World Series 2021: How the Braves built their NL champion roster through trades, free agency and the draft

For the primary time since 1999, the Atlanta Braves are Nationwide League champions. They defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games in the National League Championship Series, and can tackle the Houston Astros within the World Sequence. The Braves will look to win solely their second World Sequence since shifting to Atlanta in 1966. They beforehand received the title in 1995.

Like each group, the Braves had been assembled by all kinds of various strategies. No group is constructed completely by the draft, or trades, or free company. It is not potential. Profitable groups purchase expertise by each obtainable avenue. Right here is how the Braves constructed their 26-man postseason roster:

  • Trades: 9
  • Free company: 7
  • Draft: 5
  • Worldwide free company: 3
  • Different: 2

The Braves have leaned closely on exterior acquisitions. In reality, they made a well-documented flurry of trades at this yr’s deadline, although their commerce success dates again a lot additional. They’ve additionally performed nicely within the free agent market with lower-profile signings. Let’s take a deeper have a look at how the Braves constructed the roster that carried them to the 2021 World Sequence. 

The draft

In an ideal world groups would draft and develop their total 26-man roster and by no means spend cash on free brokers or quit gamers in trades. That world doesn’t exist. Not even shut. The draft stays the very best (and most value efficient) solution to purchase expertise, and the Braves definitely acquired a number of core gamers by the novice draft.

Atlanta has only one true first-round choose on their postseason roster: Ian Anderson. The Braves went 67-95 in 2015, giving them the No. 3 choose within the 2016. They used that choose on Anderson. The Phillies chosen Mickey Moniak with the No. 1 choose and the Reds chosen Nick Senzel with the No. 2. Highschool pitchers are dangerous, however Anderson has labored out splendidly.

Franchise icon Freddie Freeman was a second-round choose approach again in 2007, and that 2007 Braves draft is among the finest drafts in current reminiscences. Along with Freeman, Atlanta additionally chosen Jason Heyward (first spherical) and Craig Kimbrel (thirty third spherical) that yr, they usually drafted Brandon Belt too (eleventh spherical), although he didn’t signal and went again to highschool.

Highschool first basemen will not be the preferred gamers on draft day as a result of they’re normally restricted defensively. A highschool first baseman sometimes wants enormous energy to get drafted early. In Freeman’s case, he confirmed innate really feel for the barrel and pure hitting capability. That performed all through the minors, then he grew into energy just a few years into his MLB profession and have become a star.

Freeman was named NL MVP final yr and third baseman Austin Riley will obtain MVP votes this yr. The Braves chosen him with the No. 41 choose within the 2015 draft. That was a aggressive stability lottery choose that initially belonged to the Padres. Aggressive stability picks are the draft picks that may be traded, and Atlanta obtained that choose within the Kimbrel deal.

Opinions had been cut up as as to whether Riley was the higher prospect as a pitcher or hitter at his Mississippi highschool. He had — and nonetheless has — a rocket arm, one which routinely unleashed 95-mph fastballs. He additionally had huge energy potential. Finally, Riley caught with being place participant and it is labored out exceptionally nicely. He is an All-Star participant on the sizzling nook.

Lefty reliever AJ Minter (second spherical in 2015) has been a bullpen stalwart the previous couple of seasons and a drive this postseason. Righty Jacob Webb (18th spherical in 2014) has been a stable up-and-down depth arm. Anderson, Freeman, and Riley are three wildly profitable picks within the first two rounds of the draft. The Braves nailed these picks, and did good work within the later rounds too.

It also needs to be famous erstwhile ace Mike Soroka, who didn’t pitch this yr and has made solely three begins since 2019 attributable to a collection of Achilles accidents, was Atlanta’s first-round choose in 2015. The Braves landed Soroka, Riley, and Minter in that draft, in addition to lefty Kolby Allard, who later offered worth as a commerce chip. A pleasant draft class, that’s.

Trades

No group was extra energetic than the Braves at this yr’s commerce deadline. They didn’t make any blockbusters — there was no Max Scherzer and Trea Turner-caliber deal for Atlanta — however they revamped their outfield on the fly and did not quit an entire lot to do it. They took on cash and traded expendable prospects, and that is about it. Their deadline outfield additions:

Ronald Acuña Jr. suffered his season-ending knee harm on July 10, and 5 days later GM Alex Anthopoulos introduced in Pederson regardless that the Braves had been 44-45 and 4 1/2 video games again within the NL East. Atlanta was under .500 however nobody was operating away with the division, so Anthopoulos went for it. Pederson was solely the primary domino.

