Braves still have moves to make

Associated PressAtlanta Braves' Marcell Ozuna celebrates a home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the seventh inning in Game 4 of a baseball National League Championship Series Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. Major League Baseball's free agency period is trudging along at a snail's pace. Top players remain available, including Marcell Ozuna, who starred in his one and only season with the Atlanta Braves last year. Other notable free agents include infielder DJ LeMahieu, outfielder Michael Brantley, catcher J.T. Realmuto and starting pitcher Trevor Bauer.

They may not be the dog days of the summer but the winter months are usually an active period in Major League Baseball (MLB). This period is typically reserved for free agent signings, as players determine where their future homes will be. 

Especially with the start of spring training scheduled for late February, about a month and a half away, teams should have an idea by now about the makeup of next season's squad. What are the strengths? What are the weaknesses? Where can upgrades be made during the season's trade deadline?

But as we are painfully aware, Major League Baseball's free agency period is trudging along at a snail's pace. Top players remain available, including Marcell Ozuna, who starred in his one and only season with the Atlanta Braves last year. Other notable free agents include infielder DJ LeMahieu, outfielder Michael Brantley, catcher J.T. Realmuto and starting pitcher Trevor Bauer.

It says a lot when the richest contract signed this offseason is James McCann with the New York Mets for $40.6 million over four years.

The lack of free agent activity speaks to the uncertainty regarding finances teams are coping with during the conronavirus era. Few transactions were made at the latter end of 2020. Even though it is very early, not much has happened so far in 2021. 

Teams don't know if they're going to be able to have fans in the stands. At this point, it's hard to know if the season will even start on time. 

Like other contenders (maybe outside the reigning World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers), the Braves would benefit from an extra signing or two. 

As I have long lobbied for, the Braves are in desperate need of an extra bat to protect Freddie Freeman in the lineup. We saw how the offense took off the last two years with Josh Donaldson (in 2019) and Ozuna last year. Offensive firepower is needed if the Braves are to contend with the Dodgers and San Diego Padres.

One player who is not a free agent but will be at the end of the 2021 season is Freeman, the reigning National League Most Valuable Player. The contract he inked in 2014 is set to expire following this upcoming season. On a matter of principle alone, it would behoove the Braves to extend their star first baseman. He is the face of the franchise. He was a team player through the Braves' massive rebuild and suffered silently through some devastatingly bad seasons. 

There are still moves to be made if you're Braves General Manager Alex Anthopolous. But what are they and when will they be made is the frustrating part to figure out right now if you're a Braves fan.

Clint Thompson is a special contributor to the Valdosta Daily Times.

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