Anthopoulos talks Braves offseason, Freeman, says payroll will increase

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos, left, and manager Brian Snitker celebrate the Braves' 4-2 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers to advance to the World Series in game 6 at the National League Championship Series at Truist Park, Saturday October 23, 2021, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton /

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos, left, and manager Brian Snitker celebrate the Braves' 4-2 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers to advance to the World Series in game 6 at the National League Championship Series at Truist Park, Saturday October 23, 2021, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton /

The Braves will increase payroll in 2022, general manager Alex Anthopoulos said during the team’s end-of-season press conference Sunday morning.

While Anthopoulos didn’t elaborate, he ensured that after winning their second World Series title in Atlanta, the Braves will have added flexibility to retain and supplement their core.

“Payroll will rise,” he said. “Payroll will be going up from ‘21 to ‘22, which obviously is a great thing. Beyond that, you guys know me when it comes to that stuff, I don’t get into specifics. Our payroll, in 2020 it was the highest it’d ever been. It started out lower in ‘21 but we got it back up again after the trade deadline. It’s a credit to our attendance and the fans.

“It will continue to climb. We don’t necessarily have anything locked in right now. I know it’s going to rise. But I have a general sense of where we’re going with it. It’s going to be higher in ‘22 than it was in ‘21.”

The Braves have several notable free agents, headlined by franchise star Freddie Freeman. The first baseman, coming off winning National League MVP in 2020 and a championship in 2021, became a free agent for the first time in his career Sunday evening.

It’s surprised many that Freeman reached free agency; there was a thought, even expectation, he and the Braves would reach an agreement ahead of this point, perhaps even before the 2021 campaign. That didn’t happen, which led to both parties answering questions about his status throughout the year.

Freeman told The AJC at the All-Star game he wished something had already been done. He hasn’t changed his tone, constantly reiterating his desire to stay, even addressing the subject between World Series games. Anthopoulos has likewise sang the same tune.

The Braves issued a qualifying offer to Freeman before he officially became a free agent, which was a formality. Anthopoulos said Sunday, once again, the team wants to make Freeman a Braves lifer.

“I can’t say a whole lot other than what I’ve said in the past: We love him. He’s great. We want him to stay. He wants to stay,” Anthopoulos said. “How the process plays out and goes from there, I can’t get into any specifics. Just similar to what I said in the past: Our goal is to sign him and to keep him a Brave. We’re in the free agent process now. That’s probably all I can say at this point.”

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman waves to fans during the Truist Park Ceremony celebrating the Atlanta Braves' World Series win on Friday, November 5, 2021. (Hyosub Shin /


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Later in the 40-minute presser, Anthopoulos praised Freeman as an individual destined for Cooperstown.

“Freddie, he’s a Hall of Famer,” Anthopoulos said. “I don’t know what his career stats are right now, but in my mind, he’s going to be a Hall of Famer. He’ll be one of the greatest Braves who ever played. Won an MVP, won a World Series. He’s done everything. We’ve been very clear: We want him to stay. And he wants to stay. But this, like anything, we’ve seen other examples of players who’ve gone through this sometimes and it just takes time. There’s a process that takes place. We’d love to have all these things done sooner, it’s just sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.”

Three of the four outfielders acquired in July who helped propel the Braves’ championship run could all test the market. Eddie Rosario, Joc Pederson and Jorge Soler are free agents. Adam Duvall declined his mutual option but remains arbitration eligible, so the Braves could tender him or work out a new agreement if they want to keep the RBI leader. Duvall projects the earn just over $9 million in arbitration. The team could also non-tender him, as it did last winter. It could still re-sign him in such scenario.

Anthopoulos plans to discuss life as a championship GM with select peers in the coming week, hearing what other executives who’ve tried to repeat think about continuity versus change. While maintaining he wants to keep the majority, “if not all” of the team’s core, Anthopoulos acknowledged change is inevitable, especially in the outfield.

“We have a lot of free agents and we’d like to have them all back because they all played so well for us,” Anthopoulos said. “Realistically, it’s going to be hard to pull that off. But we’ll do our best to put the best club on the field that we can for 2022.”

The GM didn’t have any news on outfielder Marcell Ozuna, who was on administrative leave under the joint MLB-MLBPA domestic-violence, sexual-assault and child-abuse policy. Ozuna has been in a diversion program. He remains on the Braves’ payroll, which means his contract affects how they will handle the winter.

Anthopoulos avoided elaborating on Ozuna, deferring to Major League Baseball.

“It’s been made extremely clear to us that we cannot comment at all in any capacity,” he said. “He’s currently being paid by the club. His contract is on our books. Beyond that, there’s no other news. Any other news beyond that, the league would be the one to speak. All I can tell you is our payroll is going to climb from ‘21 to ‘22. We have a lot of things to do. We have a lot of areas offensively, bullpen, rotation. We had a really good club and we need to continue to add because we have a lot of free agents.”

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires Dec. 1. A lockout is reportedly considered likely at this juncture. That could further stall the market in the coming weeks, especially for players such as Freeman who will warrant larger commitments.

Anthopoulos said the Braves are moving forward as they would any other offseason. But the next few weeks will reveal how much influence the CBA negotiations have over the market.

“Right now, I’m just operating like any other offseason,” Anthopoulos said. “That’s stuff that’s well above and beyond me. Whatever happens is going to impact the other 29 clubs as well. So I know it’s going to be a topic, clearly, and as we get closer, it’ll get more talked about in the media. But from our standpoint, we’re just conducting ourselves like any other offseason and we’ll adjust as things occur and develop. Everyone is obviously hopeful and optimistic that things get done.”

It remains to be seen when the stove will heat up – the Braves have been one of the most active teams early in the winter under Anthopoulos – but a busy offseason awaits for the reigning champs.

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