What sort of deals should we expect to see the Braves make this winter?
A big addition might require a large subtraction
I'm not entirely sure the Braves can make a splashy signing without moving some more salary. Raisel Iglesias and Marcell Ozuna are the top candidates to be moved should the Braves need to free up some budget space. Each player is worth a $16 million hit against the competitive balance payroll.
Clearing those players off would reduce the AAV payroll to $205 million, or $45 million short of the second threshold. Now, that is one way to gain the flexibility they need to make a big splash. That number does not include the salaries of any players they receive in return for the trade. If the Braves were comfortable going $10 million over the threshold, this would give AA a lot of wiggle room to make a big move this season.
The Braves already signed reliever Reynaldo Lopez and announced they would be stretching him out as a potential starter. A sign of things to come?
Braves in-house options
Bryce Elder was one of the best pitchers in the first half of the season, but he was one of the worst pitchers in the second half. His overall performance over the past year and a half has likely earned him a shot to stick around in the back of the rotation. Between AJ Smith-Shawver, Ian Anderson, Huascar Ynoa, and Reynaldo Lopez, Alex Anthopoulos might not be thinking like fans are right now when it comes to big-name free agents.
Forget everything you've heard and remember what you've seen
The Braves have been rumored to be in on trade talks with Dylan Cease, but that might not be the best long-term solution for the team. Also, when was the last time you heard rumors of an Alex Anthopoulos trade that happened? Conversely, how many AA-led trades hit the headlines without you ever hearing a prior whisper?
Braves' needs other than starting pitching
Utility IF/Shortstop: Orlando Arcia is serviceable at shortstop but the team needs at least a backup. A utility infielder at a low price is going to be important after the Braves parted ways with Luke Williams, Nicky Lopez, and Braden Shewmake. Here are three former Braves who fit that description. The Braves should have their eyes peeled for the right opportunity to upgrade at shortstop. Arcia has a career OPS+ of 79. As good as it felt like he was last year, he posted a 98 OPS+, meaning he was two percentage points below the league average (after adjustments).
Left Field: The Braves declined Eddie Rosario's $9 million option. It may not have been because they were planning a big upgrade. Judging by the budget, it might have been because they needed to save money to ensure they stayed under the second luxury tax while they addressed other needs. There have been rumors they plan to try Vaughn Grissom in left field, and that doesn't sound like a bad idea. There are some potentially low-priced options like Hunter Renfroe or Tommy Pham. It will be interesting to keep an eye on left field to see if the Braves plan to roll with Vaughn Grissom and his .921 OPS from Triple-A last season.
Cautiously, I'm expecting the Braves to sign some league-minimum-type players to fill out the final spots of the 40-man roster and mix in a few veterans looking to prove themselves. Guys like Jack Flaherty come to mind. You can read about other players who fit this mold here: 3 free agents outside of MLBTR's top 50 that could be a fit for the Braves.
If Ozuna, Iglesias, or both get moved, then it should be followed by a much more exciting acquisition to discuss.
The Braves have a long-term need at starting pitcher with Max Fried and Charlie Morton likely to depart after next season. With the limited payroll flexibility and a strapped farm system, AA is going to have to get creative to fill the long-term needs of the club. Let's sit back and watch the master at work. I wouldn't be surprised to see a series of very minor moves due to the current payroll and the quality of the existing roster construction. I would also not be surprised to see some payroll clearing trades and big acquisitions in succession.