One big obstacle is keeping the Braves from adding a frontline starter this offseason

The Braves normally like to strike early in the offseason, but the market is frozen at the moment for reasons outside their control.

Sep 2, 2023; Oakland, California, USA; Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (17)
Sep 2, 2023; Oakland, California, USA; Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (17) / D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports
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The Atlanta Braves' wish list this offseason has been clear from the beginning: they need to add a quality starting pitcher. Max Fried should, in theory, be able to bounce back from his injury-riddled 2023 season and Spencer Strider looks like an ace in the making. However, Charlie Morton is a huge question mark at this point of his career and the rest of the rotation doesn't inspire a ton of confidence at the moment.

Given that the Braves' needs are set in stone and the fact that general manager Alex Anthopoulos generally likes to make moves early in the offseason, it has been a bit puzzling that the Braves haven't struck and added a starting pitcher yet. Sure, they did sign Reynoldo Lopez which was a very solid move and yes, the Braves are saying that they want to try him as a starter. However, that seems more like a hope than an actual plan. If Atlanta's rotation hinges on Lopez turning back into a quality starting pitcher after several years in the bullpen, there's a problem.

However, it does seem like there are factors outside the Braves' control at work here. Atlanta is still regularly mentioned in the offseason rumor mill when it comes to starters. One report indicated that the Braves made a significant nine figure offer to Aaron Nola before he predictably re-signed with the Phillies. They have been connected to Sonny Gray basically since the offseason started. So why haven't they been able to get a deal done?

Well, that has a lot to do with two players who the Braves aren't going to sign and their impact on the free agent market.

Everyone, including the Braves, are having to wait on Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto to sign

As much fun as it is to complain that the Braves haven't signed a starter, the reality is that it isn't really their fault. Aaron Nola is the only top free agent starter to sign anywhere and he just went back to Philadelphia to the surprise of exactly no one. Detroit just brought in Kenta Maeda on a two year deal, but he isn't exactly a high profile arm to put it kindly.

The issue right now is that Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto are still free agents and that presents some challenges for the marketplace. Ohtani is set to probably sign the richest deal in the history of baseball and has basically every large market team (and a few not-so-large market teams as well) trying to convince him to sign. Unfortunately, that means a lot of teams with a lot of money in their wallets saving it in the hopes of adding the generational talent that is Ohtani.

Yamamoto may not command as much money as Shohei, but he was just posted by his Japanese club and is set to start meeting with teams this week. Pitchers this young and with the type of stuff that Yamamoto rarely hit free agency and that has half the league's attention at the moment.

These are the two guys that are going to determine the course of the offseason and the market is effectively frozen until more teams get eliminated from the chase to sign him. The other free agents on the market want more teams in the bidding for their services before they sign anywhere and the teams that could feasible sign Ohtani or Yamamoto do not want to commit any money to those free agents until they know what is going to happen with these two guys.

Fortunately, we should get some resolution relatively soon. Ohtani has been rumored for a while to not want to drag his free agency on forever and with the Winter Meetings fast approaching, teams are going to want some clarity from Shohei and Yoshinobu soon because plans for the 2024 have to start coming together quickly.

At minimum, once these two guys start eliminating teams, there should be more movement on the market and that is when the Braves need to strike. If the Braves wait too long to make their best offers, too many more teams in need of starting pitching could enter the fray and outbid Atlanta for a guy like Gray. This offseason, it is going to be all about having Goldilocks-esque timing and the Braves' has to be just right if they want to snag the arm they are after.

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