Braves ‘open to anything,’ consider no prospects untouchable

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulous.

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Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulous.

The buzz around the General Managers’ Meetings is there could be several high-profile players available this offseason. If the Braves want to drastically upgrade their club on the trade market, there should be options plentiful.

The Chicago Cubs have signaled a willingness to listen to offers for its core players, including third baseman Kris Bryant. The Indians might move shortstop Francisco Lindor. The Red Sox are listening on star outfielder Mookie Betts. Those aren’t the only names, but they certainly headline the conversation.

Such moves are costly: The three franchises rightfully will ask for a bounty of prospects in exchange for their All-Stars. And then the acquiring team adopts the incumbent’s financial pickle: Betts will command a record contract next winter, while Bryant’s and Lindor’s deals expire after two seasons.

As for structuring your roster so that you can pay one player such a sizable sum, it’s a case-by-case basis.

“It all depends for how many years and where are your other (players),” Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. “If you’re in position where you have a bunch of your core that are zero to two (years service time), maybe it makes sense for two or three years. If it’s a maturing team, it might be more complicated. I don’t think it’s a blanket thing. It depends on where your roster sits, where you’re getting production from, where they are at that time.”

The Braves aren’t typically a franchise eager to jump into big-name rentals – J.D. Drew and Mark Teixeira are discussed to this day – but the team has entered its competitive window. While future success appears likely, it’s far from certain. Adding one of those players could be the difference in a title, even at the expense of long-term assets.

Anthopoulos won’t label any Braves prospect untouchable. He held a similar belief last winter despite the franchise’s lack of activity on the trade market.

In his tenure, Anthopoulos hasn’t considered any of his youngsters off-limits except Ronald Acuna, who was a special circumstance when he arrived as GM two winters ago.

“Acuna was unique,” Anthopoulos said. “When I first got there, he was the one player – even though I hadn’t seen him play – we weren’t going to move. The contract we gave him reflected that. … I don’t think it’s fair to compare him to anybody else.

“We like a lot of our young players, but we’re open-minded. I don’t think you close any doors on any trades. Generally speaking, I don’t like to go into ‘unwilling’ to talk about anybody, but some guys are harder to move than others. You keep open minds and sometimes it leads to conversation.”

The Braves’ current priority is retaining third baseman Josh Donaldson, who’s generated interest from multiple teams. They also hope to upgrade their rotation, which has two vacant spots after Mike Soroka, Max Fried and Mike Foltynewicz.

Maybe some of that upgrading will come through trade. Betts is far-fetched because of his salary likely reaching $30 million through arbitration, Boston’s expected asking price and Betts hitting the free-agent market next offseason. But Bryant, should Donaldson depart, and Lindor (if available) might emerge as options if the situation lines up.

“It all depends on who the player is,” Anthopoulos said regarding acquiring a player with only a year or two of control. “You’re always weighing short-term, long-term. You’d rather get players with control, but if you feel like at that acquisition cost, even if it’s a short-term player – you’d prefer not to have a player short-term, but we don’t have any set rules. We’re open to anything.”