The prospect of a shortened or canceled season will shroud every club in questions about their immediate future. The Braves are no exception.
A canceled season is the disaster scenario. It’ll bring endless financial questions. The fallout will affect years of baseball. As in 1994, the fans who were pushed away might not return. Baseball already lags behind in the battle for national relevancy.
The Braves would lose a season in which they were World Series hopefuls. They'd lose another year of watching Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies come into their own. Cole Hamels and Marcell Ozuna would hit the market without playing a game for the franchise. Mark Melancon and Shane Greene will be free agents, breaking up the Braves' short-lived super bullpen.
Future ramifications may affect how the Braves negotiate with Freddie Freeman on his next deal, though despite the uncertainty, it’s hard to imagine him elsewhere. Still, it might not be as easy as it could’ve been. We don’t know how this will affect soon-to-be free agents and teams’ ability and motivation to spend large sums on players.
Other than Freeman, the Braves won’t encounter huge free-agent decisions in the next couple of seasons. Ozuna and Hamels were considered stopgaps. The team knew the bullpen likely had a one-year shelf life. Their other free agents in the next two winters are cheaper veteran types, other than Mike Foltynewicz, whose future as a player and a Brave largely depends on this potential season and next.
A very brief look at how the other National League teams would be affected, on the field, by a canceled season:
New York: A season of Jacob deGrom would be lost. Pete Alonso's second season is gone. Marcus Stroman would hit free agency. The Mets would lose a season in which they were a postseason hopeful. In the near future, New York might be inclined to slash its top-10 payroll, which will be met with criticism regardless of the circumstances.
Philadelphia: Bryce Harper, Aaron Nola and others would lose a season of their primes. The Phillies boast a large payroll and have been willing spenders, but how will this impact their retooling plans? They've relied a lot, perhaps too much, on free agency.
Washington: The defending champs wouldn't protect their title. They would lose a year of the Max Scherzer-Stephen Strasburg-Patrick Corbin trio, with Scherzer a free agent the next offseason. Like Philadelphia, the Nationals boast a massive payroll.
Miami: The Marlins' most important players are in the minor leagues, which won't have a season. That's a development hit for a team banking on a brighter future. The Marlins already are a low-revenue club, and this would create further concerns.
Chicago: The decisions on Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber are almost due. Any the Cubs opt to trade would hold the most value in the winter, since each could become free agents after next season. Jose Quintana and Jon Lester will be free agents this winter. Last season might've been these Cubs' last dance.
St. Louis: Fresh off an NLCS appearance, the Cardinals wouldn't have the chance to repeat in the Central. They were popularly connected to Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, but even if Colorado is open to moving him at a later date, those negotiations will be more complex. The Cardinals have a top-10 payroll and several veterans, including Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, who are in their twilight years.
Milwaukee: Coming off back-to-back playoff appearances – not a common feat in Brewers history – the Brewers would lose a year of prime Christian Yelich. The franchise already had cut payroll and given more prominent roles to younger players, and with Yelich signed long-term, it could opt for a mini-retool in hopes for a quick turnaround.
Cincinnati: There are few teams who would be affected more than the Reds, who made win-now moves for a 2020 playoff run. Starters Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani are free agents this winter, potentially ending the Reds' great rotation before it completes a full season. Cincinnati spent over $150 million on improvements last offseason – signing hitters such as Mike Moustakas, Nick Castellanos and Shogo Akiyama – yet might lose a year of the returns.
Pittsburgh: The Pirates would lose seasons from several promising pitchers, including Joe Musgrove. Chris Archer, who they hoped could rebound and be traded at the deadline, has an $11 million team option – would the Pirates pick it up hoping they could still trade him? Pittsburgh seems to be approaching a teardown and ranks among the lower-revenue teams.
Los Angeles: The Dodgers might be the No. 1 team affected by a cancellation. Aside from losing another shot at that elusive title, former MVP Mookie Betts would hit free agency after never playing a game in blue. L.A. surrendered a trio of prospects and absorbed half of David Price's deal to make a Betts trade happen. The Dodgers could still re-sign him, but Betts departing would be devastating. Clayton Kershaw would lose his age 32 season, and Corey Seager would be a year from free agency.
Arizona: After signing Madison Bumgarner and acquiring Starling Marte, the Diamondbacks were inching closer to the Dodgers. Robbie Ray will be a free agent this winter, with Marte and Eduardo Escobar set to do so in the ensuing cycle. While much of Arizona's roster is in its prime, its farm system is climbing. Mike Hazen's plan is hurt all-the-way around here.
San Diego: General manager A.J. Preller was close to seeing his vision realized. The Padres' major-league roster features several blue-chippers, while its system is still overflowing with top-tier talent. San Diego was a fringe wild-card contender, and it'd lose cheaper seasons of Fernando Tatis Jr., Chris Paddack and others while not seeing its minor leaguers continue their growth on the field.
Colorado: Arenado is just one conundrum facing the Rockies, who're at a crossroads. Trevor Story will be a free agent after next season, when Arenado could exercise an opt out (though he may be less inclined now). Charlie Blackmon is still well-compensated, signed for $21 million next season with two player options. We can't predict what the fallout will be for every team, but the Rockies' future already was complicated. This might necessitate a rebuild, with or without their star third baseman.
San Francisco: The Giants are waiting out multiple bad contracts, so at least they'd be a year closer to being free of commitments to Johnny Cueto, Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Evan Longoria. San Francisco is still in the early stages of a complete rebuild, but this could influence their future decisions in spending. By 2022, they should have a stacked farm system and be clear to add multiple expensive free agents – if they choose.
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