Atlanta Braves: Ranking the National League East's front offices by competence

The Braves' front office has gotten plenty of praise in recent years. How do they stack up against the rest of the division?

Nov 9, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Atlanta Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos answers questions
Nov 9, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Atlanta Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos answers questions / Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
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Everything seems to be going the Atlanta Braves' way at the moment. The Braves are coming off a very convincing victory over the Dodgers last night led by Max Fried and Ronald Acuna Jr. that puts them one win away from securing the season series tiebreaker against LA. They have won five straight and nine of their last 10 which has stretched their lead in in the National League East to 15 games. Most of the credit deserves to go to the players and coaches, but the Braves' front office led by Alex Anthopoulos has played a huge part in putting the team in a position to succeed.

From timely trades that helped vault the team to a World Series title in 2021 to big offseason moves to hitting on seemingly minor trades and signings, Anthopoulos and co. have done an exemplary job at insuring that the Braves remain at or near the top of the National League each and every year. To gain an appreciation for what the organization has accomplished, one need only take a look at how the Braves' front office stacks up against the rest of the National League East.

Here are the totally scientific rankings of the front offices in the National League East

If you are looking for a quantitative, data-driven approach to ranking front offices here, then you are going to be disappointed. Such a thing sounds awesome and is worth investigating, but there is so much that goes into front office decision-making that is extremely subjective and the publicly available information is often frustratingly incomplete. So instead, this is going being more of an eye test that could be easily debated. Also, the National League East is actually pretty stacked with experienced front offices, so the difference between teams isn't as big as you might think based on where they rank.

Let's take a look at how the National League East front office stack up against each other and where the Braves fit in.

5.) Washington Nationals

In fairness to the Nationals and general manager Mike Rizzo, being in a rebuilding stage as an organization isn't being held against them too much. All teams have to endure an aging and increasingly more expensive core and need time to regroup. The Nationals were a very good baseball team for a while and the closing of their competitive window was, in many ways, cyclical.

However, there is no denying that the decisions of the front office hastened their decline into irrelevance. They have two of the worst contracts in baseball in Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg which gives credence to the idea that you shouldn't ever give big, long-term money to pitchers. In giving those guys that kind of money, they also couldn't find a way to keep Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, or Juan Soto which is almost criminal. Washington had all the pieces to be a true dynasty and couldn't figure out how to sustain it.

Not all the news is bad here. They did correctly decide not to pay Anthony Rendon who can't stay healthy and looks like a shadow of his former self these days. Their farm system is also stacked thanks to drafting well and getting some pretty nice players back in some of the trades of superstars they have made in recent years.

In a few years, the Nationals are likely to look like an exciting young team with James Wood and Dylan Crews in the fold. However, it may be a while before they are truly competitive as the organization unwinds all of the damage done before the team decided to rebuild and it is entirely possible that Rizzo won't be the guy to see those plans come to fruition.

4.) Miami Marlins

It is easy to pick on the Marlins due to their ownership situation and that feels a bit unfair. Things seem to have improved since the days of the fire sales under Jeffrey Loria, but Miami's ownership still continues to refuses to invest significantly in the Marlins roster and that makes for some very difficult constraints to operate under.

However, Kim Ng and the rest of the Marlins' front office shouldn't get off that easy. Despite having a ton of young pitching depth from which to make trades, we have yet to see them make a deal for an impact player to at least give Miami a fighting chance. The Marlins' analytics department seems half-baked and definitely under invested in and, most importantly, they have not been able to develop any bats of note from the minor leagues. The drafting of Kahlil Watson in 2021 looks like a complete disaster and first round pick Joe Mack later in the same draft doesn't look much better.

There have been some positives under Ng, though. While they can't seem to develop or acquire much in the way of hitting, the Marlins have been very good at developing pitching with more on the way in Noble Meyer and Thomas White. What Miami ends up doing with all of these arms down the road will determine a lot here, but there is no denying that they know what they like in pitchers and the results have been good.

Miami also deserves some credit for being somewhat competitive this season. They aren't a particularly good team, but they are currently above .500 and on the fringes of competing for the last wild card spot in the National League despite having no offense to speak of outside of Luiz Arraez and Jorge Soler (both good moves by the front office) and being hamstrung when it comes to spending. It is hard to see Miami being much better than that going forward unless some things change, but at least that is something.

3.) New York Mets

Next up is the New York Mets and there is a lot to parse here. For starters, it is weirdly refreshing to see an owner commit so strongly to being a World Series contender like Steve Cohen has. The Mets turned the baseball world upside with their spending spree last offseason. Many thought that New York had successfully put together one of the best rosters in the National League after that much activity and coming off a 100+ win season last year.

