What’s next for the Braves? Three questions facing Atlanta after loss to Phillies in NLDS

For the twenty second consecutive season, Major League Baseball won’t have a repeat champion. The 2021 World Series champion Atlanta Braves have been despatched packing by way of the NL East rival Philadelphia Phillies in Game 4 of the 2022 NLDS on Saturday. The 1998-2000 Yankees stay baseball’s remaining repeat champion. The recreation is in an unheard of technology of parity.

“Well, we ran into a really hot team, pretty much,” Braves supervisor Brian Snitker mentioned after the Game 4 loss. “They were hitting on all cylinders. They were playing great baseball. They got big hits. They shut us down offensively, and I think all the credit goes to the Phillies. They came in here, like I say, they got hot at the right time and played a heck of a series.”

The Braves received 101 video games all over the common season and so they received their 5th consecutive NL East identify in spite of being 10 1/2 video games again on June 1 — most effective the 1951 Dodgers (13 video games) and 1995 Angels (11 video games) have blown higher department leads than the 2022 Mets* — even though given their roster, any season that ends with any person else being the remaining workforce status is a unhappiness.

* The Yankees famously erased a 14-game deficit to win the AL East in 1978, even though the Yankees have been in fourth position at the time. The Red Sox by no means led the department by way of greater than 10 video games that 12 months.

That mentioned, the fast postseason go out does not diminish what looks as if one in all the absolute best cores in baseball, if now not the absolute best. The Braves have aggressively locked up their core gamers to long-term extensions. Just have a look at those offers:

  • OF Ronald Acuña Jr. Jr.: Signed via 2026 with membership choices for 2027 and 2028.
  • 2B Ozzie Albies: Signed via 2025 with membership choices for 2026 and 2027.
  • OF Michael Harris II: Signed via 2030 with membership choices for 2031 and 2032.
  • 1B Matt Olson: Signed via 2029 with a membership choice for 2030.
  • 3B Austin Riley: Signed via 2032 with a membership choice for 2033.
  • RHP Spencer Strider: Signed via 2028 with a membership choice for 2029.

Those six gamers will probably be in combination via a minimum of 2025 and doubtlessly via 2027, with maximum signed well past that. The moderate annual worth of the ones six contracts is $81.2 million. That is an absolute scouse borrow. Acuña and Riley may’ve commanded that a lot on their very own had they hit loose company as scheduled after the 2024 and 2025 seasons, respectively.

Atlanta’s core is younger, superb, and signed cheaply for the higher a part of the next decade. I’m now not positive any workforce is about up as smartly for long-term good fortune as those Braves. So, whilst the NLDS loss was once a letdown, there’s no reason why to assume this workforce will fade out of competition anytime quickly. They’re arrange to stay amongst the sport’s elite groups for a very long time.

With that in thoughts, listed below are 3 urgent problems facing the Braves this offseason, as they give the impression of being to get again on most sensible and win every other World Series identify in 2023. 

1. Will they re-sign Swanson?

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It’s more straightforward to record the core Braves gamers who do not need a long-term extension at this level: Max Fried and Dansby Swanson. Fried is underneath workforce keep an eye on via 2024, so Atlanta nonetheless has various time to lock their ace up. Swanson is a loose agent this offseason, then again, and the Braves do not need an evident inheritor obvious (Vaughn Grissom is thought of as a subpar defender at brief).

“The bottom line is, he’s real important,” GM Alex Anthopoulos mentioned about Swanson all over an interview with Dukes & Bell previous this month. “He plays a premium position, and he’s important. He’s important. Especially for me this past year, he’s always been important but he stepped up – I’m not even talking on the field, I’m talking even in the clubhouse – he stepped up more this year than anybody would have expected. He’s taken a lot on … You put yourself in the GM’s chair, you don’t want to lose a glue guy, but – there’s got to be a but – it’s not that easy. That being said, we want him. We need him.”

Swanson grew up out of doors Atlanta and he is spent all however six months of his occupation with the Braves after the Diamondbacks made him the No. 1 select in the 2015 draft (the D-Backs despatched him to the Braves in the ill-fated Shelby Miller business in December 2015). He had a breakout 12 months in 2022, even though it got here extra on the defensive facet than at the plate, and at age 28, Swanson is correct smack in the high of his occupation. Atlanta’s championship window is presently and Swanson suits is completely in such a lot of tactics.

