Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos Is Shrewd; Now He Has To Be Bold And Get An Ace

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Atlanta Braves General Manager Alex Anthopoulos should get one of the three Executive of the Year Awards given out in baseball for his work in 2019. Without some of his moves, the Braves would have struggled with injuries in July and August. They won the NL East, which was a pretty decent division, going away.

Anthopoulos got the signing of third baseman Josh Donaldson right, which is hard to do with a player coming off 1 1/2 seasons of injuries. The Braves do not win the NL East without Donaldson, who added the home run pop the 2018 club was missing.

Dallas Keuchel was picked up for a decent price and was steady. Say what you will about the bullpen in October, but when the Braves were going through the injury bug, the bullpen did nice work. Anthopoulos shored it up at the trade deadline. That bullpen will be back—mostly—in 2019 and, with one addition, it is going to be fine.

Anthopoulos also got superstar Ronald Acuna, Jr. signed to a long-term deal, along with second baseman Ozzie Albies.

Now, Anthopoulos has to prove himself again—if the bean counters allow it.

If he has money, there should be no debate for the Braves in the offseason. No hem and haw and indecision and waiting out the market.

The next step for the Braves is to get a bonafide ace, a No. 1.

Do they go into 2020 thinking Mike Soroka and Max Fried are the No. 1 ace every team needs? Better not.

The call has to be made that still-young Soroka is the No. 2, Fried the No. 3, and Mike Fotynewicz the No. 4. If Ian Anderson, Wright, or Wilson are the No. 5, who is the No. 1?

This has to be the way the Braves are thinking. All-in. Get a top gun.

The Braves need an arm to start a lose-or-go-home game in a playoff series. They need an arm that won’t cave to an error and bad hop. They have a lot of 1-year deals expiring, but they have the pieces to win a division title, which is not enough. You saw that with the debacle Wednesday in Sun Trust Park, a 13-1 loss to St. Louis.

The whole organizational tear down that started in 2014 depends on Anthopoulos getting the ace the club needs in December or January to support Fried, Soroka, and Folty.

There was some fan outrage this past offseason when the Braves did not spend more than the $23 million to sign Donaldson. The Braves have debt to pay down for The Battery construction projects, but they have to spend now because the fan base is not going to be happy with this middle muddle of just doing enough. How many times can Anthopoulos pull a rabbit out of the hat?

They have been collecting rent on this real estate endeavor called The Battery for three years now. Business has been booming in the shops. They got a lot of public money for the stadium, and the roads and security. Now spend it.

In this day and age of Major League Baseball, it is hard to win without going all-in.

It’s fun watching a shrewd GM work while the deep pocket teams flail, but the Braves need to barge through this open window while they still can.

So they shoot for Gerrit Cole, the best pitcher in baseball. The Braves will have to pay at least $30 million a year. Cole is 29 years old and it could be a demand for 7 years, understanding he might pitch at a high rate for five. The Braves have been dead-set against these kind of deals for obvious reasons, but perhaps it’s time to jump at one.

Cole to the Braves? Really? It can happen. Remember when there were doubts 26 years ago GM John Schuerholz could get Greg Maddux?

If it’s not Cole, it could be the Mets’ Zack Wheeler, an Atlanta guy. In 2019, Wheeler had a 3.96 ERA and 1.26 WHIP, and averaged a strikeout an inning in 195 innings.

The Mets can make a qualifying offer (it will probably be around $18 million) and if Wheeler rejects it, and the Braves can jump into the bidding war. The Braves risk losing what looks like a third-round pick as compensation. That would be very un-Braves like.

If the Braves can match the offer of other suitors, they can get Wheeler to come home. The problem is Wheeler has not had the big payday in his career. He is going to want to be paid. Pay him.

After Wheeler, you get down to Stephen Strasburg (if he opts out) or Madison Bumgarner, or maybe the Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu, but he has had some injury issues.

There could be another emerging starter out there Braves scouts have settled on.

The Braves’ rotation has quality No. 2 and No. 3 in Soroka and Fried. Folty is going to win 10 games. Wright and Wilson are on the come.

It’s not enough. They need an ace.

They need a catcher, too. They think they got their guy—Shane Langeliers—but he was a 2019 draft pick. No way he is ready until 2021, at least. William Contreras hit .364 his last 10 games in minor league ball, but a Braves source said the minor league catchers are a year away. So the solution is a free agent, or a trade. There are 30-year old plus catchers galore hitting the open market.

The Braves have a slew of 1-year deals expiring, chief among them Donaldson, the slugging third baseman. The bet here is he stays. He liked it here and with Austin Riley just perplexed the second half, Donaldson takes third for another year if the Braves can up the deal just a bit from $23 million.

The Braves solve left field by using Riley. He fell off the map the second half when he lost control of the strike zone, but there will be a reckoning with that kid over the winter. Expect him to respond.

It remains to be seen if center field phenom Cristian Pache, 20, moves Acuna to the corner. And what about playoff hero Adam Duvall? Ender Inciarte is a marvelous centerfielder and has two years remaining on his contract. But will he hit?

The Braves have four All-Star-caliber every day players, Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson and Freddie Freeman. (You watch Swanson take off).

They need a catcher, and a path forward in the outfield. What they really need is Cole or Wheeler, or some other ace.