However, that is decidedly not what happened this season. Instead of being the class of the National League, the Mets find themselves 11 games under .500 and duking it out with the Nationals for last place in the NL East. Much of the blame deservedly belongs to the players for failing to perform, but the front office deserves some of the blame as well for not investing all that money as wisely as they should have.

Giving credit where credit is due, the Mets actually did a pretty good job at the trade deadline this year once the decision was made to tear things down. The returns they received in the Scherzer and Verlander deals were substantial and their farm system now actually looks promising after several years of trades and poor drafts had depleted their minor league ranks.

Still, it looks like the Mets are going to have to continue to take a hard look in the mirror and make some top level changes when it comes to their decision-making. They have an owner that very clearly is willing to go for it, but they are going to have to build a sustainable model for success before that will matter as much as they want it to. The initial steps they have taken are in the right direction and if they can get a decent foundation put together again, the Mets could be become contenders again in a hurry.

2.) Philadelphia Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies are up next and this is an interesting one because Dave Dombrowski has a strong track record of success as an executive but with some caveats. Ever aggressive in his pursuit of stars, Dombrowski has routinely put together strong rosters in all of his stops in his career, but it has often been at the cost of his teams' prospect pipeline as he has left more than one organization bereft of minor league talent.

Dombrowski has remained the same sort of guy in Philadelphia as he extended JT Realmuto, signed Trea Turner to a mega-deal last offseason, and have added Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber as well during his tenure atop the Phillies front office. The end result was a surprising run to the World Series last season and it looks like they will be playoff bound again in 2023 barring a collapse. One fully expects that the Phillies will remain in the mix at the top of the free agent and trade markets yet again this offseason.

Dombrowski is definitely the kind of guy you want around when an owner has deep pockets like John Middleton, but there are some flaws here. Dombrowski sees prospects as trade chips and given that, it is going to be hard for the Phillies to develop cheap, talented players to fill roster spots. That can work for a little while, but it isn't particularly sustainable especially when you look at the lack of depth in the Phillies' farm system thanks to some lackluster draft classes, injuries, and failures in player development.

Has Dombrowski helped make the Phillies a good baseball team? Yes, without question. Will they remain a good baseball team who is aggressive over the next couple of years under Dombrowski? Almost certainly. However, as Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, Zach Wheeler, and Aaron Nola get older and inevitably start to decline, it is hard not to think that Dombrowski will see the writing on the wall and move on to his next short-term project because, well, that is just what he does.

1.) Atlanta Braves

Finally, we come to the top of the National League East with the Atlanta Braves front office and frankly, this isn't particularly close. It is pretty puzzling that Alex Anthopoulos hasn't won MLB Executive of the Year yet given all of the success the team has had combined with his body of work while heading the Braves' front office.

After being pretty reluctant to trade from the team's minor league depth his first few seasons as general manager, Anthopoulos finally showed some of the aggressiveness we saw out of him during his time in Toronto in the deals for Matt Olson and Sean Murphy. On a related note, the Athletics should probably stop taking AA's phone calls because both of those deals have turned out much better for the Braves than Oakland. His moves at the 2021 trade deadline including Eddie Rosario and Jorge Soler are widely regarded as some of the most impactful moves we have seen in years and he gave up very little in any of those deals.

However, it is more than just a couple flashy trades here. The Braves have continued to add young talent from the minor leagues despite the limitations they have had on the international market and low draft picks. They have been generally good at calling up the right guys at the right points in their development and, when necessary, have proven to be very agile in their decision-making when the situation calls for it.

If there is a quibble, and it is a fair one, it is that Anthopoulos has let some popular and very good players leave in Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson. There are some fans that will never forgive him for those decisions, but at the very least there was always a good plan in place when those choices were made. Matt Olson isn't Freddie Freeman, but he is pretty close. Many thought that shortstop was going to be a liability when Dansby left for the Cubs, but Orlando Arcia has been a delightful surprise. It is also worth nothing that while some notable players have left, Anthopoulos has a very strong track record of getting extensions done with players like Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, Michael Harris, Matt Olson, Spencer Strider, Sean Murphy, and Austin Riley.

The end result has been a Braves organization that is a model for sustainable success in the modern game of baseball. Not every move has worked out amazingly, but the front office always seems to find a way to make things work and they make the team better each and every year. You can't ask for much more than that.

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