MLB poll shows Braves need to capitalize on encouraging free agency trend

A recent player's poll by The Athletic revealed that the Atlanta Braves have created an environment fit for the league's top talent.

A player poll named Atlanta Braves right fielder and 2024 NLMVP one of the players they most like to have on their team.
A player poll named Atlanta Braves right fielder and 2024 NLMVP one of the players they most like to have on their team. / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

The Atlanta Braves aren’t only the oldest continuously operating franchise in MLB, they’re considered one of the best-run organizations in the game. Over the years, we’ve heard individual players say they’d like to play in Atlanta, and The Athletic’s 2024 player poll confirms it.

The Athletic conducted its poll over two months this spring before the season began and asked 100 players across both leagues 12 questions; some came from the staff while readers suggested others. The Braves and their players ranked among the top answers to three of the twelve questions.

Dizzy Dean once said, "All ballplayers want to wind up their career with the Cubs, Giants, or Yankees." This was correct when Dean earned his Hall of Fame plaque with the Cardinals. The leagues consisted of eight teams each, and once you signed a contract, that team owned you for the rest of your playing days. The teams in his quote were the elite franchises of their day and undoubtedly at the top of a player’s list of places they'd like to play, but times have changed.

Recent MLB poll reveals the Braves have become a top destination for free agents across the league

One of the Athletic’s readers asked, “Which team would you sign with if contracts, state taxes, and rosters were not a factor?”  86 players responded to this prompt and named 18 teams, with the favorite destination being convincingly clear. " major franchise stood above the rest: The Atlanta Braves, who captured 12.7 percent of the vote.”

As you might expect, many players would like to play near their home, or where they grew up, but the ballpark was a factor for many players. One anonymous player explained why he selected the Braves stating, “I would sign with the Braves, knowing what I know. If I didn’t know, I would probably try and play one year for the Red Sox or the Yankees. Just to do it…I love that stadium."

The way he worded his response speaks volumes about the respect the franchise has among players. Players know the Braves are a quality franchise that treats their players like family with a fanbase that doesn’t turn on a layer because he’s in a slump.

Braves’ new color man, CJ Nitkowski, believes there’s another unmentioned reason that is helping draw players to Atlanta.

CJ, Brandon, and crew have provided Atlanta with yet another valuable bargaining chip to present to free agents when weighing their decision to join the organization, but that didn't come up in the poll.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that free agents value the Braves organization because Alex Anthopoulos focused heavily on creating the best culture possible when he took over the helm. That's something many have echoed during and after their time in Atlanta. Alex values input from the players and if they ask for something like an ice cream machine because it keeps morale high, AA is going to buy an ice cream machine.

Other topics covered in The Athletic's poll

There were a few more things covered in the poll and one of them was about the best player in baseball. There weren't really any shocking responses to this question.

Players cast 102 votes, and, no surprise here, Shohei Ohtani walked away with the top spot, earning 46% of those votes.  What might have surprised some fans was that Ronald Acuña Jr. received 26.5% of the vote, three times the number of votes Mookie Betts and Aaron Judge each received for third place.

One player provided their thoughts by stating, "It’s tough not to go with Ohtani, but Acuña is pretty close. I saw BP the other day, I was impressed. And playing against (him) for the past five years…”

Acuña also came in near the top of players other players wanted on their team. He tied for third on the list behind Betts and Ohtani but tied with Aaron Judge, Bryce Harper, and, interestingly, Kyle Schwarber. Orlando Arcia tied for 11th on the list with Jose Altuve, Gerrit Cole, and three others.

The Giants are a storied franchise with a history of great teams and players, which is why I found it interesting that the Giants were one of four teams including the Mets, Twins, and Mariners found at the bottom of the list with 2.3% of the vote for franchises players are willing to play for.

I wasn’t surprised that the Athletics are currently considered the franchise with the worst reputation or that the White Sox were a close second, followed by the destination-less Rockies.

The Mets' seemingly permanent malaise also found them fourth on the list, and I was once again surprised that the Yankees got two votes on this list as well.

Leadership is the key to creating a respected franchise, and the Atlanta Braves have one of the league's most respected men, Alex Anthopoulos, leading the front office, and former manager of the year Brian Snitker in the dugout.

As an Atlanta Braves fan, it’s good to know that players respect your franchise, love your ballpark, and know that it's located in a caring community that has some of the league’s best people as players. Now, about those hometown discounts...

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