It must be famous Rosario, the NLCS MVP, was injured on the time of the commerce. He was out with an indirect pressure and didn’t return to the lineup till Aug. 27, almost a month after the commerce. He was well worth the wait. Cleveland was out of the race and needed to unload wage, in order that they despatched Rosario to the Braves and launched Sandoval a day later. They saved about $3 million with the commerce.

MLB.com doesn’t rank Ball among the many Cubs top 30 prospects nor Kalish among the many Royals top 30 prospects. Jackson was the No. 6 choose within the 2014 draft, although he is basically a light-hitting backup catcher now, and was a straightforward piece to half with to get Duvall. All instructed, the Braves absorbed about $20 million in wage and buyouts on the deadline. That was the true value. Simply cash.

In fact, two of Atlanta’s most important commerce additions got here years in the past, lengthy earlier than Anthopoulos took the reins. On Dec. 19, 2014, the Braves and Padres swung a six-player commerce that boiled all the way down to Justin Upton for pitching prospect Max Fried. Fried was the No. 7 choose within the 2012 draft and he did not attain MLB till Aug. 2017. Now he’s Atlanta’s co-ace.

Virtually precisely one yr later, the Braves landed Dansby Swanson in a four-player commerce with the Diamondbacks. Shelby Miller was the lone piece despatched to Arizona and gosh, what a disastrous commerce for the D-Backs. They made Swanson the No. 1 choose within the 2015 draft only a few months earlier and Miller melted down on them instantly. The commerce set the franchise again years.

Swanson is an efficient participant greater than an amazing participant — the World Sequence will characteristic the No. 1 (Swanson) and No. 2 (Alex Bregman) picks within the 2015 draft — although he has moments of greatness, and the commerce is laughably one-sided. It is among the most lopsided trades in current reminiscence. Simply to wrap it up all, listed below are the Fried and Swanson trades mixed:

That’s some mighty effective tradecraft proper there. Blair, the Petersons, and Smith had largely forgettable stints with the Braves. Inciarte gave the membership just a few good years earlier than declining and getting launched earlier this yr. Nonetheless, even ignoring them, turning Miller and Upton into Fried and Swanson is an enormous win for the Braves. These strikes helped set the muse for the 2021 membership.

The Braves acquired utility man Orlando Arcia (Brewers) and righties Luke Jackson (Rangers) and Chris Martin (Rangers) in trades. Martin was acquired for Allard in July 2019. The Braves obtained Jackson from Texas in Dec. 2016 and designated him for project in Dec. 2017, April 2018, and once more in June 2018. He remained with the group all 3 times and is now a late-inning reliever.

We should additionally point out the Braves acquired righty Richard Rodríguez from the Pirates at this yr’s commerce deadline, although he isn’t on the postseason roster. Righty Huascar Ynoa came to visit from the Twins in July 2017 and was slated to start out Recreation 4 of the NLCS, although his shoulder acted up earlier than the sport and he was changed on the roster attributable to harm.

Free company

Usually talking, free company is the least environment friendly solution to purchase expertise when it comes to value vs. manufacturing. The Braves have been pretty aggressive in free company underneath Anthopoulos, although they’re largely shorter-term contracts. Atlanta doesn’t have that massive nine-figure free agent on the roster. That stated, there’s multiple solution to work free company, and the Braves have labored it nicely.

The membership’s most important free agent addition is ace Charlie Morton, who inked a one-year contract price $15 million final offseason, after the Rays declined his $15 million membership possibility. The Rays do not make many errors, although letting Morton go was fairly egregious. Morton was glorious this yr and just lately signed a brand new one-year extension price $20 million for 2022.

Travis d’Arnaud, one other Rays castoff, joined the Braves on a two-year, $16 million contract two years in the past and he was glorious in 2020, however harm and ineffective in 2021. Nonetheless, high quality catching is tough to search out, so Atlanta gave d’Arnaud a brand new two-year, $16 million deal in August. With the Morton and d’Arnaud extensions, the Braves have already dealt with some essential offseason enterprise.

