In a high-profile interview that any Braves fan will want to check out in full, Atlanta GM Alex Anthopoulos confirmed to Jeff Schultz of The Athletic that he has been informed by the property that he will have the option to “add payroll on deadline”.
It’s common for teams to leave room for in-season maneuvering during their off-season transactions, but this kind of direct recognition from a baseball operations manager is always to be noted – especially following a offseason in which virtually every club in the game had to work with more budget constraints than usual. The Braves were no exception, as they spent a lot to sort out the rotation and re-sign. Marcell Ozuna but seemed to have a fairly strict budget beyond these movements. The bullpen remained largely unanswered, although the Braves eventually brought Shane Greene back in the mix with an affordable one-year contract in early May.
There is a wide range of directions the Braves can choose to take to strengthen the roster, although like most clubs, they are likely weeks away from any real deal. Sellers often prefer to wait until the market is more competitive, and the Braves themselves probably want to take more time to evaluate the list right now. Atlanta is five games away from first place so far and three games under .500. The Braves are likely to function as a buyer, given the generally disappointing performance of the whole NL East, but an extended losing streak could send them in another direction, of course.
It’s also highly likely that the Braves will want to gather more information on internal reinforcements before spending what still appears to be a limited amount of available resources. To that end, Anthopoulos notably reveals that he’s optimistic the Braves will get Mike Soroka, Travis d’Arnaud and Huascar Ynoa back at some point in August.
The general assumption has been that Ynoa, who broke his hand after hitting the bench in the dugout after a poor outing, would make his comeback in the second half of the season. But it was not at all clear about Arnaud and particularly about Soroka. Arnaud’s veteran was released since May 1st after tearing a ligament in the thumb that required surgery.
Soroka, meanwhile, opened the year on the injured list while completing the Achilles tear rehabilitation which limited him to just three starts in 2020. But he felt some discomfort in his right shoulder. which slowed down his rehabilitation, and once he increased seriously, he experienced discomfort in his surgically repaired Achilles tendon, which Induced exploratory surgery. Anthopoulos declined to go into details but noted that the Braves had received “good news” about the right-hander.
With d’Arnaud outside, young Guillaume Contreras stepped up with a .240 / .313 / .460 showing in 112 plaque appearances. His bat has cooled off from a hot start, but that production exceeds Arnaud’s in the first month of the season. Of course, the veteran was brilliant for Atlanta in 2020 – the first season of a two-year, $ 16 million contract.
If Atlanta is confident that Soroka, Arnaud, and Ynoa can return at some point in August, it could reduce the temptation to allocate some potential capital and financial resources to rotational upgrades or obtaining help. This would make the bullpen and outfield much more likely targets for outside additions. The Braves’ relievers have a collective ERA of 4.77, which ranks fifth overall. The Atlanta outfielders, as a group, are 10th in majors with a 104 wRC + at the plate, but almost all of their production has come from Ronald Acuna Jr. The non-Acuna Braves outfielder beat a combined of .215 / .294 / .356.
The commercial market offers various outfield and pen options – you can browse our initial list of the top 40 sales candidates for a few ideas – but Anthopoulos has generally not shied away from making upgrades to the commercial market in the past. With the Braves, he made mid-season deals to acquire Greene, Chris Martin, Adam duval, Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day, Brad Brach and Marc Melançon. Last year was an unusually quiet deadline for Anthopoulos, but the Braves had a rather comfortable division lead and might not have wanted to spend a lot of resources with just a month of games past the deadline and with a extended field of series.
Again, we’re probably weeks away from the Braves or whatever club starting to look for some really meaningful additions to the roster – a reality Anthopoulos himself acknowledges when discussing a generally open approach to the deadline. of this year. The entire interview, which also covers Freddie freeman, a few early thoughts on Contreras’ play, and a myriad of other list issues, are well worth a full review. But the general finding that the Braves will have some financial leeway is important, especially at a time when many other teams will not have that luxury.
The Yankees, Astros, and Red Sox, for example, are all within $ 4 million of the luxury tax barrier. Division rivals The Phillies are just under $ 5 million from the $ 210 million threshold, while the Padres are around $ 6 million from the tax line. The Indians and the Reds both made substantial wage cuts over the winter; it is not yet clear how much (if any) additional salary they will be prepared to accept.
We probably won’t know how much Atlanta can boost its results. Anthopoulos, like a general manager or team president, would never give him a hand directly. However, the sheer presence of additional resources and the nearly $ 50 million wiggle room the Braves have between the current payroll and the luxury tax line should give them some edge when looking to keep veterans away from it all. ‘other clubs.