With the offseason essentially over and spring training underway, taking stock of where the Atlanta Braves stand is going to a focus over the next few weeks. While we can speculate as to who is going to good or not good, a lot of that is going to be settled on the field and is going to be hard to get right. However, one man that has his fingers on the pulse of the goings on with the Braves more than anybody is general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
Anthopoulos has also been making the rounds doing interviews of late which has been a very welcome development. While he remains a master at saying a lot about nothing, his recent interview on the Atlanta-Journal Constitution's podcast is a very worthy listen.
First things first, you should absolutely listen to the podcast as it is well produced and Jay and Justin do a great job with it. Also, given that it is AA, we can't reasonably expect anything groundbreaking to come out of his mouth given that he plays everything very close to the vest, here are a few key takeaways.
Sean Murphy should be very helpful with the new rules changes
Early on in the interview, Anthopoulos was asked about Sean Murphy's impact defensively and AA was quick to note that under the new rules including limits on throwing over and bigger bases, the Braves are expecting that players are going to try to steal bases more. He was not shy in noting that having an elite defender behind the plate to limit the running game was going to help a bunch, but he also gave Murphy compliments with his game-calling and upside at the plate.
Don't worry, TdA fans, it also sounds like we will see plenty of Travis behind the plate as the Braves definitely see catcher as a two-man position.
Anthopoulos is a big fan of the rules changes
You can go ahead and mark down AA as a big fan of the rules changes that are going into place for 2023, especially the pitch clock. He wholeheartedly agrees that games have been too long and thinks that they will be substantially shortened in 2023 and going forward. The rest of the rules it sounded like he was fine with especially since the whole league has them, but the pitch clock was one he was a big fan of.
He was also asked about the extra inning runner rule getting made permanent and he noted that long extra inning games made managing a roster and, in particular, the pitching staff incredibly difficult. Many times, a guy would have to get optioned after doing his job pitching multiple relief innings because the team just needed a fresh arm and that didn't feel great.
Roster depth remains a focus and Eli White is a part of that
When it comes to the roster, Anthopoulos was asked about the addition of Eli White this offseason and he noted that it is always nice to have a really speedy guy in the organization just in case you decide you want that guy on your roster either down the stretch or in the playoffs. Having that specialized roster depth seems to remain an important part of team building under AA. Alex was also quick to mention just how good White is defensively which may mean that Eli could be a bench option for the Braves as a defensive replacement, although he did note that White also has minor league options left (he has two).
Left field seems like a true competition
The conversation then turned to the outfield when AA was asked about whether he was happy about the state of left field. Alex noted that Ozuna and Rosario are bat-first guys that didn't swing the bat well last year, so part of the philosophy in who they added during the offseason to compete there was to have guys that preferably still had minor league options who at least were good defenders to create that floor. While he didn't say for sure, he definitely didn't give a firm vote of confidence for any player, including Rosario or Ozuna, and the team is going to be watching to see how things go in camp. In AA's words, "left field is wide open".
Losing Dansby hurts, but AA values roster depth highly
AA was then asked about his thoughts on how to weigh losing the individual impact that a guy like Dansby Swanson has versus betting on the long-term with guys like Vaughn Grissom and spreading those resources around. Anthopoulos was clear that while Dansby was an amazing player, the Braves had won division titles recently without big contributions from him and they had also had other seasons where multiple players were having big years (notably 2021) and the club was still struggling.
He went on to talk about just how important it is to have depth throughout the roster because having a few marquee guys just isn't enough and he noted the 2021 trade deadline as an example. In the end, AA said that if they are at the point where a loss at one position ends up taking them out of contention, they didn't do a good job of building the roster in the first place and that would be a much bigger issue.
The Braves have had at least initial extension talks to Max Fried
It was inevitable that Anthopoulos was going to get asked about a possible extension for Max Fried and what he would say to fans that are pessimistic that the Braves would ever make that deal happen. AA was clear when he said that he has had initial talks with Max about a possible extension and the two sides have had an open line of communication, but it was still early given that he has two years left of team control.
In short, both sides have their current positions and everyone is aware of where they stand, but right now AA is going to keep those conversations in-house and private even though AA understands why it is a topic earlier than it normally may have been.
It doesn't sound like Anthopoulos is going anywhere anytime soon
Anthopoulos was asked about his long-term future with the Atlanta Braves and he was clear that he has every expectation to be around for a long-time. He loves the job he is in and the team and as long as the Braves will have him, he is going to be hanging around. A telling quote about his current job was "I won't find better".
Losing Dana Brown hurt, but was flattering as well
The Braves lost Dana Brown when he took the Houston Astros' GM job and AA was frank that while selfishly, he wanted to keep Dana around because he had such a big positive impact, he was also happy and flattered that Brown ended up getting such a high profile position. It makes him feel good about the organization they have built in that other teams want their employees to help their organizations out.
He was quick to say that like when the team lost Perry Minasian to the Angels, he fully expects to not have a drop-off and that the organization will be just fine as others step up even though Dana is still very highly regarded.
AA is not concerned about Soroka at all right now
Echoing previous reporting, AA reiterated that the team isn't concerned about Soroka's hamstring issue at all right now. The team has been firm in adopting a stance of getting ahead very early in spring training if a player is feeling anything out of the ordinary and he put Soroka's hammy in that group. In his words, "it isn't even on our minds".