Nearer Will Smith signed a three-year, $38 million contract with the Braves two years in the past, and he has acknowledged that if Atlanta had not approached him so early within the offseason, he would have accepted the qualifying supply to stick with the Giants. A number of prime relievers have seen their market harm by the qualifying supply and Smith did not need to danger it. The Braves jumped in early to get him.  

Atlanta gave Drew Smyly a one-year, $11 million contract final offseason in hopes his Sept. 2020 velocity spike would maintain and that did not actually work out. There is not any such factor as a nasty one-year contract although. Utility man Ehire Adrianza, righty Jesse Chavez, and lefty Dylan Lee all joined the Braves on minor-league offers this yr. Adrianza and Chavez specifically have labored out nicely.

It have to be famous that Marcell Ozuna, the group’s fourth-highest paid participant in 2021, signed a four-year, $64 million contract to stay with the Braves final offseason. He went down with a finger harm in Might, then was arrested on domestic violence charges shortly after. Ozuna has been on paid administrative depart since as MLB investigates the incident underneath the league’s home violence coverage.

Worldwide free company

There are two methods to amass novice expertise: the draft and worldwide free company. The Braves scout Latin America very nicely and, in July 2013, they gave Curacao native Ozzie Albies a $350,000 signing bonus to show professional. Albies rapidly developed right into a prime prospect and is productive, high-energy, All-Star-caliber cornerstone participant for Atlanta.

The Braves landed backup catcher William Contreras (Willson’s youthful brother) and utility infielder Johan Camargo as low-profile worldwide free brokers just a few years again. Contreras signed for $10,000 out of Venezuela in 2015 and Camargo obtained $42,000 out of Panama in 2010. Neither was a prime worldwide prospect, but right here they’re on a postseason roster.

Atlanta’s most important worldwide success story is just not on the postseason roster: Acuña went down with a season-ending knee harm in July and is relegated to cheerleader responsibility this October. That is a disgrace. The Braves gave Acuña a $100,000 bonus out of Venezuela in July 2014 and he instantly exploded into an elite prospect, after which an elite MLB participant. What a scouting discover.

Prime prospect Cristian Pache spent a while on the postseason roster when Soler was on the COVID-19 record. Not like Albies and Acuña, he was a major worldwide novice prospect, and obtained a $1.4 million bonus out of the Dominican Republic in July 2015. He’s Atlanta’s heart fielder of the long run and is the primary in line to be an harm alternative within the World Sequence.

Different

There aren’t many different methods to amass gamers on this sport, although the Braves have two gamers on their postseason roster who weren’t drafted, signed as a global or MLB free agent, or acquired in a commerce first. First, they chose reserve outfielder Guillermo Heredia off waivers from the Mets in February. Heredia has been a stable velocity and protection further outfielder this yr.

And second, the Braves bought ace setup man Tyler Matzek out of the impartial American Affiliation in Aug. 2019. He was enjoying for the Texas AirHogs in Grand Prairie on the time. When an MLB membership purchases a participant out of an impartial league, they pay his group some sum of cash to launch him from his contract, then signal the participant to a minor-league deal.

Matzek’s story is actually unbelievable. The Rockies made him the No. 11 choose within the 2009 draft, however issues went poorly within the minors and ultimately Matzek developed the yips. Colorado launched him in Nov. 2016 and Matzek bounced to the White Sox (2017), Mariners (2018), the AirHogs (2018), the Diamondbacks (2019), the AirHogs once more (2019), after which lastly the Braves.

Nonetheless solely 31, Matzek has carved out a second section of his profession as an elite energy lefty reliever, and one of the vital trusted arms within the Atlanta bullpen. He’s a participant price rooting for, little question. Matzek readily admits he thought-about calling it quits a number of instances over time. Two years in the past he was in an impartial league and now he is within the World Sequence. Simply outstanding.


Like each good group, the Braves have constructed their 2021 NL championship roster by each obtainable avenue. They landed key contributors by the draft (Anderson, Freeman, Riley) and worldwide free company (Albies and, when wholesome, Acuna), they spent on free brokers (Morton and d’Arnaud), they usually knocked it out of the park with numerous trades over time. There isn’t any proper solution to construct a group. The fitting approach is the way in which that works, and that is working for Atlanta. 



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