During last weekend’s Braves fan gathering, Alex Anthopoulos whispered sweet nothings to the people, suggesting that the Braves have adopted a real go-for-it attitude these days.
Now, it may have been just the excitement of the moment, this verbal blank check. These are giddy days for a team that has transitioned from project to hopeful market leader.
It sounded swell. No dating-site profile or timeshare brochure has ever promised more. Delivering is the tricky part, as the skeptic will attest.
Ah, but let’s hear it one more time. To any Braves fan, it is such ear candy.
Describing the marching orders from Braves Chairman Terry McGuirk, Anthopoulos said, “He just told me the other day, ‘Look, I want you to continue. If there is something else that you think is big and impactful and can continue to drive us forward and put us over the top, I want you to go for it. I want you to try to do it.’”
Now the Braves and their ownership, Liberty Media (formerly known as Scrooge McDuck Inc.), have in fairness had a quite-efficient buying season. They didn’t opt to go long term on Josh Donaldson, but that doesn’t mean they just stood around and froze their assets off this winter. They spent long-term on the bullpen – three years, $40 million for Will Smith. And they spent short-term on a used starter – Cole Hamels – and power in the outfield – Marcell Ozuna – each at one-year, $18 million.
But now, try imagining a world in which the Braves truly were in go-for-it mode, in which no expense was spared in the pursuit of a World Series.
You can’t? Neither can I, not exactly. Such a fantasy is beyond the power of imagination of pretty much anyone who doesn’t work for the Hallmark Channel.
Look at some of the recent high-ticket free-agent items and the prices paid for them.
Pitcher Gerrit Cole, nine years, $324 million, by the Yankees.
Third-baseman Anthony Rendon, seven years, $245 million, by the Angels.
Pitcher Zack Wheeler, five years, $118 million, by Philadelphia.
Can you ever really see the Braves swimming in those depths? That’s just not the company they keep. And not even saying that they should, given the flammability of such purchases and the need for some kind of long-term responsibility. Just saying that Braves fans probably should never misinterpret “going for it” for reckless, trust-fund-baby kind of spending. The big splashy signing always seems to be something the other guy does.
Even some of the “mere” eight-figure deals that were recently struck – like four years, $73 million for catcher Yasmani Grandal (White Sox) or four years, $64 million for infielder Mike Moustakas (Reds) – don’t really suit the Braves’ style. Perhaps in the future, when The Battery Atlanta is up to the roof line in profits, maybe then the team will shop that aisle.
Just understand that “go for it” might have a little different meaning to the Braves than it would in, say, cliff diving.
But, you know, it has come to our attention lately that the Kris Bryant grievance has been settled, and the former Cubs MVP has two years left on his contract to offer any team that might want a big-hitting third baseman.
There is renewed chatter about the possibility of Chicago moving Bryant or, some say, even Colorado trading Nolan Arenado, the gold standard of third basemen.
Now, while Johan Camargo and Austin Riley are splendid fellows who might ably man that corner of the infield, we’re talking about a different breed of third basemen here. We’re talking about players who, should either land anywhere within the National League East, may be the kind to definitively tip the balance of power in a loaded division. And both have a couple of years of team control remaining.
Yeah, to acquire either would mean stretching the budget a little more. And it would mean parting with some popular prospects – in the Braves’ case, highly regarded players of the rank of pitcher Ian Anderson and outfielder Drew Waters.
Sooner or later the Braves have to spend some of the prospect capital they have spent years acquiring, or risk being on one of those hoarder shows, where your house looks like an overcrowded Cracker Barrel storeroom.
Certainly a real go-for-it team wouldn’t let this kind of opportunity pass without doing some serious sniffing about.
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