The Braves are sitting pretty, but much depends on Freddie Freeman

11/2/21 - Houston, Tx. - Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) reacts as Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel (10) is out at first base for the final out during the ninth inning as the Braves win 7-0 in game 6 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park, Tuesday, November 2, 2021, in Houston, Tx. The Atlanta Braves beats the Houston Astros 4-2 to take the World Series. Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub Shin

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11/2/21 - Houston, Tx. - Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) reacts as Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel (10) is out at first base for the final out during the ninth inning as the Braves win 7-0 in game 6 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park, Tuesday, November 2, 2021, in Houston, Tx. The Atlanta Braves beats the Houston Astros 4-2 to take the World Series. Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub Shin

With nothing moving in baseball – representatives for the players and owners met for 15 whole minutes Thursday – we seek other signs of what should be a bask-in-the-sunshine spring. The Braves are coming off their first World Series championship of the 21st century. There’s reason to believe it won’t be their last.

The 2021 Braves entered the postseason with the worst record of the 12 qualifiers, which suggests they got a bit lucky. On the other hand, they reached the playoffs without their most gifted position player and their most promising pitcher. Oh, and their starting pitcher in Game 1 of the World Series broke his leg in the second inning. Also, the World Series MVP missed most of the National League Championship Series because of COVID-19. Don’t get me going on luck, OK?

The Braves have been good for a while. (Four consecutive division titles, duh.) They should be good for a while longer. This isn’t to say they don’t have work to do. When the mission is to keep winning big, it’s a different sort of work.

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ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel released his rankings of baseball’s farm systems Friday. The Braves were No. 27. They have two prospects rated among McDaniel’s top 100 – outfielder Michael Harris is 38th; catcher Shea Langeliers is 81st. Not so long ago, the Braves had the No. 1 minor-league chain and a slew of top prospects. Those young players are the biggest reason this team got good. Staying good is harder. You can’t win the World Series and tank at the same time.

Over recent offseasons, general manager Alex Anthopoulos has done much of his work early. Josh Donaldson, Travis d’Arnaud, Charlie Morton, Will Smith and Drew Smyly were November signings. With the lockout looming, this November saw some significant signings – Corey Seager and Marcus Semien with the Rangers, Max Scherzer with the Mets – but some huge names remain free agents. Carlos Correa and Kris Bryant, to name two. Freddie Freeman, to mention a third.

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Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman hits an RBI double during the fifth inning against the Houston Astros in game 6 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park, Tuesday, November 2, 2021, in Houston, Tx. Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman hits an RBI double during the fifth inning against the Houston Astros in game 6 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park, Tuesday, November 2, 2021, in Houston, Tx. Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

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Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman hits an RBI double during the fifth inning against the Houston Astros in game 6 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park, Tuesday, November 2, 2021, in Houston, Tx. Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

The Braves will do everything within reason to keep him. Trouble is, it takes only one beyond-all-reason offer to change the dynamics. The Braves know how much he means to this franchise. They also know some regrettable contracts have been bestowed on first basemen: Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Eric Hosmer, Chris Davis, Ryan Howard.

(Pujols was a month from turning 32 when he signed with the Angels for $240 million in December 2011. He had won three MVP awards. Freeman is 32. He was the 2020 National League MVP.)

Was it a bad sign that the Braves didn’t lock up Freeman in the weeks before the lockout? Not necessarily. Freeman was rather busy. The World Series ended Nov. 2. The Braves had their parade three days later. A guy who hasn’t been a free agent owes it to himself to see what others offer. It’s thought the Dodgers will make a push, and Freeman is from California. Then again, the Dodgers didn’t re-up Seager, who’s 27 and who plays shortstop, the most important defensive position. (To be fair, they have a ready replacement in Trea Turner.)

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The Braves probably will try to keep one of their famously rented outfielders – Eddie Rosario, Jorge Soler or Joc Pederson. They tendered a contract to Adam Duvall, making him more than a rental. Assuming a new collective bargaining agreement gets done, they’ll need a full-time designated hitter. Marcell Ozuna is under contract for three more seasons; an MLB suspension after his arrest on charges of domestic violence was made retroactive to last year.

The Braves have a splendid core: Ronald Acuna, Max Fried, Ozzie Albies, Ian Anderson, Austin Riley, Dansby Swanson and, fingers crossed, Mike Soroka. The sport’s reigning champs have room to grow, but they’ll need to move fast when MLB reopens for business. Anthopoulos is nothing if not sure-footed.

The Braves didn’t fold when Donaldson signed with Minnesota; their GM found Ozuna, who led the National League in homers and RBIs in 2020. They didn’t fold when Acuna tore his ACL the day before last year’s All-Star break; their GM found a whole new outfield.

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Braves players and fans react after Jorge Soler hit a solo home run to put the Braves up 3-2 against the Houston Astros during the seventh inning of game 4 in the World Series at Truist Park, Saturday October 30, 2021, in Atlanta Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Braves players and fans react after Jorge Soler hit a solo home run to put the Braves up 3-2 against the Houston Astros during the seventh inning of game 4 in the World Series at Truist Park, Saturday October 30, 2021, in Atlanta Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub Shin

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Braves players and fans react after Jorge Soler hit a solo home run to put the Braves up 3-2 against the Houston Astros during the seventh inning of game 4 in the World Series at Truist Park, Saturday October 30, 2021, in Atlanta Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Back to luck: Had the Braves held leads in Game 4 the 2019 Division Series against St. Louis and Games 5 and 7 of the 2020 NLCS against the Dodgers, they might have made the World Series three years running. That they made it – and won it – last season after spending four months at/below .500 put to rest the notion that Atlanta teams are cursed. That team was blessed.

It would take an awful lot for a beloved player to walk away from this burgeoning club, which isn’t to say a Freeman exit is impossible. But I’ll believe it only when I see it, and maybe not then.