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Atlanta Braves General Manager Alex Anthopoulos should get one of the three Executive of the Year Awards given out in baseball for his work in 2019. Without some of his moves, the Braves would have struggled with injuries in July and August. They won the NL East, which was a pretty decent division, going away.

Anthopoulos got the signing of third baseman Josh Donaldson right, which is hard to do with a player coming off 1 1/2 seasons of injuries. The Braves do not win the NL East without Donaldson, who added the home run pop the 2018 club was missing.

Dallas Keuchel was picked up for a decent price and was steady. Say what you will about the bullpen in October, but when the Braves were going through the injury bug, the bullpen did nice work. Anthopoulos shored it up at the trade deadline. That bullpen will be back—mostly—in 2019 and, with one addition, it is going to be fine.

Anthopoulos also got superstar Ronald Acuna, Jr. signed to a long-term deal, along with second baseman Ozzie Albies.

Now, Anthopoulos has to prove himself again—if the bean counters allow it.

If he has money, there should be no debate for the Braves in the offseason. No hem and haw and indecision and waiting out the market.

The next step for the Braves is to get a bonafide ace, a No. 1.

Do they go into 2020 thinking Mike Soroka and Max Fried are the No. 1 ace every team needs? Better not.

The call has to be made that still-young Soroka is the No. 2, Fried the No. 3, and Mike Fotynewicz the No. 4. If Ian Anderson, Wright, or Wilson are the No. 5, who is the No. 1?

This has to be the way the Braves are thinking. All-in. Get a top gun.

The Braves need an arm to start a lose-or-go-home game in a playoff series. They need an arm that won’t cave to an error and bad hop. They have a lot of 1-year deals expiring, but they have the pieces to win a division title, which is not enough. You saw that with the debacle Wednesday in Sun Trust Park, a 13-1 loss to St. Louis.

The whole organizational tear down that started in 2014 depends on Anthopoulos getting the ace the club needs in December or January to support Fried, Soroka, and Folty.

There was some fan outrage this past offseason when the Braves did not spend more than the $23 million to sign Donaldson. The Braves have debt to pay down for The Battery construction projects, but they have to spend now because the fan base is not going to be happy with this middle muddle of just doing enough. How many times can Anthopoulos pull a rabbit out of the hat?

They have been collecting rent on this real estate endeavor called The Battery for three years now. Business has been booming in the shops. They got a lot of public money for the stadium, and the roads and security. Now spend it.

In this day and age of Major League Baseball, it is hard to win without going all-in.

It’s fun watching a shrewd GM work while the deep pocket teams flail, but the Braves need to barge through this open window while they still can.

So they shoot for Gerrit Cole, the best pitcher in baseball. The Braves will have to pay at least $30 million a year. Cole is 29 years old and it could be a demand for 7 years, understanding he might pitch at a high rate for five. The Braves have been dead-set against these kind of deals for obvious reasons, but perhaps it’s time to jump at one.

Cole to the Braves? Really? It can happen. Remember when there were doubts 26 years ago GM John Schuerholz could get Greg Maddux?

If it’s not Cole, it could be the Mets’ Zack Wheeler, an Atlanta guy. In 2019, Wheeler had a 3.96 ERA and 1.26 WHIP, and averaged a strikeout an inning in 195 innings.

The Mets can make a qualifying offer (it will probably be around $18 million) and if Wheeler rejects it, and the Braves can jump into the bidding war. The Braves risk losing what looks like a third-round pick as compensation. That would be very un-Braves like.

If the Braves can match the offer of other suitors, they can get Wheeler to come home. The problem is Wheeler has not had the big payday in his career. He is going to want to be paid. Pay him.

After Wheeler, you get down to Stephen Strasburg (if he opts out) or Madison Bumgarner, or maybe the Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu, but he has had some injury issues.

There could be another emerging starter out there Braves scouts have settled on.

The Braves’ rotation has quality No. 2 and No. 3 in Soroka and Fried. Folty is going to win 10 games. Wright and Wilson are on the come.

It’s not enough. They need an ace.

They need a catcher, too. They think they got their guy—Shane Langeliers—but he was a 2019 draft pick. No way he is ready until 2021, at least. William Contreras hit .364 his last 10 games in minor league ball, but a Braves source said the minor league catchers are a year away. So the solution is a free agent, or a trade. There are 30-year old plus catchers galore hitting the open market.

The Braves have a slew of 1-year deals expiring, chief among them Donaldson, the slugging third baseman. The bet here is he stays. He liked it here and with Austin Riley just perplexed the second half, Donaldson takes third for another year if the Braves can up the deal just a bit from $23 million.

The Braves solve left field by using Riley. He fell off the map the second half when he lost control of the strike zone, but there will be a reckoning with that kid over the winter. Expect him to respond.

It remains to be seen if center field phenom Cristian Pache, 20, moves Acuna to the corner. And what about playoff hero Adam Duvall? Ender Inciarte is a marvelous centerfielder and has two years remaining on his contract. But will he hit?

The Braves have four All-Star-caliber every day players, Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson and Freddie Freeman. (You watch Swanson take off).

They need a catcher, and a path forward in the outfield. What they really need is Cole or Wheeler, or some other ace.

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