Perhaps most notably, Anthopoulos indicated that the club’s early signings of Josh Donaldson ($23MM) and Brian McCann ($2MM) absorbed a significant portion of the club’s spending capacity. “We spent a good chunk of our offseason dollars on Donaldson and McCann,” he said.
Anthopoulos did not suggest that the Braves are done giving out contracts, but did hint at the nature of the pursuit. “[W]e still have money to work with,” he said, “but we have to be a little more selective now because we made those moves.”
It certainly doesn’t sound from those words as if Anthopoulos is lining up to participate in any bidding wars. Of course, it’s tough to know exactly how to read these latest comments. They could be seen as an indication that the organization doesn’t plan to make any further free-agent splashes. But they also may simply be designed to keep expectations in line and avoid any perception in the market that the club is interested in wild spending.
MLBTR’s Rob Huff recently examined the Braves’ payroll in detail, concluding that the organization could have something in the range of $50MM to play with this winter. If that’s the case, Donaldson and McCann would represent half of the 2019 availability — while, notably, not adding a dime to future payrolls. It could also be that the organization doesn’t plan to spend as much as that estimate suggests.
It’s worth remembering, too, that the Braves have ample prospect capital to work with in trade talks. That avenue isn’t quite as readily available to their division rivals, who’ll likely be more reliant on adding salary (or otherwise parting with relatively fewer top pre-MLB assets) to make further improvements.
Regardless, value clearly remains a priority for the Braves. Addressing the corner outfield situation, for example, does not appear to be a matter of picking a target and trying to get a deal done. O’Brien tweets that the club sees all the top veterans as potential fits, with the organization preferring to make only a one or two-year commitment if it makes a signing.
Meanwhile, Anthopoulos indicates that the club is working through some scenarios involving starting pitching but has yet to engage the relief market. That doesn’t say much, to be sure, but it could be read to suggest that the Braves won’t push the bidding on free agent pen arms.
The team’s early additions still seem to represent only a piece of the final picture. Certainly, the motivation to continue seeking ways to improve ought to be provided by the ongoing aggression of their division rivals. For now, there doesn’t seem to be any front-burner action in Atlanta. Of course, that can always change quickly. More broadly, it would seem imprudent to rule the Braves out of major moves the rest of the way. It’s worth remembering, after all, that Anthopoulos long insisted publicly that the club was fully content at third base before he landed Donaldson.