Braves dodged a bullet with potential Max Fried replacement

The Philadelphia Phillies took a potential Max Fried replacements for the Braves off the board, and Alex Anthopoulos should be thankful.

Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game Two
Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game Two / Matthew Grimes Jr./Atlanta Braves/GettyImages

Atlanta Braves ace Max Fried is set to be a free agent next winter, and the front office hasn't made much of an effort to extend him on his terms. Fried, who is entering his early-30's, should receive a lucrative offer when he reaches free agency.

In fact, the Braves flirted with a possible replacement as early as this winter, when they reportedly discussed a contract with Phillies ace Aaron Nola. While Nola eventually re-signed with the Phillies, the Braves showed their cards in terms of a looming Fried extension in that it's relatively unlikely before Opening Day.

If or when Fried does leave, though, the Braves will need to replace him. One of those potential replacements had been Zack Wheeler, who was scheduled to enter free agency next winter alongside Fried. However, Wheeler signed an extension with the Phillies on Monday morning.

Braves actually dodged a bullet with Zack Wheeler extension

The idea behind a Wheeler free-agent fit with the Braves was that he'd be signed to a short-term deal that would be relatively affordable when compared to the eventual contract Fried will receive. Yet, as we learned on Monday, Wheeler's asking price was beyond what Atlanta would have preferred to pay him.

Had Wheeler entered free agency, the Braves would've been greeted with a rude awakening. A record-breaking contract, even on a shorter three-year deal, is not what Alex Anthopoulos has in mind when replacing Fried, especially not for a pitcher who is even older than Fried. The Braves thrive on affordable, team-friendly contracts -- or turning one team's trash into their treasure.

Wheeler is far from that, and will earn $42 million per season over the next three years as a result, had the Phillies let him walk Atlanta would have hoped to pay him far under that overall mark.

Some other potential options for the Braves could be to trade for Dylan Cease or Shane Bieber at the deadline and hope to extend them long term. At the very least, they are likely more within Atlanta's range for one reason or another. Bieber would make far less than Wheeler long term, while Cease is younger and thus more in line with the Braves competitive window.

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