Benchmarks to watch for as the Atlanta Braves offseason kicks into gear

The end of the World Series kickstarted the exciting part of the Atlanta Braves' offseason. Who stays, who goes, and how many new faces will wear the tomahawk next year?

Atlanta Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos will be a very busy man over the next month.
Atlanta Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos will be a very busy man over the next month. / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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The Atlanta Braves have already provided partial answers about the 2024 roster, signing Pierce Johnson to a two-year deal and Joe Jiménez for three years, and the Orioles claimed Sam Hilliard.

The first benchmark came yesterday when free agency officially started with several players, including Ben Heller, electing free agency. Free agents may re-sign with their original club now but have to wait five days to sign with a new team. Here are the dates to watch.

Free Agents And Meetings

First out of the box is next Monday, November 6, the day free agents are...well, free.

  • The five-day waiting period for Free agents ends.
  • Clubs and players must make final decisions on options.
  • Clubs must announce Qualifying Offers by 4:00 pm Central time.

Among the more well-known players to decline options so far are former Atlanta Brave Jorge Soler with the Marlins, Seth Lugo with the Padres, and Whit Merrifield with the Blue Jays.

The first meeting of the season starts on Tuesday when general managers (presidents of baseball operations) meet in Scottsdale to decide what the owners will talk about at the Winter Meetings. Trades can happen at the GM meetings but generally don’t.

Free Agent Take It Or Leave It Day

While the GMs are in Arizona, the Owners Meeting is happening in Arlington – I’d like to attend, but no one’s invited me. I know, shocking oversight, isn’t it? 

The top of their agenda is to vote on the Athletics' move to Las Vegas, which will pass without much discussion. The only question about the move is where the Athletics will play for the three years it takes to build the new ballpark in Vegas.

The 14th is also the day players who received this year’s $20.325M qualifying offer must say yes or no. Players declining must understand who they are in the grand scheme of things.

The Atlanta Braves have a combined 17 AA and AAA players eligible for the Rule 5 Draft in December.
The Atlanta Braves have a combined 17 AA and AAA players eligible for the Rule 5 Draft in December. / Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Be Careful What You Ask For

Dexter Fowler turned down a $15,6M qualifying offer after 2015 and ended up returning to the Cubs for $6M and agreeing with, then backing out of a deal with the Orioles. He ended the year with a World Series ring but $9.6M less income.

Arizona left fielder Lourdes Gurriel had a clause in his contract with the Blue Jays preventing them from making a QO when the deal ended. Unlike Teoscar Hernández, Arizona’s left fielder hits the free agent market unencumbered by a QO.

MLBTR points out that, while the Braves are looking for a left fielder, they won’t want to sign a player with a QO to get one.

…For signing a QO-rejecting free agent, these clubs would have to give up $1MM in international bonus pool money, as well as two draft picks — their second- and fifth-highest selections in the 2024 draft.

If You Want Him Say So

When MLB offices close on November 14, teams must all Rule 5 eligibles they want to protect to the 40-man roster or risk losing the player.

The Atlanta Braves have 16 players eligible for selection.

  • AAA Pitchers Luis De Avila and Nolan Kingham
  •  AA Pitchers Daniel Martinez, Domingo Gonzalez, Trey Riley, Peyton Williams, Hayden Deal, and Tyler Owens
  • AAA Outfielder Justin Dean
  • AA outfielders Drew Campbell, Jesse Franklin, Cody Milligan, Brandon Parker, and Landon Stephens
  • AA Infielders Cade Bunnell, and Beau Phillip, and
  • AA catcher Javier Valdez

Since a claimed player must be added to the claiming team’s 40-man roster and kept there all year, the only one who may wear a new uniform next year is Riley.

The Atlanta Braves have 11 players in A-ball eligible as well, but those are more likely to go in the Minor League phase of the draft.

Love Me With A Tender

This year’s non-tender deadline is November 17. By close of business that day, we’ll know which arbitration-eligible players are looking for a new home. Players and teams don’t have to agree at this point. Absent a non-tender, teams want to keep the player and plan to offer a contract and, if necessary, go to arbitration. 

 If teams and players don't agree by January 12, the player files for arbitration, with hearings starting in February. The parties may continue to negotiate, but the Atlanta Braves are a file and trial team; holding out means going to a hearing and listening to everything you weren’t very good at last year.

Remember that the numbers announced in January rarely reflect the offers made and rejected during negotiations. Players tend to move closer to the team’s price to make it seem like the difference is so small the team should have agreed. Teams do the same thing, saying look, the difference is so small, the payer should have signed.

The Atlanta Braves aren't likely to make a big splash at this year's Winter Meetings.
The Atlanta Braves aren't likely to make a big splash at this year's Winter Meetings. / Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/GettyImages

More Meetings

Baseball’s biggest offseason event, the Winter Meetings, starts in Nashville on December 3. It’s not unusual for teams to sign a big-name free agent and announce it at the meeting. In 2011, Arte Moreno flew to Dallas and opened his checkbook to pay a ridiculous sum to Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson, and Jeffrey Loria went crazy signing players he’d trade a year later. 

The free-agent market is pretty thin this year, so we’ll likely see an uptick in trades. Trades were once a feature of the Winter Meeting, but that’s slowed considerably in the last decade as teams became more reluctant to make early deals and hoped for leverage later in the postseason.

Lotteries and Drafts

The 2023 Winter Meetings conclude with the Rule 4 draft lottery on December 5 and the Rule 5 Draft on December 6. This is the second year of the draft lottery, which created more noise than usual around the Rule 4 Draft in July and shuffled the deck for the clubs in need of help.

It’s too early to know if it’s successful in its goal of preventing a team from tanking; it didn’t stop Oakland, but they’re a special case in pathetic ownership.

The Rule 5 draft marks the end of the meetings, and the end of the 2023 international signing period on December 15 is the last tick on the 2023 calendar. The new signing period starts on January 15.

That’s a Wrap

Atlanta Braves President of Baseball Ops Alex Anthopoulos keeps everything close to his vest, so It’s impossible to say what he’ll do with any certainty.

The Atlanta Braves need at least one starting pitcher, and the right-handed power bat that eluded AA at the deadline is likely on the agenda. He’ll want his pitching settled by the time Pitchers and catcher report on February 13, but we’ve seen him make moves throughout Spring Training in the past, so all I can guarantee is that on March 28, the Atlanta Braves will have a 28-man roster ready to open the season.