- Gabriel Burns
New Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos has opted for lottery tickets in his first offseason.
While GM in Toronto, Anthopoulos developed a reputation as an aggressive trader, swinging deals for players such as Josh Donaldson and David Price. He’s flirted with trade ideas throughout the winter, but nothing’s come close to materializing.
Anthopoulos’ biggest move amounted to a salary swap. He moved outfielder Matt Kemp to the Dodgers for the well-paid Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir, as well as utilityman Charlie Culberson.
Gonzalez was immediately waived as a condition of the trade, and McCarthy and Culberson, if healthy, are near-locks for the roster. Kazmir is a different story.
Kazmir sat out last season with hip and back problems. His velocity sat in the mid-80s after averaging 91 mph in 2016. He’s due $16 million in 2018 before hitting the free agent market after the season.
Anthopoulos worked in the Dodgers’ front office both seasons of Kazmir’s Los Angeles tenure. But he isn’t sure if or how Kazmir could factor into the team’s plans given the uncertainty surrounding his health.
“I was there (with the Dodgers). He just couldn’t get it back,” Anthopoulos said. “One thing is you don’t want to bet against him. He’s come back from a lot in his career. The guy was playing for the (Sugar Land) Skeeters (of the Atlantic League) then came back, and he was great with Oakland. He had a down year last year, clearly. He missed the entire year. It’s really hard until we lay eyes on him to know where he’s at.
“Just know that he’s determined, believes in himself and his career, the back of his card, tells you there’s a lot there. But until we lay eyes on him and get to see him, there’s no way of knowing.”
That’s not exactly a vote of confidence, but Anthopoulos is keeping his options open. It’s hard to imagine Kazmir cracking a rotation crowded with pitching prospects, and he’s come out of the bullpen once -- as a rookie in 2004.
In addition to the players acquired for Kemp, the Braves added a pair of ex-Dodgers relievers in Grant Dayton and Josh Ravin. It remains to be seen how any of them will affect the 2018 Braves, but Anthopoulos didn’t mind some familiarity.
“It’s just normal human nature,” he said. “There’s a comfort level with the deal, obviously, and you realize when you’re new to an organization, there’s so much new overall. This is a first for me. I joined Toronto and I was new, but I wasn’t in this position. You know, having familiar faces is always nice. That’s selfish, that’s a comfort level. It doesn’t impact winning or losing. Yeah of course, we’ve got a connection there.
“But again, that same way I met those guys for the first time, I’m going to meet these guys for the first time. Bet you by the end of spring training, I already feel comfortable with everyone in the office. … I met a bunch of guys for the first time today. Two weeks into spring training, it’s going to feel normal.”