

2020 showed that the Braves lacked depth in pitching. While the fifth starter could be left for an “opener” role filled by A.J. Minter, Josh Tomlin, or Tyler Maztek, a fifth starter could be what separates the Braves from their finish in 2020 to postseason glory in 2021. 

4. Extending Freddie Freeman

While not necessarily a free-agency move, this is a no-brainer. Freeman is coming off one the best seasons of his career, having him winning the National League MVP, a Silver Slugger, and Outstanding Player of the Year in the Ol

Currently, Freeman’s contract ends in 2021 and a player of his caliber is not someone Atlanta should take a risk in losing. Freeman has been an Atlanta Brave since he was drafted in 2007 and ever since he came up to the Majors, he has been one of the most consistent performers on the Atlanta roster. Freeman is currently 31 and still has at least half of a decade left in him. Freddie Freeman is the current generation’s Chipper Jones, a talented, one franchise player and with all the accolades rolling in, Freeman deserves a huge payday.

5. The Catching situation

Travis d’Arnaud was another one of Atlanta’s offseason signings leading into 2020. d’Arnaud showed the same d’Arnaud that was in Tampa Bay and not the d’Arnaud that was with the Mets. d’Arnaud was one of the best catchers in the league in 2020 and luckily for Atlanta, he signed a two-year deal in 2020 so he will be returning to the Atlanta lineup. 

However, backup catcher Tyler Flowers’ contract expired at the end of 2020 thus leaving Atlanta with one catcher on the Major League roster. Luckily three of the Braves’ top prospects are catchers. Alex Jackson (#21 prospect) has played at the Major League level already and could be called upon to do a job again. There are other names such as William Contreras, the brother to Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, and Shea Langeliers that are both top ten prospects for the Atlanta Braves. Since the Braves do have young catchers that have potential, signing a catcher should not be a priority this offseason, instead, let the role of backup catcher be decided in Spring Training. 

These are just suggested moves that Alex Anthopolous could make this offseason. We already saw his intent to improve the team with the signing of Drew Smyly. The Braves still have a talented roster and plenty of top prospects in positions they need help in. The Braves top prospects in Ian Anderson and Cristian Pache (to some extent) picked up the team when called upon so its clear to see that if the Braves were to trust their prospects over big-name signings, it can be done.