MLB Rumors: Braves need to stop avoiding their most obvious free agent match

The Atlanta Braves should take advantage of limited interest in Cy Young winner Blake Snell.

Atlanta Braves
Atlanta Braves / Brandon Sloter/GettyImages
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The Atlanta Braves front office has been hard at work clearing the path to a major move, either in free agency or via trade. That said, Alex Anthopoulos has yet to land a big fish. That is partly due to Atlanta's general M.O. — the Braves are patient and precise with their maneuvers — but also it's a general failure to engage on the necessary level with Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and other marquee free agents.

Still, there's time and space for the Braves to alter the MLB landscape with a significant move. In fact, now is the best time for the Braves to get aggressive, as Ohtani's move to the Los Angeles Dodgers complicates the Braves' World Series aspirations quite a bit.

While the Braves are not considered players for Yamamoto, there are still quality top-line starters available. Atlanta has a bankable No. 1 ace in Spencer Strider, and there's reason to believe Max Fried can rebound to his All-Star form after a healthy offseason. But, pitching was a sore spot during the Braves' all-too-brief postseason run, and the front office's main priority going into the winter was to address their starting rotation.

Atlanta could toss their hat into the ring for Jordan Montgomery or Marcus Stroman, but the best free agent (not named Yamamoto) still available is Blake Snell, the reigning National League Cy Young winner.

And, according to Jon Heyman of the New York Post, the window is wide open.

It appears, from the outside perspective, that the Snell market is crickets because so many high-rolling teams are waiting on Yamamoto. Once the Japanese superstar picks his American home, expect the Snell offers to fly off the shelf.

That said, Snell probably doesn't care to wait for Yamamoto. If the Braves are determined to sign an impact ace, why not push all their chips toward Snell while the broader market is clustered around Yamamoto? Anthopoulos should strike while the iron is hot.

Braves should target Blake Snell to round out pitching staff

There are understandable qualms about Snell as a major free agent signing. He's going to demand a strong commitment, both in terms of dollars and years, at 31 years old. He also allowed 99 bases on balls last season, the worst mark in baseball, with a walk percentage of 13.3 that landed in the MLB's fourth percentile, per Baseball Savant.

Atlanta has generally avoided expensive, long-term pitching contracts for vets on the wrong side of 30. Strider is only 25, and Fried is currently 29 — with his own unresolved contract situation hanging over the horizon. Rather than wait for Kyle Wright to return, the Braves traded the 28-year-old to Kansas City while bringing back Charlie Morton for what appears to be one final hurrah.

Still, Snell checks every other box aside from age (and he's hardly old) and the walks, which are part of the otherwise tantalizing package. Snell is a strikeout machine. He finished last season with 234 K's in 180.0 innings, with a whiff percentage (37.3) in the 98th percentile. Whether he's peppering the strike zone with his 95.6 MPH fastball or leaning on a variety of off-speed pitches, Snell gets batters to chase, swing, and miss — often.

He led the National League in ERA (2.25), ERA+ (182), and hits per nine innings (5.8) last season. Snell has the ability to out-pitch anybody on a given night. The Braves could quite feasibly have two Cy Young contenders atop the rotation, with a resurgent Max Fried, an up-and-coming A.J. Smith-Shawver, and the steady veteran hand of Charlie Morton on the back end. That, plus the MLB's best offense, which exploded to historic heights last season.

If Atlanta is serious about keeping pace with the Dodgers and other big-ticket spenders, signing Snell would make quite the statement.

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