Worst Off-Season Moves of the Alex Anthopoulos Era

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 09: Alex Anthopoulos of the Atlanta Braves aknowledges the crowd at Truist Park during the World Series Ring Ceremony on April 9, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Adam Hagy/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 09: Alex Anthopoulos of the Atlanta Braves aknowledges the crowd at Truist Park during the World Series Ring Ceremony on April 9, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Adam Hagy/Getty Images) /
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In what has been a widely celebrated tenure with the Atlanta Braves, Alex Anthopoulos has had very few blemishes on his record as general manager. Anthopoulos’ first season with the Braves was 2018 which also happened to be the first season the Braves won the NL East in five years. In the five years Anthopoulos has been GM, the Braves have won five straight division titles, three seasons with 90 wins or more, have won 23 playoff games, and were crowned as World Series Champions in 2021.

Despite the overwhelming amount of success the Braves have had since AA took the reins, it is still important to note the shortcomings during his time. Here is a rundown of the worst off-season moves of the AA era.

Marcell Ozuna Extension

Perhaps the worst transaction of the AA era has been the Marcell Ozuna extension which came before the 2021 season. Coming off of a hot (shortened) 2020 season in which he nearly won the triple crown in the NL and finished sixth in NL MVP voting, Ozuna was given a four year $64 million dollar contract with the Braves. It seemed like somewhat of a no-brainer at the time, considering how fantastic his 2020 season was, but plenty of people were skeptical of the move at the time. Ozuna’s offensive production was very inconsistent in years before, posting a 106 OPS+ in 2018 and a 109 OPS+ in 2019. Not to mention Ozuna’s lack of defensive prowess has been well documented for years, and the universal DH was not returning in 2021 and there weren’t any set plans for a permanent universal DH yet.

It has been nearly two years since the extension, and Ozuna has had a tumultuous, yet unproductive time with the Braves. He has played a total of 172 games over the past two seasons, and has totaled an fWAR of -1  and an OPS of .675 during that period. The only real positive of Ozuna’s time with the Braves over the past two years has been that his power has somewhat remained present. Through 124 games in 2022, Ozuna knocked 23 homers, which is exactly at a 30 homer pace per 162 games.

Even though his play has been bad, his off the field troubles have been worse. Ozuna has been arrested twice in the past two years, the first time for Domestic Abuse in 2021, and the second coming earlier this year for a DUI. The multitude of problems have led AA and the Braves front office to try and trade Ozuna elsewhere, yet no takers have emerged yet. Reports suggest the Braves will continue to shop Ozuna around but for now, he is stuck in Atlanta.

Cole Hamels Signing

Many fans have probably forgotten that Cole Hamels was even on the Braves considering how little he even played. Before the 2020 season, the Braves and Hamels came to agreement on a one year $18 million dollar contract, a number that even at the time seemed crazy considering Hamels was 36 years old at the time and had been steadily declining for a few years. The hope at the time was that Hamels, a four-time All-Star who had haunted Atlanta for years with the Phillies  could pitch at an above-average level while simultaneously providing veteran leadership to the Braves younger pitchers, however neither of those came true.

Hamels started one game in 2020 with the Braves, giving up three earned runs in a total of 3.1 innings. Hamels had been dealing with injuries for some time, but he suffered a shoulder surgery that ended his season. Though no one was expecting Hamels to only appear with the Braves in one game, Hamels was the 18th highest paid starting pitcher in 2020, a mark any person with medial baseball knowledge could have said was undeserved.

Manny Piña Signing

Like Hamels, Manny Piña‘s time with the Braves was cut extremely short due to injury. Piña signed a two year $8 million deal with the Braves before the 2022 season to serve as the backup catcher to Travis d’Arnaud. Piña had been very serviceable as a backup catcher with the Brewers and had the same expectations with the Braves, though unfortunately he suffered a season-ending wrist injury after only playing five games with the Braves. Through those five games, Piña recorded just two hits and one run, culminating in an fWAR of -.1.

The worst part of the Piña signing wasn’t his performance or even his lack of games played, it was the fact that William Contreras was tucked away in the minors waiting to come up. The plan was to let Contreras get another year of reps in the minors before becoming a full-time player with Atlanta, but Piña’s injury thrusted Contreras into the majors and he thrived. In some way you could day singing Piña and he getting injured enabled Contreras to have the All-Star season he did, but AA could have saved $4 million dollars in 2022 by letting Contreras start the year as the day one backup. 2022 would be Piña’s only season with the Braves as he was apart of the three team deal that brought Sean Murphy to Atlanta.

Drew Smyly Signing

AA has shown that he loves to bring on veteran pitchers for one year deals to fill out the starting rotation, like Jake Odorizzi, Dallas Keuchel, Kevin Gausman, and more. In 2021, Drew Smyly was the veteran pitcher AA chose for that season. Smyly signed to Atlanta on a one-year, $11 million dollar deal which even at the time was too high for the caliber of player he was. The two seasons before, Smyly bounced around between three teams and culminated a 5.71 ERA over 26 starts, a mark that doesn’t necessarily warrant 11 million dollars a year.

Smyly was serviceable during his time with the Braves, starting 23 games and throwing 126.2 innings in 2021, though those innings might not have been the most productive. Smyly tallied a 4.48 ERA and 5.11 FIP with a WHIP of 1.374. Among pitchers with 120 innings pitched in 2021, Smyly’s fWAR of 0.3 ranked as the 89th highest in the MLB. Aside from his below average pitching, Smyly was also the fourth highest paid player on the Braves roster in 2021. The deal was pretty inconsequential considering the Braves won the World Series in 2021, however it was not because of Smile’s post season performance, considering he posted a 6.14 ERA in the 7.1 innings he there during the postseason.

Eddie Rosario Re-signing

Including this feels a bit wrong considering the entirety of the deal hasn’t played out yet, but Eddie Rosario‘s return has felt like a mistake for some time now. After his heroics after the trade deadline and in the postseason in 2021, it was going to be difficult justifying not resigning him. Before the 2022 season, Rosario signed to a two year, $18 million dollar deal with the Braves keeping him in Atlanta through 2023, though many fans feel it is time to move on from already. In 2022, Rosario posted a -1.6 fWAR and an OPS+ of 64, both numbers close to the worst in league.  Not to mention Rosario’s defense was abysmal this past year, reflective in his negative six outs above average. Not to mention he missed most of the season with eye surgery.

Aside from Rosario’s disappointing play and lack of games played in 2022, the glaring issue with the contract was the fact that the Braves paid $3 million dollars more for Rosario in 2022 than Joc Pederson earned with the Giants in 2022, even though Pederson was an All-Star. Had the Braves been able to ink Joe to a deal similar to the one he received with the Giants, the Braves would have had security at their weakest position and would have more flexibility in this off-season which could have given the Braves an opportunity to sign a bigger name free agent.