Although their season ended in disappointing fashion, the Braves still have the financial flexibility and the young talent needed to be a sustainable winner in the future. The time for them to make a World Series push is now, and they should be expected to have a busy offseason.
Expected Direction: All-In
Braves Sign RP Will Smith
Contract Details: Three Years, $40 Million
In a bit of stunner- the free agency market rarely gets started this early – the Braves have bolstered the bullpen tremendous, signing Will Smith to a three-year contract. Smith, 30, was able to use his qualifying offer as leverage, as had a team not made a contract offer that satisfied him, he would’ve been able to go back to the Giants on a one year, $17.8 million deal. Therefore, Atlanta clearly sees something in him, especially if they were willing to give up a second-round pick to sign him. Well, it’s easy to see why. With a SIERA and xFIP under 2.80 in each of the past two seasons, Smith has been one of the top relievers in the MLB. Plus, although there could be some concerns on his adjustment from pitching in San Francisco, given its huge dimensions, he gave up 1.38 HR/9 this season anyways, and his whiff rate of 33% will play no matter where he pitches. I don’t love the fit, as Atlanta has already committed a significant amount of resources to the bullpen, and could have gone the cheaper route to add some reliever depth. Nevertheless, Smith will provide them with more than enough value to live up to this deal, and allows the team to potentially use some of their surplus of relievers to fix other needs, such as the outfield.
Braves Resign RP Darren O’Day
Contract Details: One Year, $2.25 Million
In a zero-risk move that could pay off tremendously, the Braves have brought back reliever Darren O’Day on a cheap one-year contract. O’Day, 37, has actually only pitched 25.1 innings over the past two seasons, and is probably beyond his prime. Still, he has a long track record of being an excellent reliever with incredible K-BB ratios, so if he’s healthy, Atlanta is getting an absolute steal. If not, they move on with practically zero consequence- this is the example of a signing that may not draw headlines now, but could play a major role in them riding their bullpen to an NL East title next season.
Braves Resign RP Chris Martin
Contract Details: Two Years, $14 Million
Continuing to add to their bullpen, the Braves have resigned reliever Chris Martin to a two-year, $14 million contract. Martin, 33, has been one of the most underrated relievers since coming over from Japan prior to the 2018 season. Between the Rangers and Braves last season, the former 21st round pick posted an impressive 2.72 xFIP, in addition to an absurd 13 K-BB ratio. Furthermore, he induced significantly more ground balls (50%), and got hitters to chase pitches at a terrific 36.7% rate. To sum it up, he’s one of the better relievers in baseball, and Atlanta is getting him on a very affordable contract. Yes, they probably have invested too much in veteran relievers, but they’ve gotten tremendous value on all of these deals, and can always save around $6 million by non-tendering reliever Shane Greene. Martin was primed to be one of the steals of the offseason, and now, he’ll be providing surplus value in Atlanta.
Braves Sign C Travis d’Arnaud
Contract Details: Two Years, $16 Million
Apparently not getting the memo that teams are supposed to wait until January, the Braves have signed yet another impact player. This time, it’s catcher Travis d’Arnuad, who has brought in on a two-year, $16 million contract. Long seen as a bust as a member of the Mets, the 30-year-old thrived upon being acquired by the Rays- he posted a 1.6 WAR in just 103 games. Notably, d’Arnuad’s hard contact rate (41.5%) was above-average, which makes it sensible that his expected statistics were actually better than his actual statistics (98 wrc+), per Baseball Savant. Therefore, he should be a slightly above-average offensive contributor for the Braves, and with a long track record of quality defense, he’s an all-around catcher at time where very few exist. Based on the wear and tear of the catching position, having two quality options behind the plate is part of a winning formula, and by acquiring d’Arnuad at a reasonable rate to pair with Tyler Flowers, Atlanta has accomplished that. It’ll be very interesting to see how they proceed with the rest of their offseason, as third base, an outfield spot, and the rotation could all use reinforcements.
Braves Sign SP Cole Hamels
Contract Details: One Year, $18 Million
Once again filling a need in what’s been a busy offseason for them, the Braves have added the veteran starting pitcher they were looking for- they signed starting pitcher Cole Hamels to a one-year contract worth $18 million. Hamels, 35, isn’t the star pitcher he once, but he’s certainly a capable starting pitcher. Last season, though he dealt with injuries, he still managed a 4.38 xFIP in 141.2 innings pitched with the Cubs, which is are decent numbers for a middle-of-the-rotation starter. Plus, the appeal with him is that if he can be more like he was pre-injury (4.09 FIP), then he’ll be an important part of a strong team. However, it’s not as though a 4.09 FIP is astonishing, and since he’s 36-years-old, it’d be foolish to dismiss his health concerns. There’s almost no such thing as a bad one-year deal, but I’m not a fan of sacrificing $18 million when they’re trying to add as many impact players as possible (third base remains a need), especially since there are better and cheaper starting pitchers on the market- I don’t see Hamels living up this contract total.
Braves Sign SS Adeiny Hechavarria
Contract Details: One Year, $1 Million
Adding some infield depth, the Braves have signed shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria to a one-year contract worth exactly $1 million. It’s been a rather strange road for the 30-year-old Hechavarria, who has played on five teams in the past two seasons. He did catch on with Atlanta upon being cut loose by the Mets, but last year was a pretty typical season for him- 93 wrc+, 0.7 WAR in 84 games. You’re not getting a superb offensive producer or defender from Hechavarria at this point in his career, but for $1 million, who could do a lot worse; his 124 wrc+ versus lefties despite a .222 BABIP, as well as his past success versus lefties, make him a nice asset off the bench.
Braves Sign OF Marcell Ozuna
Contract Details: One Year, $18 Million
In a very surprising signing, the Braves have responded to missing out on Josh Donaldson, bringing in outfielder Marcell Ozuna on a one-year deal worth $18 million. Ozuna, 29, had turned down the qualifying offer from the Cardinals in hopes of a lucrative multi-year deal, but now, he will take a pillow contract in order to try to improve his market for next season. The main intrigue with Ozuna comes with his batted-ball profile, as he ranked in the 96th percentile with a 49.2% hard-hit rate, and his .382 xwOBA is also elite; he definitely didn’t match his expected statistics. However, this is also the second straight season that he’s gotten unlucky, and with there being research done that he may not actually deserve such high-end expected numbers, Atlanta shouldn’t bank on offensive improvement. The same goes for his defense, which has regressed massively both by the eye test and by the metrics, and even worse, has lost all of his arm strength. At the moment, Ozuna figures to be a 2.5-3 WAR type of outfielder, which is certainly an upgrade over Nick Markakis. Is he worth $18 million? Probably not, but then again, it’s only a one-year deal, and as we all know by now, there is no such thing as a bad one-year contract. It fits with the Braves’ strategy of improving their roster without taking many risks, and further strengthens their stance as the best team in the NL East.
*Will Be Updated With Every Move The Braves Make