After an offseason of waiting, the Atlanta Braves moved quickly to replace Josh Donaldson after his departure to Minnesota with the addition of outfielder Marcell Ozuna. While it remains to be seen whether or not Ozuna will have the impact that Donaldson had, the decision to not match the four-year, $92 million offer from the Twins was clearly a big picture decision. The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz talked about that decision and the team’s offseason recently with Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos. Per the interview, Anthopoulos indicated that Atlanta had the means to match Minnesota’s offer for Donaldson but opted not to do so. He also understands that he will take some criticism for that decision.
“We were given an opportunity and there was a lot of internal debate about it, but ultimately, I’m accountable as the head of baseball operations, and I wasn’t comfortable going that far with it,” Anthopoulos said about Donaldson’s negotiations. “We’ll find out in the long run if that was the right decision for the organization or not. But it’s not about Josh Donaldson. He’s been one of the best players in the game for a long time, and we wanted him back.”
The case against bringing back Donaldson was always going to be about his age. Donaldson just turned 34 and stretching out to a four-year commitment was always going to be met with some apprehension. Donaldson enjoyed a healthy season in 2019 while resetting his value but that couldn’t be guaranteed going forward. As an American League club, the Twins have the option to use Donaldson as a DH in order to keep some of the wear and tear down as well.
I think the biggest takeaway however is that the Braves under Anthopoulos have shown a willingness to spend money but have not been as willing to commit to long deals for older free agents. They have also done their best to operate without dead money. Anthopoulos’ first move as GM of the Braves was the Matt Kemp trade in which the team absorbed the contracts of Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy. Gonzalez was released as a condition of the deal but Atlanta was left with the $22+ million remaining on his contract. Scott Kazmir was released during spring training adding $17.6 million to the ledger.
The team began the 2019 season with essentially the same Opening Day payroll but without the dead money, there was more going towards the on field product. We can’t know for sure that a four-year deal for Donaldson would have lead to more dead money on the books. We can even argue that it would have been worth it if he was the missing the piece on a team with championship potential. Still this is the way the Braves have operated under Anthopoulos and we shouldn’t be too terribly surprised at the outcome.
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Speaking of Marcell Ozuna, he turned down multi-year offers from other teams to take Atlanta’s one-year deal according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.
MLB Pipeline released its Top 10 outfield prospects for the 2020 season on Thursday with both Cristian Pache and Drew Waters making the cut. Pache came in fourth on the list while Waters was seventh. Chicago’s Luis Robert topped the list and was followed closely by the Angels’ Jo Adell.
Cory McCartney’s Starting Nine column on Thursday included notes on Atlanta’s outfield picture following the signing of Ozuna. He also takes an optimistic look at the team’s third base situation and much more.
This week’s Throwback Thursday column takes a look back at the baseball career of Deion Sanders.
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