On November 13th, 2017, the Atlanta Braves announced that Alex Anthopoulos would become the teams next General Manager and executive vice president. This move came shortly after former Braves GM John Coppolella resigned after committing several infractions regarding the signings of international players. Coppolella was banned from Major League Baseball for life.
Despite finishing the 2017 season in 3rd place with a 72-90 record, Anthopoulos immediately inherited one of the best farm systems in MLB after coming over from the Los Angeles Dodgers. At the time, the Braves farm system was ranked first in the majors and had seven top 100 prospects on the big-league club. The first season under Anthopoulos proved to be a success as the Braves shocked the world and won the 2018 NL East division title with a 90-72 record. Anthopoulos has continued to upgrade the Braves in 2019 and now has them in prime position to repeat as NL East champs. It’s time to give the Braves GM the credit he deserves.
Alex Anthopoulos Deserves Credit for Atlanta Braves Success
Acuña Jr. and Albies
Arguably the most impressive thing Anthopoulos has accomplished in his short tenure has been locking up his young stars. Both Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies were locked up to team-friendly long-term deals. Anthopoulos signed Acuña to an 8-year $100 million contract. He signed Albies to a seven-year deal worth $35 million.
This move seems to be paying off already for the Braves as Acuña is starting to look like the game’s next superstar and Albies continues his hot-hitting and stellar defense.
EN FUEGO ??
— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) August 10, 2019
Even after winning the 2018 NL East title there was still work to be done in the offseason. The main issue for the Braves was their lack of a true bench presence — a significant reason the Braves were knocked out of the NLDS by the Dodgers. Players like Lucas Duda, Ryan Flaherty, Lane Adams, and Rene Rivera filled out the Atlanta bench. Although Dansby Swanson was left off the postseason roster due to injury, the bench still lacked depth even with him on the team. With all due respect to these players, they couldn’t match up with the bench of the Dodgers, which consisted of David Freese, Chris Taylor, and Brian Dozier.
For the Braves to repeat their 2018 success and make a deep postseason run, Anthopoulos knew this problem had to be addressed in the offseason. And he did just that. Anthopoulos cemented the Braves lineup as one of the best in MLB and bolstered the bench with the signings of former MVP Josh Donaldson and fan-favorite Brian McCann. These signings have proven to be invaluable to Atlanta’s success thus far. As a result, Donaldson has smashed 26 home runs and raked in 68 RBI, and McCann has proven to be a great mentor to the young Atlanta pitching staff. However, these weren’t the only moves that Anthopoulos would make. The under the radar additions of Josh Tomlin and Matt Joyce have also been critical to the Braves — both in the bullpen and on the bench. The Braves improved bench now consists of Joyce, Charlie Culberson, Tyler Flowers, and Johan Camargo.
Although Anthopoulos brought in both Donaldson and McCann, he continued to receive criticism from both fans and media. Everyone questioned whether the Braves GM was liberal enough to sign either Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel. Anthopoulos answered that question when the team signed Keuchel to a one-year $13 million contract. Not only did this signing prove that Anthopoulos and the Braves front office were serious about winning, it also substantiated they aren’t afraid of spending the money it takes to win.
Even though the former CY Young winner has struggled in 2019 (3-5 record, 4.83 ERA), Keuchel gives the Braves experience in the postseason where they need it most — the starting rotation. Atlanta’s starting staff currently consists of youngsters Max Fried and Mike Soroka, as well as Mike Foltynewicz who has only made a pair of postseason starts. So, Anthopoulos deserves praise for filling this need mid-season.
Keeping the Farm System Intact at the Trade Deadline
It can be said that Anthopoulos is the beneficiary of the work that Coppolella and his staff built, but there’s something to be said about the job that he has done keeping the farm system intact. Exhibit A — the recent trade deadline. The Braves bullpen needed a reboot. With the struggles of A.J. Minter, Chad Sobotka, Shane Carle, Jesse Biddle, and others, the bullpen needed to be addressed at the deadline. As a result, Anthopoulos and his staff rebuilt the pen with the acquisitions of Chris Martin, Mark Melancon, and Shane Greene. These trades not only give the Braves experience in the pen, but they also provide manager Brian Snitker with three pitchers that have closing experience.
The most impressive part is that Anthopoulos acquired three quality relievers to fill a need without giving up any of the Braves top 10 prospects. The highest-rated prospect was in the Martin trade when the Braves sent 12th ranked prospect Kolby Allard to the Texas Rangers. Anthopoulos also seized both Melancon and Greene without paying an excessive price. The Braves will also have control over both pitchers for the 2020 season.
The Braves Are in Good Hands
Since Anthopoulos came to Atlanta, he has built the Braves into a winner, kept the farm system intact, and assembled the Braves bench into one of the deepest in the league. With Anthopoulos at the helm, expect the Braves to be contenders in the NL East for years to come.
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