Sad News: 3 Braves who are Set to Leave after MLB Winter Meetings…

3 Atlanta Braves who shouldn’t be on the roster after MLB Winter Meetings.

Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game One

Alex Anthopoulos may have Atlanta Braves fans a bit spoiled, but for good reason, as the 2023 MLB Winter Meetings ready for Nashville in early December. We’ve seen the top decision-maker for the Braves pull off trades for All-Stars in each of the past two seasons, landing Matt Olson in 2021 and then Sean Murphy in 2022.

To some degree, that may have Braves fans expecting another splash, which isn’t a guarantee. At the same time, however, there is good reason for fans to believe in that possibility. Anthopoulos has made these types of trades his M.O. and, with needs to both fortify the rotation and shore up the outfield, perhaps he looks once again to more than just free agency to make it happen.

As is the case with any trade, though, that also means some of the players on the Braves roster or within the organization could be gone. So if Anthopoulos is going to make a trade at the MLB Winter Meetings for Dylan Cease, Tyler Glasnow or whoever else, which players could and/or should be gone from the Braves roster? Three bigger names come to front of mind.

3. Drake Baldwin could be a huge Braves trade asset at a deep position

Okay, so technically, Drake Baldwin is not currently on the Braves 40-man roster for the offseason. He finished the 2023 season with the Gwinnett Stripers. But that is also one of the reasons that the catcher and 2022 third-round pick for Atlanta could be an interesting trade piece.

After playing rookie ball at the end of 2022, Baldwin started the 2023 campaign in High-A ball. But the end of the year, he ended up with Triple-A Gwinnett, a big-time rise through Atlanta’s farm system — even if his time with with the Stripers was only three games.

Across High-A, Double-A and Triple-A last season, though, the catcher out of Missouri State played 109 games and slashed .270/.384/.460 with 16 home runs, 26 doubles and 61 RBI. Yes, some of that was against way inferior competition than he would see in the majors, but it’s still a nice showing.

Baldwin would likely be a year away from being called up but, now that we get to the reality of a possible trade, he’s not really in a position to see the field for the Braves. Atlanta extended Travis d’Arnaud midseason, signed Sean Murphy to a long-term deal prior to the start of the season, and appear set at catcher.

It’s a position that the club has a surplus at, especially with another prospect looming in Tyler Tolve in Double-A right now, but specifically at the major-league level. For an organization that needs some more depth in the system at catcher, or even a near-major-ready option too, Baldwin could be an attractive trade chip that the Braves could send along.

2. AJ Smith-Shawver should be gone via trade as Braves top prospect

Some people around Braves Country don’t like the idea or the possibility of the organization’s top prospect, AJ Smith-Shawver, potentially being traded this offseason. However, the fact of the matter is that it might just make the most sense depending on the size of the splash that Atlanta and Anthopoulos are looking to make heading into 2024.

Just turning 21 years old in November, Smith-Shawver was a surprise call-up to the big-league roster amid numerous pitching injuries for the Braves. The results were a bit hot-and-cold from appearance to apperance, but over six games and five starts for Atlanta, the young right-hander threw 25.1 innings with a 4.26 ERA and 1.105 WHIP. However, his 6.69 FIP does indicate he might’ve been a bit fortunate with those numbers, which isn’t to be unexpected for a 20-year-old who rapidly ascended through the minor leagues.

With that being said, his age and his raw stuff make him highly valuable to the Braves and, by proxy, on the trade market. And with Atlanta’s farm system still somewhat rebuilding a bit after the Olson and Murphy trades, Smith-Shawver stands as the needle-mover that could get a potential trade partner to budge off of a big name — or at least get conversations started.

Most importantly for the Braves, though, Smith-Shawver also happens to be at a position where the Braves are stocked to the brim in terms of their top prospects in the organization. In fact, Atlanta’s Top 7 propects according to MLB Pipeline are all pitchers. That gives Anthopoulos and the club a position wherein they could deal a top prospect like Smith-Shawver and still have a long-term plan within the organization to keep the rotation humming for the future (or pull off future trades).

1. Marcell Ozuna being traded would fit the Braves’ style

The calls for the Atlanta Braves to trade Marcell Ozuna have certainly died down quite a bit since the start of the 2023 season. After the first month or so, Anthopoulos probably would’ve taken a can of Spam and a loaf of bread for the two-time All-Star with how poorly he was playing, specifically at the plate.

When it was all said and done, though, Ozuna turned his year around in a monster way, finishing the seasons slashing .274/.346/.558 with 40 home runs, 29 doubles and 100 RBI on the year. There were times when he legitimately looked like one of the best power bats in baseball for the Braves.

And yet, the 2023 season is an outlier for Ozuna over the past three years since his big season with the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign. The two years prior, his OPS was below .690 only for it to explode to .905 this past year. Is that sustainable for a 33-year-old, or is now the perfect time to strike on the trade market if you’re Anthopoulos as Ozuna’s value hasn’t been this high in three years?

Perhaps it’s the latter, which is why Braves insider Mark Bowman threw out Ozuna as a possible candidate to be dealt in this year’s patented Anthopoulos surprise trade. Last offseason, Willson Contreras was moved in the offseason, and Ozuna could be next in line.

As Bowman noted, Ozuna is the most movable piece in the Braves lineup right now, especially coming into the final year of his contract. So if Atlanta has a big trade to make, then Ozuna would be a nice sweetener if the trade partner is eyeing a veteran power bat, of which there are very few on the open market in free agency.

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