Bradley’s Buzz: What could go wrong for the Braves? Glad you asked

Braves fans react after beating the Phillies in Game 2 of the 2023 NLDS at Truist Park in Atlanta on Monday, October 9, 2023. (Arvin Temkar /



Braves fans react after beating the Phillies in Game 2 of the 2023 NLDS at Truist Park in Atlanta on Monday, October 9, 2023. (Arvin Temkar /

The Braves have been good for six years. They should stay good for another six. A body in motion remains in motion, et cetera. But — this being the day pitchers/catchers report — we wouldn’t be baseball watchers if we didn’t cop to a few concerns.

Is Chris Sale still Chris Sale? The rebuilding Red Sox were happy to pay some of the cost to be rid of him. The Braves were so happy to have him they redid his contract to add, at $22 million, the 2025 season, previously an option year. But — and these are non-insignificant “buts” — he has started 31 games since 2019 and will turn 35 this month. I know Alex Anthopoulos did the usual due diligence, but he did similar DD on Cole Hamels, another distinguished lefty of advancing age.

Is Reynaldo Lopez a starter? The Braves are eyeing him, at least for the moment, as such. Yes, he has started 97 MLB games. But — that word will feature in each of these quibbles — he has made one start since 2021. He’s a rotational option for a team that ran low on those last year. We don’t know if he’s a reasonable option.

Was Bryce Elder a half-year wonder? He made the All-Star team in his first full big-league season, but the Braves thought long and hard (and perhaps wishfully) before giving him a postseason start. His first-half ERA: 2.97. His second-half ERA: 5.11. His first-half strikeouts-to-walks: 2.35. His second-half Ks-to-BBs: 1.66. And he was never, we note, a prospect on the order of Ian Anderson. Speaking of whom ...

What’s a reasonable expectation for Anderson? He was the top draftee — No. 3 overall in 2016 — in the Braves’ manic rebuild around pitching. He didn’t dazzle in the minors. Summoned to the majors near the end of the shortened COVID-19 season, he dazzled so much he started Game 7 of the NLCS. A year later, he left Game 3 of the World Series after five no-hit innings. But he fell from the rotation in 2022 and had Tommy John surgery last year. That said, he’s only 25, and most guys throw harder after TJ.

How will Max Fried handle a potential walkaway season? He can become a free agent in November. He doesn’t seem the sort who’d be distracted by long-term planning, but you never know. This we do know: Almost nobody believes he’ll be a Brave this time next year.

Was Orlando Arcia a half-year wonder? Like Elder, he had a great first half. Like Elder, he made the All-Star team. Like Elder, he faded. His first-half OPS: .769. His second-half OPS: .713. This everyday lineup is so good — note: it took five quibbles to get around to a non-pitcher — he doesn’t have to be Carlos Correa, but Arcia might never have another half-season like last year’s, and he’s about to turn 30.

Is Sean Murphy an elite hitter? His first-half OPS: .999. His second-half OPS: .585. He hit one home run after Aug. 13. Catcher is another position where hitting is a lesser concern, but Travis d’Arnaud is 35 and not apt to start 59 games again this year.

Are the Braves due for a dud? Winning your division every year is no small feat. (Even the imperial Dodgers had a season of finishing second, albeit one in which they won 106 games.) But – and these are good “buts” – the Braves could have won 19 fewer games last year and made the playoffs, and this lineup is so stacked it’s hard to imagine six months of communal slumping. Also: Nobody else in the NL East made major winter moves. I can’t imagine the Braves hitting 307 homers and slugging .501 again – because, in the history of the sport, no team has bettered those numbers. I do expect them to pitch better.

The prediction: They’ll go 103-59 and take the East yet again, not that we’ll notice. We’ll be too busy freaking out about October and the Phillies.

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