Braves Rumors: Surprise free agent fits, dark-horse trade target, Acuña Jr. plans

  • Ronald Acuña Jr. has set his plans for the offseason
  • Braves have a dark-horse trade target in the AL East
  • Surprise free agent fits for the Braves in 2023-24

Arizona Diamondbacks v Atlanta Braves
Arizona Diamondbacks v Atlanta Braves / Matthew Grimes Jr./Atlanta Braves/GettyImages
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Braves Rumors: Jordan Hicks, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Lucas Giolito named free agency fits for Atlanta

Though Alex Anthopoulos has not been shy about making a splash with the Braves roster in recent years, as mentioned, he has not often done so in the free agency market.

In the past two offseasons, the Atlanta Braves shot-caller in the front office has worked trades for first baseman Matt Olson and catcher Sean Murphy. Both deals obviously worked out quite well and in the team's favor. But as they come into this 2023-24 offseason, it seems as if we could be having a sort-of turning of the tides with the offseason approach, namely with a harder look at free agents.

Because of the budget that Anthopoulos often works with, it's unlikely to see the Braves truly sniff around the top of the market for guys like Cody Bellinger, Blake Snell, Shohei Ohtani, or so on -- though it's not impossible. However, former MLB GM Jim Bowden of The Athletic (subscription) broke down the Top 40 free agents this offseason and there were a few surprises named as fits for Atlanta.

Flamethrowing reliever Jordan Hicks, veteran starter Lucas Giolito and outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. were all named as fits for the Braves this offseason. And given what we know about Atlanta's operations and needs, all would make sense, even if those names haven't necessarily been the ones we've seen previously mentioned to fill any holes in the roster.

Hicks could be the Plan B to a bullpen ace like Josh Hader. Though the former Cardinal who was traded to the Blue Jays has been erratic at times, his stuff is ridiculously good and he could make sense as a pseudo-dice-roll to supplement AJ Minter and Raisel Iglesias as a back-end reliever.

Giolito, meanwhile, could be a reliable veteran starter in the mix who would slot in behind the likes of Spencer Strider and Max Fried to replace Charlie Morton and take some pressure off of Bryce Elder and a litany of other young pitchers who could be called upon next season in the rotation.

But Gurriel might be the most curious possible target. Traded to the Diamondbacks last offseason, Gurriel was a first-time All-Star in 2023 with a .772 OPS while hitting 24 homers, 35 doubles and driving in 82 runs. As the Braves could potentially look to upgrade from Eddie Rosario/Kevin Pillar/etc. in left field, Gurriel could fit the bill at a reasonable price.

All told, though they might not be familiar names, these free agents would all make sense for the Braves. Now we'll just have to see how aggressively Anthopoulos pursues them, if he does at all.