The Braves completely overhauled this roster this offseason with an eye on the future, but the present is looking better than anyone expected this early.
In a development more surprising than a clean commute on I-285, the Atlanta Braves are playing winning baseball. Just barely, but still. After an offseason firesale reimagining of the roster, what the Braves have been able to accomplish through the first third of the season is noteworthy.
This is a team that limped to a 79-83 finish in 2014, then gutted the roster, parting ways with their entire outfield, starting catcher, two-fifths of the starting rotation, and most of the bullpen, including one of the best closers in the game. You catch all that?
Though the new front office regime denied it until the Craig Kimbrel trade made it silly to do so, this was a rebuilding job, and a prudently timed undertaking at that. The Braves’ spending power was neutered by another year of Dan Uggla obligations and the $46 million it still owed to the ghost of Melvin Upton. Lest the team stay mired in the middle of the National League, cleaning house was necessary (if not popular) – especially with the franchise eyeing a costly and locally controversial move to a new stadium in 2017.
The specifics of how new GM John Hart has positioned the franchise for both the near- and long-term are debatable. The Braves have gone heavy after young pitching when hitting prospects seem safer and more projectable, for example. What few would argue, though, is that sitting just 2.5 games out of first place on June 2, the Braves are currently exceeding expectations.
Let’s take a look at the offseason’s major moves and reassess what they’ve done for the Braves in 2015 and beyond.