It is hard to improve a team that tallied 104 wins and won its sixth straight National League East Division title by 14 games.
A historical offense doesn’t need much tweaking to improve. It was just awarded four Silver Slugger Awards, including one by the team and to Ronald Acuña Jr., Matt Olson and Austin Riley.
The team is set in the infield and two spots in the outfield. Left fielder Eddie Rosario’s club option was declined, the right move for a player who has already cemented his place in Braves lore.
But as we witnessed during the N.L. Divisional round, the Atlanta Braves have their flaws come crunch time. Pitching remains the key component a World Series contender can never have too much of. Just ask 90s Braves fans.
Starting pitching remains the team’s position of most concern. Atlanta needs a veteran presence to toe the rubber in the starting rotation, joining Max Fried, Spencer Strider and Bryce Elder. Questions about Charlie Morton’s age and AJ Smith-Shawver’s youth and Mike Soroka’s health provide a cloud of uncertainty about what to expect with the rest of the starting staff.
Relief pitching started as the need Braves general manager Alex Anthopolous wanted to address first and foremost. It did not take long for the Braves to prioritize the bullpen needs.
The Braves re-signed a pair of bullpen arms in Joe Jimenez and Pierce Johnson. Both enjoyed breakout seasons in their first years with the Braves. Jimenez posted a 3.04 ERA with 73 strikeouts over 56 1/3 innings. His ERA dropped to 2.27 over his final 41 appearances. Johnson re-signed with the Braves earlier after a limited stint with the Braves in 2023. He tallied a 0.76 ERA in 23.2 innings with 32 strikeouts.
Top quality relievers are not a dime a dozen so fortifying the bullpen is a smart move for Anthopolous.
SORRY TO SEE WASHINGTON GO: The Atlanta Braves’ loss is the Los Angeles Angels’ gain. The American League team hired Ron Washington as their new manager last week. The long-time coach was a mainstay as the third base coach for the Braves the past seven seasons.
The players loved him. The fans adored him. Management praised him. Anthopolous said in an interview, “It’s a huge loss for us. I emphasize that in caps, bold, italicized, all of it.”
Later, it was announced that Washington is taking Atlanta first base coach Eric Young Sr. to Los Angeles with him.
While he is 71, Washington still possesses the energy and enthusiasm needed to connect with today’s players. He has his work cut out, though, inheriting an Angels team that finished 73-89 and likely will not have Shohei Ohtani moving forward and an aging, expensive Mike Trout that struggles to stay healthy.
Good luck to you Washington. You’re going to need it.