A busy offseason is on tap!
The 2021 season ended in the best possible way for the Atlanta Braves, as they hoisted the championship trophy for the first time in 26 long years. The team will celebrate that championship Friday with a massive parade that will take place in multiple phases.
As glorious as that championship was, the offseason is now here, and it is going to be an interesting one. Like most teams, the Braves have some pretty big questions to answer in regards to their roster for the 2022 season. We took a look at some important offseason dates Tuesday, the biggest of which is December 1, when the current CBA expires.
Major League Baseball is facing its first work stoppage since 1994, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the 2022 season will be delayed. Hopefully both sides will find some common ground, but given the discourse over the last few seasons, it is going to be a bumpy ride.
With that as the backdrop, we turn our attention to the current Braves roster. Seven players filed for free agency Wednesday, a group that is headlined by 2020 MVP Freddie Freeman. Atlanta currently has 34 players on the 40-man roster. The Braves also have three players on the 60-day injured list in Ronald Acuña Jr., Grant Dayton and Mike Soroka that will be added back to the roster in the next few days, bringing that number to 37 players on the 40-man.
Free Agents (7)
- Ehire Adrianza
- Jesse Chavez
- Freddie Freeman
- Chris Martin
- Eddie Rosario
- Drew Smyly
- Jorge Soler
That is quite a group of free agents leaving the team. When Spring Training began back in February, I never dreamed we would get to this point on the calendar with Freeman unsigned. He by far is the team’s biggest priority for the offseason. He has stated publicly that he wants to remain in Atlanta and the club says they want him back. Still, no deal has happened and now other teams will be able to get into the mix, unless the Braves make a signing during their exclusive five-day negotiating window in the “quiet period,” which runs through this weekend. My gut says that Freeman returns but the Braves have probably cost themselves some money by playing it out this long.
Also on this list are NLCS MVP Eddie Rosario and World Series MVP Jorge Soler. Both were additions at the Trade Deadline that made a huge impact. Depending on what else happens this offseason, you could see a scenario where Atlanta has interest in retaining both.
Chris Martin battled injury in 2021 but was a staple of the bullpen during the team’s playoff runs in 2019 and 2020.
- Josh Tomlin ($1.25 million Club Option)
- Joc Pederson ($10 million Mutual Option)
- Adam Duvall ($7 million Mutual Option)
Atlanta currently has three players who have options for 2022. Josh Tomlin is the only one with a club option and that is unlikely to be picked up. Tomlin finished the season on the Injured List and was pretty underwhelming all year after a small short-season resurgence of sorts in 2020.
Joc Pederson and Adam Duvall were two more Trade Deadline additions and both have mutual options for next season, meaning that both the player and the team have to agree to exercise the option in order for the player to return in 2022. The Braves would likely enjoy having both back for a combined $17 million in 2022, but both players may see better offers on the open market, and Joc Pederson’s overall-underwhelming season makes him somewhat of a hard sell at $10 million.
These option decisions are due five days after the World Series and will subtract from the 40-man roster and add to the free agent list. Duvall put up a monster season in 2021 and seems to fit well into the Braves clubhouse. Pederson came up big in the NLDS and has been the focus of numerous reports regarding his clubhouse presence as well.
UPDATE – Adam Duvall has declined his mutual option according to a report by Craig Mish. Mish also states that Duvall is arbitration eligible. Duvall’s arbitration eligibility was a bit unclear when this article was written so he is being added to the list below.
Salary Arbitration (14) (MLB Trade Rumors arbitration projections)
- Orlando Arcia – $2.1 million
- Johan Camargo – $1.4 million
- Grant Dayton – $1.2 million
- Adam Duvall – $9.1 million
- Max Fried – $7.1 million
- Guillermo Heredia – $1.6 million
- Luke Jackson – $3.8 million
- Tyler Matzek – $1.5 million
- A.J. Minter – $2.1 million
- Sean Newcomb – $0.9 million
- Austin Riley – $4.3 million
- Richard Rodriguez – $3.1 million
- Mike Soroka – $2.8 million
- Dansby Swanson – $10.1 million
The Braves have a whopping 14 players who are eligible for salary arbitration. There are some big names on this list, including Dansby Swanson, who is in the final year of arbitration, along with Austin Riley, Max Fried, Tyler Matzek, Luke Jackson and Mike Soroka.
There are also some non-tender candidates as well. Johan Camargo spent most of the season in Triple-A and doesn’t seem likely to be back, though the Braves could sign him to a minor league deal or something. Orlando Arcia’s existence provided depth at shortstop, but he didn’t hit in a small sample in the majors despite destroying Triple-A pitching. Grant Dayton was bullpen depth but then got hurt. Guillermo Heredia was a big part of the team’s chemistry, but his fate likely depends on what the plan is for the outfield. Richard Rodriguez was acquired at the Trade Deadline but slumped badly in September and didn’t sniff the postseason roster for any round.
Some of these players will sign deals and therefore avoid arbitration. The Braves may also choose to explore extensions for guys such as Swanson, Fried and Riley.
Marcell Ozuna situation
Per the Braves’ transactions page, Marcell Ozuna was reinstated from the restricted list Wednesday. That was nothing more than a procedural move, but we should expect the results of Major League Baseball’s investigation into his arrest for alleged domestic violence eventually. He is facing suspension and it remains to be seen how the Braves will choose to proceed after MLB’s findings are announced.
The Braves as a whole are still in really good shape. Their young core is still under team control, albeit getting slightly more expensive. (For example, Acuña will make $15 million next season, still a pittance relative to his production, but far more than his $5 million salary for this season.) Freeman’s situation is of the highest priority, but it still just seems like it makes too much sense to not get done. Atlanta was forced to trim payroll coming into the 2021 season as a result of the shortened 2020 season and the pandemic. Alex Anthopoulos was allowed to increase payroll at the Trade Deadline thanks in large part to strong attendance numbers. Those numbers continued through a lengthy postseason run that had to be beneficial to the bottom line. In short, team payroll should again be on the rise.
The return of Acuña and potentially Soroka represents a huge boost to a roster that won the World Series without them. Freeman is the top priority entering the offseason, followed by the outfield situation. Cristian Pache began the 2021 season as the team’s Opening Day center fielder but struggled and finished the season in the minors. Drew Waters will need to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. The likely addition of the DH in the National League will provide some flexibility, but some decisions will need to be made this offseason on who to pursue and who they see as a part of the core going forward.