4 early offseason Braves rumors that should have fans very concerned

There are a few unsettling rumors floating around when it comes to the Braves right now.

Sep 12, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried (54) throws
Sep 12, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried (54) throws / Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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The beginning of the offseason for the Atlanta Braves has been a bit of a mixed bag. On the plus side, Atlanta already re-signed relievers Joe Jimenez and Pierce Johnson to multi-year contracts. Both players were key contributors to the Braves' bullpen. The Braves also exercised their option to bring Charlie Morton back which is certainly risky given his age, but the move at least provided some clarity to the Braves' rotation.

However, the Braves were dealt a pretty severe blow this past week when third base coach Ron Washington was hired to be the Angels' next manager and took first base coach Eric Young Sr. with him. Both Wash and EY had such a huge impact on this Braves' team and their loss adds a level of uncertainty with the Braves' coaching staff that is unusual for the last few years. There are also some pretty unsettling rumors early on that could be pointing to a disappointing offseason for Atlanta.

Here are 4 early Braves rumors that should have fans concerned

To be clear, nothing is finalized and running around and screaming "the sky is falling" is not a thing that should be happening here. Most of the rumors floating around this time of year need to be taken with a grain of salt as there is a lot of misinformation and posturing happening right now. Moreover, the Braves could very well end up looking really smart if some of these rumors are true. Nearly everyone was blown away that Orlando Arcia was named the Braves everyday shortstop last spring and we saw how that worked out.

However, there are certainly some whispers that are a bit concerning at the moment, so here is a look at some of the bigger ones.

Vaughn Grissom in left field?

While most of the Braves' lineup is pretty much locked in for the next few years, they do have an opening in left field after the team declined Eddie Rosario's option for 2024. The Braves could very well circle back to Eddie later on in the offseason if need be, but it sure seems like we will see a new face in left in 2024.

However, that new face may not as new as you would think. Alex Anthopoulos recently spoke to the media and was really selling Vaughn Grissom hard. He talked about how much the Braves' valued his talent and wanted to figure out how to get him in the lineup with left field being floated as a possibility.

Aside from the fact that it does seem like there are more exciting free agent corner outfield bats out there (although not many), moving Grissom to left and giving him an every day spot comes with some concern. While his .920 OPS in Triple-A this season was fantastic to see, there is a real concern that Vaughn isn't an impact bat with his bottom of the scale average exit velocity and iffy batted ball profile being the most concerning.

Relying on a guy that struggles to hit the ball hard and who hasn't played a single game in left in the minors would be a pretty big risk, but it is important to remember that rumors like these are out there for a reason. Grissom has been a popular trade rumor over the past year and it is entirely possible that AA is talking him up to help him in any future trade talks where Vaughn could be included.

Bryce Elder locked into the rotation

The Braves' starting rotation is a hot topic right now. After Atlanta's starting depth cost them for the second year in a row, fans certainly seem to be clamoring for the Braves to swing big and overhaul the rotation that felt like it was being held together with bandaids and Elmer's glue at times in 2023. One player that elicits the widest range of opinions going into 2024 is Bryce Elder.

Elder was lights out in the first half of 2023 for the Braves with a 2.97 ERA in 18 starts while being named to the All-Star team. However, Elder struggled in the second half with a 5.11 ERA and was widely believed to be gassed by the end of his first full season with the Braves. Some think he can be the first half version of himself going forward, while others believe that his stuff is underwhelming and he was just fortunate to get the results he did before the All-Star break.

There are reasonable voices on both sides, but what is mildly concerning is that it seems like the Braves have seemingly already made up their mind that he is going to be in the rotation if the early offseason reporting from the beat writers is any indication.

It's one thing if the Braves went through the offseason, just didn't find a guy they liked at a price they liked, and Elder ended up winning the spot in spring training. That is a process most could get behind. However, Elder's inclusion in the rotation already feels almost certain which probably means that Atlanta will add just one starter this offseason at best and then just hoping that Elder does plenty of cardio this offseason and holds up in 2024.

It doesn't sound like the Braves will be playing at the top of the starting pitching market

The Elder discussion brings something else about this offseason into focus. Alex Anthopoulos went out of his way to say that payroll is going up and no one is confused that starting pitching was the top concern going into the offseason where this free agent class has a lot of high end options. However, all of the reporting right now suggests that Atlanta isn't going to be participating at the top of the free agent market.

If you look at the scuttlebutt around guys like Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and Aaron Nola, no one is mentioning the Braves as a possibility for these guys. That is probably partially due to the fact that all of those guys are going to command lengthy nine figure deals and the Braves don't give those out lightly, but it is still disheartening that the offseason has only just begun and those guys seem to be off the table.

The good news is that the Braves have been mentioned as a potential landing spot for Sonny Gray by numerous outlets. Gray is a bit old and could probably be convinced to sign a healthy two or three year deal. However, with where the Braves are in relation to the luxury tax, it is an open question as to whether or not Atlanta would go far enough to snag Gray especially with the qualifying offer attached to him.

The most likely scenario right now feels like the Braves add some sort of mid-level starter and then bank on one or more of their internal candidates working out. They do have some interesting arms in AJ Smith-Shawver, Hurston Waldrep, and Darius Vines that could end being good enough, but it would be nice to see the Braves be aggressive given the strength of the pitching market.

No news whatsoever on a Max Fried extension

This one is a longer term problem, but could have huge ramifications for the team going forward. With the prices for starting pitchers seemingly going through the roof in recent years, Max Fried's future with the Braves is very much in question. He is set to become a free agent after the 2024 season and will be in line to get a massive payday with Carlos Rodon's deal with the Yankees being a decent starting point for discussion.

There are reasons why signing Fried to an extension right now is problematic even if Atlanta is 100% sold on doing so. If the Braves extend him now, the average AAV of his extension would start counting against the luxury tax threshold this year which would be an added cost. There is a chance that both sides already want to make it happen and they are just waiting for the right time from a budget standpoint.

However, what seems more likely is that an extension doesn't happen at all given that there has been zero evidence so far that those discussions are happening. There was a lot of discussion last offseason about keeping Fried for the long haul and while both Fried and the team said all the right things in public, it felt as though the two sides were still pretty far apart.

Fried's injury in 2023 complicates the picture even more. Not only is Fried going to want fair market value for his services especially given that he is a MLBPA rep, but he is going to be 31 when his new contract starts and he has a Tommy John surgery and now more recent arm trouble on his resume. It is no wonder that most neutral observers see the odds getting lower and lower that Fried sticks around.

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