3 Braves moves that earned Alex Anthopoulos his extension

Alex Anthopoulos is going to be leading the Braves for a long time. In his case, it was well-earned.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Atlanta Braves
Arizona Diamondbacks v Atlanta Braves / Matthew Grimes Jr./Atlanta Braves/GettyImages
3 of 3

The Atlanta Braves may be the best team in baseball in locking up their talent for the long haul. Hell, most of the guys in their lineup are operating on some kind of long-term extension at the moment. However, the Braves may have made their most important contract extension yet yesterday when it was revealed that the team gave president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos an extension through the 2031 season.

When we think of front office executives these days, it is very often on a year-to-year basis. One year they make some key moves and fans love them, but that goodwill often doesn't last especially if the team struggles and fans start calling for their heads. Every single season, baseball sees a shuffle in front offices with executives getting fired, moving around, and changing responsibilities.

In this "what have you done for me lately" era, it is absolutely remarkable what AA has accomplished. Not only is he adept at making the sort of short-term fixes to patch roster holes on the fly, but he has made the Braves the model for long-term success thanks to the player development department he has helped build and his ability to lock up the right guys on contracts that aren't albatrosses around the Braves' necks.

Now that Anthopoulos is set to run the Braves' front office for the foreseeable future, let's take a look at the moves, or at least the categories of moves, that AA has made that made him arguably the most impactful front office executive in baseball and one of the best Braves executives of all-time.

Anthopoulos' Braves trades have been a master class (for the most part)

For a few years to start his tenure, the biggest gripe that Braves fans had was that Anthopoulos had not been able to swing a big trade for an impact player. Given the amount of talent the Braves had in their farm system at the time that was just sitting there waiting to be used for SOMETHING, that criticism was honestly pretty fair.

That narrative began to change relatively quickly, however. Anthopoulos' series of moves at the 2019 trade deadline to bolster the Braves bullpen with guys like Mark Melancon, Chris Martin, and Shane Greene were widely lauded and Atlanta probably doesn't win the World Series in 2021 (or even make the playoffs) without AA's trade deadline moves that year that included Jorge Soler, Joc Pederson, and Eddie Rosario.

The hits did not stop there. His trade for Matt Olson after Freddie Freeman and his agent overplayed their hand was a lesson that Anthopoulos was not a guy to mess around with. He pillaged the Athletics again the following offseason to add Sean Murphy to be their long-term catcher. Both deals were for guys at or near the top of the league at their position and he somehow didn't give up any players that the team truly regrets beyond MAYBE William Contreras.

Not every move has worked out swimmingly (the Richard Rodriguez deal was a dud, for example) and more recent deals are too fresh to judge, but Anthopoulos' hit rate on the trades he has made has earned him the benefit of the doubt.

The Braves' ability to lock up young talent has been unparalleled under Anthopoulos

It is one thing to be able to make big, flashy moves that help a team for a short window of time. Dave Dombrowski has made a career of adding high-end players to his teams until the money and prospect capital dries up and then he moves on. Not only has AA added those big names during his tenure, but he has been able to lock them up for the long-term along with the homegrown talent that makes up the bulk of the Braves' core.

Remember those trades for Matt Olson and Sean Murphy? Those trades were good by themselves, but what made them great trades was that Atlanta almost immediately extended those guys on very reasonable contracts. Just like that, the Braves are set at first base and catcher for years to come.

And then there are the extensions he has given out to the Braves' young guys. Ozzie Albies' deal remains one of the most team friendly deals in all of baseball and that deal paved the way for Atlanta to lock up Ronald Acuna Jr. on an eight year, $100 contract that looks like the heist of the century. Austin Riley, Spencer Strider, and Michael Harris II have all been locked up since then on deals that keep their costs controlled and keep them in a Braves uniform for much of the next decade.

How did the Braves pull this off? Well, to put it simply, Anthopoulos has built this organization in such a way that players want to play in Atlanta. They want the team to be able to keep their core together as much as possible. Sure, some guys like Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson have left and Max Fried may soon join them. No team can have EVERYTHING they want. However, AA has gotten pretty darn close and the Braves are better for it.

Anthopoulos' conservative approach to free agency has paid big dividends

If there is one current criticism that Braves fans have of Anthopoulos, it is that he has been very reluctant to sign high end free agents to big money deals. That is simply undeniably true. The Braves have been connected to some top guys at times, but generally get out of the bidding pretty quickly once the money gets to a certain point. However, this is a feature, not a bug.

The problem with free agency these days is that it is a tremendously inefficient way to build a quality roster. Guys like Aaron Judge, Shohei Ohtani, Trea Turner, and others are genuinely great players, but they also cost so much by themselves that they can force teams to compromise other positions to make them fit on the payroll. The track of success there is also a bit questionable. The Dodgers have committed a TON of money over the last several years to their roster and they have just the one World Series win to show for it. Then there are the Mets whose dumpster fire of a 2023 season came after outbidding the league for basically everyone with Steve Cohen's money.

The Braves under Anthopoulos aren't running their team like they have the Rays' payroll, but they are set on how they value players and won't be influenced by FOMO to pay more than they are comfortable with. Few teams have been as good at giving out short term deals in terms of bang for their buck as Atlanta has in recent years. Charlie Morton and Josh Donaldson are just a couple of examples there.

Again, Anthopoulos hasn't been perfect because no front office is immune from misfires. The Cole Hamels deal was a disaster, Dallas Keuchel wasn't worth what the Braves paid him, and bringing back Marcell Ozuna looked terrible until he decided to remember how to hit again last year. On balance, though, AA's conservative approach to free agency has kept the Braves from taking on bad contracts unnecessarily and allowed them to use their money to keep the guys that have gotten them this far. No wonder the Braves want to keep him around.

More Braves News from House That Hank Built