One theme from recent Braves moves: Depth, depth, depth

Atlanta's Kevin Pillar plays against the Rays during a Grapefruit League game in St. Petersburg, Florida. Pillar, who likely will make the opening-day roster, has given the Braves some depth in the outfield. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Atlanta's Kevin Pillar plays against the Rays during a Grapefruit League game in St. Petersburg, Florida. Pillar, who likely will make the opening-day roster, has given the Braves some depth in the outfield. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

NORTH PORT, Fla. — Leaning against the dugout railing at Tropicana Field last week, Braves manager Brian Snitker foreshadowed moves without even knowing it.

“Depth is always an issue, I think more so now than ever before,” Snitker said to a question about how much minor-league options matter when it comes to roster decisions. “And so all that is taken (into consideration). I tell players, ‘Until you’re out of options, you don’t have any power in this game.’ Eventually it’ll come, unless you just make a statement on the field with your play. But, yeah, you always love to have those optionable guys for your depth because if you don’t, then something happens, then you got a chance of losing them. So it’s a big, big thing to have optionable pieces.”

Fast forward to Monday: The Braves made a flurry of roster moves, including optioning shortstops Vaughn Grissom and Braden Shewmake, outfielders Jordan Luplow and Eli White, and right-hander Nick Anderson.

In one announcement, the Braves’ opening-day roster came into clear focus. The Braves answered the questions we had in the final week and change of spring training.

And in making those moves, the Braves revealed one priority.

Depth, depth, depth.

Perhaps it was not the sole factor in their decision-making, but the Braves’ decisions underscored how much depth means to them. This is easy to understand.

In a way, opening day is an arbitrary date. Throughout spring training, we discuss the roster and make our predictions on how the club will trim it. We put a large emphasis on making the team because, well, competition is fun.

But it’s not about being the best on opening day – it’s about being the best over six months. This is why decisions are sometimes made with a long-term view.

For example, the Braves, at the moment, believe Orlando Arcia is a better shortstop than Grissom and Shewmake. They like Grissom and believe he perhaps would’ve made the team had Arcia (who will be the starter) not been such stiff competition. But the Braves also thought about it like this: Why throw away depth before opening day? To the Braves, Grissom might be the better long-term option, but he’s not clearly better right now.

Had the Braves taken Grissom and Arcia, they would’ve lost Ehire Adrianza, who could’ve asked for his release if not selected to the opening-day roster. And why would the Braves willingly lose him if they’re not sure Grissom would be better than Arcia now? They evaluated the open, two-man competition but also kept depth in mind.

Before the Braves optioned him, Anderson had pitched well in spring games. He looks good enough to make a roster. But he has minor-league options, which seemingly became a large factor in optioning him instead of putting him on the opening-day roster. Jesse Chavez can opt out of his minor-league deal if the Braves don’t select him to the roster, and Michael Tonkin, another reliever, is out of options.

The read on the outfield situation is this: If you’re the Braves and you worked all offseason to fill your organization with outfield depth – and now those guys are playing well – why would you sacrifice any of that?

Kevin Pillar can opt out of his minor-league deal if he doesn’t make the team. There’s one depth piece Atlanta would lose if the club didn’t carry him.

Sam Hilliard, who is playing well this spring, is out of options. The Braves would lose him if he didn’t make the team.

Thus, Monday’s moves seemed to clear the way for Pillar and Hilliard to make the opening-day roster. It seems likely Chavez would also make the team.

Fans will certainly debate the shortstop competition: Is Arcia truly better? Are the Braves correct for believing in him – especially his bat – over Grissom? But this is the route they chose. They didn’t think Grissom exceeded Arcia enough to justify losing Adrianza, whom they view as a perfect 26th man because he’ll serve his limited role well.

Think about it this way: If the Braves are wrong – and they understand they might be – they can reverse course and call up Grissom or Shewmake. But why lose depth before the season starts? Again, you can argue about this all you want, but they showed us their reluctance to throw away depth by making the most recent roster moves.

(On Monday, a report said Braves coaches were concerned about Grissom because of an apparent hernia issue. According to someone close to Grissom, there are no injury concerns – hernia or otherwise – with the shortstop. Snitker also has never mentioned an injury when asked about Grissom’s playing time this spring.)

Baseball seasons are long and grueling. Injuries occur. Twists happen. You can never predict how it will all turn out – that’s a futile exercise.

Last season, these players made Atlanta’s opening-day roster: Huascar Ynoa, Tucker Davidson, Sean Newcomb, Tyler Thornburg, Alex Dickerson.

Remember them?

This might have jogged your memory, because for one reason or another, none of them played key roles on a team that won 101 games and captured its fifth consecutive National League East crown.

All of this is to say: The opening-day roster is not the postseason roster. Clubs know they need to make it through a season, not one series. Losing depth now could hurt later.

Depth mattered a lot, perhaps more than we thought.