Contrary to a report from MLB Network’s Jon Morosi that the Braves were involved in the Shohei Ohtani race, an update from the Winter Meetings says they have not shown interest in the superstar. That comes from Mark Bowman, MLB.com’s Braves beat writer, who also threw cold water on another pursuit that the national media had them all over. Bowman wrote in his Monday column that Atlanta should not be considered favorites for Dylan Cease.
In response to Bowman’s tweet sharing the article, ESPN’s Buster Olney added that the Braves’ offer to Aaron Nola was not close to the Phillies’ bid or even what had been attributed to them. Sounds like someone might have been using the Braves for leverage, which makes sense when agents are out there trying to drive up prices during the Winter Meetings.
It doesn’t hurt that Atlanta made a big trade Sunday evening to acquire slugger Jarred Kelenic, lefty Marco Gonzales, and first baseman Evan White from Seattle for a pair of right-handed pitchers. Gonzales probably won’t even don a Braves uniform because he is expected to be moved in another trade, per Ken Rosenthal. That will help Atlanta to lower CBT payroll by $12.25 million, but adding another $50 million would rocket them past the second penalty threshold.
The Braves currently have 19 players signed to guaranteed deals, with 13 of them still under contract for 2025 and eight more locked in through 2026. Even wilder is that they have club options on five players for both ’25 and ’26. Their wealth of young talent under club control might be enticing to Ohtani, but ownership may prefer cheaper options to offset all the extensions. And given how many holes they’ll need to fill in three years, a mega-deal doesn’t make as much sense.
That same thinking applies to what was apparently a more lackluster pursuit of Nola, though Cease is only projected to earn around $9 million next season and then maybe $15 million or so in his final year of arbitration. As cheap as that is relative to his talent, the prospect cost is sure to be high enough that it might give the Braves pause given their need to keep backfilling the roster at lower rates.
It’s not much of a surprise that the Braves are being used like this, though it does raise a question as to whether there’s still a mystery team vying for Ohtani.