‘Not happening’: Braves’ Alex Anthopoulos won’t trade players signed to extensions

Atlanta Braves’ Ozzie Albies (1) singles against the Philadelphia Phillies before Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) scored on an error during the sixth inning of NLDS Game 2 in Atlanta on Monday, Oct. 9, 2023.   (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Atlanta Braves’ Ozzie Albies (1) singles against the Philadelphia Phillies before Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) scored on an error during the sixth inning of NLDS Game 2 in Atlanta on Monday, Oct. 9, 2023. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

It is always difficult to know how Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos might proceed in a given offseason. He checks in on many free agents and trade scenarios. And in his media appearances, he is careful not to give away anything that might compromise his leverage.

It is difficult to know what the Braves might do.

But if you’re wondering whether the Braves would ever trade, say, Ozzie Albies, Michael Harris II or another player on an extension to help fill their needs?

You can stop there.

Barring special circumstances, they will not trade any of the players they signed to long-term extensions before free agency. During a Zoom call with local media on Sunday, Anthopoulos, speaking ahead of the Winter Meetings in Nashville, used almost five minutes to make this clear.

The question was about the difficulty of acquiring controllable starting pitching, and whether Anthopoulos would ever consider trading anyone off his starting lineup.

“We’re open to everything,” he said. “I think the one thing I would say – and I think it’s important, actually, to get this out there, because I believe in it. I see different reports and this and that, so just to squash some of that stuff going forward – and it doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but we’d be very reluctant. Any of our young players that have signed extensions before free agency – as you guys know, we don’t give out no-trade clauses, that’s a policy – they’re extremely unlikely to move. It could be for an unbelievable player. These guys chose to be here, they chose to sign here. Now, could there be special circumstances and so on? Significant drop in performance where the contract is cumbersome, something happens on the field.

“But for the most part, if people are ever speculating on any of our young talent that we’ve signed extensions to, I can say with absolute, fierce confidence, it’s a waste of your time. I don’t care what we’re being offered.”

Anthopoulos used an example from his time as Toronto’s general manager: At one point, a rival club offered Anthopoulos a superstar in exchange for Jose Bautista, whom Anthopoulos had signed to a five-year extension in 2011.

“It was just a non-starter,” Anthopoulos said on Sunday.

Bautista, like the Braves signed to long-term deals, didn’t have a no-trade clause. Anthopoulos could’ve dealt him.

“And look, (Bautista) was a superstar as well, but it would’ve been a real compelling value-for-value trade, and it wasn’t even something that we would even discuss, entertain, contemplate,” Anthopoulos said. “Now, had something happened off the field with him, (or) let’s say his performance had really dropped, where the contract was an issue and so on, that’s a little different.

“But if guys are performing and healthy and so on – if people are trying to speculate and come up with trades and this and that, not happening. I can say that and I’m putting it out there: Not happening. If fans want to read that, whatever, or we want to speculate on any of those guys going somewhere: Will not happen.”

This declaration from Anthopoulos is important because it gives us a look at a path the Braves won’t travel. They won’t use current team-friendly deals to bring in talent that would round otu their roster.

At the Winter Meetings and beyond, the Braves must continue trying to bring in starting pitching. They need a left fielder, though Vaughn Grissom could be an in-house option. They could conceivably add a reliever as insurance in case Reynaldo Lopez, a power arm, actually starts for them.

It’s difficult to acquire good players in trades. One way to sweeten a package is by offering star players on team-friendly deals. Albies, for example, makes $7 million per year. Harris is on an eight-year, $72 million deal.

The Braves, Anthopoulos said, almost certainly won’t trade “anyone that was in the system that wasn’t a free agent that signed an extension with us.”

“They don’t have (no-trade clauses),” he added, " but it’s not something we’ll contemplate unless something happens off the field, there’s some type of injury, a significant drop in performance and so on.”

As much as the Braves love the players they extended, they also don’t believe in dealing a player who put enough faith in them to sign a lengthy extension.

“That’s why we’re very selective (about) who we do sign,” Anthopoulos said. “Because we don’t give out no-trade clauses, we have the ability, if something goes sideways, to adjust. But we know that because of how we feel and how we want to do business, that we’re making that player untradeable. That’s why we’re very selective. It’s not just ‘sign everybody.’ Right? Because we ultimately know we’re jumping into a commitment at that point in time. So that’s why we’re very selective.

“We don’t just sign guys for the sake of signing guys. That’s part of the process of, ‘OK, are we OK with signing so-and-so to five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 years, knowing that we’re not trading them?’ We could be offered the best young player in the game, we’re not doing it – unless something happens, where the performance drops off or there’s a long-term injury or something off the field. Because, we lose, in our minds, the ability to do that.”

The Braves have Albies, Harris, Ronald Acuña Jr., Austin Riley, Matt Olson, Spencer Strider and Sean Murphy signed to long-term extensions. This list, of course, doesn’t include someone like, say, Marcell Ozuna, whom the Braves re-signed after he became a free agent.

At the Winter Meetings and after them, Anthopoulos will continue attempting to strengthen Atlanta’s roster. He could use a variety of avenues to do so.

But don’t expect him to trade any of the players he signed to extensions before they hit free agency.

“I’ve seen all the articles and things like that. ‘Ah, what about trading this guy, what about trading that guy?’ Waste of your time for anybody reading it,” Anthopoulos said. “You can take it and you can light it on fire. Will not happen, will not be considered, will not be discussed.”