Coming off a season where the Atlanta Braves were eliminated in the NLDS by their division rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies, you had to think they had a chip on their shoulders entering 2023. During the offseason, Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos made some moves that Braves fans have seen often over the last six years. AA stays busy looking to make the team better but let's take a closer look at the two most impactful he made this past offseason.
Fan favorite William Contreras was dealt to the Brewers in a three-team trade that resulted in backstop Sean Murphy coming to Atlanta from Oakland. This move came as a shock to most being that William Contreras and Travis d'Arnuad were both all-star catchers with d'Arnuad still under contract. As surprising as this move was, this wasn't the only bombshell from AA this off-season.
Dansby Swanson was born and raised in the Atlanta area. After being called up to the bigs in 2016, the shortstop quickly stole the hearts of Braves fans everywhere, contributing on the field and in the community. He was an All-Star in 2022 while also collecting a Gold Glove Award, a season after he played a major role in leading the Braves to their first World Series championship since 1995.
To the average fan, resigning Dansby Swanson was a no-brainer, regardless of the cost. AA had other plans, deciding that Swanson's asking price was a little too high, and ultimately chose to fill the shortstop vacancy within the organization. This caused quite a panic among Braves fans.
Going into spring training, it was almost certainly Vaughn Grissom's competition to lose as he already had his feet wet with some success in the majors in 2022. Braden Shewmake's name had also been thrown around as a possibility as one of the Braves' top prospects was showcasing his talents in the minors at a high level.
It turned out that neither one of these talented young men won the starting job and veteran Orlando Arcia was selected as the opening-day shortstop and has taken advantage of the opportunity.
We all know that baseball is a game of numbers and we have all heard the phrase "numbers don't lie." So let's have some fun and compare statistics from the first half of the season for who the Braves had versus who they ended up with.
William Contreras vs. Sean Murphy
Contreras is hitting .262 with 9 HR and 32 RBIs mainly as a DH in 260 at-bats. Sean Murphy is hitting .306 with 17 HR and 55 RBIs in 232 at-bats while also gunning down 14 runners attempting to steal, which is already only five behind his career high at the all-star break. This first-half performance made Murphy the starting catcher for the National League in the All-Star game. This makes AA 1-for-1.
Dansby Swanson vs. Orlando Arcia
Dansby Swanson was selected for his second all-star appearance so this is a tougher comparison. However, Orlando Arcia was named the starting shortstop for the mid-summer classic. Swanson is hitting .258 with 10 HR and 36 RBIs in 325 at-bats.
Orlando Arcia is hitting .294 with 7 HR and 28 RBIs in 245 at-bats. So while at first glance, Swanson seems to have the edge outside of average, you have to take into account that Arcia has had 80 fewer at-bats than Swanson. Another note to make in this comparison is salary. Swanson is on a 7-year deal worth $177 million. Orlando Arcia is on a 3-year, $7.3 million contract. Any time you can have close to the same production, if not better for $100 million less, you take it.
In his time as the Atlanta Braves GM, Alex Anthopoulos has proven himself time and time again to be one of the best in the business, if not the best. It is a fan's human nature to question decisions the front office of their favorite sports teams make but down the road, you have to imagine AA will be questioned much less than others.