Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos recently sat down with Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for an extensive Q&A about a team that has exceeded even the most optimistic expectations and finds itself in the thick of a division race (Q&A Part 1, Part 2). Braves fans in particular will want to check out the full conversation, as Anthopoulos discusses some front office processes, the team’s minor league depth and quite a few other interesting topics at length.
With an eye toward the looming non-waiver trade deadline, though, Anthopoulos sheds a bit of light on how the Braves could operate moving forward. Perhaps most notably, Anthopoulos describes a recent MLB.com report suggesting that the Braves are close to their payroll maximum to be inaccurate. Anthopoulos recalls the manner in which he was handcuffed by financial constraints with the Blue Jays at the 2014 deadline, which prompted him to resist some late-offseason spending in order to keep some money set aside for summer moves in 2015. The 2018 season in Atlanta seems to be a similar case.
“So we’ve set some money aside from a big-league payroll standpoint, so we definitely have (it) for this moment,” said the GM of his team’s current financial outlook. “…[W]e saved some money and we have that available, and now – as the byproduct of the results – attendance is up, everything is up, the organization is doing much better.” Anthopoulos added that he’s already had conversations about the team’s spending capacity with chairman Terry McGuirk. Perhaps most notably, Anthopoulos plainly states that there is “no single player” the Braves cannot afford to add.
That said, he’s also careful to emphasize that that ability to spend doesn’t mean Braves fans should be counting the days to a splashy addition. Anthopoulos estimated that “90 percent” of the players available in trades at present are of the rental variety and expressed some notable reluctance about the possibility of acquiring such players.
“There’s a lot of pain that has gone into putting together this young talent,” Anthopoulos continued. “We’re not ready to throw that all away just because of one season. That said, I do think we owe it to the players and the fan base and the organization to make this team better, one way or another.”
Asked specifically about whether he has the depth of pitching to make it to the postseason, Anthopoulos confidently stated that the Braves do indeed have the necessary arms. Luiz Gohara is back in the Triple-A rotation and will be an option to start if need, and Max Fried is on the mend from the blister issues that are presently hampering him. Braves fans will be heartened to see Anthopoulos speak extremely favorably of top prospect Kolby Allard, noting that expects the lefty to get a chance down the line (though he understandably declined to specify precisely when).
As for the relief corps, the Braves are “definitely trying to add to that group,” according to Anthopoulos. While he characterizes the current group as one that could get the Braves to October, he also acknowledges that getting to the postseason and winning in the postseason when other teams can more aggressively leverage their top relievers (due to built-in off days in the schedule) are separate matters. “On the one hand, in October you don’t need as much depth,” said Anthopoulos. “You need three, four reliable guys. On the other, it’s a very young and inexperienced bullpen.” That, it seems, would suggest that the Braves are open to adding, if not actively striving to add a more experienced late-inning option to the mix — a need that could be viewed as even more pressing with Arodys Vizcaino now on the DL for shoulder inflammation for a second time.
Anthopoulos and Bradley also talk about his expectations for the team heading into the offseason, his thoughts on the rest of the NL East, the possibility of some of his young players hitting a wall as the season wears on and the fact that he is very cognizant of the fact that his team’s play is placing him under pressure as a first-year GM in a new organization.