Free agency is beginning to pick up a little. The Braves already made their first move by signing Manny Piña, and we’ve already seen several significant dominos fall in the starting pitching market. This will be a memorable offseason for Atlanta fans, as we could see a complete reshuffling of the roster. There’s simply no way Alex Anthopoulos can afford to bring everyone back from last year’s roster. That’s what happens when a team has success. However, that doesn’t mean next year’s 26-man can’t be even better than 2021’s.
Anthopoulos has proven to be a wizard at finding diamonds in the rough over his tenure as Braves GM, particularly on one-year contracts. So in this series, I’ll focus on free agents from each position group that could be a candidate for one of those one-year deals that have typically worked out so well in Atlanta.
McCutchen’s days of being an All-Star are long gone, but he still packs plenty of pop in his bat. In 2021, he smacked 27 homers — the second-highest total of his career — in just 144 games. The average was down to a career-low .222, but he was willing to take his walks, leading to a much more respectable .334 OBP. At 35-years-old, McCutchen can still play either corner outfield spot or DH. His clubhouse presence is also well-respected around the league, and he should be more than willing to take a one-year deal with a team that will be competing for a World Series.
Another division rival, Conforto could be a perfect target for Alex Anthopoulos. He’s in the prime of his career but is coming off the worst season of his career. The advanced analytics, however, point to him most likely returning to form in 2022. Perhaps Alex Anthopoulos can convince him to take a one-year contract to improve his value going into the next offseason.
This isn’t on purpose, but all of these players so far just so happen to hail from the NL East. Pillar will be one of the least expensive names on this list, but he can play all over the outfield and packs some decent pop. On a small one-year deal, he could help fill in for Acuña until he’s healthy enough to play and then provide value as a backup to all three outfield positions.
Like Conforto, Cruz certainly isn’t under the radar, but he’s definitely a player that will be in the market for a one-year deal. We finally saw a little bit of a drop-off from him last season, but he still crushed 36 homers, and I would be shocked if he doesn’t crush another 30+ in 2022. Cruz can no longer play the field, but as a DH, the Braves would have a tough time doing better than him on such a short contract.
Another NL East foe, Miller has proven to have some value over the last few seasons. He can play all over the diamond and possesses some power in his stick. Last year with the Phillies, he recorded 20 homers in 140 games. Like Pillar, Miller could help fill in for the injured Ronald Acuña and then bolster the bench as a super-utility player once Acuña returns.
Defense isn’t Calhoun’s specialty, but he’s serviceable in the corner outfield. 2021 was an injury-plagued year Calhoun would like to forget, and that’s definitely something a team that is signing him should be cautious about, considering he will be 34-years-old next season. However, in 2019, Calhoun mashed 33 homers for the Angels, and during the shortened 2020 campaign, he launched 16 bombs in just 54 games for the Diamondbacks. He shouldn’t cost much and could serve as a potential platoon player, bench bat, or DH.
Dickerson won’t cost a lot at all after back-to-back sub-par seasons, but he’s only a couple of years removed from posting a .906 OPS in 78 games and has a career .815 OPS. I’m not sure a competing team can look at him as anything more than a bench bat right now, but he could fill in as a platoon player until Acuña returns from injury.