3 players the Braves will wish they had gone after this offseason

World Series - Texas Rangers v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Four
World Series - Texas Rangers v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Four / Harry How/GettyImages
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If Alex Anthopoulous is to be trusted, the Atlanta Braves' roster scramble this offseason is probably (hopefully?) leading to something exciting. Very few of their transactions have been straightforward; Marco Gonzales, Evan White, and Matt Carpenter have all come through and been flipped or dumped after failing to be flipped within days of their acquisitions. It's weird, definitely unorthodox, and a little confusing, but we can only sit and wait for something big to happen.

Meanwhile, big free agent names are coming off the board, signing or being traded to other teams, and the Braves seem on the sidelines for most of them. They've been connected to various free agents and trade chips (Shohei Ohtani, for one shining moment, Dylan Cease, Eduardo Rodriguez, who we'll get to in a second), but nothing has materialized yet. While we can remain optimistic that all of these small moves will add up to something, it's a little frustrating having to wait while dominoes fall. Here are three players that the Braves should've made more of a play at this offseason.

3 players the Braves will wish they had gone after this offseason

Eduardo Rodriguez

Although the Braves were at one point rumored to be interested in Eduardo Rodriguez, nothing serious ever materialized between the two parties. He eventually went to the Diamondbacks on a four-year, $80 million contract during Winter Meetings, joining Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, and Brandon Pfaadt in what could be one of the best rotations in baseball next year. If the Diamondbacks are able repeat their miracle postseason run — which, with signing Rodriguez, resigning Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and acquiring Eugenio Suarez, they seem to be positioning themselves to do — there's a good chance the Braves will run into them in the postseason.

After Sonny Gray, who the Braves were also connected to during his free agency, fell off the board by signing with the Cardinals, Rodriguez became the next best thing in the vicinity of both Gray's skill and affordability (they ended up signing comparable contracts, too; Gray went to St. Louis on a three-year, $75 million deal). Rodriguez might even have a bit more upside, given that he's only 30 and Gray is 34. Alas, the Braves missed out on Rodriguez to another potential playoff contender that seems set on coming back and winning the whole thing next year.

Emilio Pagán

Reliever Emilio Pagán's free agency ended rather quietly when he signed with the Reds on Dec. 1 for two years and $16 million, with an opt-out after the first year. It makes sense; relievers always tend to get short shrifted, and even more so this year, when elite closer Josh Hader is one of the only relievers, if not the only reliever, the entire league has its eyes on in his free agency. Pagán, despite a certain up-and-down tendency to his performance across seven years in MLB, had a career best year in 2023, posting a 2.99 ERA across 69 1/3 innings. He only allowed one earned run in all of his last 10 starts on the season, a strong finish that put his best foot forward into free agency.

The Braves made a good early offseason bullpen addition when they snapped up Reynaldo López, and they could have capitalized on that momentum by also considering Pagán, who had comparable if not better numbers than López through similar numbers of innings in 2023. Pagán could've added versatility and flexibility to the Braves bullpen; he opened the Twins' penultimate game of the season, closed 15 games, and pitched anywhere between 1/3 and 2 innings throughout the year. It also looks like the Braves also could've gotten him at a lower rate than López, who Atlanta is paying about $0.67 million more every year than Pagán will be making with the Reds.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

The Braves have the luxury of an outstanding lineup and for the most part locked-in defensive configuration, but if anything might still be missing, it's a stellar left fielder. Jarred Kelenic came over from the Mariners, but is still expected to split time there with Vaughn Grissom. It's possible that the Braves specifically targeted Kelenic as someone who wouldn't lock down the position on an everyday basis, allowing the team to develop Grissom more; if that wasn't the case, then they might've considered Lourdes Gurriel Jr. instead. Gurriel resigned with the Diamondbacks for three years and $42 million after an All-Star year and a breakout showing in the postseason.

Gurriel is not only a better outfielder than Kelenic, his bat would measure up better with the slugging Braves. He hit a career high 24 home runs this year, along with a career high 35 doubles, on par with Braves doubles leader Ronald Acuña Jr. Stealing Gurriel away from a potential postseason competitor in the Diamondbacks would've been a considerable blow to them as well.

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