Five questions for the Braves now

ATLANTA – Legendary Braves manager and Hall of Famer Bobby Cox used to say that “even after winning the World Series, you feel a little empty the next day because there is no other game to play.”

While the next game is months away, the Braves have a lot of work to do as they try to put together the best possible team to conquer their second consecutive Fall Classic next year. Many of the key players who helped win the title in 2021 are now free agents. Over the next several weeks and months, the club will have to determine who could return.

Here are the top five questions the Braves will have to answer this offseason:

1) Will Freddie Freeman return?
This is the million dollar question, or possibly the $ 200 million question. Since Paul Goldschmidt signed his five-year, $ 130 million extension with the Cardinals before 2019, we’ve heard time and again that Freeman wants to stay in Atlanta and that the Braves want the same. But here we are, two years later, and there are no guarantees that Freeman will return.

Goldschmidt’s contract with St. Louis was used as an example, because he was another first baseman of similar age and talent as Freeman. But since that deal was signed, Freeman has won a National League MVP Award and easily led all major league first basemen with a 146 wRC +. Pete Alonso is second with 136. In other words, Freeman has become a more expensive player than it was two years ago. Now that he’s on the free market, the Red Sox, Dodgers, Rangers, Cubs, Yankees will hit his price.

You keep thinking that Freeman will end up with the Braves, but not with the same certainty as a year ago.

2) Who will be the gardeners?
There is hope that the Venezuelan Ronald Acuña (torn cruciate ligaments of the right knee) will be ready sometime in May. Until then, the Braves will have to decide how they will deal with the holes in the outfield. Adam Duvall is eligible for arbitration, so he remains under contractual control while the club decides how much they could pay him in 2022. But Joc Pederson, Cuban Jorge Soler and Puerto Rican Eddie Rosario are free agents. And to this we must add that the Dominican Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, two of the best prospects of the club, have not yet shown that they are ready to be productive major leaguers.

Soler and Rosario were incredible in the postseason and fit in well on the team after being acquired in the middle of the year. Do you insist with one of them or with both? With the designated hitter in both leagues, if such a thing ends up happening, both would be even more valuable for defensively limited players. To maintain the same left-right balance, the Braves could also push Duvall and sign Pederson. Pederson’s personality strengthened the clubhouse, but its value could be impacted if it is not used every day.

3) Is it necessary to add another starter?
The Braves will begin the season with Charlie Morton, Max Fried and Ian Anderson in the starting rotation. Huáscar Ynoa, Kyle Wright, Touki Toussaint, Kyle Muller and Tucker Davidson are the candidates for the last two spots. Is that enough? Well, it could be if Wright’s performance in Game 4 of the World Series signals what’s to come. But with Ynoa and Muller targeting the bullpen more, perhaps the best thing for the club is to try to add a veteran starter who doesn’t cost too much.

If the Braves knew that Mike Soroka was coming back for the second half of the season and pitching again like 2019, then there would be less reason to look for another starter. But there are no guarantees about Soroka’s future, so a little extra depth would make sense.

4) Will Ron Washington return?
As the Athletics try to get a replacement for Bob Melvin, they appear to have three great candidates: Mark Kotsay and two Braves coaches, Ron Washington (coach of third) and Walt Weiss (coach of the bench). Losing Weiss would be a blow to manager Brian Snitker, who has relied heavily on the former shortstop in recent years. But the loss of Weiss would not be as significant as that of Washington, who somehow maintains the energy in the dugout and clubhouse day after day at 69 years old.

Washington has always said that the Athletics are like family. But at the same time, he has repeatedly said how much he has enjoyed his time in Atlanta. It would be great for the Braves to keep him at the club, but at the same time, it would also be great to see him get another chance to coach.

5) Who are some potential game-changing pieces?
With William Contreras and Shea Langeliers, the Braves have two of the best catching prospects in all of baseball. The most logical thing is that, at this point in their careers, the club wants them to play every day. But with Travis d’Arnaud starting the first of two years of his new contract in 2022, that won’t happen for either of these two guys with Atlanta next year. So the Braves could trade one of the two if a good offer comes along.

While the value of Pache and Waters as trade pieces has declined over the past year, Wright may have increased some of his. That doesn’t mean the Braves should try to trade him, but there are certainly reasons to hear offers. Same with Davidson, Muller and Toussaint. It might be time to use that pitching body depth to strengthen other areas.


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Five questions for the Braves now