Xander Bogaerts and Carlos Correa are anticipated to choose out in their contracts and sign up for Swanson and Trea Turner in loose company. Correa and Turner are the absolute best all-around gamers in that workforce and determine to command the greatest contracts. Bogaerts might not be a shortstop for much longer, even though his monitor document as an elite offensive participant is for much longer than Swanson’s. Last 12 months’s loose agent elegance was once superb as smartly. Here are the ones offers:

Correa’s contract is an outlier. It was once necessarily a one-year handle a two-year insurance coverage in case of catastrophic damage or underperformance. That deal permits him to re-enter loose company this offseason, at age 28, and and not using a qualifying be offering strings hooked up. It’s laborious to consider Swanson would take a identical deal. This is his absolute best likelihood at an enormous loose agent payday.

With all due recognize, Swanson isn’t any Seager, who hit loose company a 12 months more youthful than Swanson is now and was once a a lot more completed hitter. Swanson suits firmly in that Báez/Story to Semien vary, I feel. Paying giant for defense-first gamers is dangerous, but if your core is signed as cheaply as Atlanta’s, you’ll have the funds for to splurge to stay your prime-aged shortstop round.

The Cubs, Dodgers, and Yankees stand out as groups that might play the sport of shortstop musical chairs this offseason. Possibly the Cardinals too, and possibly the up-and-coming Orioles as smartly. It would behoove the Braves to lock up Swanson quickly to steer clear of a bidding struggle now not simply for Swanson, however a alternative will have to he signal somewhere else. Free company is unpredictable. All it takes is one determined proprietor or GM to come in with an enormous be offering to trade the panorama.

2. How do they type via their pitching intensity?

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To be transparent, having pitching intensity is in no means an issue. It’s now not even a luxurious. It’s a need. In Fried, Strider, and breakout righty Kyle Wright, the Braves have an enviable 1-2-3 punch atop the rotation. And as a result of their core is signed so cheaply, they are able to have the funds for to carry Charlie Morton again next season on a $20 million deal. Splurging on one-year offers makes sense industry.

Beyond the ones most sensible 4 starters and swingman Jake Odorizzi (Odorizzi holds a $12.5 million participant choice for 2023), the Braves have those fingers in position heading into the offseason (indexed alphabetically):

Righty Freddy Tarnok (No. 6 prospect in step with MLB.com) and lefty Dylan Dodd (No. 16 prospect in step with MLB.com) are knocking on the door of the giant leagues too. That’s a large number of high quality choices at the back of the most sensible 4, even though all include questions. Will Soroka be wholesome? Can Anderson rebound? Can Muller and/or Shuster be efficient giant leaguers? That’s why having numbers is necessary. Atlanta can cycle via their choices till they in finding the right combination.

Keeping this pitching intensity and taking it into 2023 is justifiable and albeit sensible. At the identical time, younger pitching is one in all the most respected commodities in the sport, and I will be able to’t assist however wonder if Anthopoulos sees this as a chance to do one thing actually giant and actually impactful this offseason. On that observe …

3. Will they make a large splash?

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Anthopoulos hasn’t ever shied clear of creating a blockbuster, and with their core locked up cheaply, the Braves are in place to be opportunistic and pounce on anything else that is sensible. Consider a few of the giant names who may hit the business marketplace this offseason (indexed alphabetically):

  • RHP Corbin Burnes, Brewers: Burnes is 2 years clear of loose company and lately mentioned Milwaukee has now not approached him about an extension. Could the Brewers business Burnes this wintry weather like they traded Josh Hader at the cut-off date?
  • C Sean Murphy, Athletics: The Braves traded most sensible catching prospect Shea Langeliers to get Olson remaining offseason and Travis d’Arnaud generally is a loose agent after 2023. Murphy and William Contreras could be an excellent 1-2 punch at the back of the plate.
  • DH/RHP Shohei Ohtani, Angels: Hoo boy, this is able to be a laugh, would it not? The six-man rotation factor generally is a headache, however for a skill like Ohtani, you work it out. Ohtani is a 12 months clear of loose company, however twelve months of Ohtani is insanely precious.
  • OF Bryan Reynolds, Pirates: Eleven other gamers have began a sport in left box for Atlanta the remaining two years. Wouldn’t or not it’s great to put an finish to that revolving door and fill the place with a switch-hitting All-Star controllable via 2025?

The Braves are arrange for long-term good fortune in addition to any workforce in baseball. That’s essentially as a result of they’ve their core locked up to such reasonably priced contracts. It’s additionally as a result of they’ve the assets (payroll flexibility and tradeable potentialities) to soar on an affect participant(s) who hits the business marketplace to additional complement their core. The NLDS loss was once a bummer. Moving ahead, the Braves have put themselves in superb place to stay amongst the recreation’s maximum dominant groups.

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